Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office

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February 25, 2015
by Guest Contributor

The Battle of Brandywine Revisited

By Jill Hall and Karen Marshall

Brinton 1704 House and the surrounding lands were the location of core combat actions in the final phase of the Battle, Chadds Ford, Delaware County

Brinton 1704 House and the surrounding lands were the location of core combat actions in the final phase of the Battle, Chadds Ford, Delaware County

On September 11, 1777, British General William Howe and his professional army engaged General George Washington and his citizen soldiers along the banks of the Brandywine River about 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia. Part of a larger strategy known as the Philadelphia Campaign, the Battle of Brandywine was one of the earliest and largest battles of the American Revolution, encompassing some 30,000 British and American soldiers. The Battle lasted from sunup to sundown, instantly changing the character of a quiet farming community that consisted predominately of Quakers. Although the Battle of Brandywine was a loss for the Americans, they proved that they had the resiliency to withstand the British, increasing French support of the American cause.  Continue Reading →

Sloan’s used his ‘Philadelphia Plan’ for the Fayette School, built in 1855.  This picture shows the school in the late 19th century before the large 1915 addition by the school district.  Source:

February 18, 2015
by Shelby Weaver Splain

Making the Grade: The Architecture of Philadelphia’s Public Schools, Part 1

The architectural historian in me is fascinated by the threads of science, theory, and symbolism that go into designing and building schools.  Like most preservationists, I am a strong believer that the power of place plays a central role in shaping our experiences, attitudes, and values.  The tangible aspects of a school’s ‘power of place’ include its architectural style, materials, dimensions, and floor plan.  Taken together, these character-defining features often reflect a community’s wealth, prominence, and aspirations for their children.  In Philadelphia, schools from the mid-19th century to pre-World War II period fit into this category, regardless of their location in large or small, rich or poor neighborhoods.  After World War II, the character of many of Philadelphia’s public schools shifted, and the school buildings communicate a rigid, institutional personality that is markedly different from the schools only a few decades older. Continue Reading →

Photo 2 - LOVE Park

February 11, 2015
by Guest Contributor

Pennsylvania At Risk 2014

Preservation Pennsylvania recently announced the Pennsylvania At Risk 2014 list — seven properties nominated by the public last year that will become the nonprofit group’s work priorities in 2015.  The list illustrates a range of threats to historic resources, including 1) demolition; 2) potential loss due to deferred maintenance; 3) loss of vitality due to closure of a downtown anchor; 4) impacts resulting from inappropriately sited intensive development; and 5) physical and economic challenges faced by municipalities as a result of substantial flood insurance premium increases.  Preservation Pennsylvania is ready to engage with people interested in working to protect these significant historic places and work to overcome these threats in the coming year.

Continue Reading →


February 4, 2015
by Jeremy R. Young
1 Comment

Before the (Next) Storm: The Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative

The Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) is pleased to announce that it has begun moving forward on an exciting and historic new initiative to continue through 2017.

Special funding awarded by the National Park Service following Hurricane Sandy has enabled the PA SHPO to assist select counties with prioritizing their communities’ historic properties during the pre-disaster planning process—to help ensure they are better protected the next time a major disaster strikes the Keystone State. Continue Reading →

Point State Park and Gateway Center_1110

January 28, 2015
by Keith Heinrich

A Place In Time: The Pittsburgh Renaissance Historic District

A Place In Time is a regular feature in Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, published quarterly by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and available for purchase at  A subscription to the magazine is a benefit of membership in the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit partner of the PHMC.  

The Fort Pitt Blockhouse in Pittsburgh.

The Fort Pitt Blockhouse in Pittsburgh.

Throughout much of its industrial history, Pittsburgh had an image problem. In 1868 James Parton wrote in The Atlantic Monthly that it was “Hell with the lid taken off.” Later, it became known as “The Smoky City.” Pollution was a big issue, but there were other problems, such as traffic congestion, flooding and blight that made Pittsburgh a less-than-desirable place to live. It was so bad that in 1944 The Wall Street Journal characterized Pittsburgh among cities “that had bleak futures.” One could argue that nowhere were these issues more visible than at the Point, the area of downtown where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River join to form the Ohio River. Prior to World War II, the Point was a smoky, gritty, blighted area that was home to two railyards, several exposition halls, offices, clubs and hotels. It was also home to the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, a 1764 building owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the sole remaining aboveground structure from the Colonial-era Fort Pitt. Continue Reading →

Mt. Carmel Borough, Northumberland County.  Photo by Dave Maher.

