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Summer 2013 Festivals Along the National Road

Last year, I posted a list of festivals I had found that were scheduled along or near the National Road during the summer months. It proved to be one of the more popular posts this blog had, so I figured I would update the list to reflect this year’s events. If there’s anything that should be added, I’d like to know!

All States

May 29-June 2: 10th Annual National Road Yard Sale, Maryland to Missouri. See information from Old Storefront Antiques, where the tradition started, here.

Maryland

May 23-26: DelFest, Cumberland.

June 8-19: 45th Annual Heritage Days Festival, Cumberland.

June 28-30: 36th Annual Grantsville Days, Grantsville.

July 4: 37th Annual Soapbox Derby, Frostburg.

Sept. 21: Bicentennial Celebration of the Casselman River Bridge (see the bridge on this blog), Grantsville.

Pennsylvania

May 17-19: 40th Annual National Road Festival, Southwest Pennsylvania.

June 13-15: The 10th Annual National Road Chainsaw Carving Festival, Addison.

June 15: 12th Annual Beer & Gear Festival, Ohiopyle.

Aug. 5-10: Mountain Area Fair, Farmington.

Aug. 9-11: The 33rd National Pike Steam, Gas & Horse Assn. Show, Brownsville.

Aug. 23-25: Italian Festival of Fayette County, Dunbar (near Uniontown).

Sept. 2-7: West Alexander Fair, West Alexander.

Sept. 21-22: 43rd Covered Bridge Festival, Washington and Greene counties.

West Virginia

June 28-30: Ohio Valley Black Heritage Festival, Wheeling.

July 26-28: Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, Wheeling.

Aug. 9-11: Heritage Music Bluesfest, Wheeling.

Aug. 24: 6th Annual Wine and Jazz Festival, Wheeling.

Aug. 30-Sept. 1: Wheeling Vintage Raceboat Regatta, Wheeling.

mid-Sept.: Wheeling Heritage Port Sternwheel Festival, Wheeling

Ohio

Columbus Fairs and Events

June 13-July 20: Springfield Summer Arts Festival, Springfield.

July 12-13: Zanesville Pottery Lovers’ Show and Sale, Zanesville.

July 18-21: Jamboree in the Hills, Belmont.

Aug. 2-3: Y Bridge Arts Festival, Zanesville.

Aug. 9-11: 45th Salt Fork Arts & Crafts Festival, Cambridge.

Aug. 16-17: Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival, Reynoldsburg.

Sept. 21-22: Preble County Pork Festival, Eaton.

Sept. 28: Hebron Music and Arts Festival, Hebron.

Indiana

Indianapolis

May 23-June 1: Banks of the Wabash Festival, Terre Haute.

June 5-8: Jubilee Days, Knightstown.

Sept. 7-8: Hoosier Fall Fest, Knightstown.

Sept. 20-21: Quaker Day Festival, Plainfield.

Oct. 3-6: Riley Festival, Greenfield.

October: 10th Annual Clay County Popcorn Festival, Brazil.

Illinois

May 31-June 2: Fun Fest for Air-Cooled VWs, Effingham.

Labor Day Weekend (unconfirmed dates): Casey Popcorn Festival, Casey.

September (unconfirmed dates): Grand Levee/Harvest Festival, Vandalia.

Fall (unconfirmed dates): Harvest Moon Music Festival, Vandalia.


Mile 75 – Fiddle’s Confectionery, Brownsville, Pa.

Fiddle's Confectionery on Bridge Street in Brownsville, Pa., located under the Intercounty Bridge.

During my time in Brownsville, I struggled to find an older, historic eatery that was not part of a chain. I drove what seemed like all over town looking for a place that is local, along (or near) the National Road and has a significant historic connection.

Enter Fiddle’s Confectionery – almost hidden under the Intercounty Bridge that runs between Brownsville, Fayette County, and West Brownsville, Washington County, over the Monongahela River. (It is important to note that this bridge carries the original National Road routing, versus the newer U.S. 40 bridge upriver.)

Fiddle’s isn’t actually a confectionery in the literal definition of the word. Instead, it is a full-service restaurant with a significant emphasis on an American favorite – hot dogs. For myself, I had the chili dogs, which were made up of a toasted bun, a hot dog split open down the middle and then loaded with chili. Of course, Fiddle’s does have many other options besides hot dogs, especially breakfast food.

What makes Fiddle’s special is the attachment the restaurant has to the community. Fiddle’s has been in operation since 1910, and although owners have changed, Fiddle’s is one of those restaurants that has retained a similar atmosphere throughout its existence. The booths along the front window of the dining area have been in use in the 1920s, and a dining counter is also still in use (though the arrangement of the restaurant has been moved around since the 1960s).

Chili Dogs at Fiddle's Confectionery, Brownsville, Pa.

