When I was doing research for A Specter of Truth set in 1818, I learned that the neighboring town of Phoenixville was named Manavon back then. In 1790, a small nail producing mill was located along the French Creek, near the Schuylkill River. In 1813, a new investor in the business called it the Phoenix Nail Works because the red hot iron in the furnace reminded him of the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes. The small nail factory grew into the Phoenix Iron Works in the mid-19th century, and then became the Phoenix Steel Corporation in the 20th century. When the borough was incorporated in 1849, the town was named Phoenixville.
Phoenixville had seen great prosperity during the heyday of the iron industry, and even when the railroads switched from iron to steel. After WW2, however, Phoenixville’s industry was severely impacted by steel and aluminum competitors. The economy went bust. Phoenixville died.
In the last 10 years, there has been a great growth in Phoenixville. To honor tradition and to portray the phoenix’s rebirth, Phoenixville now has a symbolic Phoenix Rising from the Ashes each December. Pictured above is the gigantic bird, with its sapphire-like eyes, that was built to serve as an effigy for the 2017 festival.
On Saturday night, December 9, the huge wooden phoenix was set aflame. Even the day’s snowfall didn’t curtail the celebration. It was an awesome sight, at times looking like a roaring dragon portending change, until it collapsed in a heap of ashes.
I daresay there’s not one of us who has escaped some type of trauma in our lifetime. We’ve fallen to our knees, decimated, wondering how we can ever rebuild our hopes and dreams.
The rising phoenix can be our inspiration. We will rise from the ashes, as did the mythological bird. We will be born again. And we will have learned a powerful lesson from the experience.
(By the way, speaking about fires, if you’re looking for an independent insurance agent who will work with you to find affordable, quality insurance for your home, business, or vehicles, check out the Thomas McKee Insurance Agency. Tell him his sister sent you.)