A Local Guide to Altoona, PA

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Have you ever heard of the city of Altoona? Presented by the abuse law firm of Altoona, this article offers some insight into the historical aspect of the city and what it has to offer.

All About Altoona

Altoona is the principal city of the Altoona Metropolitan Statistical Area. Part of Blair County, Pennsylvania, it is the 11th most populous city in the state. The area was founded in 1849 by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) as the site for a shop and maintenance complex. On February 6, 1854, it was incorporated as a borough. On February 8, 1868, Altoona became a city. Known as "the Mountain City," many explanations have been made to explain the city's name Altoona. However, it has not been stated that the name was actually derived from.

During the American Civil War, the area grew rapidly in the late 1800s as demand for locomotives increased. As a valuable city for the North, Altoona was the site of two important gatherings – the War Governors' Conference and the First Interstate Commission meeting – because of the central and convenient nature of the city's rail transportation.

Around the same time, the Pennsylvania Railroad proceeded to develop many notable establishments in Altoona. In 1853, the first industrial library in the U.S., the Mechanic's Library, was built. A three-track railroad curve, the Horseshoe Curve, was also constructed on the Norfolk Souther Railways' Pittsburgh Line. In the early 1900s, the Altoona Works complex employed around 15,000 workers and encompassed 37 acres of indoor workshops in 122 buildings. The PRR also created the city's first fire department, sponsored a band, built Cricket Field, and moved the hospital closer to the shop's gate.

Nonetheless, after World War II, there was a decrease in railroad demands. This caused a major decline in the city and many of its historic sites have since disappeared. Today, the city is home to the Leap-The-Dips, the oldest wooden roller coaster in the world. It is one of the seats of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. As of 2010, the city has a population of 46,320 people and a total area of 9.8 square miles.

Learn more: Explore the City of York, Pennsylvania

Lakemont Park

Lakemont Park was opened in 1894 as a trolley park. In the summer of 1899, it became an amusement park. Located adjacent to Peoples Natural Gas Field – the home of the Altoona Curve Minor League Baseball team – in Altoona, the park is the 8th oldest amusement park in the nation and is one of the only 13 trolley parks still in operation. The park currently houses recreational amenities such as roller coasters, rides and water parks. Some of these are:

  • Leap-The-Dips
  • Skyliners
  • Little Leaper
  • Paddle Boats
  • Tin Lizzy – an antique car ride
  • Monster Motorway Go-Karts
  • Lakemont Park Railroad
  • Pony Carts
  • Kiddie Wheel
  • 4X4
  • Kid's Mini Indy
  • Three Water Slides
  • Pool
  • Pirate's Cove

The amusement park also features attractions like two mini-golf courses, batting cages, basketball courts, volleyball courts, a playground and walking paths. On June 19, 1996, the Leap-The-Dips was designated on the National Historic Landmarks (NHL) by the National Park Service.

Horseshoe Curve

Built by the PRR and architect John Edgar Thomson, Horseshoe Curve was originally a four-track railroad curve that was around 2,375 feet long and 1,300 feet wide. Completed in 1854, it was used to lessen the grade to the summit of the Alleghany Mountains and to assist with crossing the Allegheny Ridge. During World War II, it was a target for Nazi Germany as part of their Operation Pastorius because it was an industrial link to the western part of the U.S.

In 1879, a trackside observation park was created for the Horseshoe Curve. Managed by the Railroaders Memorial Museum, it is a popular tourist attraction for the city of Altoona. On November 13, 1966, the Horseshoe Curve was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and designated as an NHL. In 2004, it was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

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