Tag Archives: pennsylvania

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 106 – S Bridge, Buffalo Twp., Washington County, Pa.

The S Bridge, Washington County, Pa.

An unusual form of bridge architecture exists along the National Road in Pennsylvania and Ohio – the ‘S’ bridge. These bridges are exactly what the name infers – they are shaped like an ‘S,’ apparently in an effort to save on materials.

The S Bridge in Pennsylvania is the only one of its kind in the state, and spans a small creek in western Washington County, just east of Claysville. The structure was built around 1818, and was eventually bypassed by newer infrastructure (like the fate of the Casselman River bridge in Maryland). In the case of ‘S’ bridges, as cars began to replace horses, and as those cars became faster, the curvature of those bridges posed a safety hazard as well.

The historical marker nest to Pennsylvania’s ‘S’ bridge.

Today, the bridge, its deck covered in grass, is still open to the public as a pedestrian path and is on the National Register of Historic Places. There is a parking lot north of the bridge on Pa.-221, and its a short walk to the bridge from the lot. The current U.S. 40 passes right beside the bridge, adjacent with its intersection with Pa.-221.

While Pennsylvania only has one such bridge, there are several remaining ‘S’ bridges in eastern Ohio. Jim Grey, who has been a frequent resource for this blog, has chronicled those structures. So until I get to Ohio (and even after), check out his blog.

Pennsylvania’s ‘S’ bridge spans a small creek in rural Washington County.

Summer 2012 Festivals Along the National Road

Planning out summer activities? Check out this sampling of events happening along the National Road this summer! Of course, some are missed, but here’s what I’ve been able to track down:

All States

May 30-June 3: National Road Yard Sale, Maryland to Missouri.


May 24-27: DelFest, Cumberland.

June 9-10: 44th Annual Heritage Days Festival, Cumberland.

June 22-24: 35th Annual Grantsville Days, Grantsville.

July 4 (tentative): National Road Monument dedication, Cumberland.

July 4: 36th Annual Soapbox Derby, Frostburg.


May 18-20: National Road Festival, Southwest Pennsylvania. (Note: I have had a hard time finding a website giving details about this year’s festival, but it is happening.)

June 14-16: The 9th Annual National Road Chainsaw Carving Festival, Addison.

June 16: 11th Annual Beer & Gear Festival, Ohiopyle.

Aug. 7-11: Mountain Area Fair, Farmington.

Sept. 5-10: West Alexander Fair, West Alexander.

Sept. 15-16: Covered Bridge Festival, Washington and Greene counties.

West Virginia

June 24: Ohio Valley Black Heritage Festival, Wheeling.

July 29: Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival, Wheeling.

Aug. 10-12: Heritage Music Bluesfest, Wheeling.

Aug. 25: Wine and Jazz Festival, Wheeling.


Columbus Fairs and Events

June 15-July 22: Springfield Summer Arts Festival, Springfield.

July 7-15: Zanesville Pottery Show and Sale, Zanesville.

July 19-22: Jamboree in the Hills, Belmont County.

Aug. 3-4: Y Bridge Arts Festival, Zanesville.

Aug. 10-11: Salt Fort Arts & Crafts Festival, Cambridge.

Aug. 18-19: Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival, Reynoldsburg.

Sept. 15-16: Preble County Pork Festival, Eaton.

Sept. 22: Hebron Music and Arts Festival, Hebron.



May 24-June 2: Banks of the Wabash Festival, Terre Haute.

June: Jubilee Days, Knightstown.

September: Hoosier Fall Festival, Knightstown.

Sept. 22: Quaker Day Festival, Plainfield.

Oct. 4-7: Riley Festival, Greenfield.

Oct. 5-7: Clay County Popcorn Festival, Brazil.


June 1-3: Fun Fest for Air-Cooled VWs, Effingham.

Sept. 1-3: Illinois Popcorn Festival, Casey.

Sept. 28-29: Grand Levee/Harvest Festival, Vandalia.

Fall: Harvest Moon Music Festival, Vandalia.

Mile 83 – Madonna of the Trail, Beallsville, Pa.

The Madonna of the Trail in Pennsylvania, Beallsville.

Located between the borough of Beallsville and the small community of Richeyville is the Pennsylvania edition of the Madonna of the Trail, one of 12 such monuments along U.S. 40 and U.S. 66 in each state through which those routes pass.

These monuments were planned by the Daughters of the American Revolution in the early 1900s, and were meant to mark the National Old Trails Road, which included the National Road on its journey west, as well as commemorate female pioneers who settled the American west. Each statue is identical and was designed by August Leimbach.

The Pennsylvania Madonna was put in place on Dec. 8, 1928 – the tenth of 12. Every monument is along the original National Road or Santa Fe Trail, with the exception of Maryland’s, which is in Bethesda, a suburb of Washington, D.C. In order from east to west, Madonna of the Trail monuments are located in Bethesda, Md.; Beallsville, Pa.; Wheeling, W.Va.; Springfield, Ohio; Richmond, Ind.; Vandalia, Ill.; Lexington, Mo.; Council Grove, Kan.; Lamar, Colo.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Springerville, Ariz.; and Upland, Calif.

