Pennsylvania: Other Historic Sites Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

A list of important historic sites in Pennsylvania.

Acheson House

Location: Monongahela, Washington County

Relevant issues: Science and technology

Statement of significance: From 1890 to 1895, this was the home of Edward G. Acheson (1856-1931), inventor. This is also the site where in 1891 he invented carborundum, at the time the hardest known artificial substance, widely used in industry since its invention.

American Philosophical Society Hall

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Science and technology

Web site: www.amphilsoc.org

Statement of significance: Since 1789, this two-story, late Georgian brick building has been the home of one of America’s oldest and most honorable learned societies. The society traces its origins back to 1743, when Benjamin Franklin publicly urged the creation of a society to stimulate interest in learning. The society publishes the oldest scholarly journal in America, its Transactions.

Andalusia

Location: Philadelphia, Bucks County

Relevant issues: Business and industry, political history

Statement of significance: From 1821 to 1844, this was the residence of Nicholas Biddle (1786-1844), head of the Second Bank of the United States (1823-1836), famous as President Andrew Jackson’s opponent. To the original house, whose north front is an outstanding example of the Regency style in the United States, he added a wing modeled on a Greek temple.

Becuna

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Naval history, World War II

Web site: www.subnet.com/fleet/ss319.htm

Statement of significance: An example of the standard fleet-type Balao Class submarines which could operate at a test depth of four hundred feet, Becuna was commissioned in 1944 and served in World War II as the submarine flagship of the Pacific Fleet under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. It is credited with sinking 3,888 tons of Japanese shipping and received four battle stars for its World War II service.

Bedford Springs Hotel Historic District

Location: Bedford, Bedford County

Relevant issues: Cultural history, health and medicine, political history

Statement of significance: Significant as one of the nation’s finest remaining examples of the mineral springs resort phenomenon of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this district presents a vivid picture of resort spa architecture and lifestyle. With its grand buildings and many mineral springs, the Bedford Springs Hotel became renowned among society’s elite as a fashionable place for recuperation, relaxation, and leisure. It was also an important political gathering place during the mid-nineteenth century, due to its proximity to Washington and its half century-long association with Pennsylvanian James Buchanan, the fifteenth president of the United States, who used the resort as a summer White House during his administration.

Boathouse Row

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Sports

Statement of significance: Situated in Fairmount Park, the private boat and barge clubs and skating club were created to serve the recreational needs of Philadelphians. The clubs’ parent organization, the Schuylkill Navy, formed in 1858, is the oldest amateur governing body in the United States. National and international champions, including many Olympic participants and winners, have come from these clubs. Included are the oldest continuously existing club in the United States and the oldest women’s club.

Bost Building

Location: Homestead, Allegheny County

Relevant issues: Business and industry, political history

Statement of significance: Between June 29 and November 21, 1892, much of the nation followed the events of a labor strike outside Pittsburgh that pitted the Carnegie Steel Company against one of the strongest labor unions at the time. During the strike at the Homestead Steel Works, the Bost Building served as the local headquarters for the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers and as the base for American and British newspaper correspondents reporting the events. The confrontation turned bloody when Pinkerton guards approached Homestead on barges in a failed attempt to reclaim the steel works from the striking workers and their supporters. The Bost Building is the best surviving structure associated with this important strike.

Bradford House

Location: Washington, Washington County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: Constructed in 1788, this well-decorated two-and-a-half-story stone house was the residence of David Bradford, the most prominent leader of the rebels in the Whiskey Rebellion (1794). Bradford, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., led the rebels in a march on Pittsburgh; after the suppression of the rebellion, Bradford fled the United States. His house is a museum owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Brandywine Battlefield

Location: Brandywine Battlefield Park, Chadds Ford, Delaware County

Relevant issues: Military history, Revolutionary War

Statement of significance: On September 11, 1777, George Washington’s Continentals met the British forces under Lord Richard Howe in the only major clash during the British campaign which resulted in the capture of Philadelphia. Although the battle was an American defeat, the Continentals demonstrated a newly won ability to withstand the determined attack of British regulars, even while sustaining heavy losses.

Buck House

Location: Dublin, Bucks County

Relevant issues: Literary history

Statement of significance: From 1933 until her death, this was the principal residence of noted American novelist Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973), the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1938). Buck purchased this farm with royalties from her novel The Good Earth (1931).

Bushy Run Battlefield

Location: Harrison City, Westmoreland County

Relevant issues: American Indian history, colonial America, military history

Statement of significance: Fought in 1763, the Battle of Bushy Run was a decisive British victory during Pontiac’s Rebellion, the best-organized eighteenth century campaign by Native Americans against Anglo-American frontier settlements.

