In 2006 several historic structures in the St. Michael Historic District and 1889 Clubhouse were acquired by the National Park Service as part of Johnstown Flood National Memorial. They were donated by the 1889 South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club Historical Preservation Society. These structures were part of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, owners of the South Fork Dam and Lake Conemaugh when the dam broke on May 31, 1889, killing 2,209 people. The most intriguing of these properties is the three story Club House which had forty-seven rooms and lodged most of the members of the club.
Visitors have three options to view the Club House: During a ranger-guided tour, usually held during the anniversary weekend; during a Journey Around Lake Conemaugh Van Tour; and/or during a Path of the Flood Van Tour. Please call 814-886-6171 for more information. Visitors can see parts of the original structure including wood grain floors and the original colors on the walls. Hazards such as mildew, dust, and mold may greet you as well. A 12-foot-high brick and ceramic tiled fireplace is a focal point of the small portion of the clubhouse open for viewing. Water damage has softened ceilings, cracked plaster walls in 24 guest rooms and peeled away wallpaper.
Future plans for the Club House include roof repairs, window replacement, a heating and cooling system, among other structural improvements. The renovations for the club house began in earnest in 2013 and are ongoing, piecemeal. Estimates to repair the building range from $800,000 to $2.5 million.
The man who led a 17-year effort to preserve the Club House was retired U.S. Marine Walter Costlow. "I grew up in St. Michael. My uncle [Ed Schwartzentruver]...saw the dam break. He had been employed by the fishing and hunting club," Mr. Costlow said. In August 1988, he called a meeting and, a year later, organized the 1889 South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club Historical Preservation Society. In 2006, Mr. Costlow's group changed its name to the Friends of the Johnstown Flood National Memorial.
Last updated: June 5, 2021