In addition to the restaurant’s literal history, there’s something to be said about a community business that has weathered the ups and downs of the economy, and still operates despite the business’s home town losing roughly two-thirds of its population since the early 1900s. When I stopped by on a Friday afternoon, there were only three other patrons in the whole place, all of whom were older men who fit the stereotype of a former blue-collar worker in a Rust Belt town (though this doesn’t mean the crowd is the same all the time!). Even the location of Fiddle’s speaks for itself, as the restaurant is more or less under a bridge built after the restaurant’s home, and is smack in the middle of a town (and a region) with too many buildings and not enough tenants.

That being said, the simple existence of Fiddle’s, plus the great taste of the food, makes the restaurant a great stop along the National Road, if for nothing else than to get a nostalgic taste of a bygone time.

To get to Fiddle’s (101 Bridge St.) – which can be confusing for out-of-towners – turn on to Water Street from Market Street, which is one block east of the Intercounty Bridge (see the map). Follow Water Street around a left curve, and Fiddle’s will be directly in front of you. Parking is available under the bridge by turning left upon reaching Fiddle’s. To contact Fiddle’s by phone, call 724-785-2020. It’s also important to mention that debit and credit cards are not accepted. However, there is an ATM inside.

Fiddle’s is open all week; 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Fiddle's Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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.

 

 

 


Saving Pieces of the Past for Our Future

In recent decades, the topic of historic preservation has routinely come up in hundreds of small and large communities across the country. It seems that Americans have finally realized the value in the architecture and design of a bygone era. However, at the same time, most commercial interests, large and small, are about land development for the lowest possible price. And since it takes more cash to renovate an old building than to knock it down, historic structures are still being destroyed (though not nearly as quickly as in the 1960s, 70s and 80s).

Queen City Hotel, Image courtesy of the U.S Dept. of the Interior

Along U.S. 40, many buildings that would be attractions in and of themselves today weren’t lucky enough to reach the modern era of mechanisms like the National Register of Historic Places or National Historic Landmarks, both of which protect historic buildings from destruction. In Cumberland, the demolition of Queen City Hotel, a 174-room railroad hotel built in the 1870s by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, is considered by some to be have been one of the “final straws” in losing historic buildings before federal protections were enacted. The hotel was one of the B&O’s more or less “destination hotels,” and had it not been torn down in the 1970s to build what became I-68, the hotel would probably still serve that same purpose today. (The two photos I’ve included are the only series I could find under a Creative Commons license, but you can find many more images of the hotel by doing a simple Google search).

The Queen City Hotel in relation to the now-built U.S. 40 highway (now I-68).

Yet with all the negative stories, positive cases of preservation are becoming more and more frequent, especially as an increasing number of municipalities are working to revive downtown areas. In the case of railroad stations, for example (since I mentioned the Queen City Hotel), the Great American Stations project is a partnership between Amtrak and local and state governments to renovate historic railroad stations across the country to either make badly-needed repairs, or to restore a station to its original use. Speaking of railroad stations, the most recent post on Kaitlin O’Shea’s blog, “Preservation in Pink,” which follows preservation efforts across the country, focuses on an old run-down railroad station in a small Vermont town, and links to successful re-uses of other former stations. You can read that post here.

With roads, like U.S. 40, obviously the case is a bit different. Roads must be upgraded and maintained, and so it’s not practical (nor necessarily safe) to keep a road as it looked 50 or 100 years ago. However, the actual pavement itself isn’t what makes a “road” a “Road,” although unique construction methods in some stretches to add to the road’s character, like the National Road’s remaining “S-bridges,” which Jim Grey writes about here and here.

Rather, it is the cities, towns, diners, theaters, etc. that give the road identity. Therefore, it’s important that we take the time to appreciate (and patronize) local and historic businesses AND support preservation programs in order to continue to enjoy parts and experiences of our nation’s heritage. For example, not too far away from the National Road, Brian Butko writes that plans are underway for a diner along the Lincoln Highway in Westmoreland County, Pa., to be converted into a more-or-less interactive museum, thus saving yet another part of transportation history in America.


Mile 0 – Cumberland, Md.

The Western Maryland city of Cumberland, Md. (pop. ~20,000), is the the start of the National Road (as most road enthusiasts know). The city’s 200+ year history makes it interestingly fascinating, especially for history buffs. Three of the more important transportation links in America’s history all converge here: the National Road, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore and Ohio (now CSX) Railroad. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Cumberland was, for a time, the second-largest city in Maryland, and was a main export point for coal from the mines of Maryland and West Virginia. By the mid-20th Century, numerous factories dotted the city, ranging from the Celenese Chemical pant to the home of the Kelly-Springfield Tire Corporation.

