Unique Places in Pennsylvania

  • Off The Beaten Path
    by blueskyjohn
  • Off The Beaten Path
    by blueskyjohn
  • Off The Beaten Path
    by blueskyjohn

Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Pennsylvania

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    PEARY MONUMENT - CRESSON

    by mtncorg Written Sep 28, 2008

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    Robert Peary was born in Cresson in 1856 about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh. His family moved to Portland, Maine where he for the most part grew up, graduating from Bowdoin College. Peary is best known for his Arctic expeditions, exploring Greenland several times and controversially becoming the first person to reach the North Pole in 1909. He was intelligent and adaptable, utilizing Inuit survival techniques during his treks - igloos, dogs and practical furs for clothing. Fergus Fleming, in his book “Ninety Degrees North”, described Peary as “the most driven … most successful and probably the most unpleasant man in the annals of polar exploration.” The stories of Peary’s quests are quite remarkable as was his ongoing battle with Frederick Cook - who claimed to have reached the North Pole in 1908 - and his relations with Inuit women resulted in children left behind. He lost eight of his toes as a result of the rigors endured on his journeys. Congress, in return for his successes, awarded him a Rear Admiral’s pension in 1911 and he retired to Eagle Island near Freeport, Maine, where his home is preserved as a historic site. The monument here shows Peary in arctic costume along with a heroic looking husky searching for the elusive North Pole. Just across the street from the small park is the imposing buildings of Mt Aloysius College.

    Robert Peary memorialized Peary's career inscribed Man and his dog a long way from the North Pole
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    WEST OVERTON MUSEUM

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    Like the Frick and Clayton in Pittsburgh, West Overton is a story related mainly to the industrialist Henry Clay Frick and the efforts of his daughter - Helen Clay Frick - to memorialize him. West Overton was developed as a small distillery plantation for rye whiskey by the Overholt family. They had emigrated originally from Switzerland along with other fellow Mennonite families because of religious persecution. Whiskey production was big in western Pennsyvlania throughout the 19th century - earlier as well as it was in this region where the Whiskey Rebellion took place - until the Prohibition put an end to the distilling industry. Most of the buildings here at West Overton relate to whiskey production in one way or another. Frick’s father worked in the grist mill, marrying an Overholt daughter. Henry was born in the Springhouse cottage and spent the first third of his life learning lessons he would use with success and ruthlessness later. If you want to know more about Frick, rye whiskey or the production of steel, this is a great place to start.

    Spring House to right and Overholt House to left Overholt Distillery Rye whiskey was a Pennsylvanian tradition Entrance to the Museum inside the old distillery Road leading past former worker housing for
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    PETERSBURG TOLLHOUSE - ADDISON

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    The %L{http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumberland_Road]National Pike was authorized in 1806 by Thomas Jefferson, but debate over who would benefit and maintain the 800 mile road lasted some 40 years. The road was opened as a free federal road in 1818 but ownership passed to the States it ran through in 1831-34. Pennsylvania erected six tollhouses - this one in 1835 - to garner tolls with which to maintain the road. The collection ended here in 1906. It was not until 1997 that this tollhouse was restored making it the second of Pennsylvania’s surviving tollhouses. Petersburg is the only stone building, making it essentially the same today as it was in the 19th century. The octagonal structure was to allow the tollkeeper a good line-of-sight in all directions. To visit, you exit US 40 at Addison and take US40A through the little town. The house is on the east end of the town. To get in, you need to go to the community museum which is a few houses to the west along the main street. The house is only open on Sunday afternoons.

    Don't need to stop and pay the toll here anymore! Stone tollhouse in Addison, PA
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    SEARIGHT TOLLHOUSE

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    This is one of two tollhouses that were built along the National Pike in Pennsylvania that survive today. The house, restored in 1966 and located a few miles northwest of Uniontown on US 40, was named for a local prominent citizen, William Searight. The house was built around 1835 and tolls were collected here until about 1905. The National Pike was authorized in 1806 by Thomas Jefferson and was a federally-sponsored project that linked Maryland to Ohio. The pike was heavily used until 1832 when canals and railroads took over the business of moving things and people. Ninety mile of the National Pike is now US 40, passing through southwestern Pennsylvania. There is a small parking area and the house appears to be open at time though no hours were posted. Perhaps you will be luckier on your visit than I was on mine.

