Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office

Wood house

March 13, 2019
by Andrea L. MacDonald

#PreservAtionHappensHere @ Eckley Miners’ Village

An intra-agency effort is underway to plan for the future of PHMC’s Eckley Miners’ Village. In October 2018, the PHMC was awarded a federal grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to support the completion of a strategic plan for Eckley. The desired outcome will result in a sustainable future for Eckley that will enable the historic property to serve as a regional asset. The PHMC’s State Historic Preservation Office and Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums are partnering to engage stakeholders, gather ideas from the regional community, and lead the planning process.

Eckley encompasses 100 acres and is a mile-long ‘island’ surrounded by active mining operations. The property is positioned at the center of the anthracite coal region and is the only anthracite patch town where the 1854 town plan remains largely intact with a total of 200 buildings, outbuildings and related structures.

Aerial photograph

This aerial photo of Eckley Miners Village illustrates the isolation of the village, which is surrounded by coal mines.

“Eckley is one of the most significant state historic sites in Pennsylvania representing the experiences of the many families who immigrated to this country, found work in our burgeoning and often dangerous industries, and laid the foundation of our rich and dynamic American culture. It is also one of only a few company towns actively preserved and interpreted in a heritage context in the United States today,” said Brenda Reigle, director of PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. “Unfortunately, maintaining and operating a mile-long, 200-structure town site with limited fiscal resources presents a long-term challenge to the PHMC mission to preserve the commonwealth’s heritage.”


Former family homes along Eckley’s main thoroughfare in 2017.

Last year a celebration at Eckley Miners’ Village occurred to mark the making of the 1970 movie, The Molly Maguires. The film drew national attention to the former anthracite coal patch town. The infamous Molly Maguires are believed to be a secretive late 19th century organization descended from the Irish fraternal group, the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Paramount Pictures cast major film personalities including Sean Connery, Samantha Eggar and Richard Harris to portray the rebellious characters. In the Spring 2016 issue of Heritage Magazine, PHMC’s Executive Director, Andrea Lowery, detailed “how this small mining village in northeastern Pennsylvania rose from abandoned company town to modern museum is a tale of the deliberate actions of preservation-minded local and state officials and the unintentional consequences of a more unlikely partner–Hollywood.”

Wood house

To ensure its 19th century appearance Paramount constructed a wooden coal breaker to 2/3 scale, buried telephone lines, covered electric meters, and reclad houses with wood siding that had once been covered with modern materials.

On April 8, 1970, two months after The Molly Maguires premiered, the Paramount movie corporation presented Eckley to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in exchange for a token payment of $1.  Under Senate Bill 260 of 1969 the state legislature authorized PHMC to take over the village. The purpose was to “relate the story of the role of ethnic groups in the coal region and of labor in the anthracite coal industry.”

Since then, Eckley has not only been the site of a famous Hollywood movie but it’s also been an amazing source of information about the people who lived there, how they lived, and the work they did. Historical archaeology has been a part of many summers at Eckley since 1982, with the most recent studies focusing on individual houses and families. We’ll have another blog post later this year sharing more of that story!

Fast-forward to 2019, the Eckley Miners’ Village Museum continues to tell the story of the rise and decline of anthracite. Its mission is to educate the public about the dynamic social, industrial and economic story of anthracite coal mining, and the people who made that industry possible. Eckley attracts visitors from throughout Pennsylvania and other states as far away as Virginia, Florida and California. Eckley also sees international visitors from Canada and the UK.


Former homes and company buildings at Eckley.

A little over a year ago, the PHMC led a stakeholder meeting at Eckley to begin gathering ideas from the regional community. Following the meeting, PHMC distributed an online survey which received over 150 responses. Survey respondents noted they loved Eckley’s buildings and surrounding landscape, the living history experience, and special events held at Eckley throughout the year. Respondents also shared their feelings about potential new business models for the historic site. Some of the ideas included:

  • A live/work community for artists with public visitation for viewing and purchasing artwork and as a living history museum.
  • Historical and archaeological research facility that provides housing to students from different colleges conducting research related to Eckley, mining history and culture, immigrant and labor history, or related topic.
  • A destination wedding venue that includes an on-site church, reception tent, and lodging.

