Concrete City

Basic
Region: Nanticoke, PA
Location
Type: Large residential facility
Status: Abandoned
Parent: Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad
Opened: 1913
Closed: 1924
Location:

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History

Prior to Concrete City being built, company housing for railroad and mine employees was common, but of a very poor quality standard. The Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad (DL&W) wanted to build the role model of company housing for some of its important Truesdale Colliery employees. The DL&W wanted to use newer materials and architectural styles, so they decided to build concrete houses using the new International Style, which was half way to Brutalism. Concrete City was to be a square of 20 two-family concrete houses, in a 4-6-4-6 “configuration”. Each house was two stories and divided in the middle, giving each family a small 2-story house. Each house was to have 7 rooms, a living room, kitchen, dining room (lower level), and 4 bedrooms on the top level. The houses would be heated by 2 coal stoves, one between the living and dining room, and another cooking stove in the kitchen. They would not have bathrooms, and instead each house would have a concrete outhouse behind it. Coal bins would also be located by each outhouse. Throughout the complex there was to be sidewalks and electric street lights. In the middle of the complex, there was to be a concrete pool, a fountain, multiple playgrounds, a baseball field, and tennis courts.

Once everything was planned, the railroad set out to build the complex in September of 1911. The DL&W used a system where they brought the materials into the build site via rail cars, and mixed the concrete on-site on flat rail cars. This allowed the DL&W to pump out an entire two-family house each day. The interesting thing is, even with the hasty building of every house, they were incredibly strong. Construction was finished in 1913.

When Concrete City opened, residency was limited to english speakers who held a high position in the company. Because of this clause, the 40 families (out of 1,700 in the company) to inhabit Concrete City were all high up in the company. Most of these residents were English or Irish. Rent costed $8 per month. The neighborhood was hyped up to be the standard of luxurious company housing, but that quickly proved to be false. In 1914, a boy drowned in the swimming pool, prompting it to be filled in just 1 year after it was opened. The tragic drowning was not the main issue, however. The concrete buildings let a lot of moisture in, despite the railroad treating the concrete with coal cinders and oil. The moisture problem was so bad that a former resident said her father’s shirts would freeze in the winter and had to be ironed every day in order to wear them. Around 1920, the paint began peeling severely. In 1924, the local government required the Glen Alden Coal Company, the owner, to install a sewer system in place of their outhouses. The owner calculated this would cost around $200,000 (around $3,000,000 in 2019), and instead decided to demolish the complex. Just 11 years after Concrete City was opened, it was to be demolished. After 100 sticks of dynamite failed to demolish one building, Concrete City was abandoned.

Since Concrete City’s initial abandonment, the Luzerne County Firemen’s Association used the complex as a training center. Because of this, some of the buildings suffer severe fire damage to this day. Some time after, the complex was bought by the Eleventh Congressional District Heavy Equipment Center with the intent to demolish it. Luckily, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission saved Concrete City in 1992 and turned the complex into a state historical site. Over time, vandals, shooters, and the like trashed the place.

Concrete City Row of Houses

Concrete City Row of Houses

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

A partial view of a row of houses at [[ Concrete City ]]. This picture was taken standing in the recreation area.

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Concrete City Row of Houses in Operation

Concrete City Row of Houses in Operation

by Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad - Public domain

A row of [[ houses // Concrete City ]] durting its operation. In this photo you can see the sidewalks and decoration, neither of which exist today.

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Concrete City Tilted House

Concrete City Tilted House

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

A tilted house in [[ Concrete City ]]. When demolition was attempted, the dynamite simply knocked the house off its foundation. This happened to a few other houses. Walking in this thing feels really weird. Amazingly, the rest of the house is still in “good” condition.

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Concrete City House Corner in Operation

Concrete City House Corner in Operation

by WR Wright (???) - Public domain

The corner of a house at [[ Concrete City ]] during its operation. In this photo we can see more of the decoration and sidewalks, as well as kids outside. This photo only shows the right half of the house.

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Concrete City Entry Room

Concrete City Entry Room

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

The entryway to a house in [[ Concrete City ]]. It is unclear which room this actually functioned as during operation. In the back, you can see the staircase that led to the upstairs basements.

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Concrete City Entry Room in Operation

Concrete City Entry Room in Operation

by Unknown - Public domain

Here is the entry room of a house in [[ Concrete City ]] during its operation.

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Concrete City Back Rooms and Staircase

Concrete City Back Rooms and Staircase

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

This is a photo of the back staircase leading to the basement of a [[ Concrete City ]] house. This photo was taken in the back 2 rooms. It was unclear what the back 2 rooms were used for. To the very right, you can see the entry room pictured previously.

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Concrete City Kitchen

Concrete City Kitchen

by Unknown - Public domain

A kitchen in [[ Concrete City ]]. In the back, you can see the sink and likely pantry. Behind the open door is the staircase to the basement.

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Concrete City Living Room

Concrete City Living Room

by Unknown - Public domain

The living room of a house in [[ Concrete City ]]. It is unclear where the living room was in the house.

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Concrete City Flooded Basement

Concrete City Flooded Basement

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

Remember the staircase down seen above? This is the basement seen in every [[ house // Concrete City ]]. This one was flooded.

