Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike part 2 (1989-2000)

This is part 2 of a 3 part series on my experience with the Turnpike and will cover the online history of the turnpike. I’ll be blunt– this post will only interest readers who explicitly share my obsession with citations and the nature of academic discourse. If you were looking for sepia-toned soft focus shots of red heads beaming out of post apocalyptic ruin– it ain’t here. But it is here, so don’t go away crying

Despite a serious lack of sex appeal, the turnpike’s online history is almost as interesting as its physical history. The post I wrote in 2009 had by 2016 become completely defunct– the pictures were outdated and of poor quality relative to what iphones upload by the million to Instagram; half my links were dead; excellent writers made better posts than I had on the same material; and the internet just works better now. At rewriting, the most interesting thing I can share about my experience with the turnpike is witnessing the decline of the tunnel as relayed by exponentially improving technology. To illustrate this point, I have divided the references more or less chronologically.

THE DECLINE OF THE TUNNEL AND THE ASCENT OF TECHNOLOGY

As covered part one of this series, Pennsylvania built the turnpike during the Great Depression. Traffic overwhelmed the turnpike, and in 1968 the turnpike was rerouted and the Bedford-Fulton portion of the turnpike sat derelict in the mountains for years. The turnpike runs through the beautiful Allegheny Mountains and charming hamlets, and the abandoned section, particularly the tunnels, still draw visitors from around the country. Though the turnpike has experienced some privations, Google trends reports sustained and possibly renewed interest:

Google trend report for “Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike”

Internet record on the site begins around 1998 with pages like Pennways, a page devoted to highways and transportation in the area, which links to several USENET groups and despite a 2005 update, provides links that have mostly gone dead.

There are no images, little formatting, and several of the now-dead links are to books. I was in middle school when this page was made, and it was probably sophisticated for its time. The author maintained several similar sites with indexes of resources on related issues. For context— search engines weren’t invented until 1993. There was no Wikipedia, and Google was a start up born of a research project a year before this was written. The internet was accessed through dial-up. Information was difficult to find efficiently on the internet, and indexes like the ones he supplied were invaluable. Bravo, Mr. Kozel! You are an American hero. I just screen shot your page on my phone, sent it to three different devices wirelessly, and put it back up on the internet in about five seconds. It is an amazing time to be alive.

Due to link-rot issues with a reference-heavy blog like this one, and the nature of the post, I’ve screen shot several pages I would otherwise just link to, but it makes it easier to see the improvements of the internet. All the better to illustrate the improvements of technology and preserve the hard work of others. (Early investigator Mike Natale deserves special credit.) Hopefully this will make this page more resilient, but on the other hand, the same mechanisms that make online references fragile also make them responsive. My first post linked to a credible resource on fears of sabotage on the turnpike, from Joseph Topinka’s history. A few days after the post went up, the page was removed. I have a screenshot of the cache, but after further investigation– the history referenced on the page I linked to appears to have been fabricated. See the gallery below for a summation:

1990:
The first website ever went live in 1991, so Internet posts on any matter at all are suspiciously absent from the record pre-1990, but luckily there were books and stuff. The Miller Center at the University of Virginia has posted their collection of primary resources and the aesthetics of the Pennsylvania Depression-era posters are really striking.

Some of the very earliest sources available online were adapted from other media, maybe best evidenced by this scan of a book of the oral history of Pennsylvania. Newspapers have uploaded some of their print journalism to their online archives, and the turnpike gets a mention in this 1990 article on the turnpike that makes no mention of the abandoned portion. Wikipedia’s earliest-published reference, the 2000 Winter newsletter for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has since been removed. An email to the “Contact Us” line generated a quick and polite response, but no flyer. Maybe it is gone forever.

1997: The word “blog” is coined.

Gribble Nation was established in 1998, and retains a directory format similar to that of PENNWAYS. Check out the directory format of their Old Dominion Roads section. Gribble Nation posted impressively comprehensive content and was generous in its out-linking to contributors and other relevant sites, but now the most of the links have gone dead. The emails of the contributors are listed on the landing page, but several have bounced back, along with an inquiry to the submission email, which appears to have been a secondary email address for contributor Adam Prince. If the others reply, I will post their comments in an update. I’m sorry Adam, I really tried.

Though it was updated this year, this website on the turnpike was established in 1997 and has the straightforward appeal of the other early pages. The sitemap lists the entries hierarchically, and like Gribble Nation, hosts photos. The photos, from the Pennsylvania State Archives and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, vintage photos of the turnpike and show its construction, inauguration, and early history. The images cannot be saved or linked to due to the site’s settings, so I have screen shot them here. Contributor Jeffrey Kitso has reserved all the rights, and I have linked the images to his website, but his email was not available. I will proceed under the expectation that use falls under-fair-use guidelines as this post is about the nature of the internet and not the turnpike itself.

Creating and maintaining a blog was arduous, technical work before Blogger or WordPress streamlined the process. The extant sites, defunct though they may be, express the motivation and craftsmanship of their authors. The webmasters have put forth great effort: research of original source material, careful indexing of links, the uploading (to the then-text-heavy web of the time) of photos and newspaper scans, the provision of no-frills options for users with slow internet connections– and these have been the basis of many other posts (my also-defunct 2009 post included.) Thank you for your hard work!

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2 Responses to Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike part 2 (1989-2000)

  1. Adam says:

    Thanks for the comment on my blog – one correction my name is Adam Prince and yes that e-mail was never updated. I really enjoyed your approach to the abandoned turnpike and how the internet really spurred the over all interest. Feel free to e-mail me directly – I’d be more than happy to help you out on your project!

    –Adam

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