Pennsylvania’s monument was rededicated in 1978, and was restored and rededicated again in 1990. The DAR’s Washington County chapter is responsible for the maintenance of the statue.

The Madonna of the Trail is located right between the central areas of Beallsville and Richeyville, directly across U.S. 40 from the main entrance of the Nemacolin Country Club. Like all of the Madonna monuments, it is free and open to the public. A small pull-out exists on the north side of the National Road (the same side as the monument). It’s important to use common sense when visiting the monument, as it is right up against U.S. 40, and drivers aren’t always aware of pedestrians along the highway.

Also, check out these other posts on Madonnas around the country from Jim Grey, Sculpted Portrait and Frank Brusca.

The Madonna as seen from across the National Road at the entrance to the Nemacolin Country Club.

Mile 75 – Frank L. Melega Art Museum, Brownsville, Pa.

A portion of the recreated studio at the Frank L. Melega Art Museum in Brownsville, Pa.

Most towns have monuments, statues or signage to commemorate the accomplishments of past residents of the said town. In Brownsville, a museum and art gallery is dedicated to a long-time resident of the area, Frank L. Melega, an artist who lived across the Monongahela in West Brownsville. An Indiana (the state, not the Pennsylvania city) native, Melega’s family moved to West Brownsville during his childhood; his father worked for a local coal mine. Melega produced art for  myriad of institutions, concentrating in Southwest Pennsylvania, and received various honors for his work. Melega also operated an art shop in Brownsville.

The Melega Art Museum features a variety of work from the late Frank Melega.

Melega dabbled in a variety of media during his life, including mosaics, sculpture and paint. His work focused particularly on the region, notably the period when coal and coke reigned in Fayette County and surrounding areas (a history chronicled by the Coal and Coke Heritage Center north of Uniontown). All types of Melega’s work is featured in the gallery, which even includes a recreated portion of the artist’s studio, using actual furnishings.

Exhibits are rotated throughout the year, and the museum is home to the National Road Festival Juried Exhibition, which occurs this year from April 21 to May 27, with the award ceremony taking place on Friday, May 18, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The art gallery itself is located in the back half of the historic Flatiron Building in Brownsville, and is open to the Brownsville Heritage Center, which takes up the front of the building. In other words, both museums are in the same building and open to one another, making it easy to visit both facilities in the same visit.

An exhibit at the Melega Art Museum.

The Frank L. Melega Art Museum is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There is no charge to visit the museum. Appointments outside scheduled hours are available by calling 724-785-9331, or by e-mailing barcinfo@barcpa.org or manager@barcpa.org.

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.

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Mile 75 – Brownsville Heritage Center, Brownsville, Pa.

The Flatiron Building, Market Street, Brownsville.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, Brownsville (and the entire Monongahela River Valley) is struggling with a massive population exodus due to the disappearance of heavy industry in the latter half of the 20th Century. These communities are struggling to find their place in the modern economy while also dealing with a surplus of real estate left over from a more prosperous time.

However, there are bright spots, and groups like the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation are working to promote economic growth and community pride in the Mon River Valley. In a part of downtown Brownsville known as “The Neck,” BARC has kept up with the continued use of the Flatiron Building, which houses two museums and has also been home to a cafe and other businesses.

The Flatiron Building was built in 1835, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. This building predates more famous buildings with similar structures, like New York City’s version with the same name. It is arguably one of the best-preserved older buildings in Brownsville, and is one of the few that has also  undergone extensive modernization.

One of the two museums in the Flatiron Building is the Brownsville Heritage Center, which is strikingly informative and well-designed, and contains hundreds of artifacts from Brownsville’s rich history.

The front of the Brownsville Heritage Center in the Flatiron Building.

The Heritage Center takes up the front part of the building (the part that includes the point of the structure), and is designed to feature three different parts of Brownsville history, depending on what visitors can see out each window. A section of the museum is dedicated to railroad history in Brownsville, and thus windows in that section face north and west across the access road to the railroad and the former Union Station. The second section is themed around coal and coke history, and those windows face south and east toward the hills along the Mon River, which at one time, were home to coal and coke production in Brownsville. Finally, a large section of the museum is dedicated to the National Road, and windows in that section face the National Road (Market Street). There is also a large interactive map that lights different sections of the region depending on this history/industry involved.

I didn’t really expect a whole lot when I first found out that this museum existed, but I ended up spending at least 40 minutes exploring what the museum had to offer. Since I’m big into history, especially that of Appalachia and the Rust Belt, all three exhibits were equally fascinating. It was also cool to learn about the variety of industry that once called Brownsville home – from coke/coal to steamboat construction to a brewery.

The museum is connected to the Frank L. Melega Art Museum, and admission is free, but donations are accepted (and likely appreciated). Since the museum is also the tangible representation of BARC, a slew of information on BARC and Brownsville-area activities are also available.

The Flatiron Building is located at 69 Market Street in Brownsville, and the building is too unique to be missed. Parking is available throughout downtown, and parking is also permitted in front of the old Union Station. The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and can be reached at 724-785-9331. There is also a small gift shop within the museum.

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