Elfreth’s Alley

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Dating back to 1702 Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest continuously inhabited street in the USA. There are 32 houses on the Philadelphia street which were built between 1728 and 1836. Numbers 124 and 126 house the Elfreth’s Alley Museum.

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The street is named for Jeremiah Elfreth, one of the blacksmiths who contributed his land to found a neighborhood for tradesmen close to the Delaware River waterfront. As industry changed, factories sprang up around Elfreth’s Alley, making it obsolete. In the 1930s, the Elfreth’s Alley Association formed to save the neighborhood from demolition.

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Now a National Historic Landmark, homeowners are required to maintain the buildings’ exterior in original condition. Many have modernized the necessities in the interior (kitchens and bathrooms) but have kept up the original fireplaces and such.

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Location: 124-126 Elfreth’s Alley, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designation declared: 10/15/1966

Date of my visit: October 15, 2015

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Bushkill Falls

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Bushkill Falls is in the midst of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, but is privately owned and operated.

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Charles E. Peters inherited this land and opened the falls to the public in 1904 for an entrance fee of ten cents. He called it the ‘Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania.’

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The Peters family still owns the park and his estate carries on Charles’ mission to preserve the natural environment.  What began as one trail to the main falls is now a well maintained network of trails around all eight waterfalls on the property.

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The eight falls are fed by two different streams: Little Bushkill Creek and Pond Run. They originate in the Poconos and the water is exceptionally pure.

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The park is situated on 300 acres and has over two miles of hiking trails, boardwalks and walkways. The main falls drops 100 feet into the canyon.

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The last time we visited, we went with children and dogs, so we kept to the boardwalk trails along the main canyon and falls. These were fairly level and easy, except for the ascent back to the visitors center.

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Location: 138 Bushkill Falls Trail, Bushkill, PA 18324

Designation: Privately owned Park

Date designated or established: 1904

Date of my visit: 10/18/2014

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Philadelphia City Hall

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Philadelphia City Hall was constructed from 1871 to 1901 and was designed to be the tallest building in the world at 548 feet. By the time it was finished, it had been surpassed by the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower.

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With 700 rooms and 22-foot supporting masonry walls, it is the largest municipal building in the United States. It houses all three branches of the city government.

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The 37 foot statue of city founder William Penn tops the tower and is the largest statue on top of any building in the world.

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Fun fact: The construction of One Liberty Place ended the decades-old gentlemen’s agreement to limit the height of other city buildings to William Penn’s hat brim. This was said to have cursed the Philly sports teams until another Penn statue was erected on the Comcast building just before the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.

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The clock faces in the tower are 26 feet in diameter, three feet larger than London’s Big Ben. There is a small glass-enclosed observation deck just below the base of the statue which we have never been able to visit since it’s only open during business hours. We did get to the top of One Liberty on our last visit for views of City Hall and the rest of Philadephia.

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Location: 1400 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designation declared: 1976

Date of my visit: August 11, 2017

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National Natural Landmark: Pine Creek Gorge

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In 2006, we stayed in a cabin on the banks of Pine Creek at Rough Cut Lodge. This was a comfortable base from which to explore Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, as the Pine Creek Gorge is commonly called.

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The canyon is a 47-mile gorge carved through the northern Pennsylvania mountains by Pine Creek over time. It is 1450 feet deep at its southern end and 800 feet deep where we were, just outside the quaint town of Wellsboro.

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Pine Creek Gorge was designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service in 1968 for being one of the finest examples of a deep gorge in the eastern United States.’ The land remains under State management and includes Colton Point State Park, Leonard Harrison State Park and Tioga State Forest.

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We began our exploration with a covered wagon ride through the Canyon. As the team of horses led us along the Pine Creek Rail Trail, our guide told us about the history of the area.

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The early 1800s saw large-scale lumber harvesting in Pine Creek Gorge for ship-building on the coast. The pines were considered ideal for ship masts.  A railroad was built along the creek to carry the lumber away en masse (this railroad bed was converted to a rail-trail in 1996.)

