On Thursday, December 14, +Public design researcher Kent Kerr and I took a trip out to Johnstown, Pennsylvania on a day that weathermen across the region decisively claimed, “no one should be driving.”Johnstown takes a little over an hour and a half to travel to via the scenic route and a little bit longer taking the turnpike. Departing from the North Hills of Pittsburgh, we had to be difficult (naturally) and take the scenic route (you know, to get the full experience.) The scenic route is worth taking. Once you pass all of the areas of commerce on Route 22 and enter the Allegheny mountains – the views are impressive, particularly when in snow-covered serenity. We entered Johnstown through the historic Cambria City district. Greeting us was Johnstown Wire, a monolithic example of hard work, industry, and innovation. They’re hiring. The sun was facing the opposite direction of the mountains we were looking at, so the shine against the metal pipes and wires was a dynamic, striking example of potential. Along the perimeter of the parking lot, a weather-worn fence crawls diagonally and leads directly to a massive ‘Johnstown Wire’ sign. We mused that the fence would be a great opportunity for vinyl-based signage.
The snow obscured the white arrows painted on the roads that indicate passing or turning lanes, so we kind of shook the car around trying to gain the right position, much to the likely annoyance of the cars behind us carrying likely lifelong citizens with little patience for visitors. We stopped a few red lights and passed through a few green ones, taking in the sights. At one point, on our passenger-side, we saw the long-side of a building (Johnstown Heritage Discovery Center) with distressed ghost ads of an industry long past transitioning into an adjacent display of contemporary typography calling attention to itself, practically screaming “Come in!”
Google told us to hang a left and that our destination was on our right, a block or so away. We pulled up to a parking spot on the street that had an impression in it of the previously parked car. The meter was covered in snow, undisturbed. The previous car owes some money to the City! It’s funny how the design of parking meters really varies from city to city. Kent injected a few quarters into the reader – since I typically don’t carry coins on me – and we took a walk around and explored on foot before reaching our destination.
Later, I met up with my friend Barb, whom I learned the Jitterbug dance with 12 years ago. I hand-delivered a Christmas card to her featuring a questionable scowl of my 2 and a half-year-old daughter, Amelia – sure to warm up any holiday season! Johnstown impressed us all that they are pushing forward for their revitalization – Kent and I are both looking forward to coming back soon – especially to ride the Incline!