Cambria Iron Company

Location: Johnstown, Cambria County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: Founded in 1852, the Cambria Iron Company was considered one of the greatest of the early modern iron and steel works. In the 1850’s, 1860’s, and 1870’s, Johnstown attracted some of the best engineers, innovators, and managers in the industry and was the technological leader in the manufacture of iron and steel rail. The plant’s history is a continuum reflecting the evolution of the industry nationwide.

Carlisle Indian School

Location: Carlisle, Cumberland County

Relevant issues: American Indian history, education

Statement of significance: Founded in 1879 by Brigadier General Richard H. Pratt (1840-1924), a Civil War officer and veteran of the Indian campaigns in the West, the school pioneered federal programs for Indian education and was a model for similar schools built elsewhere.

Cliveden

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Military history, Revolutionary War

Web site: www.cliveden.org

Statement of significance: Completed in 1764, this Georgian-style house with handsome pediments, cornices, and a fine doorway was the home of Benjamin Chew, attorney general of Pennsylvania. It is the most important surviving landmark of the Battle of Germantown (October 4, 1777) which, combined with the American victory at Saratoga in the same month, helped to secure the alliance of the United States with France.

Colonial Germantown Historic District

Location: Germantown Avenue, between Windrum Avenue and Upsal Street, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Colonial America, European settlement

Statement of significance: This district was founded in 1683 by Germans fleeing religious persecution who were invited to Pennsylvania by William Penn. The district exemplifies the successful settlement of a non-British group in one of the thirteen original British colonies.

Drake Oil Well

Location: Drake Well Memorial Park, 3 miles southeast of Titusville, Venango County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: On August 27, 1859, Edwin L. Drake (1819-1880) struck oil here, the site of the world’s first successful oil well. Its establishment resulted in an oil boom that made the region the oil center of the United States for twenty-five years. It is now Drake Well Memorial State Park.

Eakins House

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture

Statement of significance: From the age of two until his death, this was the home of Thomas Eakins (1844-1919), one of America’s greatest painters.

Eisenhower Farmstead

Location: Gettysburg, Adams County

Relevant issues: Political history

Web site: www.nps.gov/eise/

Statement of significance: This farm served Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), thirty-fourth president of the United States (1953-1961), as a retreat during his presidential years and as his principal residence during retirement.

Esherick House and Studio

Location: Malvern, Chester County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture

Web site: www.craftsreport.com/august96/esherick.html

Statement of significance: From 1926 to 1966, this was the home and workplace of Wharton Esherick (1887-1970), an artist and craftsman who applied the principles of modern sculpture to all his work, including furniture and architectural designs. In doing so, he bridged the gap between the fine arts and the decorative arts. His impulse to produce hand-done works with great respect for the material is also rooted in the Arts and Crafts movement which swept England and America at the end of the nineteenth century.

Fallingwater

Location: Mill Run, Fayette County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture

Statement of significance: A summer house built for a Pittsburgh millionaire, Fallingwater (1937) has been called the most famous modern house in the world. The house, cantilevered over a waterfall, is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterworks.

Friends Hospital

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Health and medicine

Statement of significance: Friends Hospital was the first private, nonprofit, exclusively mental hospital in the United States and is the oldest continuing such institution. The social and medical concerns which Quakers held regarding psychiatric problems guided Friends Hospital in its physical site plan, the methodology of treatment, and even the manner of its original fund-raising. These approaches became the model which was studied throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by others wishing to found similar facilities. The hospital’s design, based upon William Tuke’s York Retreat in England, but with better ventilation and light as suggested by Philadelphia Friend Thomas Scattergood, became a model for other American mental facilities.

Fulton Birthplace

Location: Quarryville, Lancaster County

Relevant issues: Naval history, science and technology

Statement of significance: This stone house was the birthplace of Robert Fulton (1765-1815), artist, civil engineer, and inventor. Fulton worked on the development of canal systems and engineering; he is perhaps best remembered for designing the Clermont, the first commercially successful American steamboat, launched in 1807.

Germantown Cricket Club

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Sports

Statement of significance: Founded in 1855, this is the second-oldest cricket club in the United States. Its part in the sport of cricket was of international rank in the nineteenth century. Early in the twentieth century, tennis gained prominence over cricket at the club. The most noted member was William T. (“Big Bill”) Tilden (1893-1953), an international tennis star of the 1920’s.

