Category Archives: Somerset County

Side Trip – Mt. Davis, Pa.

Mt Davis (33)Not even 10 miles from the National Road in Grantsville, Md., is a pretty cool natural landmark – Mt. Davis, the highest point in Pennsylvania at just over 3,200 feet. I was pretty surprised I had never made a detour to the mountain, despite traveling just south of the area so frequently.

Boulders at the summit of Mt. Davis.

Boulders at the summit of Mt. Davis.

Due to the mountain being west of the Allegheny Front, it’s prominence isn’t really all that great compared to other summits. However,  there’s still some pretty commanding views of the surrounding area from the mountain’s observation tower.

Mt Davis (19)

The observation tower and the high-point are just north of Springs, Pa., and just west of Salisbury, Pa. The mountain is surrounded by rural roads that form a rough loop around the mountain. There are two ways to get to the observation tower: a one-mile trail from a large picnic area (which I inadvertently took), or from a parking lot almost adjacent to the tower.

At the summit itself, a natural wind effect has resulted in a series of large boulders arranged in a ring. Plaques providing information about the mountain and local geology have been affixed to many of the boulders. The high point itself – marked by a USGS disk – is on a boulder near the observation tower (hint: look for a boulder that comes to a point at its top).

A view to the west.

A view to the west.

I’ve always found making to the top of a state high point to be a unique experience. Additionally, south-central Somerset County is tied very closely with its neighbors right below the Mason-Dixon Line in Grantsville. The small community of Springs hosts the annual Springs Folk Festival, and is also closely tied with Penn Alps and the Spruce Forest Artisan Village.

A close-up view of Salisbury, Pa., to the east.

A close-up view of Salisbury, Pa., to the east.

Based on my getting turned around several times during my visit to Mt. Davis, I feel that the best way to get to the mountain from U.S. 40 is via Md.-669 in Grantsville, which becomes Pa.-669 at the state line. Just north of Springs, make a sharp left onto Savage Road. Take Savage Road for about three miles until taking a right on Mt. Davis Road. Signs will direct you to the observation tower and picnic area. Of course, there are a number of ways to get to Mt. Davis, some of which may be more direct than the aforementioned. I’ve gathered that the route is better marked coming from the north than the south.

The top of this boulder is the highest point in Pennsylvania.

The top of this boulder is the highest point in Pennsylvania.

Because Mt. Davis is part of Forbes State Forest, backpack camping is permitted almost anywhere, with setback restrictions, and there are no fees to use the land.

The USGS marker at the high point.

The USGS marker at the high point.

The view to the east.

The view to the east.


Mile 37 – Petersburg/Addison Toll House, Addison, Pa.

The Petersburg Toll House, Addison, Pa.

Not too far after crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, the National Road reaches Addison, Pa., which is home to the Petersburg Toll House, the first of an original six such buildings in Pennsylvania. Built in 1835, the toll house and its five other brethren  were constructed in response to the federal government handing the road over to the individual states, thus allowing for the National Road to be tolled. The first tolls in Pennsylvania were collected that same year, continuing until 1906. The Petersburg Toll House was so-named simply because at the time, Addison was called Petersburg (sometimes spelled Petersburgh). Today, the building has also been called the Addison Toll House, so either name references the same building.

After falling into disuse, the toll house was purchased from the state of Pennsylvania by the Great Crossings Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in the late 1940s, and full restoration was completed in 1997. Today, the toll house looks much the same as it did in the 19th Century, and the interior is supposed to have its original flooring and furniture unique to the time period.

A replica of the toll rates on the outside of the Petersburg Toll House

In part because the DAR has been active in hundreds of historic restoration and preservation projects all over the country, the Petersburg Toll House is open to the public by appointment. For contact information, visit the Great Crossings Chapter’s Petersburg Toll House website, which also contains a wealth of historic background of the toll house; visit the GCC’s own website; or call the chapter at 814-233-5238 (that number is listed on the Laurel Highlands Visitors’ Bureau website here).

It’s also important to note that the toll house isn’t on present-day U.S.-40 like the LaVale Toll Gate House and the Searights Toll House. Instead, follow the signs that direct you to into Addison, which is on the southern side of U.S.-40. Parking is available across Main Street (Old National Road) in a park off Reservoir Road. My previous National Road post discussed how Addison was bypassed by present U.S.-40. That post includes a map, which may be helpful.


Changing a Road’s Path

Today, I briefly drove through Addison, Pa., to try to get some shots of the Addison Toll House. While I was in town, I found it interesting that although the interstates and expressways have the notorious reputation for keeping people off Main Street, older, two-lane roads do the same.

In Addison’s case, the National Road/U.S. 40 originally went through the center of town, and the toll house is located on this segment. But at some point, 40 was re-routed to go north of Addison, taking all but local traffic out of town. Its not all bad, since drivers now have a wider and more level road, and people living in Addison don’t have to worry about heavy traffic or people speeding through the middle of town. However, the potential for business seems lost, since there isn’t regular traffic to support many hospitality-oriented businesses.

Obviously, Addison isn’t the only place along the National Road that has been sliced off the main drag by a newer alignment. Especially in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, newer (and likely safer) paths for U.S. 40 were carved around small towns and neighborhoods, rather than through them, as before.

This maps shows the two alignments of the National Road in Addison, Pa. The blue line is the current route, and the red line is the original route.

Jim Grey has a great series of posts on this subject, two of which deal with the National Road near Reelsville, Ind, here and here.