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Saxonburg seeks to recreate century-old photo of Main Street

| Monday, May 11, 2009

A photograph taken more than a century ago captures the enthusiasm of progress in what was a small town of mostly German immigrants.

Now hanging on the wall at Hotel Saxonburg, the sepiatone photo taken about 1906 shows about 200 people gathered on Saxonburg's Main Street in celebration of a plan to pave the dirt road with bricks.

In the forefront stands a German band. Amid horse-drawn carriages and numerous residents in the background, one person holds a difficult-to-read sign that, according to local lore, says, "God Bless Our New Road."

Naturally, the scene has evolved. Saxonburg had a population of 307 in 1900, compared with about 1,629 in 2000. Main Street is paved with asphalt and lined with cars and buildings.

Community leaders want to re-create the photo to celebrate new developments while remembering the old.

"A re-creation of that photo is a perfect expression of the sense of community that defined Saxonburg then and now," Mayor Brian Antoszyk said. He wants as many residents as possible to line Main Street on Friday to be part of the new picture.

Members of the Knoch High School band will take the place of the German musicians. Other participants will be positioned to resemble the crowd in the original photo as much as possible.

The photo re-creation will coincide with the inaugural visit of a group from Muhlhausen, Germany, Saxonburg's sister city through Sister Cities International.

Antoszyk and other borough representatives went to Muhlhausen last year at the beginning of the relationship between the two towns.

"I left here thinking I knew a lot about history, only to arrive over there and realize I know practically nothing," the mayor said.

Antoszyk said Muhlhausen, population 30,000, celebrates its famous native sons, including John Augustus Roebling, who left Germany for America and founded Saxonburg in 1831.

Roebling, an engineer, invented wire rope cable and designed the Brooklyn Bridge.

"He was like a Carnegie or a Frick," said Ray Rush of the John Roebling's Historic Saxonburg Society. "Actually, he was more like an Edison or a Westinghouse; he was that brilliant.

"They just really celebrate (Roebling) in Muhlhausen — even more than we do."

The borough will welcome three Muhlhausen officials, including Mayor Hans-Dieter Dorbaum.

Additional Information:

Photo shoot

What: Re-creation of an early-1900s photo taken along Main Street in Saxonburg.

Who: Saxonburg residents, civic leaders and visitors from Muhlhausen, Germany.

When: 9 a.m. Friday. (Residents should arrive at 8:30 a.m.)

Where: Near Hotel Saxonburg along Main Street.

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