Learn about the history of Pennsylvania and find fun and interesting things to do and see all across Pennsylvania. We've also found the best books, guides, websites, and other resources to make your study of Pennsylvania fun and educational.
Things to See & Do in Pennsylvania
Lower Delaware National Wild & Scenic River
The lower Delaware River region contains immense resource diversity, combining an area of high population density with a wealth of natural, cultural, and historical resources and recreational opportunities. The river valley houses cliffs rising 400 feet above the rivers that provide for magnificent scenery and habitat unique to the region. The south-facing, desert-like slopes are home to the prickly pear cactus, while the north-facing slopes display flora and fauna usually only found in arctic-apline climates. The river itself provides habitat for American shad, striped bass, and river herring and is an important component of the Atlantic Flyway, one of four major waterfowl routes in North America. From a historic veiwpoint, the river is one of the most significant corridors in the nation, containing buildings used during Washington's famous crossing, historic navigation channels, Native American and colonial archeological sites, and 19th century mills.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial
Thaddeus Kosciuszko was one of the first European volunteers to aid the American revolutionary cause in 1776. A brilliant Polish military engineer, Kosciuszko designed and constructed fortifications to help defeat the British, most notably at Saratoga and West Point in New York. Kosciuszko returned to Poland and led his own countrymen in a failed attempt to free them from foreign oppression. Seriously wounded in battle and imprisoned in Czarist Russia, upon his release, he returned to the United States. In a small rented room on the second floor of this house, Kosciuszko spent the winter of 1797-98 reading, sketching and receiving distinguished visitors like Vice-President Thomas Jefferson. The Memorial is located in Philadelphia.
Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site
The Allegheny Portage Railroad was the first railroad constructed over the Allegheny Mountains. This inclined plane railroad operated between 1834-1854 and was considered a technological wonder in its day and played a critical role in opening the interior of the United States to trade and settlement. Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site is located in southwestern Pennsylvania approximately 12 miles west of Altoona. Today's park covers 1249 acres. The main unit contains the Summit Level Visitor Center, the historic Lemon House, Engine House #6 Exhibit Shelter, the Skew Arch Bridge, picnic area and hiking trails. The Staple Bend Tunnel unit is located approximately 4 miles east of Johnstown, PA.
Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor
The Corridor is a collection of people, places and events that helped shape our great nation. Come journey through five Pennsylvania counties bursting with heritage and brimming with outdoor adventure. Canals and railroads-remnants of Northeastern Pennsylvania's prosperous coal age-form the spine of this more than 150-mile Corridor. You'll find something for everyone. Follow a history trail marked with stories about hearty lumberjacks, coal miners, lock tenders, canalers and railroaders. Explore quiet canal paths, challenging bike trails and rippling waters of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers.
Built by Quaker merchant, David Deshler before the Revolution, this handsome stone house faces historic Market Square. During the Battle of Germantown in 1777, British Commander Sir William Howe, made the house his headquarters. While the yellow fever epidemic raged in Philadelphia in 1793, business of the new republic continued at the Germantown "White House" Here, President Washington presided over meetings with his divided cabinet: Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox and Edmund Randolph. The president returned with his family to spend the following summer in Germantown's pleasant surroundings. More recently, the Morris family lived here for over one hundred years, donating it to the National Park Service in 1948. Now a unit of Independence National Historical Park, guided tours of the Germantown "White House" offers a glimpse into the private world of our first president.
Gettysburg National Cemetery
To properly bury the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg, a "Soldiers Cemetery" was established on the battleground near the center of the Union line. Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin supported the proposal with state funds to purchase the cemetery grounds and pay for the reinterment of Union dead from inadequate grave sites that covered the battlefield. It was here during the dedication ceremony on November 19, 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln spoke of "these honored dead..." and renewed the Union cause to reunite the war-torn nation with his most famous speech, the "Gettysburg Address". The cemetery was landscaped by William Saunders, founder of the National Grange. The Cemetery was completed by 1872, and turned over to the care of the Federal government. In 1933 responsibility of the cemetery was transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service. Today, the Gettysburg National Cemetery is the final resting place for American veterans from all of this country's major wars and conflicts. It is closed to new burials. The cemetery is also the site of numerous monuments and memorials including the "Friend to Friend" Memorial in the National Cemetery Annex.
Friendship Hill National Historic Site
Friendship Hill National Historic Site preserves the country estate of Albert Gallatin, a Swiss emigrant who served his adopted nation during the early years of the republic. Gallatin is best remembered for his thirteen year tenure as Secretary of the Treasury during the Jefferson and Madison administrations. In that time he reduced the national debt, purchased the Louisiana Territory and funded the Lewis & Clark exploration. Gallatin's accomplishments and contributions to the late 18th and early 19th century American Republic are highlighted through exhibits and programs presented in his restored Friendship Hill house.
Steamtown National Historic Site
Step back in time to the days of steam railroading at Steamtown National Historic Site. This park, created to preserve and interpret the history of steam railroading is located in the former Scranton Yards of the Delaware, Lackawann & Western Railroad. The site telling the story of railroading through living history and interpretive programs, a working machine shop and roundhouse, educational outreach programs, and seasonal excursions to destinations around Northeastern Pennsylvania. Steamtown National Historic Site preserves an era that slipped from public consciousness virtually unnoticed. Today, you can relive that era as the fire-breathing behemoths lumber back to life. The cinders, grease, oil, steam and people of railroading have returned.
Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church National Historic Site
Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church in Philadelphia was built in 1700 and is the oldest church in Pennsylvania. The Swedes preceded the English to this part of America and began the Gloria Dei congregation in 1646. For nearly two centuries this church was under Swedish hierarchy, but after the Scandinavians were absorbed into the general American population, Gloria Dei was admitted into the Episcopal Church in 1845. The church is owned and maintained by its congregation and contains an abundance of historical relics and artifacts.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
Valley Forge National Historical Park commemorates more than the collective sacrifices and dedication of the Revolutionary War generation, it pays homage to the ability of everyday Americans to pull together and overcome adversity during extraordinary times. Of all the places associated with the American War for Independence, perhaps none has come to symbolize perseverance and sacrifice more than Valley Forge. The hardships of the encampment claimed the lives of one in ten, nearly all from disease. Despite the privations suffered by the army at Valley Forge, Washington and his generals built a unified professional military organization that ultimately enabled the Continental Army to triumph over the British.
Independence National Historical Park
Independence National Historical Park, located in downtown (called "Center City"), Philadelphia, is often referred to as the birthplace of our nation. At the park, visitors can see the Liberty Bell, an international symbol of freedom, and Independence Hall, a World Heritage Site where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were created. In addition, the park interprets events and the lives of the diverse population during the years when Philadelphia was the capital of the United States from 1790 to 1800. A section of the park where Benjamin Franklin's home once stood is dedicated to teaching about Franklin's life and accomplishments. Spanning approximately 45 acres, the park has about 20 buildings open to the public.
Johnstown Flood National Memorial
There was no larger news story in the latter nineteenth century after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The story of the Johnstown Flood has everything to interest the modern mind: a wealthy resort, an intense storm, an unfortunate failure of a dam, the destruction of a working class city, and an inspiring relief effort. The rain continued as men worked tirelessly to prevent the old South Fork Dam from breaking. Elias Unger, the president of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, was hoping that the people in Johnstown were heeding the telegraph warnings sent earlier, which said that the dam might go. When it finally happened, at 3:10 P.M., May 31, 1889, an era of the Conemaugh Valley's history ended, and another era started. Over 2,209 people died on that tragic Friday, and thousands more were injured in one of the worst disasters in our Nation's history. Johnstown Flood National Memorial is located in southwestern Pennsylvania, about 10 miles northeast of Johnstown. The park contains nearly 165 acres and preserves the remains of the South Fork Dam and portions of the former Lake Conemaugh bed.
Fort Necessity National Battlefield
Colonial troops commanded by 22 year old Colonel George Washington were defeated in this small stockade at the "Great Meadow". This opening battle of the French and Indian War began a seven year struggle between Great Britain and France for control of North America. Great Britain's success in this war helped pave the way for the American Revolution. Fort Necessity National Battlefield is located in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, about 11 miles east of Uniontown. The park comprises approximately 900 acres in three separate sites. The main unit contains the visitor center, the battlefield with the reconstructed Fort Necessity, and the Mount Washington Tavern. The Braddock Grave unit is approximately 1.5 miles west of the main unit and the Jumonville Glen unit is approximately seven miles northwest of the main unit.
Eisenhower National Historic Site
Located adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield, the Eisenhower National Historic Site includes the farm that served President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a weekend retreat and a meeting place for world leaders. With its putting green, skeet range, and view of South Mountain, it was a much needed respite from Washington. With its show herd of black Angus, it was a successful cattle operation and source of pride for the President. You can tour the home, grounds, barns, and cattle operation, following in the footsteps of President Eisenhower and his many guests – Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, President Charles De Gaulle, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Governor Ronald Reagan.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Located 50 miles northwest of Baltimore, the small town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania was the site of the largest battle ever waged during the American Civil War. Fought in the first three days of July 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg resulted in a hallmark victory for the Union "Army of the Potomac" and successfully ended the second invasion of the North by General Robert E. Lee's "Army of Northern Virginia". Historians have referred to the battle as a major turning point in the war, the "High Water Mark of the Confederacy". It was also the bloodiest single battle of the war, resulting in over 51,000 soldiers killed, wounded, captured or missing. The Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated on November 19, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln delivered his immortal Gettysburg Address. The cemetery contains more than 7,000 interments including over 3,500 from the Civil War. Post-battle efforts preserved small portions of the battlefield as a memorial to the Union victory. On February 11, 1895, congressional legislation was signed to establish Gettysburg National Military Park as a memorial dedicated to the armies that fought this great battle. Gettysburg National Military Park incorporates nearly 6,000 acres, with 26 miles of park roads and over 1,400 monuments, markers, and memorials.
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is one of the finest examples of a rural American 19th century iron plantation. The buildings include a blast furnace, the ironmaster's mansion, and auxiliary structures. Hopewell Furnace was founded in 1771 by Ironmaster Mark Bird. The furnace operated until 1883. Primarily an area that is significant for its cultural resources, Hopewell Furnace consists of 14 restored structures in the core historic area, 52 features on the List of Classified Structures, and a total of 848 mostly wooded acres. Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is surrounded by French Creek State Park which preserves the lands the furnace utilized for its natural resources.
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Knowledge Quest offers historical outline maps and timelines designed for the interactive study of world history and geography.
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A look at teaching history across several grades using the classical method of education and a rotation of history every four years.
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