Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mile 62 – Uniontown, Pa.

Part of the Main Street corridor in downtown Uniontown.

Uniontown, Pa., (pop. ~10,000) is the county seat of Fayette County, Pa., and one of the larger historic cities along the National Road. Coincidentally, Uniontown was founded on July 4, 1776, and was originally named “Beesontown” after Henry Beeson, its founder.

Like most National Road cities, the arrival of the road translated into rapid growth for Uniontown through the 19th Century. In addition, Uniontown’s geographic location, allowed it to feed off the steel, coke and coal industry in Pittsburgh and the Monongahela River Valley. The presence of heavy industry continued in Uniontown and Fayette County, and at its peak in 1940, the county had just over 200,000 people. The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce has a more detailed history of the county, Uniontown and other communities on its webpage here.

Uniontown was the birthplace of Gen. George Marshall, who is credited for the Marshall Plan, which provided aid to Europe after World War II.

Today, although Uniontown is smaller than its peak, several indicators of its industrial past and explosive growth remain. Despite de-industrialization’s negative effects throughout the Rust Belt and Appalachia, many cities are finding ways to transition into a different economy than that on which they were built. Uniontown has done a pretty successful job (at least aesthetically) to preserve its downtown area, with clean, modern parks, mostly-filled storefronts and a variety of attractions.

The original routing of the National Road – now Business U.S. 40 – runs along Main Street, which is now one-way east to west. The west to east complement in downtown is Fayette Street, to which Main Street connects at both ends. Most of the larger historic buildings in Uniontown are located on Main Street, but streets branching off from the main drag also have significance of their own.

The Fayette County Courthouse in Uniontown, Pa.

Today, downtown has a variety of things to do to fill an afternoon and evening, from dining at newer and older establishments, to shopping opportunities at a number of small businesses, to catching a performance at the historic State Theatre. Uniontown also seems poised for reversing its population decline, through the addition of the Mon-Fayette Expressway from Morgantown, W.Va. to Pittsburgh, increasing accessibility, and efforts by local governments to promote business and fight blight downtown.

To travel downtown on the National Road: from the east, exit U.S. 40 at the base of Chestnut Ridge toward Hopwood; from the west, continue straight on Business U.S. 40 instead of entering the Uniontown Bypass, which carries U.S. 40 and U.S. 119 around the city. Parking is available on streets throughout downtown, and a parking garage is on South Street, one block south of Main Street.

Uniontown as seen from the summit of Chestnut Ridge. This overlook is accessible from U.S. 40 eastbound.

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Mile 55 – The Stone House Restaurant and Inn, Farmington, Pa.

The Stone House Restaurant and Inn, Farmington, Pa.

The Stone House Restaurant and Inn is one of the remaining taverns and inns along the National Road that serves the same purpose for which it was originally built, in some ways like the Casselman Inn in Maryland – at least in function. However, although it’s been occupied consistently, it hasn’t always been open to the public, and has served as a private residence in the past. Originally, The Stone House was known as the Fayette Springs Hotel, and served more as a destination, banking on the local natural springs nearby, rather than a pit-stop (although it did cater to through travelers as well). After being closed to the public from 1909 to 1963, the restaurant re-opened under the ownership of Fanny Ross. Ms. Ross sold the building to Fred Zeigler III, who renovated the building to how it looks today.

The tavern section of The Stone House.

Today, The Stone House still presents itself as a place to stay for visitors to the entire Laurel Highlands region, and also has significant reservable banquet space. The entire facility is broken into three parts: inn, which features rooms that combine 19th Century decor with modern amenities; restaurant and tavern. The restaurant and tavern are tied together, and served by the same kitchen. The Stone House concentrates more on dinner: food is served Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The tavern stays open later.

A view from the front of the tavern section at The Stone House.

The entire facility has a classy feel to it. The banquet areas and dining rooms are more of a fine dining atmosphere, while the tavern section reminded me that I was in western Pennsylvania – from the Yuengling and Steelers decorations to the deer head mounted on the wall.

