It has been a few months since I have written anything and I really need to get better at this. Just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean I haven’t been on the road. So lets get this thing going.
For many people (especially if you live in the area I do) many people cringe at the words Route 30. Travel on Route 30 through Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties is a nightmare. Four lanes of hell, turning lanes, traffic lights every few feet, tons of traffic, and obviously idiot PA drivers. I avoid the highway as much as possible. However, as you near the eastern edge of Westmoreland County Route 30 changes, it transforms into a peaceful road with great landscapes and very few traffic lights. This part of the highway is more fitting for its original name, the Lincoln Highway.
We will start this blog just outside of Schellsburg, Bedford County. Here there are plenty of rolling green fields and scenic views. When you see the sign that says “Bison Corral” stop in and check it out. You will know you are in the right place if you see the Native American gas pump at the entrance. Depending where the Bison happen to be you may or may not see them here (their fields are located on the opposite side of Lincoln Highway). Make sure you stop inside the gift shop where they sell Bison meat and plenty of Native American items and things to entertain the kiddos. Many of the Native American items are handmade.
If you are unable to see the Bison just ask the kind ladies that work the gift shop. They will tell you what field the Bison are in that day and provide you with directions. As a reminder, Bison are very strong powerful animals, for your safety if you stop to see them, please do not go inside the fence. If you have never seen a Bison up close this is a must see location. Just watching them you can see their sheer strength. I stood there for a good 20 minutes just watching these amazing beast. During that time I think I annoyed my boys by repeating the word, “tatanka”, yes a Dances With Wolves reference (I did put my fingers up like horns also).
Continuing along in Bedford County and along the Lincoln Highway, in the small town of Manns Choice you will find a building passed by many but the history is known by very few. Today the building sits empty, a unique and interesting building. Last serving as an antiques store, the building was once known as the Best Little Brothel in Pennsylvania. Yes that’s right, at one time it was a whore house. Legend says it was a very popular place and is currently occupied by a few lost spirits.
The building was built in 1777 and served as a hotel. The first floor was the bar area, the second floor was where the higher class working girls had their rooms and the third floor was reserved for the lower class, cheaper ladies of the night.
The story goes a woman with her room on the second floor was providing a man she had an interest in with free “favors”. The woman’s husband had found out and kicked in the door to the room, shooting the male. The woman in the middle of this fled the room and hid in the closest of a neighboring room. Her husband quickly found her and in a rage of anger stabbed her to death. He then took her lifeless body and hung it from the closest door. Many people have reported a dark uneasy feeling when they enter the second floor and neighbors report odd things occur there after dark. While photographing the building I felt as if I was being watched and even had to double take looking at the building thinking I seen someone one the second floor. It was enough of a feeling that I chose not to get closer like I wanted. Maybe next time.
As we continue east on Lincoln Highway, this time near the town of Everett in Bedford County you will come across something that will catch your eye for sure. Located at the entrance to the Down River Golf Course stands a Giant Quarter and I mean giant. The quarter has a 20 foot diameter and weighs nearly 1 ton. The idea and the quarter was made by students of the Bedford County Technical Center. They chose a quarter for the Lincoln Highway project because of George Washington’s strong ties to Bedford County area.
Before we depart Bedford County lets make one more stop. Located on the outskirts of the town of Bedford at the county fairgrounds stand an unusual building along the Lincoln Highway. Built in 1927, the 18-ft. high Coffee Pot was originally a lunch place adjoining a gas station. In 1937 it became a bar, with a hotel built in behind it. The build ended up vacant and falling apart, becoming an eyesore.
With the buildings fate unknown the people of Bedford stepped in to save the attraction. In 2003 the Bedford County Fair Association paid $1 to purchase it, and the Lincoln Highway Heritage Park Corridor, an attraction preservation group, spent $80k to move the building across the street to the fairgrounds and restore it in 2004. Today the unique building stands on display for people to marvel at.
Moving further to Franklin County, made a stop that many people are probably not familiar with. Easy to find but definitely not on the main road to anywhere we find a monument to the only U.S. President to come from the Commonwealth.
James Buchanan served as the 15th President of the United States. While many people have varying opinions of him as a President, he is the only Pennsylvanian to live in the White House. Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park is a 18.5 acre PA State park located near Cove Gap in the Tuscarora Mountains. The park was created from land donated by Harriet Lane in honor of her uncle.
The pyramid is 38 feet square and 31 feet high. It is made of 45 tons of American Gray Granite and 250 tons of mortar and native stones. Construction of the pyramid began in October 1907 with a work force of 20 men. They built a small railroad to haul the heavy materials from the mountainside to the construction site. The work force grew to 35 men and the monument was completed by late winter with a surrounding iron railing. The Pennsylvania General Assembly of 1911 accepted the monument from the trust of Harriet Lane Johnston and Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park was formally established.
Making our way back west we move into Huntingdon County. During my journeys one of my favorite things to see and come across are Mail Pouch Barns. I have come to learn that many times these barns are gone after researching their locations. On a recent trip I struck out three times on Mail Pouch Barns and expected number four to be the same. Until I arrived, I was immediately filled with excitement. Surrounded with beautiful landscapes the barn I was expecting was much much more. I had come across an even rarer structure, a Red Man Barn! Thankfully the parking was not the greatest or I would have stayed there longer just looking.
