A Little French Flair

French Azilum is Located on a horseshoe bend in the Susquehanna River near present-day town of Wysox. It provided a refuge for a group of French exiles in the autumn of 1793 and spring of 1794. Some of the refugees left France to escape persecution during the French Revolution. Others fled the colony of Santo Domingo (Haiti) to escape the slave uprising there. The French refugees, mostly nobility and gentry, even believed that it might be possible for the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, and her two children to come to Azilum if they got out of France alive. In the plans of the settlement there was a house built for the queen, called La Grand Maison.

A consortium of investors in Philadelphia purchased sixteen hundred acres of land from the English and German settlers to establish Azilum. They also purchased several thousand additional acres in subsequent years, extending south into Sullivan County and north nearly to the border of New York. Eventually 50 houses would be built. Although not grand, these houses had chimneys, wallpaper, window glass, shutters and porches. La Grand Maison, the most imposing structure, was the setting of many of the social gatherings, and housed Talleyrand and Louis Phillippe (future King of France) as guests.

The duration of the sophisticated French town in the wilderness was brief. Economic factors, including the bankruptcy of its investors, led to the settlement’s decline. By the late 1790’s many of the French had moved to southern cities or returned to Santo Domingo. In 1803 Napoleon made it possible for the exiles to return to France. A few families, including the LaPortes, remained. These families and their descendants helped to settle nearby communities. None of the almost 100 buildings from Azilum, including houses, a chapel, a theatre and several shops, remain.

Today, the historic site contains over twenty acres that were part of the original settlement. Although no structures from the original settlement survive, an original foundation has been left exposed for public viewing . A reconstructed and relocated log cabin, circa 1790, serves as a small museum with artifacts pertaining to the settlement and a video about the establishment of Azilum. The LaPorte house, the summer home of the son of one of the original settlers, still stands. Visitors can see several outbuildings, part of the de Siebert and LaPorte Farms, and outdoor exhibits. The site is only open during the summer. One should check opening times before visiting.

The LaPorte House

The house was built in 1836 by John LaPorte, son of Bartholomew LaPorte, who was one of the principal settlers at Azilum.

Structures adjacent to the LaPorte House
The Museum Cabin

A Route With a View

Bradford County is home to a unique historical site in north central Pennsylvania. However, I first made my way west over Route 6 to take in some impressive views.

First up is Wyalusing Rocks Overlook, which stands above one of the many bends in the Susquehanna River in this area.

A westward view …
and two.

A little further west, one comes upon the Marie Antoinette Overlook. The reason for this name will become apparent in my next post. The Overlook sits approximately 500 feet above the North Branch of the Susquehanna River. It was originally built in 1930 as a part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration).

A view west along another bend in the river.
The plaque explains the reason for the name of the overlook.
This is one of the more developed overlooks in state.
The view in the opposite direction.
The historic site below is blocked by the trees.

A Dam Long Way Around, Part I

On Sunday of Juneteenth weekend, I spent the day checking out a few additional state parks in the Coudersport area along with one historic site. I headed southwest to the remains of the Austin Dam.

The Austin Dam, also known as the Bayless Dam, was a concrete gravity dam in the Austin, Pennsylvania area that served the Bayless Pulp and Paper Mill. Built in 1909, It was the largest dam of its type in Pennsylvania at the time. The catastrophic failure of the dam on September 30, 1911 caused significant destruction and the death of 78 in Freeman Run Valley below the dam. The dam failed because it was not built as designed to cut cost.

The paper mill and dam were subsequently rebuilt, but the mill was lost in a fire in 1933. A new dam was built, but it also failed, in 1942, with no loss of life. The dam was not replaced after the second failure. The remains of the failed first dam still stand and are the site of a local park. The ruins consist of a series of broken sections extending east to west across the Freeman Run Valley. There are five upright sections and two large and several smaller toppled sections. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

There is a small park here. It is also possible to camp here. As I am slightly freaked out by dams and given the history, I don’t think I could camp here.

The remaining sections of original dam are clearly visible.
A small park at the base of the dam.
Remembering those who died …
A view to the dam from the access road.
A view of Freeman Run. It’s hard to imagine such a small stream could cause so much damage.

Here is a look at some places in Austin today.

Love the name of this bar.

A Preserved Farm … and a Park

Springton Manor Farm is a county park located in Glenmoore, Chester County. Within the farm’s historic landscape of fenced fields, stone walls and misty morning vistas is a preserved patchwork of colonial plantation, Industrial Revolution era scientific farm, Victorian tenant farm, and gentleman’s country estate. The Manor House and Carriage House overlook 300 acres of centuries-old sugar maples, open pastures and stately Penn Oaks, which grace the lower pond. The Manor House is not open to the general public.

