By David Lindenmuth
SHENANDOAH - A group of local residents learned more about Shenandoah's history as they walked its streets as part of Healthy Shenandoah's "Historic Walk Through Shenandoah" on Saturday morning.
The walk took residents through Shenandoah's southwest section and downtown business district, past churches and historic landmarks, as Susan Swearhart, a member of the Greater Shenandoah Area Historical Society, explained the significant of each landmark.
The walk began at the Historical Society's headquarters at 201 South Main Street and proceeded west on West Cherry Street, to the intersection of Jardin and Cherry, where Swearhart pointed out the former site of Saint George's Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church, and the former "Penny School", currently the Walukiewicz-Oravitz Fell Funeral Home, and she displayed historic photos of each.
"When the town was settled, in the mid-1800s and up, there was such a huge Lithuanian population, up to 1500 parishioners, that they broke of from Saint Casimir's." Swearhart noted about Saint George's Church.
The walk continued west, to Trinity Academy (formerly the Father Walter Ciszek Elementary Center and Shenandoah Catholic High School) and Divine Mercy Parish (formerly Annunciation BVM Roman Catholic Church), and then north on Chestnut Street to Saint Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church. Swearhart noted the church stood on the site of the former Grant Mansion, "named after William Grant, a founding father and signer of Charter for Shenandoah City" according to a handout given at the walk. Also noted was the 1980 fire which destroyed Saint Michael's Church
The walk then proceeded east on Oak Street, where walkers were asked to look at the architecture of the homes in the area.
The group stopped at the former Kehillat Israel Synagogue, where Swearhart spoke of the history of the building and the Jewish community in the borough.
The group then proceeded to the corner of Oak and Jardin Streets, where Swearhart spoke about the Bethel Primitive Methodist Church, which was built in 1874.
"That's what I belong to. My great grandfather, I found in the records in the early 1890s, he had lived on Cherry Street... He was a janitor, and then a few years later, he was president of the trustee board for a short while. With his how many children, and my dad's dad, 15 kids, that church just grew in leaps and bounds" Swearhart said. "Reverend Boyd, he came from Ireland, he was here from 1912 to 1964, when he passed away in Philadelphia... He also was ecumenical before it was known to be. He would visit anybody who wanted, and we need people like that, that just really care about the community."
The group visited the site of the former Columbia Brewery, where the Shenandoah High Rise stands today, and then toured downtown. Swearhart noted fires which shaped the downtown, including devastating fires, one of which destroyed the Strand Theater.
Also pointed out was the site of the former Stief's Drug Store at Main and Centre Streets, "Shenandoah's Original Skyscraper". According to the flyer handed out at the walk, the building was used to spot for enemy aircraft during World War II.
The walk visited the Miner's Memorial, and concluded back at the historical society's headquarters.