The "River Monster" at The Stone House.

On the Sunday I visited for lunch, the tavern was the open dining area. I had the “River Monster,” an 8 oz. fish filet beer battered with Yuengling. Homemade potato chips come with each sandwich. The actual entree was pretty large, with lettuce, tomato and onions piled on the fish, and tarter sauce on the side. Everything I had had a strong flavor, and tended to be more on the salty side -especially the potato chips, which looked and tasted to me like they were seasoned with sea salt.

The Stone House is located at 3023 National Pike, Farmington, Pa. (although it has a Farmington address, it’s just outside of the village of Chalk Hill. Take out is available, and the restaurant can be reached at 1-800-274-7138, or 724-329-8876. The menuis available online. Expect to pay around $10 for lunch and $15-20 for dinner – drinks not included.

The Stone House Restaurant, built in 1822, has served as an inn, restaurant, tavern and private residence during its existence.

Stone House on Urbanspoon


Mile 53 – Fort Necessity N.B., Farmington, Pa. (Part II)

This is the second of two posts on Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Fayette County, Pa. The park is broken up into three sections: the main unit, which consists of the visitor center, the actual fort and Mount Washington Tavern; Braddock’s Grave; and Jumonville Glen. The latter two are both west of the main unit – Braddock’s Grave being about a mile west along U.S. 40, and Jumonville Glen, which is accessible from U.S. 40 by going north on Jumonville Road, which branches off U.S. 40 at the summit of Chestnut Ridge (a few miles west of the visitor center). My first post focuses more on the visitor center and the fort itself. So, this post is dedicated to the other parts of the park.

Mount Washington Tavern at Fort Necessity N.B.

Mount Washington Tavern – This early 19th Century building is another still-standing original tavern and inn built to cater to National Road travelers. Unfortunately for me, it is closed during the winter months. However, that doesn’t mean that walking around the building is also off-limits. Since Mount Washington Tavern is located within the main unit, it’s possible to walk up to and around the building when visiting the fort and visitor center. It’s important to note that, although the path to the tavern is paved, the last part of the path is very steep, so if that’s a problem, there is also a separate parking lot for the tavern which is accessed via the road in the main unit. When the building is open (April 15 to Nov. 1), it functions as another museum/exhibit area, and tours may be available.

The present burial site of Gen. Braddock.

Braddock’s Grave – This unit isn’t very large, but it still is worth stopping by for a quick walk through the site. Basically, the site features two historic elements. The first is the grave of Gen. Edward Braddock, who was killed in the opening years of the French and Indian War. To avoid desecration of his body, Braddock’s army buried him in the middle of Braddock Road, which was originally built by George Washington and then improved by Braddock. When his remains were discovered in the 1910s, they were relocated to the present, marked grave. The original gravesite is also marked, and is reached by a short walk down a remarkably well-preserved section of Braddock Road.

The original site of Braddock's Grave.

That section is only a short part of what remains of the entire road, and is preserved similar to the Oregon or Mormon trails in the western states. Braddock Road is a predecessor to the National Road, and was meant to connect what is now Cumberland, Md., with modern-day Pittsburgh. From Braddock’s Grave east to Cumberland, the National Road either parallels or is built on top of Braddock Road. Along this corridor, it’s not uncommon to find various things named after Braddock. For example, I attended Braddock Middle School in Cumberland, and the original beginning section of the National Road in Cumberland (present Md.-49) is actually Braddock Road, and retains that name today.

Braddock’s Grave is open year-round, but in the event of snow, the parking lot is closed and is not maintained.

The preserved section of Braddock Road. Gen. Braddock's original grave is at the end of this path.

Jumonville Glen – Like Mount Washintgon Tavern, Jumonville Glen is only open seasonally. It preserves the site of the first skirmish between George Washington’s army and the French army. The site contains outdoor exhibits and is self-guided.

