Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Marker Maintenance isn’t a Mystery!

Do you know what happens when a PHMC marker is damaged by a delivery truck, plowed over after a snowstorm or original 1946 blue and gold paint resembles the make-up of a faded movie star? Do you think PHMC throws out the markers and orders a new one?

No way! We work in the State Historic Preservation Office so we hire a qualified contractor to hit the roads and highways of Pennsylvania to retrieve the damaged markers, repair them in a shop, and return them to the original location with a “facelift.”

For a number of years, PHMC has contracted with a vendor to provide historical marker maintenance services. The contract is bid every five years, and the Marker Program recently gained a new maintenance contractor, Craig Wise of Clearfield, PA.

Field Trips

Scott Doyle and I recently traveled to Somerset, PA to meet Craig at a location where there is both a modern PHMC marker and a bronze plaque attached to a large boulder, erected by PHMC’s predecessor, the PA Historical Commission.

This image shows a man standing in front of a large boulder working on a large plaque.

Marker contractor Craig Wise works at the bronze Jeremiah Black marker.

The plaque is surrounded by a small landscaped plot of land that has become rather overgrown in nearly 75 years. Coincidentally, Wise owned and operated a landscaping business for 20 years, so we met at that location to discuss clearing and trimming the existing shrubs and foliage and planting new low-maintenance vegetation. We discussed the possibility of Wise leading a community effort to revitalize the area, as there has been local interest in the site.

While there, Wise showed us his truck and some of the equipment he has modified to accommodate removal and transport of the deceptively large and heavy markers. Some of his custom designs are rather ingenious.

This image shows a man standing in front of a white van with a red dolly and white pole.

Marker maintenance contractor Craig Wise with this marker installation equipment.

We have had really great experiences with our maintenance contractors over the last decade. Although none had prior experience with markers or this specific type of work, they all were flexible and took the initiative to come up with better and more efficient ways to get the job done.

Following our meeting in Somerset, we proceeded to Clearfield, PA where Wise’s former nursery is located and where his marker maintenance operations are currently set up. Here we found that Wise had fabricated custom holders for the markers for both the detail painting and drying process.

This image shows a woman hand painting a blue and gold marker.

Here I am trying my hand at painting the gold lettering of the Benner marker.

He has one building that is used to serve as an office and a paint studio. He let us have a go at repainting some of the letters. He and his wife experimented with several methods before settling on the one that gave the best results with a reasonable investment of time. Marker supplies – replacement posts and yokes – are stored in a barn nearby.

After our visit to view the marker maintenance operations, we proceeded to Milesburg where we got to inspect the recently refurbished and reinstalled Bald Eagle’s Nest marker. Our final stop was Bellefonte, PA where we assisted with the reinstallation of the refurbished Bellefonte Air Mail Field marker.  We got to see the customized dolly in action and helped to lift the marker onto its previously repainted post.

This image shows two men standing on a lawn holding a large blue and gold PA historical marker.

PA SHPO’s Scott Doyle and marker contractor Craig Wise reinstalled the Bellefonte Air Field marker.

In his own words…

We asked Craig to describe some of his experiences. He commented that it has been a lot of hard work and a great deal of travel but at the same time it has been a rewarding experience.

“I get a lot of satisfaction when we retrieve a marker that is damaged or showing years of wear and we do a full restoration before returning it almost as good as new.

It is surprising to see how protective some local residents are of their Historical Markers. We have met many locals that are appreciative that we keep the markers looking good and maintained. One day we were removing a marker for refurbishing when a gentleman confronted us, sure that we were stealing the marker. It was in the middle of the afternoon with a van full of tools and other markers in the back. I told him that I was the contractor for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to which he answered that he had heard that one before! The gentleman wasn’t satisfied until I showed him my identification and the PHMC signs on our van. He asked about how long before we returned it, then reluctantly let us continue with the removal.

We have come to understand how important these markers are to Pennsylvanians. Our history is the one thing all Pennsylvanians have in common and I am proud to be a small part of telling the Pennsylvania story.”

