Category Archives: history

March 2017 – “Helping Hearts”

march2017-coverThe March 2017 Edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – “Helping Hearts” – is now available online & in print.

February 2017 Edition: Moments & Milestones

february2017 cover.qxdThe February 2017 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges is now available online & in print.

January 2017: New Beginnings

january2017 cover.qxdThe January 2017 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesNew Beginnings – is now available online & in print.

“Gone with the Wind” celebrates 75th birthday

Dashing Rhett Butler at the film's premiere

Dashing Rhett Butler at the film’s premiere

“Frankly my dear…” If you are any kind of film buff, you know those words. They are engraved permanently in your memory. Perhaps the greatest line from arguably the greatest film of all time, Gone with the Wind. If you’ve never seen it, and that is a sin, the film was first released on December 15, 1939. It is an American epic historical romance film adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel Gone with the Wind. It was produced by David O. Selznick of Selznick International Pictures and directed by Victor Fleming.

The film is a complex love story set in the American South against the backdrop of the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. The film is the story of Scarlett O’Hara, the strong-willed daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, from her romantic pursuit of Ashley Wilkes, who is married to his cousin, Melanie Hamilton, to her marriage to black sheep Rhett Butler. The leading roles are portrayed by Vivien Leigh (Scarlett), Clark Gable (Rhett), Leslie Howard (Ashley), and Olivia de Havilland (Melanie). Scarlett’s love for her plantation, Tara, plays a very strong subliminal role as the foundation of her past, present and future.

The film premiered at the Loew’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia on December 15, 1939. A double bill of Hawaiian Nights and Beau Geste was playing, and after the first feature it was announced that the theater would be screening a preview; the audience was informed they could leave but would not be readmitted once the film had begun, nor would phone calls be allowed once the theater had been sealed. When the title appeared on the screen the audience cheered, and after it had finished it received a standing ovation.

It was the climax of three days of festivities hosted by Mayor William B. Hartsfield, which included a parade of limousines featuring stars from the film, receptions, thousands of Confederate flags, and a costume ball. Eurith D. Rivers, the governor of Georgia, declared December 15 a state holiday. An estimated three hundred thousand residents and visitors to Atlanta lined the streets for up to seven miles to watch a procession of limousines chauffeuring the stars from the airport. Only Leslie Howard and Victor Fleming chose not to attend: Howard had returned to England due to the outbreak of World War II, and Fleming had fallen out with Selznick and declined to attend any of the premieres. Hattie McDaniel was also absent, as she and the other black cast members were prevented from attending the premiere due to Georgia’s Jim Crow laws, which would have kept them from sitting with their white colleagues. Upon learning that McDaniel had been barred from the premiere, Clark Gable threatened to boycott the event, but McDaniel convinced him to attend.

Premieres in New York and Los Angeles followed, the latter attended by some of the actresses that had been considered for the part of Scarlett, among them Paulette Goddard, Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford.

From December 1939 to July 1940, the film played only advance-ticket road show engagements at a limited number of theaters at prices upwards of $1, more than double the price of a regular first-run feature, with MGM collecting an unprecedented 70 percent of the box office receipts (as opposed to the typical 30-35 percent of the period). After reaching saturation as a roadshow, MGM revised its terms to a 50 percent cut and halved the prices, before it finally entered general release in 1941 at “popular” prices. Along with its distribution and advertising costs, total expenditure on the film was as high as $7 million.

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges

Holidays House Tours in Brownsville

300-front-st-brownsvilleThe Brownsville Northside Beautification Committee will showcase its neighborhood Dec. 10-11 when doors will swing open on seven festively decorated homes to raise funds for community projects in the historic district. This year’s self-guided tour will include three properties that are new to the bi-annual event – 300 Front St., 103 Barnett Ave. and 502 Market St. The Front Street home was built in 1855 by Congressman John Littleton Dawson and later served as the residence for Adam Jacobs, a riverboat captain and boat builder, and the Robinson family, local merchants. The Barnett Avenue home is fully constructed of recycled materials from razed structures in the area. Built by “Gypsy Steve” and “Uncle Charlie” for a local businessman in the 1970s, unusual features include marble, slate and wood from torn down structures in Brownsville, Belle Vernon and Washington, beams from long-gone schools and bathtubs from a now-demolished early 20th century hotel. The third stop is Market Street Emporium, built in 1902 and currently an eclectic retail shop, which will extend its business hours for the tour.