In my opinion, Fort Necessity is one of the more overlooked National Battlefields in the NPS system. This isn’t surprising, since it doesn’t carry as much historical significance as Civil War sites like Antietam, Shiloh or Gettysburg. However, significant improvements to the visitor center, the high level of interactivity and the relative compact-ness of this park compared to others really makes it a great place to visit and is a gem of the National Park System.


Mile 53 – Fort Necessity N.B., Farmington, Pa. (Part I)

The entrance to Fort Necessity National Battlefield, right off U.S. 40 - the National Road.

Until last week, I hadn’t been to Fort Necessity National Battlefield since the early 2000s, and I was expecting the site to look much the same as when I had last visited…nope. Instead, the park has built a massive new visitor center, complete with all kinds of interactive exhibits. So, instead of writing about Fort Necessity for one post, I decided to break it up into two parts, mostly to not have an overload with pictures.

In addition to travel in general, one of my specific goals is to see every unit of the National Park service. I’ve owned and kept an updated National Park Passport since I was 12 (2002), and I’m starting to run out of pages (but that’s another post). So, as any experience National Park traveler knows, every visit begins at the visitor center. Compared to just about every other park system in the country, NPS visitor centers are, for the most part, top-notch, and actually complete the entire park experience.

The beginning of the National Road exhibit in the visitor center.

Fort Necessity National Battlefield is one of two national park units that is actually located along the National Road or in a city through which it passes (this does not apply to the rest of U.S. 40, however). The other is Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park in Cumberland, Md. The park preserves the scene of the first battle that sparked the French and Indian War.

We’ll start with the visitor center, which, again, is very impressive.  Inside are several connecting walk-through exhibits, which focus on the entire history of the park – not just the battle and war itself. Exhibits include the area before Europeans, the battle and war and my favorite – the development of the National Road and historic preservation. I was really impressed with the amount of information and attention to detail in all aspects of the short tour.

Inside the Fort Necessity replica.

Then, of course, is the centerpeice of the entire park: Fort Necessity. For some reason, it’s always surprising to me how small these old forts actually are. “This protected an army?!” At Fort Necessity, you can walk in and around the replica fort, which is simply a wooden structure surrounded by a circular wooden fence and then earthworks on the outside. The trail to the fort from the new visitor center is pretty cool – straight through a grove of pine trees before breaking open to the battlefield and the fort itself.

The replica of Fort Necessity.

The next post will highlight the outer areas of the park: Mt. Washington Tavern, Braddock’s Grave and Jumonville Glen.

The relatively new visitor center at Fort Necessity.

Fort Necessity National Battlefield‘s visitor center is open  every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except federal holidays. The grounds are open for personal touring every day from sunrise to sunset.

Like some NPS sites, Fort Necessity does charge an entrance fee – $5 for adults, and children 15 and under are free. That fee allows for a weeklong pass to the park – well worth it.

Fort Necessity also teams with three other Pennsylvania NPS sites – Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site outside Altoona and Johnstown Flood National Memorialsoutheast of Johnstown – to offer a yearlong entrance pass for all three sites for up to two pass owners and three other adults – for just $15. Again, well worth the price.

The entrance to the walk-through exhibit.


Mapping the National Road

Thanks to Google Maps, I’m working on keeping an updated map of posts along the National Road. As I get to travel more places, the map will be updated and expanded. It will stay on its own page at the top of this blog.

The blue road indicates the present routing of U.S. 40 or ALT U.S. 40. Red routes indicate older alignments of the National Road.

Blue markers show historic or general attractions, red markers are restaurants and dining facilities and green markers are for outdoor recreation and government-owned property. I’ll try to keep this updated weekly as I post new places.

 

 

 


Mile 47 – Glisan’s Restaurant, Markleysburg, Pa.

Glisan's Restaurant, Markleysburg, Pa.

I try to avoid posting about restaurants twice in a row, but, like I said in my previous post, this part of the National Road is full of local, older restaurants, so not only is it hard to avoid covering those places, but they really do contribute to the soul of the highway.

