HIGHLIGHTS:

The Classic Early Days photo

The Wild West and this bar in a coal mining town

Original owner “death by train”

The Midway Cafe

1949 Unsolved Murder

1970 Kaleidoscope Bar

The Black Ceiling

The Sacred Heart mural

2000 Goth Bar / Halloween Parties/ Chattering Bones

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The Grand Midway Hotel has had a large bar on the first floor since it was built.  This is what it looked like back in the day (above).  Note that it has the appearance of a ship, with steam stacks and side port holes.  Today the bar is still the same, and the above tiles are still below the red carpet.  As you scroll down, travel through history from the hotel bar’s earliest look to modern modern day.

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DAMIEN YOUTH

But first, here is Damien Youth, Midway royalty, singing from the hotel bar his song Lies We Tell

RICCARDO BOCCANEGRA

DAVID J

David J of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets!  Unbelievable night,,,

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DEATH BY TRAIN!

Mangled by a Train, Barnesboro, Pa., December 9, 1904  (early newspaper article)

Andy Lazarcak of Cambria City, Johnstown, was run over and instantly killed by a train on the Susquehanna division near Barnes tipple No. 7 at 7 o’clock Monday night.

The man was alone at the time he met death. A few minutes before he had been in the company of some friends at one of the hotels and walked away alone. The next heard of him was that he had been killed. As the train came thundering along, the headlight revealed to the engineer the form of a man lying on the track, but there was no time to stop before he was run over and the body was horribly mangled. The train was stopped and the crew found that the body had been cut in two below the shoulders, the arms were cut off and the left leg severed above the ankle. The remains were taken to the undertaking rooms of Bougher & McMullen where they were prepared for burial.

The dead man had been in this place several times recently negotiating for the purchase of a hotel. He formerly conducted one at Cambria City and before that was proprietor of the Midway Hotel at Windber.

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The Original Bar

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PHAT MAN DEE

The amazing Phat Man Dee singing ‘Gandhi Lives’ in the Grand Midway Hotel bar!

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THE ORIGINAL MIDWAY AS A SCAM  -bY PATTY WILSON 

Patty D. took me to meet a man who is from Windber yesterday. He grew up there and his family has been there for generations. He told us some things about the hotel. I don’t know if you know the stuff or not but I’ll tell you just in case you didn’t already know.

The Grand Midway was the first stop for most of the immigrants that came to the coal mines. The mine owners hired agents to go over to eastern Europe and talk up the mine jobs. Those who signed up got a bonus when they arrived at Windber. A small advance was made on the bonus to help with travel expenses. The men were given badges or buttons that they dared not loose. The buttons got them onto ships and trains on their journey for free. (Passage was paid by the mine owners.) The men only had to present the buttons and they would be directed through immigration and onto the right train cars. No English was needed that way.

Once the immigrant arrived in Windber (by train) they were directed to the Grand Midway which also housed a Cunard Line office. (Cunard Lines was a ship line that had the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. They would later merge with White Star Lines of Titantic fame but they made a lot of money shipping immigrants over in steerage for mines and the railroads.) By checking in at the Cunard office they had completed their journey.  They would then be given their bonus but they would also be told that the housing they had been promised was not ready. For a cut rate they could stay at the Grand Midway.

Most of these men had never had so much money. They felt rich and most of them accepted the accomodations.  America was such a wonderful place. Already they were better off than in Europe. However, the whole thing was a gimmick to separate the men from the signing bonus money. The men would not get their housing until the bonus money had been spent and it was usually spent at the Grand Midway. Then suddenly the miner’s house was available. This way they rotated in the men, got back most of the bonus, and then sent them on to cheap mine housing. How this worked within the Grand Midway he was not sure. Probably the mine got a cut or kickback to keep the men coming there. The Hotel only made a part of the profit on the deal.

Anyhow, he said that there were limits on how many could stay in a room because they didn’t want a lot of men to share a room. He had heard that people were housed in the basement temporarily if they ran out of money or if someone brought children and couldn’t keep them all in rooms. It was very cheap to sleep in the basement area.

