Anyone else in desprate need of a vacation? I know I could always use a break from the stresses of work and household responsibilities. Being who I am, I typically don’t go for your usual vacation spots. I’m happy to announce my part 1 of a 2 part series of my Top Offbeat Vacation Spots for 2010.
If your heading out east be sure to make a quick stop in Centralia, PA. This is the town that the Silent Hill movie was loosely based off of. The ruins of Centralia Pennsylvania no longer exists on some maps. In 1962 someone decided to burn some trash in the pit of an abandoned strip mine which connected to a coal vein running near the surface. The result was one of the longest running underground fires in history.
For the next 20 years workers fought the fire by digging trenches and flushing the mines with water and ash. All efforts to extinguish the fire failed and government officials didn’t make any serious attempts to save the town. By the early 80s the fire affected a majority of the town and homes had to be abandoned due to fire hazards and toxic levels of carbon monoxide.
One study that concluded in 1983 determined that the fire could burn for another century or more and could possibly spread over an area of 3700 acres.
As time passed, each feeble attempt to do anything to stop the fire or help the residents of Centralia would cost more and more due to the fires progression. Over 47 years and 40 million dollars later the fire still burns through old coal mines and veins under the town and the surrounding hillsides on several fronts. The fire, smoke, fumes and toxic gases that came up through the back yards, basements and streets of Centralia literally ripped the town apart. Most of the homes were condemned and residents were relocated over the years with grants from the federal government although some die-hards refused to be bought out and some still remain in the town. Today Centralia is a virtual ghost town with only a few remaining residents. As they continue to live in their beloved homes now owned by the federal government, people pass every day along Route 61, most totally unaware of the history surrounding them and the sad story of Centralia.
Studies have shown that if the fire is not contained it will continue to spread following the rich coal deposits and eventually threaten the neighboring town of Ashland, less that two miles away. Many people including former (and current) residents of Centralia insist that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Some believe that the rich deposits of coal beneath the town itself is the reason for the forced relocation of the towns people and to force the town to go defunct, giving up its mineral rights. The stories around what is happening here vary depending on who you talk to or what you read. What is certain is what has happened to this small community and the fact that Centralia as it once was, will never be again.
Thinking of visiting or just want a lot more info with a lot of pictures? Check this site out: http://www.offroaders.com/album/centralia/centralia.htm
Being in the Pacific Northwest and living so near to Seattle, I can’t believe I haven’t done this yet. The story goes something like: June 6th 1889, Seattle’s central business district was destroyed by a massive fire. The fire destroyed 33 city blocks. The fire crews made the mistake of turning on too many hoses at once to fight the massive fire, thus causing a massive loss in water pressure, which severely hindered their efforts. To counter these issues in the future the the city decided to regrade the streets one to two stories higher than the original street grade. The regrade would prevent common flooding of many areas of the city and the new street level would also help ensure that toilets did not back up at high tide.
During the regrade, the original sidewalks and roads where 12-30 feet below ground level. Ladders where placed so that people could climb from the sidewalks to the new entrances to the buildings. Many a drunk met their demise navigating these ladders. The ground floors of all of the buildings in the area became the basement, while the second floors became the ground level floor.
In 1907 the city condemned the Underground for fear of pneumonic plague. The basements were left to deteriorate or were used as storage. Some became illegal flophouses for the homeless, gambling halls, speakeasies, and opium dens.
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Here is a quick little video with a short tour of the underground:
If your interested in visiting, a guided tour is going to run you about $15 per person. More info on tours here: http://www.undergroundtour.com/
There is a similar yet less interesting underground in portland: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_tunnels
Any places that you would like to add?
Also See: My Trip To Bohemia Ghost Town
See Part 2 here: http://shafe.n5net.com/2010/06/15/top-offbeat-vacation-spots-for-2010-part-2-of-3/