Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Act 167, signed by Governor David L. Lawrence on June 13, 1961, authorized counties, cities, boroughs, in­corporated towns, and townships in Pennsylvania to create historic districts and provided for the appointment of local Boards of Historical Architectural Review. Following the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, on March 1, 1967, President Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed Sylvester K. Stevens, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), to chair the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. A letter, drawn from Record Group 13, Records of the PHMC, held by the Pennsylvania State Archives, written on White House stationary and bearing President Johnson’s signature marks the inauguration of the activities of this federal advisory body.

Processing nominations to the National Register of Historic Places in the Keystone State is the responsibility of the PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Preservation that also established a National Register Review Committee. Under provisions of Act 278 signed by Governor Milton J. Shapp on November 22, 1978, the State Historic Preservation Board created and seated in 1980 to not only review nominations but t? also address such matters as legisla­ion, economic development, preservation advocacy, and fundraising (see “An Impressive Legacy: A Half-Cen­tury of Historic Preservation in Pennsylvania, 1955-2005” by Kenneth C. Wolensky and Michel R. Lefevre in this edition). Under this legislation, the PHMC designated both the chairman (James Biddle) and the co­
-chairman (Ronald L. Michael) of the new board which first met on October 15, 1980.

Among the holdings of the Pennsylvania State Archives are such important resources as architectural drawings, historic maps, aerial and terrestrial photographs, postcards, and tax records that aid those charged with documenting Pennsylvania’s historic natural landscape and built environment. A poignant photograph in Manuscript Croup 165, the Lloyd Mifflin Collection, provides a rare glimpse of Bellmont Mansion that graced the east bank of the Susquehanna River at Columbia (originally called Wrights Ferry), Lancaster County, until 1929 when it was demolished to make room for parking equipment used to construct the Veterans’ Memorial Bridge that links the borough with Wrightsville, York County.

Bellmont Mansion was erected in 1728 as the home of state assemblyman Samuel Blunston (1689-1745), a defender of Pennsylvania’s interests during the Maryland-­Pennsylvania border dispute that briefly erupted into Cre­sap’s War in the 1730s. In his will, Blunston bequeathed a life estate in the mansion to the frontier poet Su­sanna Wright 1697-1784). One of the colony’s most brilliant and conversant residents, she corresponded with leading individuals of her day both in America and Great Britain and m?st likely entertained Benjamin Franklin ?at the mansion during his visit to the region in 1755. After Wright’s death, the dwelling descended to Samuel Bethel III – yet another state assemblyman – who doubled its size in 1803 and renamed it Mt. Bethel Mansion. Sixty years after workers toppled the land­mark, Columbia became home to a National Register Historic District in 1989.