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By the early 1900s, the old-growth forest was gone. What remained burned in wildfires, leaving the land barren and prone to erosion and landslides.

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With the end of the lumber harvesting and through conservation efforts, the forests have since re-grown and the wildlife returned.

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To see the canyon from the top, we drove to Leonard Harrison State Park. We stopped into the Visitors Center and the took the short, but steep Overlook Trail for sweeping views of the gorge.

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Location: 4797 PA-660, Wellsboro, PA 16901

Designation: National Natural Landmark

Date designated or established: April 1968

Date of my visit: 8/7/2006

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The Wellsboro Diner serves home-style comfort food in building designed to look like a railroad dining car.

Lackawanna Coal Mine

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On our way back from a stay in Northern Pennsylvania, we took a break from driving at the Lackawanna Coal Mine. We took a trip on the Mantrip…a unique enclosed mine car used to shuttle people from the visitor center down the steep slope and into the mine. From there we walked through the tunnels with a guide who was the descendant of a miner and learned about the history of the place.

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The mine was opened by Continental Coal Company in 1903 and produced coal until it closed in 1966. In 1978, with funds from the federal government, the mine was converted into a museum. It opened to the public in 1985 and is managed by Lackawanna County.

Location: Bald Mountain Road, Scranton, PA 18504

Designation: Museum

Date designated or established: 1985

Date of my visit: 8/11/2006

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Eisenhower National Historic Site

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We visited the Eisenhower National Historic Site right after our tour of Gettysburg National Military Park (you can read my Gettysburg post here.) The home isn’t far from Gettysburg, but we arrived just in time for the last house tour of the day.

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Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower was a Five-Star General in World War II, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces and the 34th President of the United States. His presidency brought us the Interstate Highway System, The Civil Rights Act, NASA, the escalation of the Cold War and the Eisenhower Doctrine which promised US protection for unstable but ‘friendly’ Middle Eastern countries from communist invasion.

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Because of his military career, Ike and his wife Mamie moved around frequently and had never owned a home. After the war, Mamie insisted they settle down. They purchased a run-down farm and 189 acres on the outskirts of Gettysburg. They rebuilt the old house during Eisenhower’s first presidential term.

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In 1955, Eisenhower suffered a heart attack while in office and he spent over a month recuperating at the newly (and extravagantly) renovated farmhouse. Afterwards, Mamie and Ike returned to Gettysburg most weekends and holidays.

Eisenhower drew sharp criticism from his political opponents for his frequent absences from the White House and for the amount of money spent on the farmhouse renovation. By today’s standards, the cost was over $2 million.

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The Eisenhowers donated their home and land to the National Park Service in 1967, retaining lifetime living rights for Ike. Eisenhower died only two years later, but Mamie was given federal permission to remain in the home. She lived on the farm (in a smaller section) until her death in 1979.

The National Park Service opened the site to the public in 1980. There is a short video in the visitors center and several outbuildings to explore, in addition to the main house.

Location: 243 Eisenhower Farm Rd, Gettysburg, PA 17325

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 11/27/1967

Date of my visit: 9/3/2011

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Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Years ago, when the kids were little, we toured the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine in Ashland. Pioneer Tunnel & Steam Train is a horizontal drift mine in the anthracite coal region of eastern Pennsylvania. It was owned and operated by the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company from 1911 and ceased operation in 1931.

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In 1963, Pioneer Tunnel was retimbered and opened to visitors by Ashland Community Enterprises, a non-profit corporation.

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We rode into the tunnel in Mahanoy Mountain on a mine car and our guide taught us how coal is mined and what life was like for the miners who worked here in the early 1900s.

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After emerging from the tunnel, we boarded the Henry Clay, a narrow gauge steam train, for a ride around the other side of the mountain. Here we learned about a different kind of mining called strip mining. And we learned about the nearby Centralia mine fire, which has been burning continuously since 1962, causing the abandonment of the town under which the mine runs.

 

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Location: 19th Street & Oak Street, Ashland, PA 17921

Designation: Museum

Date designated or established: 1963

Date of my visit: 7/17/2005

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