Author Mindy Gulden Crawford says there are nearly 3,500 properties and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania. She chooses to highlight her favorites in Historic Pennsylvania A Tour of the State’s Top 100 National Landmarks, a 174-page paperback printed this year.
For those who love to learn about our state’s history or for those who want to explore new places, the book is one you might want to check out. It’s attractive and easy to read with large, full-color photos. Information like hours of operation, phone number, website and admission charges is included.
The book is divided by regions: Northeast, Northwest, South Central, Southeast and Southwest.
While not exactly unexpected, 41of the 100 sites are in Philadelphia, but Johns-town and the region get a nod for several of the area’s more-interesting sites. Surprisingly, none are associated with the Johns-town Flood of 1889.
Still, there are a lot of things to explore in the region and this book could be the perfect companion for a road trip.
Sites in our area
Allegheny Portage Railroad of the Pennsylvania Canal in Gallitzin
Construction on a series of canals that would transport people from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh started in 1826. The Allegheny Portage Railroad was developed to get the boats over the Allegheny Mountain and into Johnstown. It was 36 miles long with 10 inclined planes, five on each side of the mountain.
These days, what is left of the canal system is owned and operated by the National Park Service and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1962.
Bedford Springs Hotel
The first of the six connected buildings that comprise what is now Omni Bedford Springs Resort was built in 1806. The inn was constructed on the site of natural mineral springs that were believed to have healing properties. Bedford Springs has one of the oldest golf courses in the country and one of the first indoor pools.
In 1858, President James Buchanan, who used Bedford Springs as his summer White House, received the first transatlantic telegram in the lobby of the resort.
The property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991 and was renovated and reopened in 2007 after being closed for many years.
Cambria Iron Company in Johnstown
Cambria Iron Company, founded in 1852 to produce iron rails for the railroad, grew to become the country’s largest ironworks. The company became the first U.S. commercial producer of steel railroad rails.
Ten acres of the property, purchased by Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, includes three key structures including the carpenter shop, the machine shop and the blacksmith shop. Built in 1863, the blacksmith shop is an octagon-shaped building with a cupola, heavy timbered trusses and iron tension rods. It houses original forging tools and, these days, is operated as Center for Metal Arts.
The site was named a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
Staple Bend Tunnel in Mineral Point
The tunnel, built as part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad, is believed to be the first railroad tunnel in the country. Staple Bend Tunnel was built through 901 feet of solid rock and completed in 1833.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994, the tunnel is two miles long and is part of a popular trail for runners, bikers and walkers.
Site you don’t want to miss
John Wanamaker Store in Philadelphia
John Wanamaker opened his first store in 1861 and is credited with introducing the price tag. Prior to that, everyone haggled for their items. Wanamaker’s store expanded and, in 1911, President Howard Taft dedicated the current 12-story building.
The store’s Grand Court features a pipe organ originally displayed in 1904 at the St. Louis World’s Fair. Today, the famous Wanamaker Organ includes 28,500 pipes. Free organ recitals have been offered since the store opened and that continues today. In 2006, Macy’s Inc. purchased the building and continues to operate it today.
Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Avella
Meadowcroft Rockshelter, in Washington County, is one of the newest in a list of very old structures. The award-winning enclosure, completed in 2008, surrounds the oldest site in Crawford’s list. A massive rock outhang, used as a shelter 16,000 years ago, has yielded nearly two million objects including pottery fragments, ancient stone tools, animal and plant remains and evidence of ice-age fire pits. The Rockshelter allows visitors to watch the ongoing archaeological excavation while preserving the site.
Meadowcroft also is the site of a reconstructed village from 500 years ago.
The site is owned and operated by John Heinz History Center and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2005.
Historic Pennsylvania is available for $21.95 at globepequot.com, Amazon and wherever books are sold.