Based on the results of the stakeholder meeting and online survey, we know that Eckley holds a very special place in the minds and hearts of regional residents. Partners see that Eckley has the potential to be an economic driver, drawing more tourists and tourist dollars to the region. Overwhelmingly, we heard the region wants to see Eckley preserved so it can continue to tell its significant Pennsylvania – and national story – well into the future.


Some of Eckley’s restored buildings.

It’s anticipated the Eckley Miners’ Village strategic planning process will be completed by the end of 2019. The primary products from the grant-funded project will include a market analysis and a plan that will provide a practical and cost-effective path to respond to the circumstances of the region, address the public’s needs for the property, and ensure long-term sustainability.

The PHMC awarded the project to Urban Partners and Hurley-Franks & Associates to execute the Eckley Miners’ Village Strategic Plan. The PHMC’s internal project team will work closely with Urban Partners to ensure the strategic plan will include realistic recommendations, address the vision of local stakeholders, as well as preserve the historic character of the village.

March 6, 2019
by Shelby Weaver Splain
1 Comment

Supporting the Section 106 Review Process

One of the many roles for all State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs), including Pennsylvania’s, outlined in the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) is to advise, assist, and consult on the review of federally assisted projects that have the potential to affect historic properties.  This is known as the Section 106 Review Process.

In Pennsylvania, the PA SHPO Environmental Review staff review over 4,500 federal submissions a year under this process.  That is a big number, especially when you consider it along with these complicating factors:

  • These reviews involve 60 federal agencies and a much larger number of applicants that have been delegated authority for Section 106 compliance by the federal agencies.
  • The rules, policies, training, and understanding of the 106 process varies widely between each of these federal agencies and their applicants, often requiring significant levels of SHPO staff education and support.
  • The timeframe for SHPO review is 30 calendar days. If the SHPO doesn’t respond within 30 days, the federal agency is entitled to treat our lack of response as approval, even if we would not otherwise have approved the project.

Feeling the pressure, yet?


The Section 106 review process.

In the face of an increasing workload, the PA SHPO is always looking for tools to improve the Section 106 review process for both SHPO staff and the applicants. You may have read about some of our efforts in recent blog posts:

  • Requiring the Project Review Form to ensure submission of complete documentation in a standardized format;
  • Beginning to require electronic submission of resource data in CRGIS to eliminate data entry by SHPO staff while improving accuracy and efficiency of availability; and
  • Digitizing of existing resource files to make information on resources in a project area readily available to agencies, applicants, and SHPO staff.

We continue to look for ways to improve our capacity to participate in the Section 106 process, including Pennsylvania’s Historic and Archaeological Resource Exchange, also known as PA-SHARE .


PA-SHARE will allow the submission and review of projects in an entirely electronic format and will largely eliminate the need of paper documentation for the 106 process by PA SHPO staff, agencies, and applicants. PA-SHARE is currently under development with an expected release date in 2020.

Partially in recognition of the need to support the PA SHPO and the 50 other SHPO offices across the country, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the independent federal agency responsible for oversight of the Section 106 process, issued an Action Plan to Support State and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs and THPOs) in July 2015.

The plan contains a series of action items, including:

  • Clarifying circumstances where SHPOs/THPOs might use additional funding streams to improve ability to conduct Section 106 reviews and
  • Providing information on appropriate circumstances where federal agencies can provide resources (funding, staffing, equipment, etc.) to SHPOs to assist with 106 reviews.

In accordance with the Action Plan, last year the ACHP issued: Guidance on Assistance to Consulting Parties in the Section 106 Review Process.

The guidance recognizes the importance of consulting parties in the process and encourages federal agencies to increase their support to SHPOs, outlining circumstances when the federal agency should reimburse the SHPO for activities conducted on the agency’s behalf. The guidance also recognizes other consulting parties that would benefit from agency assistance. This includes Tribes, local governments, community groups, and local historic preservation interests that help federal agencies consider historic preservation issues during project planning.

The guidance makes it clear that federal agencies are not obligated to pay consulting parties for their standard participation in the Section 106 process. Providing comments on findings of eligibility, effect, and resolution of adverse effect made by the federal agency is the role of consulting parties.