The tour also includes a collection of 19th century homes built by some of Brownsville’s wealthiest businessmen, whose lifestyles are reflected in the rich finishes and architectural embellishments on the interior and exterior of their residences – Tiffany-stained glass windows, marble mantles, beveled-glass windows, inlaid hand-made parquet floors, grand and circular staircases, a turret and mid-1800s “painted glass” window. The period homes are 131 Front St., 209 Front St., 212 Front St. and 514 Market St.

Each home will be festively decked out for the fundraiser.  Decorating at some of the larger homes has been underway since late September. The varied interiors will feature Victorian decorations, live greens and a variety of themed trees and rooms, such as Western and hunting motifs at the Barnett Avenue home.

Tickets are $15 per person for the self-guided tours. The properties will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 11. Tickets will go on sale 30 minutes prior to the start of the tours at Brownsville Fire Co. 1, 520 Market St. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

Also that night, the congregation of the 156-year-old Christ Church Anglican, 305 Church St., will be holding a special service, beginning at 7 pm. It is based on the first American prayer book written in 1789.

Brownsville Historical Society also will be conducting candlelight tours at Nemacolin Castle, a National Trust landmark located at 136 Front St. The December calendar for the 22-room house mansion calls for doors to be open Fridays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Dec. 28 and Dec. 29 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and closed Dec. 24, 25, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. Tickets are $10 for

adults and $4 for children 12 years old and under.

The Brownsville Northside Beautification Committee will showcase its neighborhood Dec. 10-11 when doors will swing open on seven festively decorated homes to raise funds for community projects in the historic district. This year’s self-guided tour will include three properties that are new to the bi-annual event – 300 Front St., 103 Barnett Ave. and 502 Market St. The Front Street home was built in 1855 by Congressman John Littleton Dawson and later served as the residence for Adam Jacobs, a riverboat captain and boat builder, and the Robinson family, local merchants. The Barnett Avenue home is fully constructed of recycled materials from razed structures in the area. Built by “Gypsy Steve” and “Uncle Charlie” for a local businessman in the 1970s, unusual features include marble, slate and wood from torn down structures in Brownsville, Belle Vernon and Washington, beams from long-gone schools and bathtubs from a now-demolished early 20th century hotel. The third stop is Market Street Emporium, built in 1902 and currently an eclectic retail shop, which will extend its business hours for the tour.

The tour also includes a collection of 19th century homes built by some of Brownsville’s wealthiest businessmen, whose lifestyles are reflected in the rich finishes and architectural embellishments on the interior and exterior of their residences – Tiffany-stained glass windows, marble mantles, beveled-glass windows, inlaid hand-made parquet floors, grand and circular staircases, a turret and mid-1800s “painted glass” window. The period homes are 131 Front St., 209 Front St., 212 Front St. and 514 Market St.

Each home will be festively decked out for the fundraiser.  Decorating at some of the larger homes has been underway since late September. The varied interiors will feature Victorian decorations, live greens and a variety of themed trees and rooms, such as Western and hunting motifs at the Barnett Avenue home.

Tickets are $15 per person for the self-guided tours. The properties will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 10 and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 11. Tickets will go on sale 30 minutes prior to the start of the tours at Brownsville Fire Co. 1, 520 Market St. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

Also that night, the congregation of the 156-year-old Christ Church Anglican, 305 Church St., will be holding a special service, beginning at 7 pm. It is based on the first American prayer book written in 1789.

Brownsville Historical Society also will be conducting candlelight tours at Nemacolin Castle, a National Trust landmark located at 136 Front St. The December calendar for the 22-room house mansion calls for doors to be open Fridays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Dec. 28 and Dec. 29 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and closed Dec. 24, 25, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. Tickets are $10 for adults and $4 for children 12 years old and under.