Hard Times in Yellow Dog

Photo by John Beale Hard Times in Yellow Dog
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In 2014, Joe Meyer moved across Pennsylvania with a dream of transforming Yellow Dog Village, an abandoned limestone mining town in Armstrong County, into a living historic site where tourists could experience life in the early 1900s.

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Five years later, facing tax liens and unable to secure financing, Meyer’s dream of restoring Yellow Dog into a tourist attraction is fading.

Due to the tax bill, and lack of sufficient cash flow, I’ve been turned down by six banks,” Meyer explained. The 32-​acre property will be scheduled for a tax “upset sale” in September 2020.

Meyer, 65, says a dispute over the valuation of the property in West Franklin Township is one the biggest challenges he’s faced in restoring the village. Armstrong County tax records list that Meyer paid $222,300 for the property in 2014. At that time, the assessed value was $263,575. In 2016, the assessed value was lowered to $110,860 as a result of an appeal, but Meyer was responsible for paying taxes based on the higher valuation before the appeal.

Visitors to the 26 buildings that make up Yellow Dog Village see hundreds of shattered windows, kicked-​in doors, peeling paint, missing plumbing and deteriorating roofs. Meyer, a former history teacher, still sees opportunity. He insists the houses are solid structures that can be renovated and open for about $210,000. “Here, we will provide a total historic experience,” he said.

The limestone mine where village residents once worked was closed in the early 1950s. Many residents of the village found jobs in the area and remained living in the village.

According to Meyer, when drinking water samples from the village showed contamination from bacteria in 2009, residents were forced to leave. Some residents left their possessions behind. Furniture, dishes, family photos, VHS tapes, toys and dolls are now heaped on hardwood floors in some of the 34 residences.

Meyer, his daughter Amber Glaslow and two other residents now live in the village. Meyer’s salary from driving a gasoline truck helps to pay his bills.

Occasionally, visitors make appointments and pay to tour Yellow Dog Village. Meyer says he and Amber jointly operate a stable and give riding lessons on the property. “We also lease horses to students who want to do extra riding or showing, usually preparatory to the student buying his own horse,” Meyer wrote in an email.

Read more about Yellow Dog in our Spring 2018 issue article, “Buying a Company Town.”

John Beale

John Beale teaches photojournalism in the Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State’s University Park campus. His photography has been published extensively by many major newspapers, magazines and websites; including ESPN​.com, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times. His work has been recognized with numerous regional and national awards.

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