A while back I did a shoot at a really cool old theatre in Blossburg, PA called the Victoria. To this date it has been one of my most popular stories and galleries here on my site. Through that shoot I met the wonderful owners Tom and Tonya MacNamara and Tonya’s dad, Pete Gorda. While I was shooting various parts of the theater Pete and the family looked on in wonderment and at one point, Pete approached me, gave me a nudge and whispered, “You have to see my barn sometime”. Then he gave me a smile and a wink and wandered off into the theater somewhere. Since the shoot I have tried to help the theater with a new website and promotion, and my band “Wendy Owens and Renegade” did a show there, and about a week ago, Tonya sent me an email exclaiming that Pete just bought a church! And, if I were interested that I should contact her to arrange to come down and do another shoot. I love this stuff so there was no way I was going to say, “no” to an opportunity like this. We quickly set up a date and thus the adventure was set into motion.
It was a Thursday, and it was rainy and nasty outside but I dragged myself out of bed, packed my gear and headed off to Blossburg to meet up with Pete. So after an hours drive I arrive in the small town of Blossburg, about 40 miles south of Corning, NY on route 15 in Pennsylvania’s Tioga County. As I got into Blossburg, Pete gave me a jingle and asked that I meet him just up the road from the theater at a house he just purchased. As I drove up, Pete was on the porch of his new purchase with a big smile on his face. Like a kid who just robbed the candy store, Pete was anxious to show me his new prize. A 3 story early 1900′s brick home that had recently had a fire. Pete had finished repairing all the fire damage and was in the process of putting in new ceilings and drywall. The house was beautiful. I see a lot of abandoned places in my travels and it would be great to have a million “Petes” out there taking these old places and restoring them. Pete was about 50% done with the interior and I could easily see how beautiful this house was going to be when he finishes it. Kicker is, he already has a renter. The natural gas business in PA is really taking off and rentals don’t last long. In this case, someone is going to get an amazing home. We finished the tour in the attic which was huge! Man, I love those old houses and I love the fact that a guy like Pete is putting the time in to keep them alive.
All this house exploring was great, but I was here to shoot a church. So, Pete and I headed out. Just before hopping in the truck Pete gives me that smile again and says, “follow me”. Somehow I knew we weren’t going to that church yet.
Over the hills and through the woods we drove. Over several dirt roads and then……there it was…..Pete’s barn!
Wow, what a barn it is! As we approached, Pete had me walk up to the silo and look up. Right in the center on the top ring of blocks a neck of a bottle is sticking out. Pete says that the guys who built the silo in 1911 celebrated the pouring of the last block by drinking a bit of whiskey and encased the bottle right in to the masonry on the silo. I could not get a good picture of it as the sun was at high-noon. I will get back there and get a shot of it soon, as I have already planned a revisit.
So we circled around back and Pete cracked open the barn doors and I peer inside!
The sun blazes through a loft window in Pete’s barn. Yes, that is an original Penn Yann Hand built boat on the left.Buy This Print
An old sign from a bridge that Pete worked on as a mason.Buy This Print
An old victorian era table just hangin’ out in Pete’s Barn.Buy This Print
Head crackers, er cast iron pans in Pete’s barn.Buy This Print
An original milking stool from Pete’s farm. Slide it under the cow, slap the bucket on the end and milk away.Buy This Print
While we rummaged through this great barn Pete told me a bit about his life. He is 76 years young and has lived here on this farm for 35 years. He was born at the farm just up the road from his and now his brother owns that and rents it out. From 1955 until about 1970 he worked on the Saint Lawrence Seaway and helped build the FDR power plant. He hopes to build a log cabin out of a row of trees that he planted years ago on his property. He reckons they are big enough now to start the cabin. I just couldn’t believe Pete needed another project to work on. But, in talking with him I realized he is a lot like me in the way he likes to stay busy. He says, “Can’t get sick if you have something to do”. After I finished shooting Pete told me to come over by where he was standing across the barn and take a look at something. So, I walked over and there stood a stack of hand carved walking sticks. Some painted, some wood-burned, all amazing! He said a friend of his makes them and he wanted me to have one. I couldn’t believe it! I have a few walking sticks that I have claimed on my travels. I bring them home and the misses gives me that look. I dry them out and sand them off but nothing like these. Each one is a work of art. I tell Pete I just can’t take one of these, they are amazing. I tell him that I will pay him, gladly. But, he insists that it’s a gift. The choice was very difficult but I ended up picking an awesome stick with two snakes carved and wood-burned into the length of the stick. An amazing gift from an amazing man!
