As residents left Centralia, Pennsylvania their homes were torn down and all signs of civilization were slowly erased. One of the few reminders of the town and its inhabitants were two green park benches.
The most noticeable bench was originally located at the corner of Route 61 and Route 42. Given the amount of traffic at this intersection, many people would get out and pose with the bench for photos.
On the top of the bench was simply stenciled “Centralia.” Under it was the former zip code for the town, 17927. This was added sometime after 2002 in protest of the United States Postal Service revoking the town’s zip due to the lack of population.
The 17927 green bench was chained to the tree behind it to prevent it from being stolen. However, the chain wasn’t enough. At some point in the mid-2000s the bench went missing from Centralia, Pennsylvania.
After the loss of Centralia, PA’s zip code bench, another one grew in popularity. The bench was located near the intersection of Route 61 and Park Street. It sat along the sidewalk just outside of the Veterans Memorial.
This was also near the home of one of the last Centralia residents, John Lokitis Jr. Until he was evicted in 2009, Lokitis took care of the Veterans Memorial and the bench. In the film, The Town That Was, he can be seen painting it. On the bench was stenciled the name “Centralia” and the year the town was founded, “1866.”
After John Lokitis was forced to leave, there was concern that the bench and the Veterans Memorial would be vandalized. As a result, the memorial and the 1866 bench were moved to the American Legion Post 608 in the neighboring town of Wilburton, Pennsylvania.
While it is certainly sad to see the bench leave Centralia, PA it is good to know that it will cared for and protected for years to come.