HeritagePA / Uncovering PA Travel Feature: Experiencing the History of the National Road Heritage Corridor

By Jim Cheney

Originally published on UncoveringPA.com.

There’s nothing better than a road trip, and if you love history, taking a road trip along the Historic National Road in Pennsylvania is a fantastic choice. While I have traveled portions of this road through southwestern PA in the past, I had the chance recently to explore this roadway in much more detail than before.

What I discovered is a roadway that is steeped in world-changing history and natural beauty. While it might sound cliché to say that the National Road has something for everyone, it does offer experiences that nearly any history or outdoor lover will enjoy.

The story of the National Road begins even prior to the arrival of European settlers. In those days, it was a Native American footpath known as Nemacolin’s Trail. As settlers began moving westward, they used this old path to get over the Allegheny Mountains, making it one of the most important paths for those moving west.

George Washington, then a colonel in the British army, expanded this road during his 1754 attempt to reach the French-held Fort Duquesne at present-day Pittsburgh with a detachment of soldiers. The next year, British General Edward Braddock returned along the path and extended it to the shores of the Monongahela River. Known as Braddock’s Road, some of this path would be used to form the National Road’s path through Pennsylvania.

Years later, in an attempt to make westward expansion easier and connect the country, President Thomas Jefferson authorized the creation of the National Road on March 29, 1806. This road would eventually stretch 620 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois, and take 26 years to build.

Known as the Eastern Legacy, the first portion completed connected Cumberland to Wheeling, West Virginia. This connected the Potomac River to the Ohio River, allowing both travelers and goods to connect to points both east and west. At its peak, over 200,000 people a year used the country’s first federally-funded highway.

Built between 1811 and 1819, 90 miles of this section passed through the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania. The road entered the state in present-day Somerset County near Addison and passed through Fayette and Washington Counties before entering West Virginia.

Today, visitors traveling this historic road can explore the area’s history, great natural beauty, and small towns. In fact, there are few areas of the state that offer as much to do in such a rural area. Here are a few of my favorite things to do while traveling the National Road in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The Fantastic Museums

As the home to some of the least-known and most-important events in U.S. political history, the National Road features some amazing museums and historic sites that are worth the trip.

The best place to learn about the history of the National Road, as well as one of the nation’s most defining events, is at the Fort Necessity National Battlefield, the only National Park Service site that covers the French and Indian War.

Fort Necessity National Battlefield preserves the sites where a young George Washington and his troops engaged in the first battle of the French and Indian War in the summer of 1754. The shots fired here would create a war that would extend around the world and lead directly to American independence two decades later.

Inside the battlefield’s museum, visitors can not only learn about the battle fought here, but also about the history of the National Road. This very well done portion of the museum highlights the story of the road, how it was built, and its importance in American history.

I found it fascinating to not only think about how the events at Fort Necessity shaped the history of America, but also to discover that George Washington was responsible for beginning the process of turning this Native American path into a viable route for westward expansion.

Several decades later, Nemacolin’s Path would again be traveled by men under Washington’s command as they traveled to quell the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.

The Bradford House in Washington, Pennsylvania, does an excellent job covering this little-known piece of American history, as well as showcasing what life was like on the Pennsylvania frontier in the years after the Revolutionary War.

I also had a chance to tour several other spots that showcased what life was like along the National Road. The Addison Toll House and the Searight Toll House, the only remaining toll houses of six that that once stood in Pennsylvania, tell the story of the National Road’s transition to a state-run toll road. Washington Tavern, another spot of interest located on the grounds of Fort Necessity National Battlefield, offers a fascinating look at what life was like for those working and traveling along the National Road during its heyday.

Touring these three sites gave me a great appreciation of the difficulties faced by those moving west and what life was like for those who worked along the National Road during the 19th century.

Another great stop, and a great place to spend the night, is the Historic Summit Inn. Located atop Summit Mountain and with a commanding view of the National Road as it winds its way west, this hotel offers a comfortable place to stay in a historic setting. There are few things that I’ve enjoyed more on my trips to this area than watching the sun set from the porch of the Summit Inn.

The Beautiful Natural Scenery

I’ve traveled to every corner of Pennsylvania, and there’s no doubt that the area around the National Road offers some of the state’s most breathtaking natural scenery. What’s great about traveling this roadway is that you don’t have to leave the road to see the amazing scenery, especially when crossing the Youghiogheny River Lake and from the scenic overlook near the Historic Summit Inn.

The star of the region’s scenery is Ohiopyle State Park. Known for its fantastic whitewater rafting, the park is also home to several incredibly beautiful waterfalls, including Cucumber Falls, which is one of my favorite waterfalls in Pennsylvania. The park is centered around the community of Ohiopyle, one of my favorite small towns in Pennsylvania. Both the community and the park are bisected by the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile rail trail that travels from Cumberland, Maryland, to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The beautiful Fallingwater is located along the National Road Heritage Corridor.

