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 →
The monumental 7th Street Gate to the Easton Cemetery. Photo by Jeremy Young, October 2014.
High on a hill overlooking the City of Easton is the serene, picturesque, and endlessly fascinating Easton Cemetery. The cemetery occupies a point of land created by a bend in the Bushkill Creek that, at the time of the cemetery’s establishment in 1849, was on the edge of a rapidly growing industrial community in desperate need of both parkland and sanitary burial options. The historic core of the burial ground, 48 acres assembled in two parcels during the 19th century, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1990 for its significance in landscape architecture and art. Continue Reading →
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 →
February 18, 2015
by Shelby Weaver Splain 3 Comments
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 →