When the agency is asking the SHPO or other consulting party, however, to essentially serve as a cultural resources’ consultant by carrying out activities that are the federal agency’s responsibility under Section 106, federal reimbursement is appropriate. Examples provided include:

  • Performing file work or a desktop survey of the project area
  • Researching and making preliminary determinations of eligibility on an agency’s behalf rather than responding to an agency determination
  • Providing an assessment of a project’s potential to affect historic properties, again rather than responding to an agency determination
  • Conducting field work
  • Conducting field monitoring
  • Curating artifacts
  • Carrying out mitigation measures
  • Developing plans to conform with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and Guidelines

When performing these actions at the request of a federal agency, the SHPO (or THPO or any other consulting party) is entitled to payment for services rendered just like any contractor would be. The federal agency and the consulting party are urged to enter into an appropriate contractual agreement. The agreement should clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of the agency and consulting party and the source of funding to ensure transparency in the consultation process.

In addition to financial support of consulting parties, federal agencies may provide non-financial assistance in a variety of forms:

  • Training on a relevant computer system;
  • Per diem and transportation to allow for participation at consulting party meetings or conferences;
  • Equipment or supplies needed to more effectively carry out responsibilities under Section 106; and
  • Creating staff positions to serve as a liaison between the SHPO and federal agency, particularly in times of increased review.

The policy also states that the compensation to consulting parties does not always need to be on a quid pro quo basis. It can be voluntary on the part of the federal agency if the agency believes it will result in more timely and effective consultation. Compensation provided to the SHPO or other consulting party is not seen as a conflict of interest, as Section 106 is a consultative process and the final decision as to how a project will proceed is made by the federal agency. Finally, any decision to provide or take compensation should only be undertaken in consultation with appropriate legal staff and careful consideration of relevant laws and regulations.

In some cases, this support already exists in the PA SHPO office in the form of paid positions to support the review of certain federal projects (FHWA, OSM, and HUD) and federal disaster response and recovery activities (FEMA). With this direction from the ACHP, the PA SHPO will be looking for other opportunities to seek federal agency support of the Section 106 review process, possibly in association with our new electronic system PA-SHARE.

We urge local consulting parties to do the same and to find ways that federal agencies can provide them support for more effective participation in the Section 106 process.

Report cover

February 27, 2019
by Shelby Weaver Splain

Update! Pennsylvania’s State Historic Preservation Tax Credit

Lots of work has been going on these past few weeks to reauthorize and expand Pennsylvania’s state Historic Preservation Tax Credit.  Take a look! Continue Reading →


February 13, 2019
by Karen Arnold

Showing the Love for Crawford Grill No. 2, a Once Swinging Hot Spot in Pittsburgh

Like many urban areas, Pittsburgh had a vibrant nighttime music scene presenting fabulous music of all genres. But it was jazz music that flowed freely from one major venue, the Crawford Grill.  In our second post this Black History Month, read on about this amazing place. Continue Reading →

Green Book cover

February 6, 2019
by Emma Diehl

Offbeat Outing: The Green Book in Philadelphia

Some of my colleagues are known to check their Facebook accounts while they drink their morning coffee, and on more than one occasion that has resulted in a Facebook message or email with the subject line “I have a great idea…” One of these great ideas led to one of the more interesting, informative, and eye-opening surveys I’ve done – Green Book locations in Philadelphia. Continue Reading →


January 30, 2019
by Guest Contributor

2019 Pennsylvania At Risk Announced

This week, Preservation Pennsylvania, the nonprofit dedicated to advocacy for and preservation of historic places across the commonwealth, announced the 2019 Pennsylvania At Risk. Continue Reading →

Man digging

January 23, 2019
by Guest Contributor

Archaeology for the People and by the… PennDOT?

Yep, you’re reading that right: the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) does archaeology! Continue Reading →

Smith Memorial Playhouse

January 16, 2019
by Scott Doyle
1 Comment

2019 as the Year of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Tax Credit?

The Chinese calendar says 2019 is the Year of the Pig. I’m feeling optimistic and thinking that 2019 might also be the Year of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Tax Credit.

Continue Reading →