Just outside of Ohiopyle State Park, along Route 381, the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway, is Fallingwater. Considered the masterwork of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, tours of this home are offered daily with prior reservation. Nearby, Kentuck Knob, another Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, offers a look at his unique usonian design. In my opinion, a visit to Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob should be on the bucket list of every traveler.

Another of my favorites is Laurel Caverns. This is the largest cavern in Pennsylvania, and I was impressed with the uniqueness of the cave’s interior. In addition to regular cave tours, visitors can also go spelunking and even repelling within the cave. I can’t wait to visit again and try these unique activities

The Cultural Icons

Nemacolin Castle served as both a home and trading post in Brownsville, PA.

In addition to world-changing history and beautiful scenery, I also found the National Road to be filled with destinations that showcased the cultural impact of the National Road throughout its history.

Before it was even the National Road, settlers were venturing further and further west along the pathway. Nemacolin Castle was built beginning in the 1780s. This home served as a trading post for many years, allowing travelers to get the goods they needed before heading further west. The home was expanded three times during its history, resulting in the stately “castle” that visitors can tour today. While touring the home, I was amazed at the beautiful craftsmanship on display and how the furnishings did an excellent job showcasing how the home changed throughout the years.

Downtown Brownsville features some of the most stunning architecture along the National Road Heritage Corridor.

From the hillside on which Nemacolin Castle sits, I was afforded a sweeping look over downtown Brownsville and the Monongahela River. At one point, this river delineated the line between British controlled territory and land controlled by Native Americans and the French.

While the downtown area of Brownsville is currently undergoing a much-needed revitalization, it was clear to me when I was walking along the streets that it was once a very prosperous place. In fact, it was once said that, “Pittsburgh might amount to something if it wasn’t so close to Brownsville.”

Further west, the LeMoyne House in Washington, PA, offers a look at another cultural revolution: the Underground Railroad. During the mid-19th century, Dr. John LeMoyne headed up the Underground Railroad in southwestern Pennsylvania, and is said to have taken injured runaway slaves into his home for medical treatment.

The LeMoyne House is home to the Washington County Historical Society Museum.

I always enjoy learning about the bravery of the men and women that helped runaway slaves escape to freedom, and my visit to the LeMoyne House was no different. As the home of the Washington County Historical Society, the house features many fascinating displays that allowed me to get a great look into the history of Washington County, PA.

The cultural impacts of the National Road continues into the 20th century. The Christian Klay Winery and Ridge Runner Distillery sit opposite each other in Farmington, Pennsylvania. The Christian Klay Winery was the region’s first winery, having opened for business in 1997. Don’t leave without trying their fantastic Lavender Mist wine.

Ridge Runner Distillery offers delicious spirits along the National Road Heritage Corridor.

In recent years, Ridge Runner Distillery was opened as one of the first post-Prohibition distilleries in Pennsylvania. Today, they offer seven different types of liquors. I definitely recommend the whiskey, which is not only delicious but also a great tie-in to the history of the National Road and of course the Whiskey Rebellion!

Without a doubt, traveling the National Road is one of Pennsylvania’s great road trips. While I’ve traveled portions of the roadway before, the chance to really dig in and explore it was an experience that I was glad to have and something I’d recommend for anyone wanting to uncover the overlooked history and jaw-dropping natural beauty of Pennsylvania.

Itinerary for the National Road

Uniontown, Pennsylvania, is a great stop along the National Road Heritage Corridor.

While the National Road in Pennsylvania only covers 90 miles, there is more than enough to keep you occupied for many days. However, with two or three days, you can see the main highlights of America’s first federally-funded road.

Start in Addison with a tour of the toll house. Continue west, stopping at Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Christian Klay Winery, and Ridge Runner Distillery. Take a short jaunt off of the road to visit Jumonville Glen, site of the first shots of a skirmish that led to the French and Indian War. Continue through the communities of Hopwood and Uniontown, taking in their beauty, before doubling back for a night’s stay at the Historic Summit Inn.

If you have some extra time, spend your middle days exploring the beautiful Ohiopyle State Park, Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes, and Laurel Caverns. While you can’t see all of these amazing sites in only two days, you won’t want to miss the chance to explore some of these amazing places that are conveniently located near the National Road.

Laurel Caverns is a fantastic stop along the National Road Heritage Corridor.

For the final day of your trip, continue heading west along the National Road. Since you’ve already seen Hopwood and Uniontown, sit back and enjoy your ride through them again. After a quick stop at Searight Toll House, continue to Brownsville and take a tour of Nemacolin Castle. Explore Brownsville’s historic downtown and ride over the Dunlap Creek Bridge, the first cast iron, metal arch bridge in the United States, before crossing the Monongahela River.

Continue to Washington, Pennsylvania, where you can tour both the LeMoyne House and the Bradford House. From there, it’s a short drive west through the communities of Claysville and West Alexander to the end of Pennsylvania’s portion of the National Road.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s National Road Heritage Corridor, visit NationalRoadPA.org.