Harmony Historic District

Location: Harmony, Butler County

Relevant issues: Social reform

Statement of significance: The Harmony Society, three hundred followers of George Rapp, established a utopian settlement here in 1805. It developed into a prosperous agricultural and manufacturing community, which was sold when the society decided to move to Indiana in search of more fertile land.

Harper House

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: African American history, social reform, women’s history

Statement of significance: From 1870 to her death, this was the home of Frances E. W. Harper (1825-1911), an African American writer and social activist who participated in the abolitionist, black rights, woman suffrage, and temperance movements.

Hershey Mansion

Location: Hershey, Dauphin County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: From 1908 to 1945, this was the residence of Milton S. Hershey (1857-1945), originator of the Hershey Bar. In the first half of the twentieth century, Hershey’s company became the world’s largest manufacturer of chocolate.

Hill-Keith-Physick House

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Health and medicine

Statement of significance: From about 1815 until his death, this was the home of Philip Syng Physick (1768-1837), the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Philadelphia physician who has been called the founder of American surgery.

Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Health and medicine

Statement of significance: Completed in 1859, this hospital for the mentally ill introduced innumerable innovations for its day and influenced similar institutions throughout America. Its basic plan was the work of Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride (1809-1883), who believed that insanity should be treated as an illness.

John Coltrane House

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: African American history, cultural history

Statement of significance: This house was the home of tenor saxophonist and American jazz pioneer John Coltrane (1926-1967) from 1952 until his death, including the critical years during which he developed his characteristic musical language. A musician and composer, Coltrane is a principal figure in twentieth century American music who played a central role in the development of jazz during the 1950’s and 1960’s. He took the American jazz tradition as it had developed by the late 1940’s, with its established forms and harmonies, and radically transformed it, pioneering modal harmonies and incorporating influences from a variety of international sources. He is also, along with Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, one of the most influential performing soloists in the history of jazz.

Johnson House

Location: 6306 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: African American history, social reform

Web site: www.cr.nps.gov/nr/underground/pa6.htm

Statement of significance: Philadelphia was a center of the nineteenth century American movement to abolish slavery, and the Johnson House was one of the important stations on the Underground Railroad that helped lead so many to freedom. From 1770 to 1908, five generations of the Quaker Johnson family, leading abolitionists and reformers, lived in this colonial stone house. Among the oldest structures in Germantown, it later served as a women’s club and is now a historic house museum. The house is within the Colonial Germantown National Historic District.

Kennywood Park

Location: West Mifflin, Allegheny County

Relevant issues: Cultural history

Web site: www.kennywood.com/index2.html

Statement of significance: Opened to the public in 1899, this is the best-preserved survivor of the “trolley park” era when street railway companies built suburban amusement parks linked to center cities by trolley. Kennywood has been called the Roller Coaster Capital of the World and America’s Greatest Traditional Amusement Park; it retains rare, exceptional, and highly representative historic amusements.

Laurel Hill Cemetery

Location: 3822 Ridge Avenue, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture, cultural history

Statement of significance: Designed by noted Scottish-American architect John Notman in 1836, Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery is the second major rural cemetery in the United States, and Notman’s first known commission. Its romantic landscape, commemorative monuments, and eclectic architecture made it a popular tourist attraction in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Laurel Hill is a landmark in American social and cultural history, an essay in the evolution of the nation’s architecture, landscape design, and funerary art.

Lukens Historic District

Location: South First Street, Coatesville, Chester County

Relevant issues: Business and industry, women’s history

Statement of significance: This district is associated with Rebecca Lukens (1794-1854), who played a leading role in the nineteenth century American iron industry, and her family legacy. The firm she owned and managed–Brandywine Ironworks (later Lukens Steel Company)–was one of the industry’s major firms in the decades before the Civil War. She was the only woman in the antebellum period to head a heavy industry that had interstate and international interests. Lukens prefigures a pattern which would become more common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in which family business gave women entree to management or ownership of large concerns. Rebecca Lukens served as matriarch of this industrial dynasty; her family continued her commitment of fairness to workers, innovative technology, and personal interest in fine architecture.

M. Carey Thomas Library

Location: Bryn Mawr, Montgomery County

Relevant issues: Education, women’s history

Statement of significance: Completed on the campus of Bryn Mawr College in 1907, this library illustrates the achievements of M. Carey Thomas (1857-1935), who broke new ground in women’s education by establishing at Bryn Mawr academic opportunities for women that paralleled the highest standards in male higher education. As president of Bryn Mawr, Thomas was instrumental in making her college a pioneer among women’s colleges in all aspects of higher education. Additionally, Thomas pursued a far-reaching building campaign that resulted in building the first in the United States of what would become known as the Collegiate Gothic Style.

