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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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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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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Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River: Zane Grey Museum

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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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The National Park Service manages the stretch of the Delaware from Hancock to Sparrowbush, NY…about 73 miles…under the Wild and Scenic River System. The Upper Delaware is considered recreational, rather than wild, since the park has some means to control the flow of the water.

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I attended a meet-up here with the National Park Travelers Club for a ranger-guided tour of the area. After touring Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct with the ranger (see that post here), our group headed over to the Zane Grey Museum, about a quarter-mile from the bridge on the Pennsylvania side of the river.

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Zane Grey, actually born Pearl Grey because of his mother’s fixation with the British Royals (Pearl Grey was the official mourning color that year in England,) is considered the Father of the Western Novel.

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He played baseball as a young man which earned him a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania’s dentistry school. He established a dental practice in NYC in 1899, but his enthusiasm for fly-fishing and the encouragement of his wife Dolly led him to move to his farmhouse in Lackawaxen, PA to pursue writing as a profession.

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He was a prolific writer, having written over 100 novels in his lifetime. His most noted work was Riders of the Purple Sage, published in 1912. His writing was heavily influenced by his travels to the Western states, the first trip having been his honeymoon to the Grand Canyon.

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Grey moved his family to California in 1918, where he worked with the developing motion picture industry. Many early films were based on his novels and birthed the Western genre.

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After Zane Grey’s death, his wife sold the Lackawaxen home to a family friend.

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For 25 years, she ran it as the Zane Grey Inn and then later converted it to a museum showcasing Zane Grey memorabilia.

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In 1989, the museum was purchased by the NPS and included in the Upper Delaware unit.

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Location: Lackawaxen, PA

Designation: National Scenic & Recreational River

Date designated or established: 1978 river, 1989 museum

Date of my visit: 7/18/2018

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The two rangers stationed in the Zane Grey Museum were nice enough to provide a wide array of stamps for our National Park Passports and take a group photo for us. (I’m on the right, end of the second row in the light blue shirt, behind the lady with the red shirt.)

Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River: Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct

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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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The National Park Service manages the stretch of the Delaware from Hancock to Sparrowbush, NY…about 73 miles…under the Wild and Scenic River System. The Upper Delaware is considered recreational, rather than wild, since the park has some means to control the flow of the water.

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Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct/Bridge on the Upper Delaware is also maintained by the NPS. It is the oldest wire suspension bridge in the US and was built by John A. Roebling, who is best known for building the Brooklyn Bridge.

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The Delaware Aqueduct used the same engineering principles as the Brooklyn Bridge.

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I attended a meet-up here with the National Park Travelers Club. The NPTC has about 2000 paid members nationwide, all who share a passion for visiting the 417 NPS units.  The club had arranged for a park ranger to give our group a tour of the bridge and The Zane Grey museum.

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The Aqueduct was built to carry the Delaware and Hudson Canal across the Delaware River. The canal was built in 1828 to carry coal from mines in Northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City. The canal was abandoned in 1898 when the railroad became a more efficient means of transportation.

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Our tour began at the D&H Towpath Trail on the New York side of the river. The towpath was once used by mules to help the canal boats move downstream. It now passes under the bridge and past the remnants of a half-mile stretch of the old canal.

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Next we followed the ranger past the old toll house, which now is a museum with displays about life on the canal.

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We crossed the bridge on the southern pedestrian walk and returned on the northern walk trying to imagine what it had looked like when it was filled with water.  (Scroll to the end for a short video clip.)

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When the park purchased the bridge, they restored it to its original appearance, except for the concrete road bed installed to safely accommodate a single lane of traffic. It had already been converted from aqueduct to bridge sometime after the abandonment of the canal, but the road was made of timbers. These had rotted out and actually collapsed under the weight of a truck crossing the bridge.

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At each display, the ranger paused to point out features like the steel cable used to suspend the bridge and the ice breakers designed to protect the structure from ice floes in the spring.

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Back on the New York side of the river, the ranger pointed out some ruins across the street that were from the old canal. State highway 97 follows the path the canal once took, parallel to the Delaware River.

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Location: Lackawaxen, PA

Designation: National Scenic & Recreational River

Date designation declared: 1978

Date of my visit: 7/18/2018