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Concrete City Mirrored Showcase

Concrete City Mirrored Showcase

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

This photo was taken in a blown out wall in [[ Concrete City ]]. This showcases how in each house, the 2 family halves were mirrored, not copied.

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Concrete City Upstairs Hallway

Concrete City Upstairs Hallway

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

The upstairs hallway in every [[ Concrete City ]] house that connected to the 4 bedrooms.

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Concrete City Upstairs Bedrooms

Concrete City Upstairs Bedrooms

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

Some of the partially blown out bedrooms in [[ Concrete City ]].

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Concrete City Dry Basement

Concrete City Dry Basement

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

A dry basement in [[ Concrete City ]]. A bed wire is still visible in the background.

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Concrete City Tilted Doorways

Concrete City Tilted Doorways

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

This photo showcases how extremely tilted some of the houses at [[ Concrete City ]] were. Not all houses were tilted sideways, some were tilted forwards, and some both!

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Concrete City Flooded, Tilted Basement

Concrete City Flooded, Tilted Basement

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

In one of the houses blasted off its foundation at [[ Concrete City ]], the basement was flooded, and the ceiling (the rest of the house) was completely slanted!

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Concrete City Big View and Common Area

Concrete City Big View and Common Area

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

A big view of [[ Concrete City ]]. This big empty space was also the common area, housing the pool, playground, etc…

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Concrete City Pool

Concrete City Pool

by Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad - Public domain

The [[ Concrete City ]] pool. This pool was only operational a year! A little boy drowned in this pool in 1914, prompting the pool to be drained and filled. There is no trace of the pool left today.

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Concrete City Playground

Concrete City Playground

by Unknown - Public domain

This is a photo of one of the [[ Concrete City ]] playgrounds. Up front, we can see the swingset. In the background is a gazebo, and to the very left there is the edge of a slide. No trace of any playground is left today.

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Concrete City Tea Party

Concrete City Tea Party

by Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad - Public domain

A tea party taking place on the porch of a house at [[ Concrete City ]]!

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Concrete City Family on Porch

Concrete City Family on Porch

by Unknown - Public domain

A family on their porch at [[ Concrete City ]].

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Concrete City Fire Damaged House

Concrete City Fire Damaged House

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

The outside of one of the houses in [[ Concrete City ]] used for fire training. As you can see, the fire damage is severe.

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Concrete City Fire Damaged House Interior

Concrete City Fire Damaged House Interior

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

The inside of the fire damaged [[ house // Concrete City ]]. As you can see, fire damage wasn’t the only type of damage this house experienced. The family dividing wall has been blown out, as well as a hole in the floor.

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Concrete City Fire Barrels

Concrete City Fire Barrels

by Unknown - Public domain

Unlike the other historical images of [[ Concrete City ]], this was taken post-abandonment. It is known that training fire departments would set fire to chemicals for practice on chemical fire fighting. This is likely what this picture is showing.

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Concrete City Obliterated House Bedrooms

Concrete City Obliterated House Bedrooms

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

This is likely the [[ house // Concrete City ]] that received 100 sticks of dynamite. On the ceiling above the crated in the floor, explosion “scars” are visible. An interesting thing this house shows well is the pointless stairs in every house. On the top level, every house had a half staircase that led into a wall.

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Concrete City Obliterated House Back

Concrete City Obliterated House Back

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

The back area of the [[ obliterated house // Concrete City ]]. There should have been a wall directly to my left, but it was completely gone! Also, the family dividing wall was gone. The explosion “scars” are also visible in this photo.

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Concrete City 26 Obliterated House Bottom

Concrete City 26 Obliterated House Bottom

by Censored - All rights reserved

A photo of a friend sitting in the bottom of the obliterated house in [[ Concrete City ]].

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Concrete City Obliterated House 2

Concrete City Obliterated House 2

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

I don’t know what happened to this house, but it wasn’t good… Many parts of this [[ Concrete City ]] house were not attached in more than 1 spot, and the house was littered with widowmakers (concrete only attached by rebar).

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Concrete City Hole to Heaven

Concrete City Hole to Heaven

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

In this [[ Concrete City ]] house, on the pointless staircase, there was a hole in the ceiling “to the heavens”. Notice the rebar. It is the right size and position where you can do a pull-up on to the roof…

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Concrete City Kc on the Roof

Concrete City Kc on the Roof

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

My friend trying to prove the [[ roof // Concrete City ]] was stable!

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Concrete City Peeking Through the Trees

Concrete City Peeking Through the Trees

by Max Loiacono - All rights reserved

A [[ Concrete City ]] house peeking through the trees. I just included this picture because I want to use it for the main image.

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Concrete City Construction Train

Concrete City Construction Train

by Unknown - Public domain

The [[ Concrete City ]] construction train. As you can see, the train ran right up against the houses as it built them.

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Sources

  1. http://www.itsveryeasytoremember.com/Pennsylvania/Concrete_City/History_of_Concrete_City/history_of_concrete_city.html
  2. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/concrete-city
  3. https://explorepahistory.com/hmarker.php?markerId=1-A-1AE
  4. http://www.itsveryeasytoremember.com/Pennsylvania/Concrete_City/Yesterdays_Concrete_City/yesterdays_concrete_city.html