Hidden History: The Concrete City of Nanticoke, PA
It’s blast-proof, but I hear the toilets were terrible…
Tucked into the woods on the outskirts of Nanticoke lies an antiquated housing complex, created in the early 20th century. Concrete City, as it is now known, is arguably the first example of tract housing, a building style in which multiple similar houses were constructed and subdivided into individual lots. Constructed in 1911 and abandoned by 1924, the structures can be found today in a now overgrown lot surrounded by thick foliage.
The structures were erected by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad(DL&W) to be used as company housing for model employees. Twenty of the duplex structures were erected in a square formation surrounding a common area that included sports courts and a swimming pool. The buildings were constructed from poured concrete, infused with coal cinders and crude oil, as well as iron rebars. Materials were rolled in on rail cars, which also served as mixing vats for the concrete mixture during construction. At the time of its’ construction the “Garden City of the Anthracite Region” was considered a marvel of modern engineering.
Unfortunately for its creators and residents, the Garden City failed to live up to the grand expectations laid upon it. Despite preparations to counter the problem, the concrete structures were subject to design flaws. Condensation inside the buildings soaked the interiors, and rapidly destroyed any plaster or paint applied. The external concrete outhouses were unable to keep up with the demands of the population, and DL&W was unwilling to install a costly sewer system. These problems led to the eventual abandonment of the complex in favor of better housing. The abandoned buildings were bought by the Glen Alden Coal Company and were slated for demolition, but plans to remove the buildings were cancelled when 100 sticks of dynamite were detonated inside one of the buildings, to little effect. The historical facts for this article were provided by the Atlas Obscura and ExplorePaHistory.com
Today, The Concrete City still stands against the elements, as well as use by law enforcement and fire departments for training exercises. The City also plays host to Graffiti artists, Air gun enthusiasts, and the occasional crowd of party-goers, based upon refuse found around the site.
The site is worth a visit for various interests, from history buffs to Grafitti artists to athletes seeking a challenging obstacle course (several walls, both first and second floor, have been destroyed by vandalism. Allowing for reasonably easy movement between buildings). Do beware of low ceilings, exposed rebars, and damaged areas of the complex; multiple buildings have damaged foundations and have sunk into the ground as their basements collapse. The easiest access is a dirt track running off of Front Street in the Hanover section of Nanticoke.