Celebrate 5th Fridays with HeritagePA

As we greet the new year, make a resolution to support your local creators and makers. Use this extra Friday to take in the history, heritage, and creativity of Pennsylvania while supporting local businesses and organizations. For some ideas, check out the four events below happening along the National Road and Route 6, as well as in the Schuylkill River, Oil Region, and Endless Mountains heritage areas.

National Road Heritage Corridor:
Visit the towns along the National Road & Shop Local

Oil Region National Heritage Area:
Explore the Venango Museum of Art, Science and Industry

PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor & Endless Mountains Heritage Region:
Discover Local Art and Products at the first ever Makers Fest

Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area:
Immerse Yourself in Local Creations at the Walk in Art Center

Here are the upcoming 5th Fridays happening through 2018: 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.

Announcing Stewardship Fund for Coal Oil Johnny House

A stewardship fund established to help finance the ongoing preservation and operation of the Coal Oil Johnny House is being introduced during a public December 12 Birthday Party celebrating its namesake’s 174th birthday.

The two-story peg-n-post farmhouse is situated today at Rynd Farm at the south tip of Oil Creek State Park, on a parcel leased by the nonprofit Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry, and Tourism which acquired the building in 1999.  It was constructed on the west bank of Oil Creek in approximately 1850 by Culbertson and Sarah McClintock, who adopted John Washington Steele and his sister Permelia.  The McClintock farm became one of the highly productive oil farms during the hustling and bustling years after Drake’s initial successful 1859 well upstream along Oil Creek.

The McClintock-Steele-Waitz House carries the names of the three most famous families who owned it and resided therein.  Steele is better known by the nickname given him by Philadelphia journalists to reflect his over-the-top spending of the family’s petroleum proceeds during two years of outlandish living away from his wife and young son who continued to live in the house and were assisted by her family (the Moffitts) from Dempseytown.  Larry and Carole Waitz of Rouseville are the third generation of the Waitz family to have owned this property.

The Coal Oil Johnny House Stewardship Fund will support the operation and maintenance of this simple wooden building, which is a house museum open by appointment.  The fund will be directly administered by the Oil Region Alliance.

The public is invited to join in the 174th Birthday Party and educational program entitled “Coal Oil Johnny’s Times” which will occur on Tuesday, December 12 at 7 p.m. inside the Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry at 270 Seneca Street in downtown Oil City.  Adult admission is $5, with students free of charge when accompanied by an adult.  The guest speaker is historian Neil McElwee.  Birthday-style refreshments will be served.

While advance reservations are not required, it would be helpful if likely guests would RSVP to the attention of Mrs. Marilyn Black at the Oil Region Alliance office, (814) 677-3152, Extension 105, mblack@oilregion.org.

Support PA’s Heritage Areas On #GivingTuesday

Join the #GivingTuesday movement by supporting Pennsylvania’s Heritage Areas. Your contribution will help them continue to serve their communities.

Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area – Give Big Pittsburgh

Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area

Oil Region National Heritage Area

Lumber Heritage Region 

PA Route 6 Heritage Corridor

Endless Mountains Heritage Region

Lackawanna Heritage Valley

Susquehanna Heritage Area

Allegheny Ridge Heritage Area

Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor

National Road Heritage Corridor



Shop & Dine Local in the Allegheny Ridge Heritage Area

Just in time for needing-gifts-for-everyone season (or something for yourself), the folks from the Allegheny Ridge Heritage Area have created a handy rundown of local shopping and dining spots in three historic and charming towns across their region. Click below to explore the towns of Saltsburg, Huntingdon, and Hollidaysburg. Your support of local shops and restaurants goes a long way in helping these Pennsylvania communities and the heritage area thrive.

Shop & Dine in SALTSBURG, Indiana Co.

Shop & Dine in HUNTINGDON, Huntingdon Co.

Shop & Dine in HOLLIDAYSBURG, Blair Co.


Schuylkill River Heritage Area Announces Name Change and New Logo

POTTSTOWN—The Schuylkill River Heritage Area announced Thursday its new organizational identity that includes changing its name to Schuylkill River Greenways NHA, and revising its logo.

