Pennsylvania's 11 distinct Heritage Regions encompass the trials and triumphs of the country's quest for liberty and independence. They illustrate the eras of industry, and they retrace historic transportation routes over canals, rails and highways. Every region has finely told tales of the people who made their mark on the region, the state and the world.
Heritage Regions Beckon, Delight
The Allegheny Ridge is a place of wonder for its feats of engineering and its iron, steel and coal industry heritage. The Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site west of Altoona celebrates the first railroad across the Allegheny Mountains, which opened the region to trade and settlement. Transportation advances are also a part of the Delaware and Lehigh Canal region's focus, where the 150-mile Delaware and Lehigh Navigation Canal Heritage Corridor follows the routes and overland railroads of the Delaware Canal and the Lehigh Navigation System from Bristol to Wilkes-Barre in eastern Pennsylvania.
Among the Endless Mountains in the state's northeastern corner, visitors can become steeped in the cultural traditions of French settlers, Irish and Welsh canal workers and miners, and Italians and Eastern Europeans. Azilum, Tioga Point Museum and the Old Mill Village Museum offer glimpses back in time.
In Lackawanna Valley, Pennsylvania's first Heritage Park portrays the region's anthracite mining industry. Recently designated as a Federal Heritage Area, the park recounts the struggles and sacrifices of mine workers and their families. The region contains thousands of miles of railroad tracks, hundreds of industrial sites, 14 levels of mine tunnels and other unique features that emphasize the importance of anthracite for the area and the country. This year, the region marks the centennial of the mine workers' strike that defined the region and brought workers' conditions into the public eye (see sidebar on page 4).
A trip through Pennsylvania Dutch farmlands in the Lancaster-York region offers insights into the area's German-American heritage. Highlights include the Ephrata Cloisters, Hans Herr House and the Landis Valley Museum. The National Clock and Watch Museum explores the region's arts-and-crafts reputation. East of Pittsburgh and passing through Gettysburg is the historic Lincoln Highway, U.S. 30, Pennsylvania's portion of the nation's first coast-to-coast highway. Breathtaking mountain scenery and five state parks can be found along the route, while the quaint towns of McConnellsburg, Ligonier, Schellsburg and Bedford offer antiquing delights.
The historic towns of Ebensburg, Ridgway, Brookville and Warren dot the 15-county Lumber Heritage region. Five eras of lumber history come to life at Williamsport's Millionaires Row and the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum in Galeton. A treat for the senses is Scenic Route 6, through pine-covered mountains known as Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon. Another journey of discovery starts west of the Appalachian Mountains along the National Road, a 90-mile segment of U.S. 40. This corridor commemorates the nation's first interstate highway and includes George Washington-era Fort Necessity, historic taverns converted to B&Bs and the enchanting small towns of Claysville, Brownsville, Uniontown and Addison.
Prospectors of history will find the first U.S. source of oil in Pennsylvania's Oil Heritage region. The Drake Well Museum outside Titusville, the Venango County Historical Society in Franklin and the Venango Museum of Art, Science and Industry in Oil City trace the region's oil boom days. The focus shifts to Big Steel in the Pittsburgh area, the state's Rivers of Steel region. Here, in the Steel Making Capital of the World, are the company towns of Aliquippa and Homestead, and the Edgar Thompson Works in Braddock founded by Andrew Carnegie. Riverboats and bus tours offer a new perspective on the industry's legacy, and an incline ride to Mount Washington provides a spectacular panoramic view of Pittsburgh. …