A Place in Time spotlights a significant cultural resource - a district, site, building, structure or object - entered in the National Register of Historic Places.
A view of Chimney Rocks on Chimney Ridge from Hollidaysburg. Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

A view of Chimney Rocks on Chimney Ridge from Hollidaysburg.
Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Among the more unusual listings for Pennsylvania in the National Register of Historic Places is a natural rock formation. Chimney Rocks is a prominent outcrop of fingerlike spires of limestone along the southwest face of Chimney Ridge overlooking PA Route 36 and the borough of Hollidaysburg in Blair County. The ridge is made up of two different formations of limestone, and a small vertical fault is the primary cause for the development of the “chimneys.” The site includes the surrounding wooded ridgeline as well as an unimproved trail, a paved overlook and benches. The rock formations follow the line of the ridge face and are easily visible from the valley below. The northernmost formation is a mass of stacked limestone chimneys that forms a flat promontory, locally known as Pulpit Rock.

Chimney Rocks was listed in the register on May 24, 2021, for its association with significant events in conservation. The nomination was completed as part of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office’s proactive initiative to list underrepresented resources across the commonwealth.

Chimney Rocks was conserved through local efforts to protect the natural geologic feature and its viewshed. It has always been an important landmark to the community of Hollidaysburg. As far back as the 1850s, the rocks were sketched by local residents and were included as a defining natural feature on maps.

The property was in private hands until the 1920s, when the owner’s estate put it up for sale. At the same time, a quarrying operation was working on the west end of the ridge.

Three days after the first notification of the sale, the first discussions on conserving the rocks began to appear in the media. An article titled “Preserve Chimney Rocks” in the Altoona Tribune noted, “Now that the Chimney Rocks farm is offered for sale, it is to be sincerely hoped it will be purchased by some person who will continue to preserve the wonderful rock formations and the timbered ridge, as the present owners have done.” The article further cautioned, “With the Chimney Rocks ridge divested of its natural beauty, the quaint old town of Hollidaysburg would be like a costly painting divested of its frame. It should be the property of the town, and let us hope the people of Hollidaysburg will prove public spirited enough to purchase it and preserve it forever.”


The view of Hollidaysburg from Chimney Ridge. Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

The view of Hollidaysburg from Chimney Ridge.
Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office

Three years later, the land was purchased by another quarry operation — but in the community’s favor, a small portion, less than 1 acre of the 30-acre site, was sold to the Blair County Historical Society. The deed notes, “In view of the fact that the premises in question involve one of the most prominent historical and interesting rock formations in Pennsylvania, and it is the desire and purpose of the Grantors to vest said premises in a perpetual trust for the benefit of posterity as part of the historic records of Blair County (Blair County Recorder of Deeds 316:293-295).”

By 1924 an additional 14 acres was donated to the historical society. A plaque was affixed to a rock honoring the donations. These local conservation efforts were no doubt fueled by the national movement for conservation of natural lands that was sweeping the nation at the time. Later, other land was added to the site, including a purchase to prevent timbering and quarrying in the immediate vicinity of the chimneys.

In 1968 Hollidaysburg annexed the ridge, and a park was established. The protected site expanded in the 1990s when the borough purchased an additional 20 acres of former quarry land.

Although local stories about the main overlook describe its use as a lookout by the Native Americans living and traveling in the vicinity, no archaeological sites have been identified within the boundary of the park. Future research, however, may reveal more about the cultural and historical significance of Chimney Rocks.

Recent listings in the National Register of Historic Places include Bellevue Worsted Mills, Philadelphia; Centre Avenue YMCA, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County; Gladstone School, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County; Jones and Laughlin Steel Co. Building, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County; Mayer Building, Erie, Erie County; Peerless Furniture Co., Shippensburg, Franklin County; Richmond Station, Philadelphia Electric Co., Philadelphia; and Sandoz Chemical Works, Philadelphia.


Elizabeth Rairigh is the division chief for Preservation Services and the National Register coordinator in the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office.