About the writer: Jim Cheney is the writer behind UncoveringPA, Pennsylvania’s most read travel blog. He has traveled to every county in Pennsylvania and many countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. He lives in Harrisburg, PA.


Celebrate 5th Fridays with HeritagePA

Five Fridays in one month?! This only happens a few times a year. Celebrate this rare occurrence and take in the history & heritage of your region. For ideas, check out things happening in these five unique areas below.

National Road Heritage Corridor:

Washington Libations Locations Poker Stroll 

Check in at the Bradford House at 6 p.m.  Visit the 5 designated locations in the city of Washington, which include Red Pump Spirits Craft Distillers, Washington Winery, Liberty Pole Spirits distillery, and ending at Washington Brewery,  to collect all 5 playing cards.  Throughout the evening, as participants walk throughout the lighted city, they will enjoy live music, local art and museums, and be able to make purchases at all locations.  All must report to the brewery at 8:30 p.m. to present the collected hand. The 3 best hands will receive baskets of rewards and deals from the Washington Business District.

Pot Still Pub

  • Time: 4 – 11 pm
  • Location: 1186 National Pike, Hopwood, PA 15445
  • More info here.

Located in the National Register listed Hopwood/Miller Tavern circa 1790 as a private home and circa 1832 as an Inn and tavern on the National Road.  Among the distinguished guests were: John Quincy Adams, James Polk, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln.   The pub is now operated by Christian Klay owner and founder of Ridge Runner Distillery.

The pub sells Ridge Runner’s moonshine, vodka, and whiskey cocktails as well as by the bottle. Pennsylvania wine and beer are sold by the glass. Stop by on Friday, September 29th anytime between 4:00 to 11:00 p.m. – shoot pool, throw darts or challenge your friends to a game of corn hole or enjoy a cigar on the patio in our spectacular backyard.

Christian and his team will be offering a tasting of Ridge Runners fine spirits and cocktail specials.  Check out the simple pot still used for distilling. Around 7:00 p.m., catch Christian talking about the history of distilling and how the process has changed through the decades.  A local food truck will be there if you get hungry and there will be live music!


Lumber Heritage Region & PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor:

5th Friday at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum 

  • Time: 9 am – 5 pm
  • Location(s): Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
  • Tickets: Receive a complimentary admission with the purchase of a regular admission of equal value (BOGO).  Adult (12-64 years old) – $8; Reduced (65+ years old) – $7; Youth (3-11 years old) – $5; Active Military and Immediate Family – FREE

The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, located on Route 6 in Potter County, PA, is eager to welcome visitors to the Lumber Heritage Region of Pennsylvania in honor of the September 29th, 2017, Heritage PA 5th Friday program. Any visitors to the museum on that day that mention the Heritage PA 5th Friday program will be eligible to receive a complimentary admission with the purchase of a regular admission of equal value (BOGO).

The Lumber Heritage Region of Pennsylvania will also present a special screening of their documentary “The Civilian Conservation Corps: A Peaceful Revolution” at 1 Pm in the museum program room. This documentary, produced by Michael J. Schultz & Son, chronicles the contributions made by the CCC to the natural landscape and recreational infrastructure of the Region. In partnership with PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor, they will also be premiering a short PA Route 6 video. Please join us for this special event; the fall foliage will be near peak condition at this time of the year, providing a gorgeous backdrop for your visit to the wilds of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, a key gateway destination within the Lumber Heritage Region, strives to educate the public about Pennsylvania’s rich lumbering history and the ongoing care, management and recreational use of its forests. For more information about the museum, please visit our web site (lumbermuseum.org) and Facebook page, or call 814-435-2652.

Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor:

Visit the National Canal Museum 

  • Time: 11:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Tickets: Adults: $12; Seniors: $11; Children (3-15): $9; Children under 3: Free; Family Pack (2 adults & up to 3 children): $39
  • Location: National Canal Museum

Come spend a day with us. Take a canal boat ride. Listen to stories of the old canal days inside the National Canal Museum. Visit one of the few remaining locktender’s houses on the Lehigh Canal. Have a chat with Hank and George, our canal boat mules. Bike the lovely D&L Trail along the canal and Lehigh River. Take a paddleboat or canoe ride on the canal. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a quiet meal in a lovely setting. Bring your binoculars and take a bird walk on a shaded trail. There’s plenty to do in Easton’s Hugh Moore Park.

Rock and Roll Man: The Alan Freed Story

The high energy musical, “Rock and Roll Man” uncovers the true story of Alan Freed – the Father of Rock and Roll. It is the 1950s and a cocky young DJ discovers the music that all America wants to hear – except no radio station will play it. Through guts, grit, and ingenuity, Alan preservers and unearths music for a new generation. Featuring original songs and classic tunes by legends like Little Richard, Frankie Lymon, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, this world premiere will have you rocking around the clock!

