At the beginning of 2018, the ownership rights to the local attraction, Centralia Graffiti Highway, fell into the hands of neighboring property owners, including Pagnotti Enterprises. The State of Pennsylvania gave up rights to the road once it was determined the road would never be safe again to use as a highway. Although the easement was lifted, Graffiti Highway continued to attract visitors from all areas. About three quarters of a mile in length, the highway was covered with public art, colorful drawings, words, and images. Interested parties would ignore the ‘no trespassing’ signs to experience the obviously unique spectacle. Pagnotti Enterprises, which now owns a majority of the road, has made a bold decision that some feel is disrespectful to the legacy of Centralia. Others see Pagnotti Enterprises’ choice to pave over the road as a solution to the overpopulation of visitors to the area.
For those not familiar with the history of Centralia, an abandoned coal mine beneath the town has been burning since 1962. Since that time, Centralia’s residents shrank from 1,400 to 8. Deeming the area unsafe to live, the state initiated a relocation project to move the remaining residents away from the hazardous town. By the early 90’s, Centralia was stripped of its zip code, and eviction efforts continued. In 1993, the road was officially closed to all traffic. Following a federal lawsuit settled in 2013, the remaining five households were awarded $349,500 and the promise that they could stay in their homes until death.
Considering the long history of the town and the road, locals in neighboring communities protested Pagnotti Enterprises’ urge to lay a fresh layer of asphalt. A haunting representation of what the town once was, the colors plastered over the highway served as a reminder of Centralia’s past. Others found comfort and relief in the paving, which took place this month. In particular, law enforcement officers anticipate a large decrease in visitors to the highway. Some of the hijinks of the past include visitors breaking into the homes in the ghost town, throwing parties in the cemetery, and creating a public annoyance. It is the hope that this decision will prove beneficial to the preservation of the town’s history and decline in crime.