Wish You Were Here reflects the value of postcards as tools for learning about the past, with images drawn from Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives.

This burned since you were here [and] suppose you read of it,” wrote a Mrs. A. McClintock to Mrs. E. H. MacKee, of Buffalo, New York, on a postcard depicting the Lock Haven Hospital in Lock Haven, Clinton County. The postcard was postmarked September 2, 1908, at Lock Haven.

Built in 1903 at a cost of $42,000, the Lock Haven Hospital was destroyed by fire five years later, on July 28, 1908. More than thirty patients were rescued from the burning three-story building on Susquehanna Avenue and moved to rooms in the girls’ dormitory at the Central State Normal School, now Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, and to a private residence on Water Street. Damage was estimated at $50,000—the equivalent of $1,183,350 today. Investigators were unable to determine the cause of the fire.

“Fire broke out in the Lock Haven hospital at 12:45 o’clock last Tuesday afternoon and in less than an hour the entire building was in ashes,” the Wellsboro Agitator, a weekly newspaper published in the Tioga County seat of Wellsboro to the north, reported on August 5, 1908. “All of the patients were taken out in safety. There was no water available with which to fight the flames and nothing could be done to save the building from destruction. Intense excitement prevailed throughout the city while the fire was in progress, but at the hospital the nurses and physicians worked heroically until every inmate was removed from the building. The hospital will be rebuilt.”

Lock Haven wasted little time in rebuilding the hospital, which it undertook the following year at a cost of $75,000.

Laid out in 1833 by Jeremiah Church (1796–1874), a New York land speculator, Lock Haven was chosen as the seat of Clinton County when it was carved out of Centre and Lycoming counties in June 1839. It was established as a borough the following year and incorporated as a third-class city in 1870. Church was instrumental in lobbying for the creation of the new county, named for New York’s Governor DeWitt Clinton (1769–1828), a staunch advocate of internal improvements, including the construction of the Erie Canal. Lock Haven’s name is derived from the locks on the West Branch Canal and because the Susquehanna River provided a haven for timber rafts on their way downstream from the north to Williamsport, Harrisburg, and Marietta. The community, located at the terminus of the canal, was an important shipping port on the river.