a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Friday, March 20, 2009

A nice restaurant with a not-so-sweet view

BEAVER, Pa. – Lock 6 Landing is a restaurant in an impressive industrial building with a bizarre view.

Food and drink are served inside the ornate Victorian former lock and dam powerhouse whose south arched windows have a view of a messy-looking zinc plant on the opposite banks of the Ohio River.

During our stop, the floor manager appears proud to tell us the zinc plant is one of only two in the United States.

Also within view is a coal-fired power plant just up the road in Beaver County from FirstEnergy’s nuclear generating station in Shippingport.

The short driving tour of the river roads in this area has to be one of the strangest in America. Motorists heading west on Route 68 can cross the Shippingport Bridge and cruise within a stone’s throw of scary-looking cooling towers. Further ahead, a sign welcoming visitors to town proudly features a painting of the plant below clear skies and beside green trees.

Back at the restaurant near Vanport, we are seated at a table facing the river and order slices of cake oozing with chocolate syrup. We marvel at the ornate, original tin ceilings while making a chocolaty mess of the white linen tablecloth. Suddenly, a large volume of water gushes out a pipe at the zinc plant toward a container at the riverbank.

“That doesn’t look like it should be happening,” I say, before noticing there is chocolate of my knife, spoon and two forks. My friend later said chocolate was on my chin, too.

This massive brick building constructed about 1892 once contained the machinery to operate Merrill-Lock No. 6, the second of 10 that were built to improve navigation on the river in Pennsylvania. The lock and dam was abandoned, along with the house, in 1936 when new locks and a dam were constructed nearby in Midland.

The powerhouse has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and used as a restaurant, on and off, for the past decade. We’ll definitely be back for dinner. I have a craving for the crab cakes on the menu.

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