A Titanic spot in the PA Wilds
There are a few sites in the Pennsylvania Wilds that nobody knows about. I’m not talking about those hidden gems that don’t get a lot of publicity. I’m referring to spots that people genuinely don’t know. They have a fascinating backstory with no indication of what it is, and people can walk right past without ever realizing it.
Fortunately, you have me to point these places out to you. There’s one in the I-80 Frontier, in Lock Haven, the county seat of Clinton County. It’s a small brick building just across from Triangle Park, at 6 Bellefonte Avenue.
It was once owned by Eric Carlson. Now, you’ve never heard of this Eric Carlson, and there’s no reason you should have. Carlson was born in Sweden in 1872 and came to America by boat (called the Republic) in 1883. He was eleven years old at the time and a bit nervous about the trip. But the captain of the boat, E.J. Smith, was very friendly and reassuring, and the two of them got to be friends.
Carlson arrived in Lock Haven and became employed as a gardener, working for several prominent local families. If you walk through Lock Haven’s Historic District, there are quite a few elaborate homes, and many of them once showed Carlson’s efforts. He was talented at it and was able to buy the Bellefonte Avenue building, starting a florist shop of his own.
He was there, selling flower arrangements, on April 14, 1912, when news of the Titanic arrived. Carlson walked across the street to the local newspaper, at the time the Clinton Republican, and informed the staff that he’d known the captain of the Titanic, the same E.J. Smith that had been captain of the boat that had brought him to America nearly three decades before!
The article read, ”The trip required twice as long as is the case now, and on board were very many emigrants, all seeking the land of liberty and promise. Captain Smith was very friendly with even the most humble of his passengers and gave many of them kindly advice, which served them well after they landed in America.”
The building on Bellefonte Avenue is notably historic for that reason—It had a connection to the Titanic. Carlson knew about the tragedy of the Titanic but never doubted the captain’s competence.
The newspaper said, ”At the time it required about fourteen days to cross the big pond and several severe storms were encountered. Passengers on one occasion became greatly alarmed, but Captain Smith’s presence below deck had a reassuring effect.”
Carlson passed away in 1931, and is buried in Highland Cemetery. The Titanic, of course, lies two miles down in the Atlantic Ocean, a subject of mystery and intrigue even now, a century later.
And in downtown Lock Haven, near the center of town, there stands an unassuming building that acts as an informal memorial to both.
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