Now, the factories are gone, and the city has over half the population is had at its peak, but within the last 10 years, positive signs are emerging. Continued work on revitalizing the downtown area is successful, and though the city lost population between 2000 and 2010, it wasn’t anywhere near older rates of population decline. At the same time, Cumberland continues to improve its downtown area, which has been branded as “Town Centre,” and is centered around Baltimore Street, which has been converted into a pedestrian mall. Specialty shops and local restaurants line Baltimore, Liberty, Centre and Mechanic Streets, giving life to the downtown area.

Closer to the bridge that carries I-68 through downtown is the Western Maryland railroad station, which hold a deli, the offices for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and the C&O Canal National Historic Park visitor center. And to top off downtown, a smaller shopping area, Canal Place, houses a few attractions, notably a restaurant and a bike shop for users of the C&O Canal towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail.

I’ll mention Cumberland’s attractions in detail in later posts, since each deserves more than just a brief statement.

Itinerary idea:

Breakfast: Grab a donut or croissant at M&M Bakery, 80 Baltimore St. This bakery has been locally-owned and operated for decades, and makes fresh baked goods every day.

Morning: But to give just a quick suggestion for an itinerary, start your day at the C&O Canal visitor center, which, in addition to housing interactive exhibits on the canal, also provides a wealth of tourist information. Consider taking a walk along Washington Street, past historic churches and homes, one of which, the Gordon-Roberts House, is open to the public as a museum.

Lunch: Coney Island Wieners, 15 N. Liberty St. Coney Island has been around since the early 1900s, and continues to be a Cumberland tradition. Ask for your hot dog “with the sauce,” which is never regrettable.

Afternoon: Explore the shops downtown, which range from antiques to an independent bookstore.

Dinner: Crabby Pig at Canal Place, 13 Canal St. Try one of their specialties – Maryland crabcakes.

Lodging: Holiday Inn, 100 S. George St.; Fairfield Inn by Mariott, 21 Wineow St.


Blogs for on the road

Below are a few blogs featured on my blogroll. Each of these sites are more establish, and feature different aspects of road travel and discovering an America hidden by the interstates…
– Trunkations is the blog of Roadside America, a website that features unique and unusual roadside attractions across the U.S. The blog also shares information about useful tools for travelers (i.e. new iPhone apps, etc.).
– The Lincoln Highway Association is one of the most-established organizations in the country that is centered around one road – the historic (and nostalgic) Lincoln Highway. This blog centers around news pertinent to the highway.
– Roadfood.com – Your Guide to Authentic Regional Eats is also an older, content-rich blog, dedicated to identifying eateries across America that represent local cuisine. Hundreds of restaurants are on this site, even in places that are more off the beaten path.
– RoadsideOnline is similar to Roadfood, except that RoadsideOnline seeks a specific establishment – the classic American diner.
– Road Trip Memories chronicles a woman’s path to discovering the stories and culture along two-lane roads in the U.S.
– Road Trips for Beer follows the authors as they explore the smaller breweries in the U.S., many of which are embedded  in towns and cities across the country.
– Jim Grey’s “Down the Road” blog records road enthusiast Jim Grey’s exploration of older, historic roads in the Midwest, one of which is that National Road in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
– America’s Byways features constant updates from the America’s Byways program, an organization dedicated to preserving historic routes across the United States.
– The Mountain Laurel Chamber of Commerce frequently updates readers on events and attractions in the “Mountain Laurel” region, centered in Fayette County, Pa. The National Road slices right through that area.
– Like the Lincoln Highway Association, the National Historic Route 66 Federation has been around for many years, and, of course, is dedicated to promoting the history of U.S. Route 66. It’s blog features photos and information dealing with the “Mother Road.”
– On The Road is the official blog of AARoads.com, a roughly decade-old website that essentially documents all types of roads across the country, from the old auto trails to the interstate highways.
– Preservation in Pink provides a great source of up-to-date information on historic preservation in America.
– Brian Butko’s Lincoln Highway News follows news and updates from across the Lincoln Highway – a good resource for anyone looking for info on current events along the L.H.

Buckle up!

Over the next few months, we’ll be traveling from east to west along the over 100 miles of U.S. Route 40 in Maryland and Pennsylvania, checking out what there is to see and do in the cities and towns along the road. The first goal of this blog is to provide a resource for both local and non-local travelers of attractions along the road. For those who travel the highway every day, this may mean discovering something in your own backyard, and for those from out of the area, this may mean finding something to see during the journey.

Appalachia has long been one of the most overlooked regions of the country. Few travel literature exists about this region, especially when compared with other regions. As the region is being “discovered” by outsiders for its natural and man-made recreation opportunities, a need for travel resources in the region is needed. Hence goal No. 2  of this blog: to provide a piece in travel literature for the Appalachian region.