Oil Region National Heritage Area:

Live Musical – “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka”

  • Time: 7:30 pm
  • Location: Barrow-Civic Theatre
  • Tickets: Adult – $20; Senior/Military – $18; Student/Child – $14
  • Click here for ticket Purchases & Seating Reservations

This fantastical, scrumdiddlyumptious musical is performed by the talented actors, singers, dangers of the Franklin Civic Operetta Association, which owns and operates this restored 500-seat theatre in beautiful downtown Franklin, PA in the heart of the Oil Region National Heritage Area. Local resident Nicholas Hess will portray Willy Wonka, while Ben Hoover depicts the Candy Man. Besides the memorable individual characters, there are a bevy of Oompa Loompas, a Chorus of Cooks, and yes a clutch of squirrels on stage!

Susquehanna Heritage Area:

Zimmerman Center for Heritage

The John & Kathryn Zimmerman Center for Heritage will extend its regular weekend programming to include HeritagePA’s 5th Friday, September 29. Three programs explore the Susquehanna River’s natural and cultural heritage. 11:30 am & 2:30 pm – Native Lands. Discover the history and lifeways of the People who once called the Susquehanna their home, with a guided walk to the site of the Susquehannock Indians’ last community.  1:00 pm – Inspiring Susquehanna. We explore the Zimmerman Center’s Visions of the Susquehanna River Art Collection to see how the river has and continues to inspire artists, authors, poets, and the people who encounter its beauty and power. 1:30 pm – Natural Susquehanna. Venture to the Zimmerman Center’s waterside pavilion, dock, and a rain garden to encounter the river’s plants and animals while learning about its ecology, history, and physical features. The Zimmerman Center is an Official National Park Service Visitor Contact and Passport Stamping Station for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Columbia Crossing River Trails Center

Current Color: A Year on the River is a special exhibit presenting the work of local artist Diana Thomas. This unique show is the result of Diana’s year long journey on the Lower Susquehanna River creating one acrylic painting a week. In addition to 52 paintings, the show includes her weekly introspective journal and chronicles lessons learned from the river, creating art, and living through tragedy. View this exhibit September 1st through September 30th. Hosted by Susquehanna Heritage.

September 29, 2017, isn’t the only 5th Friday we will be celebrating. Here are the upcoming 5th Fridays happening through 2018: December 29, 2017; March 30, 2018; June 29, 2018; August 31, 2018; November 30, 2018. Look out for more information and events on these dates in the future.

Schuylkill River Heritage Area’s 2nd Annual Ride for the River

Save the date! Schuylkill River Heritage Area’s 2nd anndal Ride for the River event is happening Saturday, September 30.

Register for 2017 Ride for the River! 

Ride from Pottstown to Reading and back along the trail. The ride begins and ends at Sly Fox Brewery’s annual Can Jam Festival in Pottstown, so after the ride participants can kick back and relax at the festival with great food, Sly Fox beer and eight hours of free music. All proceeds benefit the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, which works with partners to build, maintain and promote the Schuylkill River Trail.

See Ride for the River FAQs 

40-mile ride (9 am start time): Pottstown to Reading Riverfront Park and back along the Schuylkill River Trail with a short on-road section to and from the brewery.

16-mile ride (10 am start time): Union Township Recreation Area and back along the Schuylkill River Trail with a short on-road section to and from the brewery.

About Ride for the River

Ride for the River is designed to allow cyclists to explore the Schuylkill River Trail while supporting the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, which operates and maintains the trail in Berks and Schuylkill Counties and works to improve the entire trail. All rides begin and end at Sly Fox’s popular Can Jam Festival located at 331 Ciricle of Progress Dr., in Pottstown. Both the 16- and 40-mile options take place primarily along the flat, crushed stone Schuylkill River Trail, with about five miles of on-road riding between the festival and the trial The on-road section has some hills.

About Can Jam Festival

Sly Fox Brewing Company’s CAN JAM Music Festival is curated to feature rising regional independent talent, authentic and original, just like Sly Fox beers! A free day of amazing music in the beautiful pastures adjoining the brewery, accentuated by one of the largest KanJam® tournaments on the planet.

The Can Jam Music Festival celebrates Sly Fox Brewing Company’s role as an early adopter, evangelist, and promoter of cans – the hottest packaging trend in the craft brewing industry. Learn more about Can Jam. 


The PA Route 6 and PA Wilds Façade Program

The PA Route 6 Alliance and the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship (PA Wilds Center) are launching a regional façade grant program for communities along Route 6 in the Pennsylvania Wilds. Commercial property owners interested in the program are invited to attend one of the public meetings being held throughout the four-county area.

The PA Route 6 and PA Wilds Regional Façade Program is intended enhance the attractiveness of the small towns within the PA Wilds and along the PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor by helping commercial property owners and business owners in Warren, McKean, Potter and Tioga County improve the look of their buildings.

“We’ve seen a lot of nature and heritage tourism investment in the Pennsylvania Wilds in recent years, and it is creating real opportunities for communities to draw visitors in to fuel business and job growth and improve quality of life,” said PA Wilds Center Executive Director, Ta Enos. “To attract visitors – and most other kinds of investment — communities need to appear welcoming. This program helps communities achieve that.”

