Thursday, July 15, 2004

Well, the Academy is one with the ages. The north wing and the main hall are nothing but walls and columns, while the south wing is a gutted ruin. Surprisingly enough, the headmaster's cottage was undamaged, at least to outside observation. A few years ago, the cottage was the one that burned, and the Academy building proper was the one which was untouched. All the buildings along the foot of the bluff seemed to be unaffected, at least to judge from the disinterested calm of the few emergency personnel posted along Water Street. The streets, as expected, were full of the displaced - young, tattooed, and impoverished. These are the folks my Roman History professor used to make Bellefonte jokes about back in the day. I came across a group of people putting up large tents on the lawn in Tallyrand Park, and I thought maybe they were erecting temporary shelters. No such altruism - it was for a celebration scheduled for the next day.

There were rumors that the firefighters clustered too close to the building, and were driven back in disarray when the fire blew up in their faces. I don't know - sounds like classic blame-the-Samaritan sour grapes. Word on the picket line was that they thought that everybody got out, but there are so many transients that move in and out of the Academy that no-one could get an accurate headcount, or even figure out what it should be.

There were two camera teams set up in the alley between the Dollar General and the NAPA auto parts store, updating on previous news reports. Most of the photographs and footage looks to be from that vantage point, as it's the most striking view of the wreck. It looks like Sherman's March to the Sea, or that famous series of photographs of burned Richmond - massive masonry pillars jutting like tusks from the rubble and ashes, and the shell of the heavy outer walls mostly standing. From most other parts of town, the Academy is just gone - a bunch of trees where there used to be a big white building.

Here's the CDT writeup. I'll be damned. It's privately owned. I had always thought that it was owned by the borough or the state. They were putting up the residents in the elementary school over on Linn Street last night.

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