Initially part of a William Penn Manor, Springton Manor has been in agricultural use since the early 1700’s. On this demonstration farm, you can meet the animals and learn about Chester County’s farming history. The barn complex consists of the Great Barn, sheep shed, goat shed, a roost and equipment shed. You may see horses, donkeys, rabbits, calves, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens and peacocks. The Family Farm Museum, located within the Great Barn, contains seasonal tools and apparatus used on Chester County farms from the 1700’s to the 1900’s.

The Manor House
A view to the Great Barn
Additional buildings near the Great Barn
Interesting structure. Not sure what it is …
Can you see the house finch? They were nesting in crevices in the stone walls.
Another building with a star …

A Drive Around Hibernia County Park and Chambers Lake

A trip to Chambers Lake looking for some Trumpeter Swans didn’t yield any birds, but an assemblage of photographs (as usual). I did get to see some sections of Hibernia County Park that I don’t normally get a chance to visit.

A nice father and son scene at the Lake but no swans.
The back of the barn near the mansion.
A view from the Lake Campground out onto Chambers Lake.
A great stand of oaks in the Lake Campground.
Some interesting fallen branches with last Autumn’s leaves near Fiddlers Campground.

The Goshenville Wetlands

Adjacent to the Goshenville Blacksmith Shop is the Goshenville Wetlands, a nice place for a short walk and a dog friendly area. It is located in East Goshen Township, which lies in northeastern Chester County. Here are some early Spring photos of the wetlands and the nearby historic structures.

The first thing you notice from the parking area is the honey bee project. The Bees by the Blacksmith Shop is a public-private partnership that brought honey producing hives to this open space. The Watermark at Bellingham Senior Living sponsored the hives, and Carmen B’s Honey, a Township-based small business, manages and maintain the bees. The Watermark will introduce apiary education to its residents and begin using the honey in its recipes and cooking classes. The Township was also set to begin a youth apiary program. In 2022, a kids program complete with youth-sized beekeeper outfits so they can safely get close and see the inner workings of the hives will be started.

The walk provides open views over the wetland with a dry walkway and elevated platforms and walks over potentially damp areas. There is a nice view of Ridley Creek which runs along side the property.

The historic structures are adjacent to this area and are connected via the walking path. The Goshenville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. The Blacksmith Shop was built in 1840 and is open to the public two days a week from April through October. An image of the shop is a symbol of East Goshen Township.

The Milton/Hickman Plank House in the foreground and the Blacksmith Shop beyond.
The front of the Blacksmith Shop …
and the back.

A Sugartown Christmas

Historic Sugartown in Chester County has been featured on my blog before if you would like more information about this location. They usually do seasonal decorations. This Christmas did not disappoint.

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The William Garrett House of 1805.
The Book Bindery.
Behind the Sharpless Worrell House …
along with a close up of these wreaths.
A reflection on the Carriage Museum.
Nearby Sugartown Farm
This lovely display was in front of the General Store.

Can’t Get There from Here

Ralph Stover State Park provides access to Tohickon Creek, which flows through the 45-acre park. It contains a scenic picnic area, and the nearby High Rocks section is a lovely overlook of creek. When high water conditions exist, Tohickon Creek offers a challenging course for closed-deck canoes and kayaks, especially during the end of March and the beginning of November, when there are planned whitewater releases from Lake Nockamixon. Fishing is also available in Tohickon Creek.

This is also one of the most popular areas in southeastern Pennsylvania for climbing. The cliffs and trails at High Rocks are a joint ownership by the state and Bucks County. Within Ralph Stover and Tohickon Valley parks, the cliff faces are made of a common Bucks County rock, red Brunswick shale, which formed along an ancient fault line. Ranging from 30 ft to 150 ft high and extending about ¾ mile long, High Rocks offers close to 100 climbing routes consisting mostly of top rope and traditional climbing. Some areas along the trail closer to the creek edge may be conducive to bouldering.

Here comes the rant. While I am not particularly disabled, I do have tremendous difficulty walking on steep, uneven or eroded surfaces, even over short sections. I had hoped to see the view from High Rocks due to its short distance from the parking lot. It was my main objective in visiting here. I was very sad to discover, that due to trail conditions, even this short walk was inaccessible for someone with difficulty walking. This should be an ideal location for providing some type of handicapped access, at least to the first observation point. However, handicapped access seems to be a low priority of DCNR and the county park systems in this state and many types of opportunities are off limits. Whether this due to funding limitations, desire to limit access for environmental reasons, or indifference, enjoying the outdoors is limited to the able bodied or those that can hike on over uneven terrain. While I certainly don’t expect everything to be made accessible, I think there are specific spots where it could be easily done without substantially changing the experience of visiting those places. You can find the view from High Rocks through Google image search. That is what I had to settle for.