    Searight Tollhouse on the Nation Road Tolls for using the Searight section Milepost marking the miles on the National Road
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    HORSESHOE CURVE

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    This famous railway curve was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1854 to help trains get up and over the Allegheny Mountains of central Pennsylvania. The curve covers about 220 degrees and has been in continuous use since its inception with two to four - three today - tracks running. A potential weak spot in the American transportation system, the curve was earmarked for sabotage by Nazis in World War II. The Pennsylvania Railroad built a funicular railroad to the summit of the overlooking ridge in 1879 and a visitor center is maintained at the site. Admission is $7.50 with the funicular costing and additional two passengers for $1 - free for those electing the 194 stairs. The admission also covers entrance to the nearby Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona.

    The curve rises a foot for every 100 horizontal feet and is located about eight miles west of Altoona. Interesting to contrast this American ‘mountain’ railway with the first ‘mountain’ railroad ever built - though about the same time - in Semmering, Austria. Time schedules are posted allowing you to know the schedule of rail traffic and composition of trains throughout the day along the Curve.

    Funicular for visitors to Horseshoe Curve rails Rails bending upwards around Horseshoe Curve Funiculars passing on the hill Aerial view of the Horseshoe Curve
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    MONONGAHELA CHURCH

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    Third largest of the ‘Restoration’ churches that came out of the Mormon movement initiated by Joseph Smith in 1830, the Bickertonites used this chapel as the headquarters for their Church of Jesus Christ for many years. The headquarters have since moved a few miles to the east, just outside Greensburg. With Smith’s murder in 1844, first counselor Sidney Rigdon - originally converted in Kirtland Ohio in 1831 - laid his claim to church leadership. Rigdon had been on the outs with Smith during Mormonism’s Nauvoo years - 1841-46 - and partly because of this, Rigdon was able only to attract a few of the faithful to his cause. Those who joined him followed him to Pennsylvania. Rigdon had lost much of the charisma he enjoyed during the days of Kirtland in the 1830’s and his followers dwindled away. One immigrant miner, William Bickerton, was attracted to Rigdon’s call in 1846, but shortly thereafter he broke affiliation with Rigdon and formed a new Church of Jesus Christ in 1849. This church denounced many of the Mormon doctrines from the Nauvoo period - polygamy, celestial marriage, baptism for the dead, among others. Many of the practices and beliefs of the church mirror the Kirtland period where revelation was not limited to the Prophet or President of the Church - technically, the Utah-based LDS church does not limit revelation either, but members can only receive personal revelation while revelations concerning the church, as a whole, are property of the Prophet, alone. The Church of Jesus Christ/Bickertonite claims a worldwide membership of about 15000 with 3000 living in the U.S. - the heartlands being here in western Pennsylvania.

    The church here lies uphill from a large gathering of churches of various denominations. So many churches for such a relatively small town point to a community that takes its faith(s) seriously. The great variety also points to the immigrant nature of the town and its metallurgical history.

    Church of Jesus Christ in Monongahela Third branch of Mormonism New World Headquarters in Greensburgh Entry into another version of Mormon leagacy
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    MASON-DIXON LINE

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    Probably the most famous of all surveying borders in the United States is the Mason-Dixon Line. Surveyed between 1763 and 1767, Mason and Dixon made it all the way to a point near Mt Morris just west of the Monongahela River when local Indians encouraged them to discontinue their efforts. The line was completed by others to the point of what is now the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania in 1784. Originally, the line was drawn up to clear a boundary dispute between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Every mile was marked with a milestone and every five miles there was a larger crownstone, displaying the colonies coat-of-arms on either side of the rock. Some of the stones are still visible while others are not. I have crossed the line several times now but was struck on this occasion by what seemed to be a swath of trees cut for miles, appearing to denote the border in a more visible manner.

    The Mason-Dixon Line went on to become more meaningful in the cultural sense as the dividing line between the ‘Free’ States of the North and the ‘Slave’ States of the South. The cultural boundary entailed between North and South still exists today though the actual border is a bit more blurred than what you find here or on the map.

