Bellefonte Things to Do
Bellefonte may be a small town, but it celebrates Christmas in high Victorian style! "Bellefonte Victorian Christmas" has been an annual event for over 30 years and draws visitors from far and wide. Although we have visited Bellefonte during the Christmas season, we have never been there for this event which is scheduled this year for the weekend of December 13 - 15, 2013.
Through the combined efforts of the Bellefonte Historical & Cultural Association, the Bellefonte Women's Club, the Homes Tour Committee, and many other sponsors, donors and volunteers, Bellefonte plays host to an unbelievable number of events. Chief among them are the "Festival of Trees," "A Fezziwig's Christmas Party," the "4th Annual Gaslight Gala: A Dickens Victorian Ball," High Tea at the Reynolds Mansion, four Arts & Crafts shows, Concert performances, horse-drawn carriage rides, Santa's Breakfast, a gingerbread house contest, walking tours, model train displays and so much more. Don't miss the Cookie & Hot Chocolate Reception held by Moose Lodge #206 at Bellefonte Elementary School following the 6:30pm Opening Ceremonies on Friday, December 13th, 2013.
A complete calendar of events can be found at: http://www.bellefontevictorianchristmas.com/daily_schedule.php. There are so many events that spending the entire weekend in Bellefonte is a must! My personal pick for events to attend would be the Home Tours, the Fezziwig Christmas Party, a carriage ride, and the arts and crafts shows with a concert thrown in the mix for good measure. However, attending the Victorian High Tea at the Reynolds Mansion would be tops on my list of events to attend as I used to cater Victorian teas myself --- Battenburg lace and china included!
(Reynolds Mansion photos taken during fall just prior to the Christmas decorating was to begin.)
It was difficult to decide to whether to place this tip in the "To Do" category or the "Shopping" category. I have decided to place it here in hopes that a visit is as much for the architectural remnants as for the antiques. The red brick Plaza Centre Antique Gallery building was created from the "remains" of two former movie theaters, The Plaza and the smaller Ritz Theater. The Plaza's opening night was on October 19, 1925, showing the "Jazz Singer."
Although not too much of the former theaters is left, there are a couple of interesting parts to see: the movie poster display areas and some old original movie posters themselves can be see in the inside display windows and there are two vertical picture display windows on each side of the outside entrance; and, the entrance's tin ceiling and a ceiling medallion is left from the original lighting fixtures. You can also see the remains of the original 30 X 60 ft. stage and orchestra pit. The pipe organ that was used for accompanying silent movies before the "talkies" seemed to be long gone or was hidden away. The theater also had a unique feature or structure named the "Crying Room" -- a glass-enclosed room on the balcony level which accommodated parents who brought young children whose crying might disturb other movie goers. This was a feature common to many early churches but this might have been a first for a movie theater.
Another notable piece of history concerning the Plaza Theater is that it was designed by the first female registered architect in the state of Pennsylvania. Anna Wagner Keichline (1889-1943), a Cornell University grad, was not only a pioneering female architect, she was also a suffragette and a Special Agent for Army Intelligence in World War I. An historical marker has been placed in front of the Plaza Theater in her honor.
Once you have seen the few remaining vestiges of the former theaters, you might be enticed to visit the 30,000 sq. feet and many, many niche shops of antiques spread out over 6 levels. Historical and museum pieces are located in a small room off to the left side on the main floor.
Bellefonte is positioned along a rushing creek and amid sharp mountainsides giving it a beautiful geography. The people here are reserved but friendly enough. However, in my opinion, Bellefonte's most notable feature is its preserved architectural heritage. The architecture if my favorite part of Bellefonte
The best way see to Bellefonte is to walk it. The Talleyrand Park Citizens Committee of the Historical and Cultural Association have an online site with photos and information which you can use to go on your own self-guided walking tour of significant buildings and/or sites which lovers of local history & architecture should really enjoy. However, with 43 sites of interest, you may have to make this a 2-day adventure if so interested. It is possible that entrance to a few of these sites may be possible but it would be best to call ahead to determine that.