January 21, 2015
by Pamela Reilly

Preservation in a Changing Economic Climate

Many of Pennsylvania’s communities face the challenging task of adapting to a vastly different economic climate than the one that led to their historic growth and development.  This new economic reality of dramatically reduced population, deindustrialization and loss of tax base has resulted in historic downtowns and residential neighborhoods pockmarked by disinvestment and vacant properties.  Abandoned, demolished or marginally repurposed historic churches, schools and factories are especially vivid reminders of changing times and the large social and economic forces at work. Continue Reading →

Report Pictures_small

January 21, 2015
by Serena Bellew

SHPO Research Room Policy Change

For those who utilize the Report and Research Archives at the Bureau for Historic Preservation office in Harrisburg, you will notice that we have been working hard behind the scenes to make improvements within our archive files with the goal of enhancing the quality and ease of your research. Within the last year we have reorganized and consolidated several of the physical files, and will be continuing these efforts into the future. In addition to the physical changes to our archive we have also been working on updates to our Archive and Research Room User Policy, which provides the basis for how research is conducted in our archive.

The first change to be implemented will be how our office collects payment for photocopies made during your research visit. Beginning February 1, 2015 researchers visiting the SHPO/BHP Report and Resource Archive will be required to pay for all copies made during that visit by check before their departure.

We are confident that these improvements to the SHPO/BHP Report and Resource Archives will ultimately result in a better, more efficient and productive research experience. Please look for updates on future changes in our monthly newsletter and on our website at

Generalized map showing Sullivan’s, Clinton’s, and Brodhead’s campaign against the Iroquois from Trussell, John B., Jr., “The Sullivan and Brodhead Expeditions,” ed. Harold L. Myers.  Historic Pennsylvania Leaflet No. 41.  Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1976.

January 14, 2015
by Keith Heinrich

Into the Wilderness!: The Search for Thompson’s Island

Former BHP Keystone interns in front of the Allegheny National Forest headquarters in Warren, PA.

Former BHP Keystone interns in front of the Allegheny National Forest headquarters in Warren, PA.

In July 2014, the Bureau for Historic Preservation received an American Battlefield Protection Program planning grant from the National Park Service to locate, document, and delineate the boundaries of a significant, but little known Revolutionary War conflict site in northwestern Pennsylvania.  The Battle of Thompson’s Island, in present day Warren County, is listed with “Other Sites of Interest” in the 2007 Report to Congress on the Historic Preservation of Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Sites in the United States, but its exact location is unknown.  In fact, it is possible that the battle simply took place near Thompsons Island, not on it—but we are certain that it is located within the Allegheny National Forest.  This project seeks to answer some of those questions.  Continue Reading →

From the collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, this WW II newspaper photograph of students from the Horticultural School, tools in hand, showed American women on the march for victory.

January 7, 2015
by Scott Doyle

It’s January – Time for the 2015 Pennsylvania Farm Show!

UPDATE!  The PHMC booth showcasing the Historical Markers Program was selected as the Best Educational Display by the Farm Show judges! Thank you to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the thousands of Farm Show attendees who visited the booth to learn about Pennsylvania’s rich agricultural heritage.

Pennsylvania Farm Show Building Harrisburg

Make room on your calendars because the Pennsylvania Farm Show, the nation’s largest indoor agricultural exposition, is about to descend upon the historic Farm Show complex in Harrisburg from Saturday January 10 through Saturday January 17, 2015.  The 99th Pennsylvania Farm Show includes nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibits.  Continue Reading →


December 31, 2014
by Cory Kegerise

Taking Stock of 2014 at the PaSHPO

There’s something about turning the final page of the calendar each year that makes us all a little introspective.  What were the high points of the past 12 months?  The low points?  The successes? The challenges?  What might we do differently in the coming year?  What should stay the same?

This past year has been a pretty exciting one for the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office, so we thought we’d take one last glance through the 2014 calendar before hanging up the new one – just for old times’ sake.  Continue Reading →