A few miles on the east side of Farmington (though with a Markleysburg address), is Glisan’s Restaurant (pronounced like the “is” in “hiss”), another older diner that was first opened in 1950. Although the restaurant is under new ownership and management, the traditional aspects of Glisan’s remain – including the large selection of homemade pies that are sold by the slice or by the whole.

French Onion soup at Glisan's

On my visit last Friday afternoon, I had the French Onion soup (the soup of the day), followed by the hot turkey and mashed potatoes, which was on special. The soup was probably one of, if not the best, French Onion soups I have had in a long time.  The cheese spread on top of the soup was thick, and was a great addition to the flavor of the soup. The hot turkey  was a little less exciting (probably more due to me comparing the actual lunch to the great quality of the soup). I didn’t expect such a huge portion for lunch – each of the three components, the turkey, the potatoes and the stuffing, was more than generous. The stuffing had just a bit too much pepper for my taste, but that of course is just a personal preference.

Hot Turkey dinner, Glisan's

As a whole, the menu carries most of your traditional American staples – burgers, fries, sandwiches, salads – but also has Italian plates thrown in along with steak and shrimp.

The inside of the restaurant is more reminiscent of a small family-owned restaurant than a 1950’s diner, as the neon-illuminated sign outside the building would suggest. Pies of the day are displayed in a large glass case right by the register, next to the glass refrigerators of beer and wine Glisan’s serves. Like the Princess Restaurant in Frostburg, many of the booths have their own jukeboxes, just like in diners of the mid-20th Century.

Being in Glisan’s a little after normal lunchtime (around 2:30 p.m.) meant that it was pretty slow as far as the number of customers goes. But, every staff member I encountered, from the waitress to the host, was friendly, helpful and efficient.

One of two dining rooms at Glisan's restaurant

Glisan’s Restaurant is located at 4625 National Pike, Markleysburg, Pa., on the north side of the road, and can be reached at 724-329-4636. Glisan’s regular hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Glisan’s may stay open later during the summer, so call ahead.
Glisan's Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Mile 45 – Lone Star Restaurant, Markleysburg, Pa.

The Lone Star Restaurant, Markleysburg, Pa.

The stretch of U.S. 40 from the Pennsylvania state line to Uniontown is lined with clusters of both history and decent local restaurants. On the southern side of the road between Markleysburg and Farmington is the Lone Star Restaurant.

The Lone Star was opened in 1922, and has remained open and locally-owned ever since (currently owned by the Simmons family). It’s important to not get this Lone Star confused with the Lone Star Steakhouse chain, which is completely separate. Instead, this Lone Star emphasizes more diner-type food, and patrons can expect to find very reasonably-priced traditional all-American features. In addition, on weekends, the Lone Star also has several buffets during the week, including a Sunday brunch buffet.

The restaurant is split into two different dining areas. The first, and the one into which the main entrance leads, has more the look and feel of a traditional diner, complete with checkerboard flooring and two dining bars. The other dining area is more contemporary and modern-style, and is more used for the buffets.

The "Star Burger" at the Lone Star Restaurant.

For myself, I got the Star burger, which is Lone Star’s featured burger. It’s made up of a half-pound of beef, several slices of tomato, lettuce and onion, cheese, ketchup, mustard and Lone Star’s special “sauce.” Though this sounds somewhat similar to a Big Mac, its not. It was fresh and tasted more like a homemade burger than something at a restaurant. As with every other local restaurant so far, the wait staff was friendly and efficient, making sure the experience was positive – not just with me, but with everyone else in the restaurant.

In addition to the regular menu, Lone Star makes and sells bread and cinnamon rolls to take home. The only negative thing I found about Lone Star is that although credit/debit cards are accepted, tips cannot be paid with the card. Fortunately, I had a few dollars on me, but next time, I would double-check to make sure I have cash.

The Lone Star is located at 4922 National Pike, Markleysburg, Pa. It is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Sunday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. To reach the restaurant, call 724-329-7161.

Lone Star Restaurant on Urbanspoon