Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office

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.  

Fort Pitt Blockhouse small 300x200 A Place In Time:  The Pittsburgh Renaissance Historic District

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
1 Comment

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 →

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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

ANF sign 300x225 Into the Wilderness!: The Search for Thompson’s Island

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!

PA Farm show 300x190 Its January   Time for the 2015 Pennsylvania Farm Show!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 →

Emma during a recent visit to Building 543, the former Pipe and Copppersmith Shop, of the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

December 24, 2014
by Barbara Frederick
1 Comment

New Faces and Places in Environmental Review

CAM01145 1 186x300 New Faces and Places in Environmental Review

Emma outside the East Shore YMCA (1932) on North Front Street in Harrisburg.

As we are poised to ring in a new year, we wanted to make you aware of new developments in the review of state and federal projects that have occurred within our office over the past several months. In August, we said a fond farewell to Ann Safley who retired after 23 years of service. Ann most recently served as the above ground reviewer for projects in the western region of the state. Ann’s knowledge and expertise of state and federal projects and western Pennsylvania will be missed!

In October, we brought on our newest staff member, Emma Diehl, to serve as an above ground reviewer. Barbara Frederick subsequently shifted review responsibilities to the west, and Emma assumed review of projects affecting above ground resources in the eastern region. This map reflects the current regional environmental review assignments.

We are excited to add Emma as the newest member of our staff! To get to know her better, we asked Emma to share a bit about her past experience and personal interests as well as her perspective on her new job. Continue Reading →

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December 19, 2014
by Kira Heinrich

Digital Underground: Seeking Electronic Versions of Archaeological Reports

crgis final logo e1418999042628 Digital Underground: Seeking Electronic Versions of Archaeological ReportsAs many of you will have noticed in your recent correspondence with our office, the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), we have made a change in number and media requested for archaeological report copies. We are now requesting just one hard copy for the permanent archive file here at the SHPO office in Harrisburg, as well as three electronic copies on disks. This recent change is an attempt to plan for a future time when archaeological reports will be available on the Cultural Resources Geographic Information System (CRGIS) to qualified users, in their entirety. Continue Reading →


December 17, 2014
by Cory Kegerise

Preservation at 50: Planning for the Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act

I am dismayed to learn from reading this report that almost half of the twelve thousand structures listed in the Historic American Buildings Survey of the National Park Service have already been destroyed.  This a serious loss and it underlines the necessity for prompt action if we are not to shirk our duty to the future.

– Lady Bird Johnson in With Heritage So Rich, 1966

medium logo 191x300 Preservation at 50: Planning for the Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation ActIn the waning months of 1964, a small group of preservation advocates, beleaguered by nearly two decades of Federal transportation and urban renewal programs that decimated historic communities across the country, gathered to strategize about a new national framework for historic preservation. They wondered whether the “progress” ushered in by the post war economic boom could be redefined in ways that would respect, and even enhance, historic places? Those efforts would eventually lead, in October 1966, to the adoption of the National Historic Preservation Act, the most comprehensive and fully articulated law protecting historic places in the United States.

The country is preparing to mark the 50th anniversary of the NHPA in 2016, and there are many preservation accomplishments to celebrate, but also much left to be done.  Preservation50, a coalition of national preservation organizations and agencies is organizing the celebration of the NHPA anniversary and they need your input and involvement. Continue Reading →

The home of James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, BHP Key No. 001061

December 10, 2014
by Karen Arnold

The Keystone Fund Partners in Preserving James Buchanan’s Wheatland

Wheatland 300x184 The Keystone Fund Partners in Preserving James Buchanan’s Wheatland

Wheatland, the home of James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, BHP Key No. 001061

I realize that when it is cold outside, it might be more comfortable to hibernate on the couch watching television, but this is a great time of year to visit the Commonwealth’s museums and historical sites.  Always in need a last-minute hostess gift for a party, I often pop into the Landis Valley Museum Shop for a unique gift or just take respite in exploring the material cultural of our great Commonwealth.  One of my favorite historic houses to visit this time year is President James Buchanan’s Wheatland in Lancaster.  Constructed in 1828 for William Jenkins, the president of Farmer’s Bank of Lancaster, the Federal-style brick house and surrounding 24 acres were purchased by retiring U.S. Secretary of State, James Buchanan, in 1848.  Wheatland remained Buchanan’s home during his presidency until his death on June 1, 1868.  The Mansion was sold in 1935 to the James Buchanan Foundation for the Preservation of Wheatland to develop a Presidential House Museum.  Continue Reading →