    Roads along Mason-Dixon Line near Spring, PA
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    CALEDONIA STATE PARK

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    Located atop South Mountain between Chambersburg and Gettysburg - South Mountain is the northernmost extension of the Blue Ridge Mountains and extends as far south as Harpers Ferry - Caledonia was established as a charcoal iron works in 1837 by Thaddeus Stevens, the longtime abolitionist congressman from Pennsylvania. The furnace works contained its own little village complete with 60 tenement houses for workers and their families. Caledonia was also a refuge and a workplace for escaped slaves making their ways along the Underground Railway. Confederate cavalry under the command of Jubal Early burnt down the buildings during the Gettysburg campaign of 1863. The furnace was rebuilt and operated until 1870. Eventually, the land was sold to the State of Pennsylvania in 1903. The area has been a popular escape for locals for many years, first via a trolley that ran up here and later as part of the newly established Lincoln Highway, US 30. Many of the Park’s trails and recreational facilities date to efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps during 1933. Today you can find a reconstruction of the furnace smokestack, Thaddeus Stevens’ blacksmith shop, a millrace and furnace dam as well as the old trolley tracks, forest trails an 18-hole golf course dating back to 1922 and 170 camping sites spread over two campgrounds.

    Thaddeus Stevens' blacksmith shop Caledonia Furnace reproduced Stevens the Man and Early the Nemesis
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    MORMON PRIESTHOOD RESTORATION SITE

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    Late in 1827, Joseph Smith, Jr. and his wife, Emma, moved to Harmony - now Oakland - Pennsylvania - her family was from this area. They settled along the Susquehanna River where Smith continued his work which was to become the Book of Mormon. In response to prayer, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery were visited by John the Baptist and given the power of the lower of the two priesthoods found today within the Mormon churches, the Aaronic Priesthood. This priesthood is the temporal and financial arm of the church originally but today in the LDS church, it is basically a prep school for the higher priesthood, the Melchizedek. Young men are eligible for the Aaronic when they are 12 years old. They become eligible for the higher priesthood at 18, though adult converts can run the Aaronic table of offices - there are three: deacon, teacher and priest - in but one year. The different priesthoods have different meanings and eligibilities in other branches of the Mormon Diaspora - ie in the Church of Christ, females are also eligible for the Aaronic as well as the Melchizedek Priesthoods. The immediate result of Smith’s and Cowdery’s baptism and the confirmation of the Aaronic Priesthood was that they could then baptize others. Shortly thereafter, they both were confirmed - by Peter, James and John on the same banks - the power of the upper priesthood. The site is owned by the LDS church and a monument has been erected which commemorates these events. A similar monument can be found in Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. The actual site is separated from the roadside monument by rail tracks though a posted map shows how the persistent can be rewarded via a road just to the east and a subsequent backtrack along the other side of the rails. The LDS church plans to reconstruct the Smith cabin in the future on the foundation that has been uncovered just next to the Aaronic monument.

    LDS monument memorializing Smith's elevation Map showing way to actual baptismal site Joseph Smith lived here before setting out west
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    FRANKLIN & MARSHALL COLLEGE

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    F&M is the 17th oldest college in the U.S. with slightly under 2000 students in attendance. Chartered in 1787 on the site of a former brewery in Lancaster, the school was originally named after Benjamin Franklin and was established as a German college to help German immigrants to assimilate into the culture of the U.S.. The school featured bilingual instruction - German/English - and was the first American coeducation college - though it shortly thereafter became male only until 1969. Marshall College opened in Mercersburg in 1836, being named after Chief Justice John Marshall, who had died one year previously. Both schools merged in 1853 to help remedy financial problems and James Buchanan - soon to become President - was named president of the first F&M board of trustees. The most of the distinctive building of the new school was the Recitation Hall - today, Old Main - built upon what was ‘Gallows Hill’ - today, College Hill. The school has been secular and coeducational since 1969.