Pete then led me outside and said, now you have to see whats under the barn! How could it get any better? Little did I know.. First gem I spotted was this awesome American Flint Glass Workers Union local 1001 office door.
And then, the highlight of my day. An old WWII era Jeep in Pete’s barn. Man I would LOVE to have this thing!! Pete assures me that it still RUNS!!
I am seriously considering asking Pete if he will trade me photos for life for this Jeep! Amazing! We head outside to take a couple detail shots of the barn.
Pete said they would store milk here to cool before shipping it out. Love these old dairy farms!
So just when I think that is as good as it is going to get, Pete takes me around back of the house and shows me his bike…
That’s a 50′s era Murray Aero-liner. Pete insists it was in working order last week when he rode it.. And yes, that’s an old Ford pickup in the background. What is a farm without an old Ford pickup? And just beyond that are two trailers full of stuff as well!! Man, this just never ends. And speaking of “what’s a farm without”, what about a genuine outhouse?
While checking out the outhouse Pete “suggests” that his wife would love me to take a picture of her garden and Tulips while they are still in bloom. He says if I do that, he will take me to his Chicken coup to see all the goodies he has stored in there. How could I resist?
Next stop a large building out back Pete says is an old chicken coup. A whole wealth of goodies in here from vintage electronic gadgets, tools, and Pete’s famous cast iron pan collection.
Wow! That was awesome! Pete’s barn and collection is simply awesom…..wait what? Pete, “Come on, hop in the truck, I have something else to show you.” So I throw my gear in the back of the pickup and we head down the road then Pete pulls a right hand turn right into a field! His field of course, but a field none-the-less. About 100 yards in we make a left to a clearing, pull up and hop out. This is what I saw.
Pete says, “Come on, I’ll show you the inside and the deck.” The deck?!?
Once we get to the top and enter the tree house we are greeted by a little field mouse who is none-to-happy to see us. He scurries up the tree and back into his knot-hole home.
It was absolutely unbelievable. The entire treehouse and attached deck is supported by a massive 5 foot diameter maple tree. You don’t really get the feel for the massive size of this thing from my wide-angle lens but trust me, it was huge! After we came down from the tree house Pete pointed over to that line of pine trees I mentioned earlier and told me he planted those 35 years ago. Then he asked, “Do you think they are ready?” “Ready for what?”, I queried. “To cut down and build a log cabin?”, Pete exclaimed. Pete is just amazing. With all he has going he has even more going! Well, let’s go look at a church. Oh yeah, the church! So we hop back in the truck, after Pete takes another call, and head off to see the church.
On the way Pete tells me that Antrim was a mining town and John Magee Jr., son of the coal operator who founded Antrim and an officer in the Fall Brook Coal Company died in 1873 and left $50,000 for the construction of 5 Episcopal churches in the region. The church that Pete has purchased was the first of the churches built for a sum of $13,000. Quite a lot of money in 1880. The church, consecrated in June of 1882 and was in operation up until 2009. Here are some shots of the inside and out.
Pete ended off the this unbelievable day by taking me down to the Duncan Tavern in Antrim and buying me a burger and fries for lunch. Days don’t get much better than this. Over lunch Pete tells me has not decided what he wants to do with the church property yet. He tells me he would like to preserve it as a place for weddings or music, or maybe even an apartment. Only time will tell the outcome, but there is one thing that is for sure, the church and property are in no more capable hands than Pete’s to turn it around. If you have an old building that needs saving, Superman Pete just might be able turn that around too.
I would like shout out a special “thank you” to Pete. Thanks for the tour, the walking stick, the stories, the lunch, and most of all, for allowing me to spend a few hours hanging out, and capturing your amazing world.