Dr. Frank Vento along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Photo by Joe Baker.
On a lovely morning in early autumn, I arrive at an old farm along the Susquehanna River to find Dr Frank Vento in his natural element. That is to say, he is squatting down at the bottom of backhoe trench some eight feet deep, carefully examining the many layers of flood-deposited sediment left behind by the great river. Frank is a geomorphologist: a geologist and archaeologist whose specialty is the formation of floodplains, terraces, and other kinds of landforms created by the interaction of climate, gravity, water, wind, and sometimes, humans. Frank is down there looking for something, and as I walk up to the edge of the trench, he finds it.
The mansion at Grey Towers National Historic Site.
Although I’m Pennsylvania born and raised, I’m the first to (sheepishly) admit that there are many counties within the Commonwealth where I have never stepped foot. So when the invitation arose under the guise of project and covenant review to visit Pike County in the far northeast reaches, I eagerly accepted and grabbed an able co-pilot, Karen Arnold, for what turned out to be a gorgeous day in April. (Disclaimer: the musings of one mere BHP staffer does not do these places justice –if you’ve never been, add them to your bucket list – they do not disappoint [unlike my writing skills]). Continue Reading →
Along with the many insightful training sessions, in-the-field workshops, and engaging panel discussions offered at this year’s Pennsylvania Statewide Conference on Heritage (July 8-10th), we’ll blow out some candles honoring the 50th birthday of the State Museum & Archives complex in Harrisburg and discuss the challenges of restoring and advocating for modern architecture.
The 2015 conference is sponsored by Preservation Pennsylvania along with PHMC, PennDOT, DCNR, and local partners and is widely attended by heritage enthusiasts, students, and professionals in the fields of planning, preservation, transportation, community development, public history, heritage consulting, architecture, archaeology, real estate, and more. With dozens of sessions, workshops, tours, and social events, plus the hall of exhibitors, the Statewide Conference on Heritage is a don’t-miss opportunity for education, inspiration, experience and networking. The general registration rate is set at $150. (Some events may have associated fees.) Continue Reading →
Staff from the PA State Historic Preservation Office were on location at the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors’ (PSATS) 93rd Annual Educational Conference and Trade Show in Hershey, Dauphin County, from April 19-21 to promote the Commonwealth’s new Disaster Planning for Historic Properties Initiative and to convey the importance of considering the impacts of a variety of natural disaster types upon historic resources. Continue Reading →
2016 is shaping up to be a great year for celebrating historic preservation. The National Historic Preservation Act turns 50, and the National Park Service turns 100! Throughout the next year, the National Park Service and its partners will announce a number of initiatives for this centennial celebration. A few days ago, President Obama declared this week (April 18-26, 2015) as National Park Week, which the National Park Service (NPS) and its partner, the National Park Foundation, call “America’s largest celebration of national heritage.” All week long people can explore the country’s National Parks and connect with others who love and support these treasures and ensure their longevity over the next 100 years.
Location of McKees Rocks Mound on the bluff overlooking the mouth of Chartiers Creek with the Ohio River in the foreground. This photograph was taken in 1896 and is used courtesy of the Section of Anthropology of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. It was taken from either from a boat or Brunot’s Island in the Ohio River. The white arrow was added by the excavators. There is a train track at the base of the bluff. The author added the mound outline, dark arrow pointing to the railroad line and mound label.
McKees Rocks Mound was the largest prehistoric mound found in Western Pennsylvania. It was 16 feet high and had a basal diameter of 85 feet. The mound was well known in the 19th century and was located on a bluff overlooking where Chartiers Creek enters the Ohio River in the borough of McKees Rocks. Continue Reading →
Turning the calendar page from March to April is a cause for celebration on many fronts – the end of winter, the blooming of spring flowers, and an official reason to celebrate jazz! Yes, April is National Jazz Appreciation Month and Pennsylvania has a long, rich history with the musical genre. Jazz has its roots in the African-American communities of the American South, but made its way north during the Great Migration in the 1910s and 20s. Artists and organizations from Pennsylvania, especially Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, were hugely influential in the evolution of jazz and numerous communities built concert halls that hosted some of the most legendary performers on their cross country tours. Pennsylvania’s role in the history of jazz is so significant that Explorepahistory.com has a whole section devoted to the subject, including photos, recordings, and lesson plans. Continue Reading →
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) approved 22 new historical markers at its March 4, 2015 meeting. There are currently more than 2,000 PHMC markers throughout Pennsylvania and the program is one of the most popular and visible aspects of the Commission’s work. The Commission has standard approval criteria that, among other things, require marker subjects be of statewide and/or national historical significance. The majority of the newly approved markers are in Philadelphia (9), which is also where the most (20) nominations came from. With such a long and rich history, it is no surprise that Philadelphia has the largest number of markers of any county in the state (over 250). The Marker Program encourages broad distribution, so individuals and organizations from the other 66 counties are encouraged to research their history and develop nominations for people, places, events, and innovations with statewide and/or national historical significance in their own area. Continue Reading →
Original Little League Field, 1947. Courtesy of Putsee Vannucci.
Like many boys growing up in the 1930s, the nephews of Williamsport resident Carl E. Stotz (1910-92) were baseball fanatics. After playing countless games of “pitch and catch” with the boys, Stotz promised them that he would develop a game of baseball on a size and scale appropriate for younger players. He kept his promise. In the late summer of 1938, he gathered his nephews and other local boys in Williamsport’s Memorial Park, where he began to experiment with field dimensions for a scaled down version of the game. With folded newspapers representing each base, he took note of the running speed and throwing distance capabilities of the young players. He then determined that his game should have base paths 60 feet in length, rather than the standard 90 feet, and a distance of 46 feet from the pitcher’s mound to home plate, instead of the regular 60 feet, 6 inches. While traditional baseball games last at least nine innings, Stotz realized that was too long and planned his youth games to run only six innings. Continue Reading →