The first photo accompanying this tip is the original Brockerhoff Hotel located on South Allegheny Street. Occupying the sight of an early log cabin tavern built by James Benner, the Brockherhoff Hotel was built in 1864-1865 by Henry Brockerhoff following the earlier Pennsylvania Hotel. Mr. Brockerhoff owned a nearby mill and was an early real estate tycoon. He is an interesting character in his own right.
Second photo: The Queen, an 1890's Queen Anne Victorian home now converted into a B&B
Third photo: The John Ardell House built in 1883 in the 2nd Empire style now converted into a B&B now named the "Our Fair Lady."
Fourth photo: A stained-glass window with clock adds character to the Tuscan Revival, limestone building that was once the Curtis residence, but is now occupied by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (B.P.O.E.).
To get a complete listing of sites one can view on the walking tour, please visit: bellefontearts.org. A good amount of information, old photos, postcards, etc., can be viewed at this website.
The one shop I always go to when we visit Bellefonte is the "Faith Center Thrift Shop." Some people distinctly dislike thrift shops, and I can understand this. However, I like this store for the unusual finds here rather than the clothing. Prices here and at other similar stores are usually far below what is found elsewhere. I have found a few other items such as kitchenware that I really liked for much less than $5 However, on our last visit I found that prices were rising just as everywhere else. For example, an item that might previously have been sold for a dollar would now be priced at $3 to $4.
I happen to love Beatrix Potter characters so my favorite find at the Faith Center Thrift Shop so far has been a Beatrix Potter character music box for 49 cents! Little "Hunca Munca" is sitting atop a pile of books while she reads another book to her baby. I've seen this piece offered on eBay for $30 and more. I don't necessarily plan to resell this piece but I have to say that it is in "the finding" that is the real thrill.
The shop is stocked with used women's, children's, and men's clothes, used books, videos, and CDs, a few pieces of furniture or lamps here and there. There is a, special section of higher priced women's clothing, purses, shoes, jewelry and such. It is the most artfully displayed area and there are some nice finds there.
All in all a worthwhile stop for those who like this type of shopping. The shop's website states that its mission is to provide low-cost clothing and houseware items to the public and to fund programs and services for its faith-based Center. A friendly atmosphere can be found in this store.
What to buy: I like to shop for unique, decorative items, but also sometimes kitchenware.Related to:
- Budget Travel
As charming as downtown Bellefonte could be, unfortunately its best days seem to be behind it -- or unless and until the country's economy picks up once again. Still there are a few businesses that have survived as well as thrived --- one of these is the "Victorian Rose" shop. The beautifully decorated shop windows will draw you into Victorian Rose, but it's what's inside that will keep you there!!
High Victorian decor left no surface uncovered or unadorned and the Victorian Rose certainly lives up to its name not only in style but in its prevailing hues. This is a shop that will appeal to women who like feminine, posh and ornate decor --- lovely settees draped with buttery soft, silken faux-fur throws; exquisite pillows; ornate mirrors and flickering candles, mini-chandeliers, art objects and lovely glass objects. A small section is dedicated to kitchen decor which is more country than Victorian. Another section is devoted to carefully selected women's accessories such as clutches, scarves, gloves, purses, compacts and jewelry with a few handcrafted soaps and lotions added to the mix for good measure. There is a special little nook devoted to little girls and their room decor.
Don't miss this store during the Christmas season! Examples of the shop windows can be seen in the accompanying photos. Inside the decorations are really special too!
What to buy: If you are looking for a special gift or something special for your home or self, try this shop. The decor items would be especially appealing to someone decorating a little girl's bedroom or Victorian parlor.
What to pay: I would say that a few items would be $10 and under. However, most would be at least $20 and up. For the posh faux-fur throws and such, expect to pay $50 and up.
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