This image shows a yellow metal truss bridge with a blue and gold PA historical marker in front. The recently refurbished Bald Eagle's Nest marker is back in place in Centre County.

The recently refurbished Bald Eagle’s Nest marker is back in place in Centre County.

Do you know of a marker that needs a little TLC?

If you know of a PHMC historical marker or older bronze plaque that needs some maintenance attention, please get in touch with me at or at 717-705-4266.

And, remember that any applications for new historical markers are due on December 1.  Please get in touch with me if you any have questions!


  1. Paul T. Gierschick

    Is there a master list of locations? I would love to travel with my family and check them all out. You could make some kind of adventure out of finding and recording locations. I always stop when I spot a new one to me.

    • Jay Donald Newman

      Hello to you, I am Don Newman & I have been doing these Pa markers for the past
      11 yrs, Pa has 67 counties & I have been in 38 of them with all the county markers to
      prove it from Adams County to York County. I have made many fine books from the
      markers I have found & have created other books of different things to take pictures of. It took me three phrases to finally get it right to find all the markers I want to photograph & have a wonderful time doing it. Since you have a computer you need only to go to the address & type in this phrase, With every county you want to see just type in this phrase then put a dash then enter the county you want to visit.
      Now there are other things you must know, but please contact me & it easier to show tell you then to show you. You can reach me at this address.

  2. David Buffington

    The marker pictured being made for Philip Benner says his home was at Rock. Could you please tell me if that is the village of Rock in Schuylkill co.

    • Karen Galle

      Apparently not. According to info in the marker file, Rock was/is a town in Centre Co. between Houserville and the Univ. Park airport. There are actually 2 Philip Benner markers – both located in Centre Co.

  3. David Buffington

    Is the marker being made for Philip Benner going to be placed in the village or Rock in Schuylkill co.

  4. Bob Clark

    Karen, this is an awesome program! I often wondered who preserves these treasures for us! I enjoy reading the markers. Here is where you can search markers by County and more.

  5. Denver

    The search page will list all markers for selected counties or categories.

    I selected all counties [Ctrl-a] and got “2472 Records found”.

  6. Denver

    Philip Benner View
    Dedicated: Friday, May 02, 1947
    County: Centre
    Marker Type: Roadside
    Categories: Business & Industry, Government & Politics, Iron & Steel

    GPS Coordinates: LNG: -77.79633, LAT: 40.83415
    GPS Coordinates: LNG: -77.84743, LAT: 40.87477

    Location: E College Ave. (Rt. 26), at Shiloh Rd., NE of State College (near Dale Summit and Nittany Mall)

    Location: Buffalo Run Rd. (Rt. 550) at Rock Rd., at Buffalo Run Church, just S of Bellefonte

    Marker Text: The ironmaster’s home was at Rock. Here also were the first forge, 1794, and a nail and slitting mill. A founder of Bellefonte; leader in Centre County affairs until his death in 1832.

  7. Jay Donald Newman

    Hello to anyone who reads this, I feel I am authority on this topic mainly because I have been doing this for 11 yrs & out of 67 counties in Pa I have been to 38 of them & have all the county markers to prove it.
    If you want to find any of these markers, then here is the phrase to type in
    http://www.pahistoricalroadsidemarkers-dauphin county
    After putting in this phrase, then put in a dash then the county you want to visit & always put in NOW, to know that ur on the correct site it must read(welcome to this will ensure u that ur on the correct site, but there are other things u must know & do to find all the correct u need to find.
    Please then contact me & I will show you what I mean.
    Thank U4 your time.
    Jay Donald Newman

  8. David L Smith

    The nine year old marker in Cooke Township, Cumberland County that memorializes the Pine Grove Furnace POW Interrogation Camp, has some peeling paint. I am the coordinator of the project to bring attention to this historic site and submitted the original application for a state marker in 2010 (awarded in July of 2011). We could easily repair the paint without having the sign removed if we could get a small jar of paint.

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