Branch Line Empires by Michael Bezilla with Luther Gette

Branch Line Empires The Pennsylvania and the New York Central Railroads by Michael Bezilla, with Luther Gette Indiana University Press, 370 pp., cloth $55, e-book $54.99 During my time as a student at Penn State, I saw plenty of railroad tracks in Centre and Clearfield counties. Many of them were weed-grown and disused. I thought, “Somebody built these, but why? And what happened?” Now author...
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From the Executive Director

For almost six years it has been my privilege and honor to serve as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC). This July I will complete my 50th year of public service as an educator, historian, museum director and preservationist. I can think of no better way to spend a life than in promoting and protecting America’s history and culture. It is very...
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Lackawanna Mills and Scranton Button Historic District

At the crossing of Cedar Avenue over Stafford Meadow Brook in southern Scranton, Lackawanna County, lies a roughly 5-acre city block of industrial buildings that contains a history just as dense and layered as the location itself. In 1887 Scranton industrialist William Connell (1827-1909) founded two separate businesses at the site: Lackawanna Mills, a major manufacturer of wool and cotton...
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Editor’s Letter

This issue of Pennsylvania Heritage marks the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into the First World War in April 1917. The focus comes as part of PHMC’s Pennsylvania at War initiative, a multiyear commemoration of the centennial of World War I and the 75th anniversary of World War II. The Keystone State contributed significantly to the Allied effort in World War I, with more than...
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Historic Districts in Pennsylvania: An Evolving Sense of Place

Jim Thorpe, originally named Mauch Chunk, is a small and picturesque borough of well-preserved 19th-century buildings perched on the side of a mountain along the Lehigh River in Carbon County. It once served as an important railroad and coal shipping center. As these industries waned in the 20th century, the town sought new economic purpose by marketing its scenic appeal as the “Switzerland of...
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Jim Popso’s Lokie

  James “Jim” Popso (1922-98) documented the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region of the 20th century in folk art assemblages he made from scrap wood, found objects, glue, household supplies and bargain paints. For more than 20 years until his death, he handcrafted scenes of collieries, breakers, mining machinery and patch towns, most of them supplemented with his models of real...
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Washington County: From Ice Age to Space Age

Southwestern Pennsylvania was for centuries a happy hunt­ing ground for Indians who were living there as long as two thousand years ago. In fact, as the result of archaeological discoveries made at the Meadowcroft Rock Shelter near Avella between 1973 and 1975, University of Pittsburgh anthropologists have proven conclusively that Ice Age people roamed the forests of Washington County even...
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Whiskey Run: Where Coal Dust Mixed with Murder

In an overgrown valley about 12 miles west of Indiana and one mile from West Lebanon lies the site of a mysterious R&P (Rochester and Pittsburgh) coal town known as Whiskey Run. For over fifty years, the community of Whiskey Run has been synonymous with violence, secrecy and unsolved murder. Even the source of the town’s name is uncertain, with several versions vying for authenticity....
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Somerset County: Paths through the Roof Garden

Referring to the high elevation and the scenic quality of the region, Gov. Martin G. Brumbaugh called Somerset County “the Roof Garden of Pennsylvania” at an annual Farmers’ Day picnic in 1916. Since then. the description has become a familiar and respected title; the words “Roof Garden” have been in­corporated in the names of various businesses, and the complete...
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Tioga County: A Last Frontier

Fallbrook, Hoytville, Landrus and Leetonia are names that evoke memories of the past for some Tiogans, while for others, build­ings or a place on a map serve as re­minders of what has been. These names are evidence of the establish­ment, growth and demise of economic centers – coal mines, lumber mills and tanneries – important in Tioga County’s past. Today, these enterprises...
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