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THE LOBSTER QUADRILLE!

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A LOT OF HISTORY WITHIN THESE WALLS…

The Grand Midway Hotel used to have balconies that lined the front of it.  Miners would get off the train out front after work and drink here in the hotel bar.  There were prostitutes and bar fights and it must have been like the Old Wild West in many ways.  Riots erupted over Unions in the community.  There are miles and miles of mines beneath the ground here carved out by the miners.  The coal museum, two doors down, has a giant electric map of the huge network of tunnels.  One old miner described it as “An entire underground city” beneath the land here.  “It runs for miles and on several levels atop one another. People have no idea.”  Some of the coal that fueled the Titanic supposedly even came from Windber.

Hotel registry books were found hidden in the basement floorboards from 1916.  Some of these Registry Books were not even written in English.  No one was about to steal this Bar Hotel Safe. It weighs a ton.

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THE MIDWAY CAFE

One theory is that the bar was re-created as a ship after the WW2 Battle of Midway. It was called The Midway Cafe. Notice the port holes and steam stacks.

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THE UNSOLVED MURDER

In 1949 a man was killed in the back doorway here of the Grand Midway bar. For a long time the back door was the main entrance into the bar. One night a late night argument took place inside. A man exited alone and was suddenly clocked over the head by a wooden 2×4! Then, moments later, he was struck again as a taxicab drove over him in the back alley!  He died.

This case was never solved. The bartender went to his grave never repeating what happened that night. The rumor is he was warned he’d receive the same fate.

The local County Coroner’s Office recently reopened the case at the family’s request.

A man named Stan Slishinsky showed up at the hotel door with a photo of his grandfather, who was the victim of the murder in the back alley.  Stan said it was over meat.  There were meat rations at that time being enforced and his grandfather had busted two men illegally selling meat.  So supposedly, they took revenge…

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RAQUY AND THE CAVEMEN

Singing their Dahlradia

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THE KALEIDOSCOPE!

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In the late 1960’s and early 1970s the bar was recreated as the Kaleidoscope, “the areas only psycedelic bar.” Flowers and psychedelic swirls decorated the walls. It big flowing painted letters ‘The Kaleidoscope’ splashed across wall above the bar. From the stories we’ve heard from everyone it was pretty wild.

“You had to catch it at the right time.” Recalls Denny Burgeos, who was a local musician friend within the bar. “But there was a period where a small group of friends, who all had money, got together and did this thing, and they were all excentrics. The bar was a weekend bar. During the week it was closed. But on the weekends… they’d have all the lights going outside and inside. Boy, the chicks and the mini-skirts. It was crazy. Man it was something!”

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RAQUY AND THE CAVEMEN

Release the Green Lover…  You gotta hear this.

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The Black Ceiling, December 14, 2001 Journal -by Blair Murphy

Well, tonight I am painting. It is a gift I’ve given to myself. It is my birthday in a few days and I was trying to think of something inexpensive and unique I could do with myself. So I’m painting the ceiling of my bar.

To give you an idea of the environment here…this old hotel is in the direct center of town. The new Mayor comes over every day to check up on me and make sure I’m doing okay. I have been in here working on this place for 40 days and 40 nights. So far I only know the Mayor, Mark the Plumber, and Marge the bar owner up the street. Anyway, they’ll all be here for New Years along with apparently everyone else.

Tonight it is after midnight. And I am drinking coffee. Paint thick on my hands…feels good…reminding me that I am first an artist. (Remember people, we are made in our Creator’s image. Thus first and foremost we are all creators. You included.)

I got my Course in Miracles tapes playing in the background. I got my black boots leather wrapping round my feet. I got the Mayor’s ladder and I am ten feet high in the air, brush in hand, gallon of black paint, looking down on my burgundy red bar.

My future roommates are driving somewhere out there in America right now and making a beeline direct to this hotel. They have a moving truck loaded with furniture and other house goodies. In a way I could consider Damien alone a birthday gift from the Universe. I love his music. I’m honored to be his friend. He calls me brother. And now I’m going to get to live with him in this incredible experiment.

