Welcome to Norwich, PA
1910 Norwich, PA: The Hillside Overlooking Downtown Norwich

photo credit: Potter County Historical Society

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Norwich was a bustling little town... before it vanished
Bradford Era. Thursday, May 27, 1993
By Waldo Pettenati

Travelers along Route 46 South rarely realize that at the base of Emporium hill a town of 5,000 or more inhabitants once lived, worked and played. Today, wild turkey, grouse, deer and bear roam the brush and feed in among the trees which line the highway. Some 5,000 acres of woodland-at one time denuded of the original virgin hemlock and hardwoods- are controlled bye the Pennsylvania Game Commission.But the location, once, was home to Norwich, Pa., said to be one of the busiest towns in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the 1900s.Like a shooting star, Norwich rose briefly to prominence and just as quickly vanished.Its rise and fall pantomimed the timber industry whose voracious appetite for virgin trees resembled a horde of locusts, swarming into an area, feasting, and then moving on .Norwich's birth came in 1910 with that of the Goodyear Lumber Co., nestled on the headwaters of the Potato Creek, which operated a huge sawmill employing more than 100 men.The mill had two large band saws whose hum and song could be heard throughout the area, transforming virgin hemlock and hardwood logs into usable lumber. A planing mill operated in a separate building as did a boiler house containing five large boilers.  The equipment for the boiler operation was manufactured at the Clark Brothers shops at Belmont, NY.Eventually, Norwich grew to a population of about 5,000 inhabitants including about 4,000 "wood hicks" who lived in shanties in the nearby woods cutting not just logs for the mill but chemical wood for the Keystone Chemical Plant, one of the largest chemical plants in Pennsylvania at the time.In its prime at Norwich, the Goodyear Co. built a water plant, laying water pipes in all parts of the town supplied from a dam built on one of its many nearby brooks.  All houses in Norwich were supplied with pure spring water.Every home in Norwich was supplied with the then-known modern conveniences of a bathroom, hot and cold water, plus natural gas for heating and lighting, plus a sewage system. The mill itself and the nearby vicinity had electric lights supplied by the mill generators.Besides the large lumber mill, a kindling factory and railroad shops, Norwich contained several churches, both Catholic and Protestant.  There were various lodges, a fire department, a picture show, hotel and various businesses.Among the most prosperous business was the Charles Hull Co. which was said to compete with many of the large city department stores of the time, containing everything from toothpicks to baled hay.Every imaginable need was available to consumers who were isolated some distance from the larger centers of population.  Mr. Hull reportedly carried over $2,000 worth of eggs in cold storage.It was believed by the people of the time that Norwich would be an important factor in the future of county affairs.  But such was not to be the case.In about 1920, local newspapers began printing the demise of the once bursting, bustling village of Norwich.In July of that year, the last log was sawed at the mammoth mill at Norwich.  And the mill itself, one of the largest of its kind in this part of the United States, was moved to Clarion County where a large tract of timber land awaited the building of a new lumbering town.The last vestige of Norwich were removed when the Potato Creek Railroad, which connected Norwich with the outside world, at Liberty, was removed.  At Liberty, it was connected to the Pennsylvania Railroad.The closing of the lumber company resulted in a general migration of people away from the area.  Most of the houses were torn down and transported to Austin and to other towns nearby.In its 10 years, the Norwich operation had cleared approximately 26,000 acres, taking nearly 400 million feet of virgin hemlock and hardwood lumber.At the same time, wood cutters hand cut and delivered 90 million feet of hardwood for staves to the Pennsylvania Stave Co. at nearby Betula, and thousands of cords of chemical wood to the Keystone Chemical Plant.But when its bounty was gone, Norwich like a western mining town, became a deserted ghost town, ending much as it had begun.

millpond armstrong building norwich church hull's norwich department store wow: see giant panorama of norwich