    Old Main at F&M Marshall College - now Mercersburg Academy Benjamin Franklin - half of the F&M connection Old Main, originally Franklin College
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    MERCERSBURG ACADEMY

    by mtncorg Written Sep 23, 2008

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    Founded in 1836 as a preparatory department for Marshall College, the school stayed in Mercersburg after Marshall merged with Franklin College in Lancaster in 1853 to form Franklin & Marshall College. Mercersburg Academy - officially, ‘Mercersburg College’ - is home to the original James Buchanan birthplace cabin which was moved to the campus in the 1930’s. Like F&M College, the school became coeducational after 1969. The school is very well endowed - over $185 million for only 440 prep students, very expensive - $40000 per year for boarding students; and very selective - 150 selected out of over 800 applicants. James Stewart, Benicio del Toro, Jim Orsay (owner of the Indianapolis Colts), the sons of President Calvin Coolidge, 1976 physics Nobel Prize winner Burton Richter are but a few of the alumni. The Academy is located on the east edge of the town. Reflecting the exclusivity of the school, the town is very handsome with a fascinating compact main street area.

    A new year at Mercersburg Academy James Buchanan's boyhood home The Main Hall from the football field First day of school for 2008-09 students
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    Mid-Atlantic Day/Weekend trips from Philadelphia

    by jelw Written Sep 1, 2008

    Located between New York and Philidelphia are New Hope PA & Lambertville NJ. These adjacent historic villages offer arts, culture, fine dinning and gorgeous views of the Delaware River valley.
    Other day or weekend trips from the Philadelphia area
    You may also want to spend a bit of time at the beach.
    Cape May NJ: a charming victorian seaside community. Enjoy the beach and sites, take the ferry ride across to Delaware and either go to the outlet shops or site see in Lewes & Rehobath for the day.

    or

    Ocean City MD.
    Oxford, MD

    Chincoteague VA
    Cape Charles, VA

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    My dad's pet bear

    by Ewingjr98 Written May 19, 2008

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    I stole this narrative from my dad's blog (see link below)... hope you like it!

    Last Monday morning, at about 3:30AM, I was awakened by sudden loud, angry barking and carrying on from the "dog park". Unable to quiet the ten hounds from the bedroom window, I went out in my skivvies, of course. I did manage to settle them somewhat but Speckles carried on until daylight which didn't come soon enough. At 6:00 AM, after shoveling you know what and hosing down the kennels, I loaded hounds and proceeded down the road toward my favorite training site. I had not ventured very far when Brenda called me on my cell phone. Her excited words, "You'll never guess what is up that tree. Two black bear." I understand my response was, "I got to see this!" I turned the truck around and proceeded back home. Sure enough, up the tree was a cub black bear. Brenda had seen the mother bear crawl down the tree and run down through the yard. At that time I decided to go about my business and maybe the cub would be down when I returned.

    Yes, It was a little unnerving and disconcerting to think I had been under that tree in my nightie, worked around the kennel and loaded hounds with those two bear only slightly more than ten feet away.

    I returned in two or three hours to find the cub still up the tree. I decided to call the Pennsylvania Game Protector, since it was his bear in my tulip tree. I left a message on Officer Bimber's answering machine and also called the Pennsylvania Game Commission headquarters in Franklin. At headquarters they assured me the bear would come down upon nightfall, but, I needed reassurance.
    It wasn't long before Officer Rodney Bimber and his wife, Ronda, showed up and again assured me the cub would come down at nightfall, the mother bear would be of no threat and that I could go about my normal activities. Officer Bimber said he would check on the cub bear later in the evening which he did. All was well until, dark.

    At 9:00 PM the hounds were again carrying on, the mother bear was back and up the tulip poplar tree. It sounded at times like she was talking to her cub, trying to convince it to come down. The cub at times seemed to be crying. The mother bear spent the remainder of the night coaxing and apparently making several trips up and down the tree. She must have spent some time laying at the base of the tree also. But every time she moved the hounds would howl and bawl keeping me, Brenda and who knows who else up all night. The mother even got into the neighbor's garbage scattering it about.

