Thursday, August 11, 2016

Selinsgrove and Sunbury

We drove up to Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, Friday afternoon, and returned on Sunday. The city changes slowly. After the 1990 census results came out, The New York Times ran an article on Selinsgrove as the city that had changed the least demographically over the years. Market Street--the main street, as seems often to be the case in central Pennsylvania--must not be what it was. Susquehanna University continues to do what American universities do, namely build and expand: it looked all the larger and newer for the absence of students. The presence of the university must help keep the town going, as an employer, and as a source of the young with money to spend.

While on an errand, I encountered this:

I was surprised, for I had thought of Coxey as a Midwesterner, and indeed by the time he led his army he was a resident of Ohio.

Sunbury, a few miles away upstream and across the Susquehanna, has suffered from the loss of industry. Market Street here has fallen off a good deal from what it was fifty years ago. The Edison Hotel

appears to be a rooming house. The building that housed the Aldine Hotel has a bar on the first floor, and I suppose apartments above. There are thrift shops where there were department stores. But the park that divides the lanes of Market Street a block above Front Street is well kept up. The churches appear to be in good trim, though not architecturally distinguished.

Lorenzo Da Ponte lived in Sunbury for some years, where he kept a store. In his memoirs, he spoke of it as "the fatal town of Sunbury", I recall. He found the time to tutor the young Simon Cameron, later a senator, cabinet member, and diplomat. But he must have found his work and his residence much more satisfactory when he became a professor of Italian literature at Columbia College.

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