Erie art 2.jpgErie Art 1.jpgOn the outside, it’s a fantastic combination of old and new.  Facing State Street, the museum occupies a terrific Greek revival building that was first constructed in 1839 as the Erie branch of the US Bank of Pennsylvania.  From 1843-67, the building was used as  US customs house, and the building is now commonly referred to as the customs house.

And on the 5th Street side, a modern, gold level, LEED certified addition was occupied in 2010.  This building was the first LEED certified building in Erie.

Tied together with three other historic downtown buildings, this block makes for a very unique museum experience.


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Joe Biden’s Boyhood Home

Traveled to Scranton this weekend and happened upon the boyhood home of our nation’s 47th Vice President.  Biden lived here for for a time before his family moved to Delaware.  As a fellow alum of the University of Delaware, I’ve always been fond of Biden.  When I was in school, and he was Senator Biden, he frequently attended UD basketball games and was visible on campus.  He had the Everyman demeanor then as well.  After visiting here it’s easy to understand his working class roots.

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Troxell Steckel House

Taking pictures of historic architecture is even more fun when there’s a family connection.  John Peter Troxell is a descendent of mine, seven generations back, on my mother’s side.  Uncle John finished this incredible stone house in 1756, when he and his family (including my great, great, great, great, grandfather) owned much of Whitehall Township in Lehigh County.  The description on the historic marker says it best, calling the house “fortress like”.  The inscription between the second story windows reads in German, “God protect this house from all danger, for our room is under heaven”  John Peter Trachsel and Maria Magdala.

When I’ve gone inside, beside the thick stone walls, I always notice the short door frames.  I’m six feet tall and have to duck to enter the front door, and also between the rooms inside the house.

During my last visit, the house was open daily.  But as you can see the house is now open for tours and by appointment only.  A nice surprise this visit was the sight of a new rail trail, the Ironton Rail Trail (, that passes by the property along Coplay Creek.

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Bethlehem Works, Now Steel Stacks

Bethlehem steel was the epicenter of the industrial revolution in America.  Many iconic buildings began here, their steel backbones shaped, formed and finished by the hardworking people of Bethlehem.

With the steel industry now gone, Bethlehem is preserving and promoting its history.  The center of the Bethlehem Steel foundry, last operational in 1995, has now become Steel Stacks.  As you can see in the picture below, a walking platform has been built around what operated as Blast Furnace A, one of seven blast furnaces that once occupied the site.  Next to the furnace, is now an amphitheater that draws national acts and local events.


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Good News!

Admittedly I’ve been ignoring this site for the a couple of years.  Adding a new kid to the family, training for marathons and coaching little league will do that.  However, I wanted to post some welcome news about Highland Hall in Hollidaysburg.  In previous posts, I talked about the decline of Highland Hall, and its inclusion on Preservation Pennsylvania’s list of the 10 most endangered historic sites in Pennsylvania.

Recently, there’s been an extremely positive development.  S&A Homes, a homebuilder out of State College with an active affordable housing program, successfully applied for PHFA tax credits that will enable the redevelopment of Highland Hall into a 53 unit senior housing complex.  This after two initial applications to the same tax credit program were denied.  Whew!  With rumors of demolition swirling around, and the ever present threat of vandalism or even arson, this news was tremendously important to the residents of Hollidaysburg and its historic district.

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