    Again early, I loaded hounds and went on my dog training mission. Upon my return Officer Bimber and Vaughan Graham were looking over the situation in the tree. Officer Bimber decided the cub needed to be tranquilized. After preparing the tranquilizer, the Officer proceeded up the tree by ladder but the cub was too smart for that and moved higher in the tree. Bimber then decided to use a dart gun to tranquilize the cub. The first shot missed and stuck in the tree. After some target practice the Officer tried again and did stick the cub with the dart. The dart, with tranquilizer, seemed to have little affect. Again the cub moved higher. It was discussed what would happen if the cub fell from the tree and a tarp was secured to possibly break his fall if needed. The cub was now high in the tree, two deputies were on the scene plus numerous onlookers. Many different scenarios were discussed and analyzed.

    It was at about this time, 3:00 in the afternoon, some one suggested a bucket truck of some kind would be handy to go higher than the cub and possible chase it down the tree or at least be able to tranquilize it from the bucket. One of the deputies, apparently a volunteer fireman from Clarion, called for the hook and ladder truck. It wasn't long before this very impressive piece of machinery was parked in my yard and deployed. It also wasn't long before Officer Bimber had reached the cub and was ready to tranquilize.

    With everyone ready, including onlookers, the cub was stuck with the needle. Immediately the cub climbed down the tree and ran into my kennel barn. I can remember thinking, "this is all I needed was a cub black bear stuck in my barn." But as fast as it ran into the barn it ran out and down through the front yard with people after it. It ran down across the road towards the creek and the woods. I thought finding a tranquilized cub bear in the woods would be like finding the proverbial needle but find it they did, some how.

    I was honored by being allowed to witness the tagging and removal of a tooth from the cub which was now known to be a female black bear. The bear now had a name, Sadie and she probably weighed in at less than 50 pounds and was slightly over one year old. With all chores being completed the only thing left was to wait. Sadie was moved to a shady spot with the hopes she would awaken soon.

    While we were waiting the mother black bear was spotted watching us from about 50 yards. She must have known her baby was close by. At about 5:30PM Sadie was coming to and tried to walk which she had trouble doing at first. Soon, mother bear found Sadie and the last we saw was mother and cub making their way through the trees.

    It was decided then, "All is well that ends well."
    This is my story and I'm sticking to it.
    Fraternally In Beagling and Hooked on Hare,
    Joe

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    Stop Here for the World's Best Chocolate!

    by Shelbybone Written Apr 20, 2008

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    Imagine you are heading north on I-79 toward Pittsburg. You need a break, travelling has gotten monotonous. Just hold on until you reach Exit 45. Congratulations! You have made it to Canonsburg, Pa. Canonsburg is a sleepy little town. It boasts a few restaurants and a Super 8 motel. At first glance it seems a place to pass on by; however, nestled in that town is a lovely store. As you go off the exit, you will see signs to Sarris Candies. Follow them. They will take you to a place of wonder, a place of calories, a place of CHOCOLATE! Seriously folks, this is the best chocolate to be had in America. The only chocolate that comes close is Dove chocolate. This store is family owned. They created the recipe and their chocolate is a famous fundraiser in the Pittsburg area. The store is very interesting and the smell is divine. Walk amongst the various chocolates and stuffed animals and marvel at the shapes and types of chocolate they offer. You will also find a huge chocolate castle with many solid chocolate figure decorations. Connected to the chocolate store is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor where you can sit and enjoy a cool drink or dessert. After your senses have become saturated and you have finally decided what to buy, (there goes your trip budget!) get back in your vehicle, start munching chocolate and you will find yourself at your destination in no time!

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    Extraordinary Castle on the Hill

    by uaamom Written Oct 25, 2007

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    Visit Grey Towers, in Milford, in the very northeast corner of the state, along the Delaware River, across from High Point State Park, another gem, in New Jersey.
    Truly a crown jewel and relatively undiscovered. Home to Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the Forest Service and twice good, governor of Pennsylvania. Cornelia Pinchot created a delightful clutch of architectural garden rooms. You'll be entranced by the Finger Bowl. Hike back to secret Pinchot Falls if they are open to the public. Amazingly good deli food available in town.

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Pennsylvania Off The Beaten Path

Reviews and photos of Pennsylvania off the beaten path posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Pennsylvania sightseeing.
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