Sunday, March 1, 2009
The Hobbit garage
Walter Rockwell’s love of carnivals could explain his fascination with whimsical architecture.
During his adult life in the early 1900s, Rockwell built several round buildings in the Charleroi, Pa., area, including this fanciful garage behind a mansion on a hill overlooking the borough.
Built at the end of a narrow alley behind Prospect Avenue, it’s floor once rotated with the help of ball bearings and chains so drivers didn’t have to steer backwards for nearly a block to reach the main road.
Rockwell earned the degree of master electrician after having worked for seven years building carnival attractions. He was best known during his time for building the “Crazy House” and “Japanese Bowling Alleys” at Shady Grove Amusement Park in Uniontown, Pa., his birthplace, according to the Charleroi Area Historical Society.
He also was instrumental in building the historic Coyle Theater in Charleroi, a former burlesque house that is about to be restored.
Another identical garage in town has been demolished. It was built for a funeral home’s hearse. The one shown in the photo was designed for the Monier family.
Ironically, he built a mansion with round rooms in nearby Carroll Township for the Coyle family, one that doubles as the Demon House spookfest each fall.