Displaying items by tag: tornado
One of the benefits of working at the Historical Society of Montgomery County when you were born and raised in said county is getting to scratch old itches. I lived in walking distance of the Jarrettown Hotel and always wondered about its history.
I heard rumors while growing up that George Washington stayed in the hotel. Now I know how difficult that would have been since the hotel was built by Henry Houpt in 1847, almost fifty years after Washington's death. That doesn't mean that the hotel was immune from significant historical events. In May 1896 a tornado made its way through Upper Dublin. At that time, the hotel was owned by Charles Palmer. The hotel made it through just fine, but a shed close to the building was not so lucky.
The hotel passed through a number of hands and is still running today as a restaurant. Are you interested in the history of a building in Montgomery County? Then reach out to us via email, phone, or by visiting the historical society during our open hours and we will be happy to dive into history with you.
May of 1896 witnessed one of the worst tornado outbreaks in American history. It lasted about two weeks and spawned tornados all over the south and Midwest, including three F5 tornados (the more severe category). On the final day of the outbreak, an F3 tornado touched down in Jarrettown then cut a path 35 miles east into New Jersey.
A photo of Judge Knight with his parents from about 1919
I hadn’t heard about this tornado until one of our volunteers, Rita Thomas, told me about some newspaper clippings she had found in Judge Harold Knight’s diary of 1956. I was excited to learn more, but disappointed to see that our collection of the Ambler Gazette on microfilm starts in 1898. Luckily, you can find the paper from 1896 on PA Power Library through the Wissahickon Valley Public Library. The Weekly Herald of Norristown covered it, too, but the Gazette had this sketch of Alexander Knight’s house, one of the oldest in the borough of Ambler.
Here’s a photo from our own collection of the house taken in 1971. Alexander Knight was Judge Harold Knight’s father, and this was his home as well.
The Gazette article focused on the damage from the storm. Two men were killed inside the carriage barn of the Jarrettown Hotel when a wall collapsed. They were Winfield Ensley and Alfred Moffit. Several others were injured. The Jarrettown Public School was badly damaged as was the Jarrrettown United Methodist Church. Both of those buildings had to be rebuilt.
The Weekly Herald of June 1st, focused on the sightseeing, claiming “Effects of the Cyclone Must be Seen to Be Appreciated.” The article estimated that 4,000 people had already come to see the damage which included several collapsed barns and many uprooted trees.