Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Spring = New Historical Markers!

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Earlier this month, PHMC approved 18 new historical markers to the collection of over 2,500 for subjects that run the gamut from notable athletes to a late 19th century African American archaeological site in Mercer County.

In the Eastern part of the commonwealth…

  • Anna T. Jeanes (Philadelphia) – A Quaker abolitionist and activist, Jeanes made plans for her substantial fortune to further a number of causes upon her death. Most notably, her contributions enabled the establishment of Jeanes Hospital, dedicated to cancer research and the Jeanes Supervisors program – the precursor to the Negro Rural School Fund – which educated many African American teachers and students across the southern states;
  • Bethel Burying Ground (Philadelphia) – Early African American cemetery established in 1810 by Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church after the burial ground at the church was filled. The ground was purchased by church members and may be the first independent cemetery for the interment of the African American community. The land having been sold several times, the Weccacoe Playground was built over the burials rather than having them relocated;
Bethel archaeology excavations

Archaeologists with the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum talk with visitors about testing at the Bethel AME burial ground. Source: https://www.phillyarchaeology.net/research/project-report-index/bethelweccacoe-report-page/; photograph by Patrice L. Jeppson.

  • Thomas J. Gola (Philadelphia) – Basketball great in the mid-20th century, Gola led the LaSalle College team to victories in the National Invitation Tournament, and NCAA Championship and received numerous individual achievement awards. He went on to play eleven seasons in the NBA and is one of only two players to have won the NIT, as well as the NCAA and NBA championships. He represented the US in the 1964 “Behind the Iron Curtain” tour and was elected to Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1976;
  • William J. Murtagh (Philadelphia) – One of the nation’s leading preservationists, he was instrumental in the enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and is considered a founding father in the field of historic preservation. He was also a leader at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the first Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. He has received numerous preservation awards and served on the boards of national and international preservation organizations; and
  • Women’s Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Philadelphia) – Early animal welfare organization that established the first animal shelter in the nation and became an inspiration and model for similar groups. Founded in 1869, principally by social reformer Caroline Earle White, the organization pioneered humane standards in animal capture and transport, housing and sanitation, employee training, and euthanasia. It also initiated educational programs and organized the nation’s first junior humane societies.

The WPSPCA around 1911 at a horse drinking station in Philadelphia. Image from https://womenyoushouldknow.net/146-years-ago-today-these-extraordinary-women-spoke-up-for-animals-when-no-one-else-would/.

  • FBI Office Burglary (Media, Delaware Co.) – The documents obtained during this 1971 operation by the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI exposed the FBI’s civilian surveillance program, COINTELPRO. The program was created to investigate and disrupt dissident political groups in the US. Following the Washington Post’s publication of some of this material the FBI’s questionable methods were uncovered and COINTELPRO was shut down;
  • James Joseph “Jim” Croce – (Lyndell, Chester Co.) – Successful singer/songwriter in the 1970s.  Croce’s work rose to the top of national and international pop music charts for singles and albums.  His songs have been covered hundreds of times.  He is known as a folk storyteller, with such iconic hits as Time in a Bottle, Operator, Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown, and I Have to Say I Love You in a Song.  He was killed in a tragic plane crash at age 30;
  • John Updike (Shillington, Berks Co.) – One of the most influential American writers of the 20th century, Updike was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He was inspired by his mother, who was an aspiring writer, and his home and hometown were included in many of his writings, most notably his Rabbit quartet. He was a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of National Arts and Humanities medals; and
  • Thomas Wistar, Jr. (Abington Twp., Montgomery Co.) – Philadelphia Quaker who served for nearly 40 years as a recurrent Indian Commissioner during the administrations of 7 presidents, Taylor through Grant. He made more than 20 trips to western states to act as a negotiator. In the mid-19th century, The US government only considered two means of dealing with Native American populations: extermination or civilization. Wistar helped to develop President Grant’s Peace Policy, based on empathy toward native tribes and “gradual civilization” which left a mixed and lasting legacy.

In the Central Region…

  • Fruit Research & Extension Center (Butler Twp., Adams Co.) Established in 1918, FREC conducted extensive research into diseases and pests attacking Pennsylvania fruit trees, and developed treatments for them. FREC is credited with eradicating plum pox, substantially reducing losses due to pests, and increasing yields for over a decade. It has affected fruit growers, distributors and consumers nationwide.

The Fruit Research & Extension Center in Adams County, PA.

In the West…

  • Dorothy Mae Richardson (Pittsburgh) – Activist from Pittsburgh’s Central North side that launched Neighborhood Housing Services in 1968, a progressive, resident-led model of community development in an effort to combat poor and unsafe living conditions by changing financial lending practices in urban neighborhoods. Her program drew the attention of federal officials and led to its replication in the founding of NeighborWorks America in 1978, a congressionally chartered non-profit that supports community development;
  • Dr. Thomas E. Starzl (Pittsburgh) -Dr. who performed the first successful liver and kidney transplants and became the foremost authority on transplantation. He launched the University of Pittsburgh’s transplant unit, which became the largest and busiest in the world. Also at UPMC, he developed the immunosuppressant drug that is used worldwide to prevent organ rejection;
  • Charles Freemont West (Washington, Washington Co.) – African American athlete who won the National Collegiate Pentathlon Championship at the Penn Relays and was named to the 1924 Olympic track team. While a student and football player at Washington & Jefferson College, he became the first African American quarterback in the Rose Bowl. When Washington & Lee College demanded that W & J bench West for the 1923 game because he was African American, West refused to sit out and was backed by coach John Heisman and the college administration;
  • Marianna Mine Explosion (Marianna, Washington Co.) – This tragic incident occurred in 1908 and is one of the worst mining disasters in US history. It gained national attention, catalyzed public awareness, and, along with other accidents in the early 20th century, led to the establishment of the US Bureau of Mines. USBM conducts research to enhance the safety, health, and environmental impact of mining and processing minerals; collects, analyzes, and disseminates information about mining; and assesses the impact of proposed mineral-related laws and regulations.
Marianna mine explosion

