Education: Wagner-Ritter House

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Teachers' Guide

Neighborhoods Worlds Apart

Frame two-story town house with stoop on sidewalk

The Wagner-Ritter House on Broad Street in Cambria City, Johnstown, PA.

More than Miles Apart

Before the Great Flood of 1889, most Johnstowners, regardless of how well-off they were, lived in the valley close to work, church, school, and each other. After the Flood, many people who could afford to live out of the valley and commute chose to do exactly that. In fact, to keep its managers out of harm's way in case of another flood, the Cambria Iron and Steel Company built a hilltop residential neighborhood called Westmont. They also built the Inclined Plane to provide transportation down to the valley to work. The suburbs were born. It was a visible sign of a growing gap between "working class" and "middle class."

Analyzing evidence

Students will compare social, economic, and architectural aspects of Cambria City and Westmont through census data, historic maps, and architecture.

A walking tour of the Wagner-Ritter House's Cambria City neighborhood will build students' historical imagination skills and coach them to read the landscape like cultural geographers.

Drawing conclusions

Finally, they will find similarities and differences between working and middle class neighborhoods, then compare the people who called them home. How much did these fellow townspeople share? In what ways were their lives very different? Why?

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