Lost and Found features brief profiles of historic landmarks and structures, one lost and one saved.


Hailed as “America’s First Super-highway” when it opened in 1940, the Pennsylvania Turnpike was one of the country’s largest projects facilitated by the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ambitious program created to spur economic recovery during the Great Depression. In 1937, Governor George H. Earle III, architect of Pennsylvania’s “Little New Deal,” created the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in the midst of massive unemployment. President Roosevelt, whom Earle admired and emulated, supported the project, despite skeptics who questioned the unproven nature of such a superhighway that would charge tolls.

Construction was financed by a loan of nearly forty-one million dollars from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), a New Deal program, later augmented by an additional twenty-nine million dollars from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), perhaps the most famous of FDR’s relief agencies. Building the first section of the turnpike, between Middlesex, near Carlisle, in Cumberland County, and Irwin, in Westmoreland County, a distance of one hundred and sixty miles, relied on more than one hundred and fifty construction companies and fifteen thousand workers from eighteen states.

On the evening of Monday, September 30, 1940, long lines of automobiles and trucks lined up at the eleven toll plazas, called ticket offices at the time, as eager motorists wanted to be among the first to travel on the highly-publicized engineering triumph. Many wanted to experience the thrill of driving on the nation’s first limited-access, four-lane highway with no traffic lights, stop signs, grade crossings, and speed limits when it opened just after mid-night on Tuesday. A common sight for four decades, the last of the original tollbooths disappeared from the Pennsylvania Turnpike in September 1983. Located at the Blue Mountain exit, near Newburg, Franklin County, the one-person tollbooth was decommissioned, dismantled, and shipped to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (PHMC also acquired an early tollbooth, one that served the Irwin interchange, for the collections of The State Museum of Pennsylvania.) The Smithsonian accessioned the tollbooth because of the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s impact on twentieth-century highway construction and travel.

PHMC is observing the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New Deal in Pennsylvania as its annual theme through 2008.



In 1937, representatives of a newly formed organization in Johnstown, Cambria County, the 17-7-8 Community Association, appeared before city council, requesting permission to erect a music pavilion in the community’s Roxbury Park as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project if the necessary funds for a sponsor’s share could be raised. In early January of the following year, city officials met with association members and encouraged them to launch a fundraising campaign. The group invited more than fifty organizations to a meeting, out of which the Johnstown Music Pavilion Committee developed.

Thousands of individuals, as well as organizations and businesses, contributed to the building campaign, launched in May 1938, and project plans were turned over the WPA, which approved them after several revisions in April 1939. More than three thousand people attended the groundbreaking ceremonies held on May 14, 1939.

The pavilion, towering fifty-five feet in height, required twenty-two hundred tons of stone, nearly a thousand barrels of cement, and more than five hundred tons of sand for its construction. In addition to the stage, measuring fifty feet in diameter, the semi-circular limestone and brick amphitheatre contains large rooms for storage, practice, and costume changes.

Dedicated as the Municipal Music Pavilion in June 1940 during a weeklong celebration in which local dignitaries, WPA officials, and community organizations participated, the band-shell eventually suffered neglect over the years. In 2007, it was threatened with demolition to make room for a parking lot. Citizens rallied and community leaders agreed not to raze the local landmark, one of the last of the surviving twenty-seven erected by the WPA as part of FDR’s New Deal. The Roxbury Bandshell Preservation Alliance secured an agreement with Johnstown officials that will allow its members and volunteers to preserve and reuse it. PHMC recently awarded the alliance an $85,000 Keystone Grant for repairs and replacement of the structure’s roof. To date, the community has raised an additional one hundred thousand dollars for the preservation of what is being touted as “One of the Original Houses of Rock.”