What a trip. What a gift to be out of Los Angeles and immersing oneself fully into an environment like this.

I’m changing as an artist. In the last month alone I’ve felt the shifts enjoy their new magnitude. I wasn’t so sure for a while there, life had gotten so cruel over the last few years. But I’m aware of it now. I’m really looking forward to re-introducing myself and my creation process to all of you. Mom, you have no idea the kind of visions your son sees. Tonight there is a Solar eclipse in the Sagittariun sky, surrounded by five planets, and I am feeling the new moon like a set of wings on an angel. My god I am one with the paint.

So I’m up here on this ladder right now -red bar beneath me. The ceiling had those cheap office tiles across it…the drop ceiling kind like, well, like in an office. It was in pretty good shape except for some water stains. The Mayor suggested I just paint over the cardboard tiles. White paint, of course, is what everyone had in mind.

So after he left I got started. But the monkey in me got curious and I poked my head up above the drab cardboard office tiles to see the hidden antique ceiling above it. It was like finding a hidden pirate treasure. Oh yes, three feet higher boasted a ceiling from the turn of the century… 80 feet long…tin…designed with endless flower arrangements pressed into the metal. A lot of the old white paint on it was chipping off for years. It had been denigrated an eyesore. But I, I think to myself, I could restore you to your original glory. O, I will polish you in these midnight hours. I will caress my paint-smeared fingers across your every curve. I will swim deep into the waves of this breathing canvas.

In the morning the Mayor will walk in and wonder how this had happened…and when!? When could he have done this!?

I say all this to you now, beloved readers that I may be reaching, because one day you will visit here and be sitting beneath this very black ceiling. You will be seated at this grand wood bar. You will perhaps have a moment when no one is speaking to you. Music rich around your head like a warm blanket. Seated at this bar, glancing around, perhaps the taste of red wine on your lips, and you will notice in the darkness the ceiling above you…her rich black beauty, just the hints of gleam off her iron, an ebony crown in the sky…and you will recall my painting it, and what treasure these hours have meant to me.

Michelangelo painted a ceiling and it was worth losing his eyesight over. I’m crying right now.

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TOMMY AMOEBA!!!

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THE SACRED HEART

When painter Dylan Fornoff was living here I asked him to create a giant Sacred Heart mural for the stage, big enough that it could even be seen from the street as people drive by.  I wanted it to be bright and loud, leaving no question that the work we were doing here was considered sacred.

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For this photograph, by Adam Blai, the motorcycle stunt group the Starboyz drove their bikes right up into the hotel.  This photo also highlights hotel resident painter Dylan Fornoff’s murals of Anubis and the Sacred Heart.

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HALLOWEEN…

Halloween seems to stretch from September to November around here.  The enchantment in the air off the trees changing is a rich revolving garden.  Our hotel is always pretty fun for this season.  The hotel bar door spills open into the park out front.

The Grand Midway Hotel’s annual Chattering Bones post-Halloween party takes place ion the bar.  It is closed to the public.  By invitation only.  These events are for the inner circle of artists who make up the mythology of artists surrounding the hotel who have been around for a while and actively contributing to the hotel’s scene.  A lot of people have helped out and added a good deal of investment and endearment to the hotel.  This private event is for them.  People attend from Pittsburgh, New York City, New Orleans, Florida, and from as far away as Los Angeles.  (It is the Grand Midway’s form of a Mary Kay Convention.  Maybe we’ll be giving away a black Cadillac next year?)  The name Chattering Bones comes from the November chill in the air being quite cold up here in the mountains.  Guests are told to dress warm.  These rich romantic nights, and many of the other private costume events hosted here, often appear very Lord Byronesque, with the entire hotel metamorphosing into his famed villa diodati.

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THE YEAR OF THE WITCH performance in the bar

Skot Jones launches his epic poem at the tenth anniversary of Kerouacfest