Marianna Mine Explosion in Washington, PA on Saturday, November 28, 1908. http://www.gendisasters.com/pennsylvania/6540/marianna-pa-mine-explosion-disaster-nov-1908.

  • Alien Gun Law of 1909 (Hillsville, Lawrence Co.) – Following the 1906 murder of Deputy Game Protector L. Seeley Houk, allegedly by members of the Italian Black Hand organization, legislation was passed to disarm non-citizen immigrants in the Commonwealth. The Pinkerton Detective agency conducted the investigation. While the law was challenged, it was upheld in the Supreme Court and remained in effect until 1967;
  • Cynthia Catlin Miller (Sugar Grove, Warren Co.) – Active organizer of the abolitionist movement in Warren Co., she harbored many freedom seekers in her home. She founded the Female Assisting Society and the Ladies’ Fugitive Aid Society. One of the leading planners of the 1854 Sugar Grove Convention, she hosted speaker Frederick Douglass in her home;
  • Pandenarium (Springfield Twp., Mercer Co.) – Historic archaeological site which was a community of free manumitted slaves from the 1850s through the 1930s. Established as part of a small movement intended to afford economic independence through agricultural enterprise, this site offers a rare opportunity to study this type of community and adds to our understanding of the African American experience in Pennsylvania;
Field

Current view of Pandenarium, Mercer County.

  • Pennsylvania Memorial Home (Brookville, Jefferson Co.) – Established in 1890, it was open to Civil War veterans and their families, widows, and orphans. It was the first veterans’ home in Pennsylvania and one of the first nationwide that was so inclusive, serving as a model to others across the country. Local Women’s Relief Corps member, Kate Scott, worked with social reformer Annie Wittenmyer to set up this facility and to urge Pennsylvania legislators to provide funding.
Postcard

This postcard from the PA State Archives shows the PA Memorial Home in Brookville.

About the Historical Markers Program

Approval Criteria require that marker subjects must have statewide and/or national rather than local or regional historical significance as well as having substantial association with Pennsylvania.  The Marker Program encourages broad distribution, so individuals and organizations from all 67 counties are encouraged to research their history and develop nominations for people, places, events, and innovations in their own area.

The PHMC is undertaking an initiative of accessibility and inclusion to encourage nominations in under-represented counties and for underrepresented communities. Nominations for approved subjects in the following counties are especially encouraged and may receive financial support from PHMC: Armstrong, Cameron, Carbon, Clarion, Clinton, Columbia, Elk, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Jefferson, Juniata, Mifflin, Montour, Potter, Sullivan, Susquehanna, and Wyoming are especially encouraged. In addition, support may be available for subjects related to Women’s history, Latino history, and Asian-American history, as well as African American and LGBTQ history in counties other than Philadelphia.

Want to learn more?

For additional information on the PHMC Historical Marker Program, check out PHMC’s pahistoricalmarkers.com. You may also be interested in a recently established blog by a marker enthusiast called Marker Quest at pamarkers.blogspot.com. Laura Klotz visits markers around the Commonwealth every two weeks and provides interesting anecdotes as well as additional research related to the marker subjects.

Head to a dedication!

Spring also means the beginning of marker dedication season!

If you’re in the area, or just curious, join us at a dedication to celebrate Pennsylvania’s amazing history.  Here are the upcoming dedications (these dates and locations are subject to change – its best to check out our dedication calendar before heading out!):

  • Frederick Ingersoll: Saturday, April 27, 10:30 AM at Kennywood Park, along Kennywood Blvd. near Hoffman Blvd., West Mifflin (Allegheny County)
  • D. Leech & Company: Saturday, May 18, 11:00 AM at River Ave & River Ave, Leechburg (Armstrong County)
  • Philadelphia Flower Show:  Thursday, June 6, 5:00 PM at 717 Chestnut St., Philadelphia
  • Lois Weber:  Thurs. June 13, time TBD at Carnegie Free Library – Allegheny, 1230 Federal St., Pittsburgh
  • Richard Moore:  Saturday, September 14, 1:00 PM at 401 S Main St., Quakertown (Bucks County)
  • Hawk Mountain Sanctuary:  Saturday, September 14, time TBD at Hawk Mtn. Sanctuary, 1700 Hawk Mtn. Rd., Kempton (Berks County)

Author: Karen Galle

Karen Galle is the Historical Marker Program Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). On staff at the PHMC since 1995, she was born and currently resides in Cumberland County.

One Comment

  1. Thank you so much for the shout-out, Karen!

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