The PA Route 6 and PA Wilds Façade Program will provide funding to commercial building owners and business owners (with property owner approval) as well as non-profits, with the restoration of building facades within the targeted area. Eligible types of restoration activities include design assistance, a fresh coat of paint, new signage, and repairing or replacing an awning. Façade improvements do not need to be costly and will greatly improve the façade of the building, making a lasting effect on the community.

According to Terri Dennison of the PA Route 6 Alliance, the Façade program will fund about 32 façade projects at a maximum of $5000 each with a required 1:1 match. It will also make smaller matching signage grants available to 50 retail and host site establishments involved in The Wilds Cooperative, a visitor experience the PA Wilds Center is working to curate and grow.

Public meetings to explain the guidelines and grant procedures will be held at the following locations:

  • Tuesday, September 12 at 1pm, Warren Public Library, 205 Market St, Warren
  • Wednesday, September 20 at 10am,Gunzburger Building, Conference Room 1 Main Street, Coudersport
  • Wednesday, September 20 at 1pm, Wellsboro Borough Office, 14 Crafton Street, Wellsboro
  • Wednesday, September 27 at 1:30pm, McKean County 911 Center Conference Room, 17175 Route 6, Smethport

The program is made possible thanks to an $183,000 Keystone Communities grant from the PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development (DCED), and project support funding from the PA Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR).

For more information about the PA Route 6 and PA Wilds Regional Façade Program or to register for the public meetings, contact the PA Route 6 Alliance at 814-435-7706.

Free Public Open Houses at Historic Properties During August

Both the Coal Oil Johnny House and the Tarbell House will host free public Open House events during August this year in the Oil Region National Heritage Area.  Reservations are not needed; all age groups are welcome to attend.

As part of the annual Oil Festival in Titusville, the 1870 Tarbell House located at 324 East Main Street in Titusville welcomes residents and travelers to visit and tour this Italianate home from noon until 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 12.  One of America’s foremost investigative journalists, Ida Tarbell resided here from 1870 through 1876 in this three-story house constructed by her father, and she always considered it as her family home and Titusville as her personality-shaping community.

Since being acquired by the nonprofit Oil Region Alliance in 2007, the Tarbell House has been rehabilitated to its outdoor and indoor appearance corresponding to the period from 1870 through 1918 when the Tarbell family lived here.  Guests during the Open House will be greeted with live music on the front lawn performed by “Venango Brigade,” featuring instrumental Civil War era songs.  Inside, guests will tour the first floor, second floor reading nook, and the new replica cupola on the third floor.

On Wednesday, August 16, the McClintock-Washington-Steele House (more commonly known as the Coal Oil Johnny House in light of the nickname of its most famous occupant) will be open for escorted tours from 1 until 4 p.m.  This circa 1850 two-story peg-n-post frame farmhouse was initially constructed on the west bank of Oil Creek by Johnny’s adopted father, Culbertson McClintock along what is today called Waitz Road; it was disassembled, transported, and reassembled with additional hidden reinforcements in 2001 by the Oil Region Alliance.  Today it sits on the east bank of Oil Creek slightly upstream, where it shares a parking lot with the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad’s Rynd Farm Station at the south tip of Oil Creek State Park, just east of Route 8 on Old Waitz Road.

Tour guides and light refreshments will be provided at both of these historic properties during the Open Houses; book sales are available.  For more information or to schedule group tours on other dates, please contact Mrs. Marilyn Black, Vice President for Heritage Development, Oil Region Alliance, (814) 677-3152, Extension 105, mblack@oilregion.org.

HERITAGEPA TRAVEL FEATURE: Exploring PA’s History in the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor

By Jim Cheney, UncoveringPA

Throughout the history of the commonwealth, Pennsylvania has been the focal point for numerous industries that have helped to power the nation. In the eastern portion of the state, there were two dominant industries: anthracite coal, and iron.

The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor follows the historic transportation path where anthracite traveled from mine to market in the Lehigh Valley and beyond. The D&L seeks to preserve this history and offers many great opportunities for visitors to this five-county heritage corridor to re-connect and learn about the region’s industrial past. Since being created by Congress in 1988, this corridor has provided visitors with a chance to explore the region’s industrial past and enjoy its great outdoor activities found along the path that helped fuel America’s 19th century industrial revolution.

The first stop of any visit to the heritage corridor should be the National Canal Museum in Easton. The museum is located next to a fully-restored 2.5 mile section of the Lehigh Canal, which once ran along the Lehigh River from Mauch Chunk (now known as Jim Thorpe) to Easton.

From there, the anthracite coal and iron produced along the shores of the Lehigh River could continue by canal north to New York City or south to Philadelphia. This system of canals allowed these eastern Pennsylvania goods to reach markets not only in large U.S. cities, but also to reach countries around the world.

The National Canal Museum offers visitors a chance to learn about the history of anthracite canal transportation in the United States and take a 45-minute ride on the Josiah White II, a 48 ton reproduction canal boat pulled by mules. Costumed guides tell the story of the corridor and steer the Josiah White II that takes visitors to the end of the restored section, where the fully-restored Locktender’s House serves as a convenient end of the line.