Moving along in Huntingdon County, located on private property that restricted us from exploring more we located Huntingdon Iron Furnace. The iron furnace was moved to this site in 1805, from its original site one mile upstream. It measures 30 feet square by 30 feet high. One thing I have noticed researching these old iron furnaces is that many were not in operation for that long. Huntingdon Furnace is a different story, it first fired in 1796 and remained in operation until 1880.
On a trip that covered Blair and Huntingdon Counties while visiting many places we also made time to do a little train photography. One of my favorite locations out here for trains is the train station in Tyrone, PA in Blair County. We arrived at this location for the main purpose of photographing Amtrak but got an extra treat when we arrived. On this trip there were three of us, besides myself I had my friends Dave and Kim along. Again Dave and I were like two kids on Christmas getting to photograph the Nittany & Bald Eagle RR as they interchanged with Norfolk Southern.
A few minutes later Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian arrived making a stop before it, like us continued east that day.
As we work on closing up this blog of some of my recent trips, I figure I should save some for future blogs. We will end in Somerset County, PA. On a rather wet morning after a night of rain me and my two sons visited Cole Run Falls. The falls is located in Forbes State Park which covers multiple counties. Cole Run Falls is near Rockwood in Somerset County, PA. From the parking location you can hear the water run over the falls. A short walk down the trail brings you to the top of the falls.
From the top of the falls there is a trail that leads down a pretty steep and rocky hillside. The rain the night before provided plenty of water over the falls but made getting to the bottom a little tricky. Once down there though the view was worth it.
I am not sure how much of this is truth or local legend but I did read in my research that the falls gets its name from a fugitive that was once on run from the law. He took up residence in the area of the falls to hide from those perusing him. Again, I am not sure what is fact and legend but thought it was something interesting that should be shared. When the legend becomes becomes fact, print the legend, right?
A quick stop in Meyersdale at the former Western Maryland Train Station. The station was built in 1910 and known as “The Finest Station between Cumberland and Connellsville”. Today, the former station serves as home to the Meyersdale Historical Society and a rest stop along the Great Allegheny Passage Bike Trail. Inside the station it is packed with interactive model train layouts for kids and adults on one side, a small gift shop, and two rooms packed with the history of Meyerdale, railroading in the area, and the station. Outside is a former C&O caboose you can visit.
After departing the Meyersdale Historical Society we were traveling down Route 160, the Cumberland Pike and one of those moments occurred when nature provides you with the opportunity. Of course that opportunity didn’t allow me to pull over and photograph it. Lucky for me, my navigator (my oldest son Tyler) quickly went to work to locate a place to park. Racing down the two lane high way he found a great spot at St. John’s United Methodist Church. From here we had a great view of the wind mills playing a game of Peek-a-Boo in the clouds.
The spot Tyler found for the wind mills also provided us with a great view of the green rolling hills Somerset County has to offer. On this day we were staying a step ahead of more rain. In the distance you can see a herd of cows grazing the vast amounts of green grass under cloudy skies.
Our final stop for the day we were out and the final stop for this blog is a place of true heroism, patriotism, and remembrance. One of the most peaceful places I have ever visited and a place I always stop at when in the area. For those of us that lived through it and experienced our generations version of Pearl Harbor, we will never forget where and what we were doing on September 11, 2001. Here we are at the Flight 93 National Memorial.
As you approach the newer educational center you quickly notice the black walkway. This walkway leads you down the final flight path of Flight 93. The narrow opening represents the plane being sideways just before nosediving into the ground at a speed between 563 – 580 mph. The walkway leads you out to an observation deck overlooking the Wall of Names.
When you are standing on the observation deck at the educational center, it gives you a vast view of the park, the Wall of Names and the Boulder of Heroes. While standing here alone you only here the wind whispering in your ear. While standing here with other people many people say the same thing, “The wind sounds as if the heroes are talking to you.”
From the educational center you can choose to walk or drive down to the Wall of Names. As you approach it from the parking area you walk down a long dark granite walkway. In the distance you can see the wall in front of you, to your left in the distance is the Boulder of Heroes, and to the right on the hill is the educational center.
Standing at the far right from the Wall of Names just taking everything in. While standing here I have to admit I did become slightly angry. Standing here just watching and listening I noticed many kids being loud and running around with the parents not caring. This is meant to be a place of honor, serenity, and remembrance. Parents, if you can’t keep your children under control then don’t bring them here, in my opinion this is highly disrespectful acts.
When standing at the Wall of Names you will notice to the right of the wall is a large wooden wall you can look through. Through here you can see a large boulder, alone in the field. This is the Boulder of Heroes, the final resting place for the 40 souls of the passengers and crew will forever rest. Access to this area is highly restricted to park officials and family members of those killed. From my understanding, anytime a family member comes to visit the area is closed down and visitors are not permitted at the wall. This is to allow the family peace while they are there.
The final photograph for this series is a favorite of mine from the Flight 93 Wall of Names. Many times those coming here to visit will leave flowers or other small gifts for the sacrifice these 40 people made to protect their fellow Americans. The Bible states in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Flight 93 is the proof of this. We will never know the number of lives saved by these 40 sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grand parents, husbands, wives, friends, and strangers that unselfishly gave up their own.
I hope your enjoyed this Journey through Four Counties in PA. For more photographs of these places and many more please take a few minutes and check out and “Like” Patriot Portraits on Facebook and follow me on Flickr.