If you were to peel back the layers of the vibrant downtown, the local construction of the neighborhoods, and the booming developmental actions being taken to bring different aspects of industry to Williamsport, you’d find a town rooted in rich history. If you take a walk down Millionaire’s Row, you’d see the complex architecture of mansions that used to once house visitors such as Singer/Actress Lillian Russell and Author Mark Twain. Once touted as the “Lumber Capital of the World,: Williamsport used to be home to more millionaires per capita than any other U.S. city. Not only that, but a majority of the beautiful buildings downtown such as Eagle Rock Winery are original structures that have been re-purposed.
Revitalization is something that is found at the core of a lot of our conversations with residents, especially City Hall employees John Grado, the Community Developer Director and city engineer, and Stephanie Young from the Community Development Department. “I think if the history were to be lost, it would change the whole fabric of the city. If that somehow were no longer to exist, Williamsport wouldn’t be what it is today,” Young says.
Grado also has worked extensively to keep the natural beauty and resources of the urban landscape alive. He said he believes in finding a balance between that metropolitan development and keeping landscape a focal point.He would love to see trees dispersed among the downtown and the neighborhoods in order to have a compliment between urban and rural. “We need to get the people involved., You can’t plant a tree with only 30 inches between a curb and sidewalk, and people don’t always value it on their property, but they should,” he says.
Something else that both Grado and Young hope for the city is to make it a place where younger people have an opportunity to find work, but also so that the older generation can still stay in city without having to leave due to economic struggles. Grado says that losing the connectivity between the older and younger generation would be a shame to the city, because he feels a great importance in keeping that history strong while also bringing in a new generation of workers and families. “It’s a very secure feeling to feel that you are so rooted,” says Young, who has found herself constantly circling back to her family’s foundation in Williamsport, and now lives in her childhood home.
Both Grado and Young either came or returned to Williamsport because they felt so connected to the community and the environment. That kind of emotional pull and attraction is something they hope Williamsport upholds in order to sustain a historic and robust community. Young then concludes, “A lot of people move away and then come back because they’ve missed it, and sometimes you have to go away to understand the value of what’s here.”
Story by Sophie Herzing
Video by Christopher Cizek
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