Merion Cricket Club

Location: Haverford, Montgomery County

Relevant issues: Sports

Statement of significance: Founded in 1865 and at this site since 1892, Merion Cricket Club is among the handful of U.S. properties that illustrate the history of cricket, which was a major sport in the nineteenth century, contending with baseball for supremacy. After 1900, the members assumed a vigorous role in lawn tennis. This is a work of one of Philadelphia’s premier Victorian-era architects, Frank Furness.

Merion Friends Meeting House

Location: Merion Station, Montgomery County

Relevant issues: European settlement, religion

Statement of significance: Merion Friends Meeting House is the building most closely associated with the “Merioneth Adventurers,” a group of Welsh Quakers who came to Pennsylvania in 1682 as part of the earliest-known migration of Celtic-speaking Welsh people in the Western Hemisphere. They came in response to the egalitarian policies that William Penn practiced in his colony. The building is the second-oldest Friends meeting house in the country, having been started c. 1695 and completed by 1714. The stone-walled church, now stuccoed, is in the form of a T and is a rare survivor of Welsh-inspired vernacular architecture.

Mill Grove

Location: Audubon, Montgomery County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture, science and technology

Statement of significance: From 1804 to 1808, Mill Grove, a two-and-a-half-story house of native fieldstone, was the home of John James Audubon (1785-1851). The main portion of the house was built in 1762, and its integrity remains high. Audubon began his observations on avian wildlife here; the house now serves as a museum, containing a priceless collection of Audubon’s bird paintings.

Minisink Archaeological Site

Location: Bushkill, Pike County

Relevant issues: American Indian history

Statement of significance: Minisink was the most important Munsee Indian community for much of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Archaeological resources located here have yielded information on historic contact between Indian and European people in Munsee Country, a region stretching from southern New York across northern New Jersey to northeastern Pennsylvania. Today, Minisink remains one of the most extensive, best-preserved, and most intensively studied archaeological locales in the Northeast.

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: African American history, religion

Statement of significance: Founded in 1793, Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church (1889) is a living memorial to Richard Allen (1760-1831), former slave, Methodist minister, preeminent black leader, and founder of the first permanent national association of African Americans.

N. C. Wyeth House and Studio

Location: Chadds Ford Township, Delaware County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture

Statement of significance: N. C. Wyeth’s illustrations have excited the imagination of generations of readers. In a career that spanned the first half of the twentieth century, Wyeth illustrated some ninety books and countless stories for such prestigious magazines as Harpers, McClure’s, Saturday Evening Post, and Scribner’s. Wyeth lived and worked in the several buildings of this historic district, and planted his roots so deep in the Chadds Ford soil that two succeeding generations of Wyeth artists found nourishment here. His son, Andrew, and grandson, James, both began their art training in his studio. The property is open to the public.

New Century Guild

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Business and industry, women’s history

Statement of significance: This building has served as the location for the New Century Guild from 1906 to the present. Founded in 1882, this organization was one of the earliest, largest, and most successful of the many created across the country in the late nineteenth century to deal with the serious problems that arose as more and more women entered the labor force. The New Century Guild explicitly stated from the outset that its goal was to address the specific needs of “self-supporting women,” a bold step at a time when many Americans believed no self-respecting woman would work for pay outside the home. The New Century Guild offered women a wide range of comprehensive services, which included a newspaper for working women (founded in 1887 and still published today); a research section that collected statistics on working women; evening classes for pleasure and professional development; a large library with a full-time librarian; a restaurant that offered noonday meals to working women at a modest price; an assembly hall; guest rooms for members; and a health insurance plan.

Oakmont Country Club

Location: Oakmont, Allegheny County

Relevant issues: Sports

Statement of significance: Noted for its nationally significant golf course, this is the oldest top-ranked course in the United States. Its original layout is virtually intact and still in use for club and tournament play. Generally considered to be among the most difficult golf courses in the world, it has hosted major national championships and U.S. Opens.

Olympia

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Naval history

Web site: www.spanam.simplenet.com/olympia .htm

Statement of significance: The oldest steel-hulled American warship afloat, Olympia served as Commodore George Dewey’s flagship in the Battle of Manila Bay (1898). The cruiser was born out of a program of ships for the “New Navy” of the 1880’s and 1890’s designed to correct the deficiencies of a weakened and neglected naval force. It is the last remaining ship built during that program and the sole surviving combatant of the Spanish-American War.