The canal towpath forms a portion of the D&L Trail, a 165-mile multi-use path that stretches from Wilkes-Barre to Bristol. While the trail has a few gaps, it is hoped that those will be completed in the coming years. In the meantime, bicyclists and walkers can still take to the trail and explore the fascinating history, beautiful scenery, and charming communities along the trail.

Another popular site in the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is the National Museum of Industrial History. Opened to the public in August 2016, this museum is located near the Lehigh River on the grounds of the former Bethlehem Steel site in Bethlehem.

This museum chronicles the history of industry throughout the United States, but with a focus on the industries that thrived in the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. Visitors to the museum can learn about the history of industries such as steel, textiles, and propane.

The National Museum of Industrial History is also home to a fantastic collection of antique engines that are owned by the Smithsonian Institute. This museum, along with the National Canal Museum and the heritage corridor as a whole, are Smithsonian Affiliates. This gives them the ability to showcase items owned by this prestigious institution and provides them with resources to take their exhibitions into the community.

Of course, there’s a lot more to see in the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. Visitors can explore an old coal mine at the Number 9 Coal Mine and Museum, see where Washington famously crossed the Delaware at Washington Crossing Historic Park, or even explore Eckley Miners Village, a coal town that’s frozen in time.

If you’re looking to learn about Pennsylvania’s industrial past, but also want to enjoy some of the state’s best natural scenery and most charming small towns, a visit to the five-county Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor shouldn’t be missed.

For more information on the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, visit their website at DelawareAndLehigh.org.

About the writer: Jim Cheney is the writer behind UncoveringPA, Pennsylvania’s most read travel blog. He has traveled to every county in Pennsylvania and to many countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. He lives in Harrisburg, PA.

Tarbell House Open to Public on Both June 17 and August 12 in Titusville

Two free public Open Houses at the Tarbell House will be held on Saturdays, June 17 and August 17 this year at 324 East Main Street, Titusville, PA.  This was the family home for Franklin Tarbell, his wife Esther, and their three children, including Ida Minerva Tarbell, the eldest child.  Ida Tarbell became one of America’s foremost investigative journalists and was a historian focusing on Standard Oil Company, Abraham Lincoln, several French leaders from the 19th century, and other topics until her death in 1944.

In addition to visiting this historic property, guests will be able to enjoy the special display of a privately-held collection of more than 35 teapots ranging from the 17th century to the present, courtesy of Mrs. Lois McElwee of Oil City.  The teapots and descriptive labels are shown in the parlor, dining room, and side room on the first floor of the Tarbell House.

The Saturday, June 17 Open House is timed to coincide with the arrival of bicyclists to Titusville participating in the inaugural Oil Region Cycling Classic throughout the region on Father’s Day weekend.  The Tarbell House welcomes not only these bicyclists, but others to step inside this three-story Italianate home which was constructed in 1870; doors will be open from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.; light refreshments will be available.

The Saturday, August 12 Open House is held during Titusville’s Oil Festival, immediately after the Oil Festival parade goes along Main Street in front of the Tarbell House.  Doors will be open from noon until 4 p.m.; light refreshments will be provided, along with live musical entertainment.

Today, the Tarbell House is owned by the nonprofit Oil Region Alliance, which has completed the multiple-phase rehabilitation to restore it to the appearance and configuration in the period of 1870 to 1918 when the Tarbell family was in residence.  Last year’s construction of a replica cupola was the culminating task, replacing one lost in a fire almost a century ago.

The Tarbell House is currently operated as a house museum open by appointment, and is the venue for public teas and other private gatherings in its Victorian setting.  While typically reservations are needed for all events there, everyone is welcome to attend either of the Open House dates without making advance arrangements.  For more information about this event or the Tarbell House, please contact ORA’s Vice President for Heritage Development, Mrs. Marilyn Black, at 677-3152, Ext. 105, mblack@oilregion.org.

D&L National Heritage Corridor Receives Smithsonian Affiliate Status

EASTON, PA – The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (D&L) is America’s first National Heritage Area to be accepted into the Smithsonian Affiliate network.  Following the merger of the D&L and the National Canal Museum in April 2017, Smithsonian Affiliations acknowledged the move by designating the D&L’s entire five county region (Bucks, Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon and Luzerne counties). This development allows the D&L to combine the nationally significant legacy of its historic transportation story with the breadth and scope of the Smithsonian at the National Canal Museum.

The D&L National Heritage Corridor preserves the historic pathway that carried anthracite and iron from Wilkes-Barre to Philadelphia. Today, the Corridor and 165-mile D&L Trail are a vital connection to nature, recreation, our nation’s industrial heritage, and more than $250 million in annual economic impact.