Both the new name and the logo, are reflective of the organization’s mission to connect people and communities to the river and the river corridor.

The new logo features a green and blue graphic representative of fields and towns with a river running through the center. It replaces an old logo with an encircled image of sun and water.

“We have changed our name and our logo, but we are not changing what we do,” said Schuylkill River Greenways Executive Director Elaine P. Schaefer. “Our new identity better represents the work we do, building and promoting the Schuylkill River Trail, championing the river and revitalizing the communities along it.”

The rebranding comes on the heels of a new strategic plan that sets a course for the Schuylkill River Greenways for the next decade. That plan, completed earlier this year, calls for finishing the entire Schuylkill River Trail, which will run a projected 130 miles from Philadelphia to Pottsville. It also sets goals for protecting and restoring the river, connecting communities to it, and engaging people in programs that encourage them to value and advocate for the river.

The new name was selected following a series of meetings that sought input from board members, staff, and other constituents. It harkens back to the organization’s roots, while incorporating its present identity as a National Heritage Area.

The organization was founded in 1974 as the Schuylkill River Greenway Association. Its primary goal was to build a trail along the length of the river, protect its greenway and advocate for river conservation. The Schuylkill River Greenway Association changed its name to the Schuylkill River Heritage Area after being designated as a National Heritage Area by Congress in 2000. Prior to that, in 1995, it had been named a Pennsylvania State Heritage Area.

However, the non-profit managing entity for the Schuylkill River Heritage Area maintained the name Schuylkill River Greenway Association.

“Having two names became problematic for us,” said Schaefer. “Some people continued to call us the Greenway, while others knew us as the Heritage Area.”

The new name, Schuylkill River Greenways NHA maintains the National Heritage Area distinction and embraces the organization’s founding identity. Furthermore, making the word Greenways plural (rather than singular as it had been), speaks to the fact that there are many greenways along the tributaries of the Schuylkill that are important to the river’s health and the region’s economic well-being.

The Schuylkill River Greenways NHA is headquartered in Pottstown. It encompasses the Schuylkill River watershed in Schuylkill, Berks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties. It is one of only 49 national heritage areas in the country, a designation that recognizes this region as nationally significant for the role that its people, places, and events played in the American, Industrial, and Environmental Revolutions. The region is home to over 3.2 million people across five counties. Approximately 1.5 million people draw their drinking water directly from the River.

Guide to Motorcycle Loops From US Route 6 Available

Named by National Geographic as “One of America’s most scenic drives” and the #1 Motorcycle Road in the Northeast by Motorcycleroads.com, US Route 6 in Pennsylvania is the heart of the American Dream. This magical and tranquil highway along Pennsylvania’s northern tier is 400 plus miles of history and heritage, linking small towns, generations of people and wondrous sights often forgotten. One of the best ways to explore Route 6 is by motorcycle.

The 2018 Take the High Road Motorcycle Map features five loop tours using the scenic highway as the main road to exploring other roadways along the northern tier of Pennsylvania. Each loop has scenic, historic, and entertaining stops along with lots of local restaurants and overnight accommodation. It is recommended that motorcyclists spend a couple of days exploring a loop or two or spend a couple of weeks touring all five loops.

Motorcyclists are also encouraged to post photos to the Facebook page – US Route 6 in Pennsylvania, with the #Do6.

Printed maps are available by request through local visitor centers and motorcycle shops or by contacting the PA Route 6 Alliance office at 814-435-7706 or by e-mailing paroute6@verizon.net.  Detailed itineraries of each loop can be downloaded at http://www.paroute6.com/motorcycles.

2018 “River of the Year” Nominations Open

It’s time to pick the 2018 River of the Year. Administered by The Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), the winning river will receive a $10,000 leadership grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The money will be used for a year-long list of activities and events to celebrate the river. Make a nomination from now until November 6th at 5:00 p.m.

For more information and to nominate click here.

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.