There is a road that runs through the park between High Rocks and main part of the park. This road, however, is impassable due to bridge construction. There were two signs directing you to High Rocks from the main picnic area, but they only got you about half way there and there was no signage at some key turns. If you are going to block a bridge, you need to clearly mark alternate routes.

This bridge, at least, was okay.
As close to the view as I was able to get. So close but yet so far.
Don’t even think about travelling through the park.

From Ralph Stover, I headed up River Road (Route 32), along the way I found the lovely Tinicum Park, which is part of the Buck County Parks system. The historic 126-acre Tinicum Park includes playgrounds, picnicking, hiking, ball fields, boating, fishing, ice skating, a disk golf course and group and family camping at eight campsites. You may even run into a polo match here.

The Erwin-Stover House is on the property.
The barn is available as a rental.
The grass must have gotten quite a haircut.
Moving the bales.

River Road also provides access to entry points for Delaware Canal State Park and Delaware River boat access ramps.

The Wertz Covered Bridge

The Wertz Covered Bridge, also known as the Red Covered Bridge (but aren’t most of them), is a historic wooden covered bridge located at Bern Township and Spring Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

The bridge is a 204-foot-long, Burr Truss bridge, constructed in 1867. It crosses the Tulpehocken Creek. It serves as the walkway entrance to the Berks County Heritage Center, which also includes the Gruber Wagon Works. It is one of only five covered bridges remaining in Berks County. It is the largest single-span covered bridge in Pennsylvania.

The bridge was restored in 1959 and later in 1984, however, when the Warren Street Bypass opened, the bridge was closed permanently in October, 1959. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 17, 1978.

The bridge is part of the Berks County Heritage Center, an historical interpretive complex commemorating important eras of Berks County cultural history. The Gruber Wagon Works (a National Historic Landmark) the C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, Wertz’s Covered Bridge, Melcher’s Grist Mill, Deppen Cemetery, Bicentennial Eagle Memorial, the Distlefink statue and a salad and herb garden are all encompassed within the Heritage Center.

The view from Tulpehocken Road.
Inside Pennsylvania’s longest single span covered bridge.
The Bat Colony of the bridge. I love bats. They eat insects and are so cute.
A look around the Berks County Heritage Center…
A look up at the bridge.
The view from the other end.
Tulpehocken Creek

Looking Back at Summer

Let’s take a look at some state parks in southeastern Pennsylvania from way back in mid September. Benjamin Rush State Park is in norheast Philadelphia and is the only state park within the city boundary. It has trails for hikers and bikers, good spots for wildlife and bird watchers and a model airplane field (like Valley Forge).

The park was named for Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence and attendee at the Continental Congress. He is the Father of American Psychiatry and published the first text book on the subject in the U.S. He advocated improved conditions for mental patients and careful clinical observation and study. Dr. Rush pioneered addiction therapies including treatment of alcoholism as a disease. The park was created out of land from a former state mental hospital.

I found its most notable feature to be its large community garden, however.

Community gardens flying the flag.

The next location was in Bristol, PA, Bucks County, for two of the many access points for Delaware Canal State Park. A walk along the entirety of the 60-mile-long towpath of the Delaware Canal State Park is a stroll back in time. Following the Delaware River between Easton and Bristol, this park contains an historic canal and towpath, a 50-acre pond, many miles of river shoreline, 11 river islands, and diverse scenery.

Boat along the Delaware River.
The High Cross Monument to Irish immigration.
Harriet Tubman.
The Hispanic Monument.

Futher into town, we see the southern end of the canal.

The end of the line.
A monument to Irish Civil War veterans and the basin at Bristol.

Finally, White Clay Creek Preserve along the Delaware border is the only property in the state park system called a “preserve.” Maybe because it adjoins White Clay Creek State Park in Delware. The 2,072-acre White Clay Creek Preserve is in southern Chester County. One can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding in the Preserve. The area of White Clay Creek Preserve is part of a larger tract of land sold to William Penn in 1683 by Lenni Lenape Chief Kekelappen. It is thought that Kekelappen lived in Opasiskunk, an “Indian Town” which appears on a survey map of 1699 at the confluence of the Middle and East branches of White Clay Creek. The creek is named for the white clay found along its banks and used to make pottery.

The London Tract Baptist Meetinghouse, built in 1929, is at the intersection of Sharpless and London Tract roads. In its stone-walled cemetery rest many of the area’s earliest settlers including Dr. David Eaton.

The London Tract Baptist Meeting House, near the park office.
The remains of the Sexton’s House across the road.

In 1984, the DuPont Company donated land to Pennsylvania and Delaware for the purpose of preserving the diverse and unique plant and animal species, and the rich cultural heritage of the area. Today, these lands form the bi-state White Clay Creek Preserve. Because White Clay Creek posses outstanding scenic, wildlife, recreational, and cultural value, it has been designated by Congress as a National Wild and Scenic River, and shall be preserved in free-flowing condition for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.