“We are delighted to continue our Affiliate partnership in northeast Pennsylvania with the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor,” said Harold A. Closter, director of Smithsonian Affiliations. “Since 2002, the Smithsonian has collaborated with one of the corridor’s distinctive assets, the National Canal Museum. With this merger of two great organizations, the Smithsonian looks forward to expanding the realms of potential collaboration with the Corridor to include science as well as history.

Smithsonian’s forward-thinking designation firmly blends the D&L’s commitment to celebrating the region’s industrial heritage with the Museum’s educational programming and research opportunities throughout the five county Corridor.

The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that preserves historic pathway that carried coal and iron from Wilkes-Barre to Philadelphia. Today, the D&L Trail connects people to nature, culture, communities, recreation and our industrial heritage.

HERITAGEPA TRAVEL FEATURE: Journey through the Susquehanna Heritage Area

By Jim Cheney, UncoveringPA

The Susquehanna River is one of the most beautiful waterways in Pennsylvania. At over 464 miles in length, it’s the longest river on the east coast and the longest river in the U.S. with no commercial boat traffic. However, it’s not just a beautiful river with great opportunities for recreation, it’s also incredibly historic and played a key role in the development of the United States. Because of this, the river’s scenic route through the Susquehanna Riverlands of Lancaster and York Counties is home to the Susquehanna Heritage Area and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Heritage Trail.

No visit to the Susquehanna Riverlands is complete without a visit to the Susquehanna Heritage Area’s two visitor education centers. They both serve as gateways to the area, offering not only recommendations for things to do and places to visit, but exhibits and programs that will enhance any trip to the area.

The Zimmerman Center for Heritage is located a few miles south of Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, along the Susquehanna River. This mid-18th century home has been restored and features Native American exhibits, information about the river, and the Visions of the Susquehanna River Art Collection, along with a dock and paddlecraft landing. The center is also a trailhead for exploring the adjacent Native Lands County Park.

The Zimmerman Center also serves as Pennsylvania’s Official Visitor Contact and Passport Station for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. This 3000-mile-long water trail focuses on telling the story of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, as well as the Native Americans that once lived along their shores. Visitors can participate in scheduled programs or take a few minutes to talk to a heritage guide about the National Historic Trail’s history and learn about Captain Smith’s interactions with the Susquehannocks that once lived in the region.

A few miles upstream, in historic Columbia on the Lancaster County side of the river, is the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center. Just completed in the last few years, the center offers educational opportunities and rotating exhibits that focus on the river and its impact on the environment of the region. The center is also a trailhead for the Northwest River Trail and the site of a popular boat launch for those wanting to get out onto the water.

Ultimately, these two centers are a fantastic jumping off point for exploring the region. While many visitors are familiar with the river’s beauty and the activities along it, the area’s history and adventure opportunities are often overlooked.

All along the shores of York and Lancaster counties are great overlooks (Pinnacle, Chickies Rock, Highpoint Scenic Vista), beautiful waterfalls (Kelly’s Run, Mill Creek Falls), and fantastic hiking trails like the Mason-Dixon Trail. In addition to natural beauty, signage around the region points out the area’s great history. You can even see remnants of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal that used to run from Wrightsville to Harve de Grace, Maryland, at Lock 12 near Holtwood Dam and at the Wrightsville Riverfront Park.

The Susquehanna Heritage Area and the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail offer visitors a chance to explore one of the most beautiful regions of Pennsylvania and to learn about the region’s history and effect on the entire nation. Take some time to explore this beautiful and historic region of Pennsylvania on your next visit to the Susquehanna Riverlands.

For more information on the Susquehanna Heritage Area, visit their website at SusquehannaHeritage.org.

About the writer: Jim Cheney is the writer behind UncoveringPA, Pennsylvania’s most read travel blog. He has traveled to every county in Pennsylvania and to many countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. He lives in Harrisburg, PA. 

Now and Beyond on Route 6


As spring blooms along the US Route 6 Corridor in Pennsylvania, it is time to celebrate the artisan and artisan groups that make the northern tier of Pennsylvania a beautiful place to live.

The PA Route 6 Alliance has declared April as Artisan Month along the 427 mile long Heritage Corridor and honors those creative geniuses that spark something in each of us and inspire us to new heights.

To highlight the diversity of art and culture along PA Route 6, the following is a list of six long-time members of the PA Route 6 Artisan Trail and true supporters of the arts:

1.) Wendy Neckers/Painted Finch Gallery, Corry, PA

Honored as the 2016 PA Route 6 Artisan of the Year, Corry-based artist Wendy Neckers has created the collectible poster for this year’s Artisan Month. Since opening her gallery in June 2012, Neckers has steadily grown her presence in the Corry area. The Painted Finch Gallery includes works by Neckers as well as other artisans with pieces in oil, acrylic, and watercolor to hand carved sculptures and handcrafted jewelry. Beginning in a small space along Rt 6, Neckers moved to a larger space in the middle of Corry a few years ago and this year has expanded again to the storefront next door. The new space houses more fine art and gift products and a huge selection of craft sodas. Neckers has a background in set design which has been skillfully put to use in the lovely space and displays including paintings, drawings, photography, ceramics, woodcarving, and jewelry in a well-ordered setting.

