Pennsylvania January 17, 2017
The Deadly History Of This Pennsylvania Park Is Terrifying But True
Austin Dam Memorial Park in Pennsylvania tells a tragic tale. A tale of immeasurable loss with a postscript about just what can happen when a community comes together to turn tragedy into triumph. Here is the story of a small town that experienced – and rebuilt after – one of Pennsylvania’s worst tragedies.
The charming town of Austin enjoyed happiness and growth at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1900, the Freeman Run Valley attracted a new business: Bayless Paper's paper mill.
Austin often suffered water shortages from a lack of rain, which was a cause for concern for Bayless Paper. An earthen dam did little to store water so the company initiated construction of a massive dam - 50 feet high by 540 feet long - at a cost of nearly $86,000. The dam would last less than two years before tragedy struck.
Soon after its completion, townspeople began to notice problems with the dam, the most noticeable being that the concrete began to crack. The cracks, however, were brushed off and attributed to the natural drying process of cement.
Those cracks were simply an omen of what was to occur on September 30, 1911 when the dam, already inundated from severe rainstorms, burst, sending hundreds of gallons of water rushing through Austin.
Approximately 78 townspeople lost their lives that day and the town was virtually flattened.
The deadly collapse of the Austin Dam led to the first state regulations on the dam industry in Pennsylvania.
Austin was rebuilt as was the Bayless Paper Mill (the remnants are seen below) and the dam. But, the latter two were determined to fail. The paper mill burned down in 1933 and the dam again collapsed, with no deaths, in 1942. Neither were rebuilt again.
Today, fewer than 600 residents call Austin home and, through the hard work and dedication of locals, the site of the dam has been transformed into the lush Austin Dam Memorial Park.
Picturesque benches sit throughout the park, allowing visitors to sit back and reflect - on the tragedy that occurred here, the lives that were lost, and the transformation that has taken place. Of course, there's plenty more to do.
Stop by the Apiary for a peek at the colonies of bees that produce honey and pollinate the surrounding plants. Picnic tables are also strategically placed around the park for picnickers and camping is allowed.
Throw your fishing rod into the water for a fishing adventure. The starting date for the 2017 fishing season has yet to be announced.
Austin Dam Memorial Park hosts an annual Dam Show, a concert held every August.
At some time during your visit to the magnificent 76 acre memorial park, stop by the Welcome Center and Gift Shop - open Monday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m. - to browse the souvenirs and learn more about the history of the Austin Dam.
Austin Dam Memorial Park
Austin, PA 16720
Click here for more information.
Austin Dam Memorial Park in Pennsylvania tells a tragic tale of death and destruction but today it is a peaceful spot that draws visitors who pay homage to the tragedy that occurred here and embrace nature by picnicking and fishing. Get another glimpse into Pennsylvania’s past by viewing
15 rare photos of the coal mining industry.