Philadelphia School of Design for Women

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture, women’s history

Statement of significance: From 1880 to 1959, this was the location of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, which was the first school of industrial design for women in the United States. The school filled a gap in the American vocational, educational, and industrial schema. Led by numerous prominent art educators, and producing innovative and nationally recognized graduates hailing from all over the country, the School of Design excelled in industrial design and art education and helped free American industry from foreign design dependence.

Priestley House

Location: Northumberland, Northumberland County

Relevant issues: Science and technology

Statement of significance: From 1794 until his death, this was the residence of Joseph Priestley (1733-1804). Priestley’s research in chemistry enabled him to identify oxygen in 1776 and carbon monoxide in 1794. One wing of this frame house was his laboratory.

The Printzhof

Location: Essington, Delaware County

Relevant issues: European settlement

Statement of significance: Constructed about 1643 of hewn logs, the Printzhof was the residence of Johan Printz (1592-1663), governor of New Sweden, the first permanent European settlement in what was to become Pennsylvania. Today, the only visible remains of the settlement are the stone foundations of this house.

Race Street Meetinghouse

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Religion, social reform, women’s history

Statement of significance: Race Street Meetinghouse, which served as the site of the Hicksite Yearly Meeting from 1857 to 1955, was at the forefront of women’s involvement both in Quaker religion and in American political activism. Many leaders in the women’s movement were associated with this meetinghouse; they included abolitionist and women’s activist Lucretia Mott, peace activist Hannah Clothier Hull, and suffrage leader Alice Paul.

Tanner Homesite

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: African American history, art and architecture

Statement of significance: This was the boyhood home of Henry O. Tanner (1859-1937), the late nineteenth and early twentieth century African American expatriate painter, whose work earned recognition in Europe and the United States.

Wagner Free Institute of Science

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Science and technology

Statement of significance: Begun in 1860, the Wagner Free Institute of Science is an unparalleled survivor of a virtually extinct institution: the scientific society of the nineteenth century. A two-story, free-standing building containing a gallery for exhibits, offices, classrooms, a library, and large lecture hall, it is characteristic of mid-nineteenth century institutional architecture. The creation of Philadelphia merchant, philanthropist, and amateur scientist William Wagner, the institute is also significant for its association with Dr. Joseph Leidy (1823-1891), one of the most prominent biologists of that century. It was also one of the earliest proponents of adult education in the country.

Walnut Street Theatre

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Cultural history

Statement of significance: This is one of the oldest surviving theaters in the country. Opened in 1809 as the Olympic Theater, the building was originally a circus; legitimate drama was being presented here after 1811. Most of the major figures of the American stage, including Sarah Bernhardt, Ellen Terry, Sir Henry Irving, Richard Mansfield, John Drew, and Maude Adams, appeared on this stage.

Wanamaker Store

Location: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: Constructed in three stages between 1902 and 1910, this twelve-story steel-frame structure is the home store of one of the major merchandising enterprises in retailing history which contributed to the evolution of the department store.

Washington’s Crossing

Location: Washington’s Crossing, Bucks County

Relevant issues: Military history, Revolutionary War

Web site: gateway.hvrsd.k12.nj.us/stpark.htm

Statement of significance: Here, on Christmas Eve, 1776, forces led by General George Washington landed and prepared to assault Trenton, then held by British forces. By this daring act, Washington carried the war to the enemy and gave the new nation and his oft-defeated army a taste of victory at the war’s lowest ebb.

Waynesborough

Location: Paoli, Chester County

Relevant issues: Military history

Statement of significance: From his birth until 1791, this was the residence of Anthony Wayne (1745-1796), American general. The large stone house was originally constructed in 1724 by his grandfather and namesake, Anthony Wayne.

West Birthplace

Location: Swarthmore, Delaware County

Relevant issues: Art and architecture

Statement of significance: Located on the campus of Swarthmore College, this is the birthplace of Benjamin West (1728-1820), who made major contributions to American art through his support for young artists, such as Gilbert Stuart and Charles Willson Peale, as well as through his own painting.

Woodmont

Location: Gladwyne, Montgomery County

Relevant issues: African American history, social reform

Statement of significance: Woodmont was designed by architect William Lightfoot Price, and built in the 1890’s for industrialist Alan Wood, Jr. Along with its support buildings, it is a superb example of a large country estate of its time. The house, imitating a medieval French chateau, is replete with turrets and towers, oriels and gargoyles. In 1952, Reverend M. F. Divine, better known as Father Divine, made Woodmont his home and headquarters. A charismatic African American preacher, he had great success in breaking down color lines and fostered integration long before the national Civil Rights movement. Father Divine is buried on the property, which is open to the public.

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