2.) Dan & Jan Niebauer/Ralph Miller Jewelers & Gallery, Erie, PA

Their slogan, “Where Erie Gets Engaged – Since 1898”, testifies to just a small portion of their artistic talent as jewelry makers. Ralph Miller Jewelers is “Erie’s oldest, largest and only nationally awarded manufacturing jeweler.” The store owners and artists, Dan and Jan Niebauer, have created a wonderful setting that features original fine gold, platinum, and silver “Jewelry Art,” by five master goldsmiths. Located in downtown Erie the shop is a fascinating place to spend some time viewing the eclectic mix of custom work, estate jewelry, sculptures, rare gems and fossils, and artwork by other artists. The Niebauers are both master jewelers who not only produce their own designs, they also teach and mentor others who are well on their way to becoming masters.

3.) Art in the Wilds, Kane, PA

One of the premier art events along the PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor, The Art in the Wilds Outdoor fine arts show happens annually on the fourth weekend in June. Organized and managed by a dedicated group of art lovers, artists, and patrons, the show has been lauded as one of the best in the region. The site for this juried event is under the shade of magnificent old trees in Evergreen Park, in the middle of the town of Kane, PA and the event features 35-40 artists and artisans, student art exhibit, music, demonstrations and food vendors.

4.) Curt Weinhold, Coudersport, PA

A photograph can stir emotions and no one does it better than Coudersport’s Curt Weinhold with his images of nature at its glory. Weinhold is a well-known photographer in the PA Wilds region with a portfolio that focuses on the beauty of both the man-made and natural worlds. Weinhold displays scenic views of the PA Grand Canyon, Austin Dam, local communities, wildlife and stunning nightscapes of the Dark Skies.

5.) Connie Sickler/Settlement House, Sylvania, PA

The Settlement House Gallery appears to be set in an old house built along the highway but actually, it is a relatively new structure, (2001) so carefully crafted that it has the feel of an old, well-loved farmhouse. Inside, the gallery is filled with vibrant colors and textures curated by the owner and artist Connie Sickler, who has skillfully combined the work of potters, painters, glass and fabric artists, into a charming collection of artwork. You will see a careful attention to details, a little bit of humor, and a touch of whimsy.

Sickler is a painter, designer, and illustrator and her own work is well represented in the gallery. A recent watercolor “The Tree of Hope” is available as a print in several sizes

6.) Dietrich Theater/Wyoming Cultural Center, Tunkhannock, PA

Originally built in 1936 by George Dietrich, the theater has operated for almost 50 years. The building includes four movie theaters showing blockbuster, foreign, independent, and classic films. It is also the staging ground for a wide range of cultural activities including film festivals, live theater, concerts, workshops, and classes. Local artwork is exhibited in the William Norris Earnshaw and the Doris W. & Walter A. Sherwood Galleries and classes are taught in the Dorothy G. Sheldon Art Studio and the Peg Fassett Performance Studio.

The theater is a strong presence in downtown Tunkhannock. Last year, it was host for the self-guided walking tours of the historic town.

This is just a sample of the great artisans, organizations, galleries and retail shops along the PA Route 6 Artisan Trail. For a complete list, see the website at www.paroute6.com/artisan_trail.

The PA Route 6 Artisan Trail was started in 2005 as a year-long trail, designed to establish Route 6 as a driving destination for exploring the heritage and folk- life of northern Pennsylvania through products produced in that area, specifically the arts and crafts. The PA Route 6 Artisan Trail covers the 427 miles from the New York border to the Ohio border.

The trail also serves as a network for artisans to share ideas and experiences. It is managed by the PA Route 6 Alliance and funded through the Heritage Area Program of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural resource.


PennDOT outlines biking improvements for 150 miles along Route 6

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has created a report that provides an outline for biking enhancements of 150 miles along Route 6 extending from the Ohio boarder to the McKean/Potter County line and Route 6N in Erie County.

The “Ride A Bike” section of PennDOT’s “Travel in PA” report, available at penndot.gov, provides details on “improvement strategies as well as specific enhancement suggestions, such as proposed wayfinding signage locations.”

PennDOT estimates the cost for the Route 6N section at $5.9 million, and $70.1 million for the Route 6 section, with most of the latter being for bridge replacements.

“With the many scenic and historic opportunities along this route, we’re excited to outline strategies to help enhance safety and sustainable transportation,” says PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “Communities should see transportation networks as assets, and this report has some concrete recommendations to improve conditions for all travel modes in the area.”

“This helps advance our efforts to enhance outdoor recreation and bring new visitors to our communities,” says Terri Dennison, executive direct of the PA Route Alliance, one of the key partners on the initiative. “We are looking forward to assisting in the implementation of the recommendations, including wayfinding signage into our communities and hospitality training geared towards bike-friendly towns.”

PennDOT says two more reports are in the works that will layout strategies and recommendations for the rest of Route 6 through the state.