From time to time I like to give a history lesson, so here you go.... On Nov. 7, 1928, Election Day, Altoona voters approved a referendum annexing large residential sections of Logan Township into our citys boundaries. This annexation took in Llyswen, Eldorado, South Altoona, Roselawn, Collinsville, East End, Suncrest, Maple Crest, Lakemont Terrace, Fairlawn and Locust Hill. Also at this time, the Borough of Juniata became the 14th Ward of Altoona. Thus, by the use of the ballot, Altoona doubled in size, its population soaring to 87,500 people, perhaps the citys all-time high. We were now the seventh-largest city in the commonwealth, outsized by Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Allentown, Reading and Erie. Altoona from East Juniata, in the north, to Eldorado in the south was nearly seven miles long. The width varied; the widest part extended from 28th Avenue to Brush Mountain. In an eight-year study, done prior to the annexation, Altoona had a growth rate of 21.7 percent per year. Thirty-five other Pennsylvania cities included in the study were growing at a 16.5 percent rate. With the building of the first Pennsylvania Railroad shops in 1849, the village of Altoona emerged. The constructions of additional shops and railroad yards quickly turned Altoona into a borough in 1854 with a population of about 2000 people and into a city in 1868. By 1900, we had 39,973 living in Altoona. In 1920, the population had grown to 60,331 - a growth of 10,000 people per decade. As the PRR grew and flourished, so grew the city. The Nov. 10, 1928, edition of the Altoona Mirror gives us some amazing railroad statistics showing the growth correlation of city and railroad. In 1927, the year before the annexation, this edition of the Mirror reported, On a daily basis, 156 passenger trains arrive and depart Altoona and 138 freight trains enter and depart. In 1927, a total of 2,047,752 freight cars were handled in the PRR freight yards. Each of these trains, freight or passenger, east or west bound, changed crews and train power here. To provide fresh engines for these trains, the East Altoona Roundhouse serviced on a daily average 280 engines while the Number Three Roundhouse in the 12th Street Shop serviced an additional 165 engines. Of Altoonas work force, 60.7 percent was employed in the PRR railroad shops; 19.5 percent of the work force was employed on the Middle Division in train service. The next largest employer at 6.2 percent was the silk and textile industry. Altoona would not have existed or grown without the railroad. On Jan. 7, 1929, Blair County Judge Marion Patterson signed the legal decree that made the annexation official. In so doing, Altoona was transformed from a medium-size city into the railroad colossus of that era. The pen used to sign those documents was given to the Blair County Historical Society.
Posted on: Thu, 15 Jan 2015 23:14:30 +0000
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