Pennsylvania: Potter County

Potter County (pop. 17,457), east of McKean County, is Pennsylvania’s fifth-least-populous county. The only other Potter counties are in Texas and South Dakota.

The county was named for James Potter (1729-1789), an Irish immigrant and Pennsylvanian who was a brigadier general in the Revolutionary War.

With the Pennsylvania Militia

The heavily wooded county contains eight state parks. The five-acre Prouty Place State Park is the state’s second-smallest.

Prouty Run

Cherry Springs State Park is popular with astronomers and stargazers because it has some of the darkest night skies on the East Coast.

Pennsylvania’s first “dark sky park”

Cherry Springs also has Pennsylvania’s largest picnic pavilion constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (1939).

The county seat of Potter County is the borough of Coudersport (pop. 2,546), at the intersection of the Allegheny River and Mill Creek.

Potter County Courthouse (1853)

The Coudersport Theatre dates from 1923. It’s still showing movies.

The world’s only Coudersport Theatre

The annual God’s Country Marathon goes from Galeton to Coudersport.

Elliot Ness (1903-1957),  the legendary Prohibition agent who was credited with the downfall of Al Capone, died at his home in Coudersport.

As portrayed by Robert Stack

A major tourist attraction in Potter County is the Coudersport Ice Mine, with large icicles in the summer that melt in the winter. The cave was discovered in 1894.

Closed in winter, when there’s no ice

The Scottish Rite Consistory of Coudersport is one of Potter County’s largest buildings. The Consistory has about 3,000 members – more than the population of Coudersport.

Originally a private home

The Austin Dam Burst Site commemorates the site of the Austin Dam, which burst in 1911, resulting in the deaths of 78 people.

The dam served a paper mill.

NEXT: TIOGA COUNTY

Pennsylvania: McKean County

McKean County (pop. 43,450) is east of Warren County. It’s the only McKean County – named for Thomas McKean, Pennsylvania governor from 1799 to 1808.

McKean County in 1895

The county seat of McKean County is the borough of Smethport (pop. 1,655).

McKean County Courthouse (1942)

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Pennsylvania was -42 degrees in 1904 in Smethport.

Smethport’s elevation is 1,488 feet.

Smethport had America’s’ first year-round Christmas shop. It opened in 1935 and closed in 2005.

The athletic teams at Smethport Area High School are known as the “Hubbers,” because Smethport is the “hub” in the center of the county.

The Smethport Specialty Company began manufacturing the Wooly Willy magnetic toy in 1955.

The largest community in McKean County is the city of Bradford (pop. 8,870). The former oil boomtown reached its peak population of 19,306 in 1930.

Old City Hall (1897)

The Main Street Movie House is in the eight-story Art Deco Hooker-Fulton Building (1931).

Showing first-run movies

Bradford is the home of the Zippo Manufacturing Company, founded in 1932. Zippo is best known for its reusable metal lighters.

The Zippo museum

Bradford has a campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Established in 1963, it has about 1,500 students.

Opera star Marilyn Horne was born in Bradford in 1934. A Marilyn Horne Museum recently opened in Bradford.

The community of Eldred (pop. 825) has had a World War Two Museum since 1996. During the war, Eldred was the site of a munitions factory that employed 1,500 people.

The Kinzua Bridge (1882) was the fourth-tallest railroad bridge in the U.S., until it collapsed after being struck by a tornado in 2003. It was 301 feet high and 2,000 feet long.

Today, Kinzua Bridge State Park has a Sky Walk with a pedestrian walkway to a glass-floored observation deck.

225 feet up

NEXT: POTTER COUNTY

Pennsylvania: Warren County

Warren County (pop. 41,815) is east of Erie and Crawford counties, on the border with New York. It’s one of 14 Warren counties.

All 14 Warren counties were named for Gen. Joseph Warren (1741-1775), who died in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Much of the county is in the Allegheny National Forest, established in 1923 after most of the original forest (mostly Eastern hemlock and American beech)  had been logged. It’s now known for black cherry and walnut trees.

Hector Falls

The county seat of Warren County is the city of Warren (pop. 9,710). Warren’s population has been declining each decade since 1940, when the Census reported 14,891 residents.

On the Allegheny River

The Warren County Courthouse was built in 1877, in Second Empire style.

Statue of Justice on top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oil was discovered in Warren in 1875, and the oil industry dominated the city’s economy for many years.

National City Bank Building (1891)

The Struthers Library Theatre dates from 1883. It originally was a library, opera house, and Masonic hall.  Now, it hosts concerts, community theater, and a film series.

Renovated in 1983

Most of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis was fabricated at the Pittsburgh Des Moines Steel Company plant in Warren in the early 1960s. A small replica stands in front of the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry.

Gudrun Ensslin (1940-1977), one of the founders of the West Germany’s group the Baader-Meinhof Group, spent a year in high school (1958-59) in Warren. She died in a German prison.

Kinzua Dam was built 1960-65 on the Allegheny River, east of Warren. Construction required the forced relocation of 600 Seneca Indians, who lived on the Allegany Reservation in New York.

The reservoir extends 25 miles behind the dam.

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone” and the Johnny Cash recording “As Long As the Grass Shall Grow” both commemorate the Seneca who were uprooted by the dam.

The borough of Tidioute (pop. 792), southwest of Warren, is home of both the Pennsylvania State Championship Fishing Tournament and an annual reenactment of the WWII battle at the Bridge at Remagen.

Over the Allegheny River

NEXT: MCKEAN COUNTY

Pennsylvania: Crawford County

Crawford County (pop. 88,765) is south of Erie County, on the border with Ohio.

Crawford County in 1895

It is one of 11 Crawford counties, which were named for three different men named Crawford. This one was named for Col. William Crawford (1722-1782).

Crawford’s death

The county seat of Crawford County is the city of Meadville (pop. 13,388), which was the first permanent settlement in northwestern Pennsylvania.

The zipper, as we know it, was invented in Meadville. Talon Zipper, founded in 1893 in Chicago, began mass-producing zippers in Meadville in the 1920s.

No longer in Meadville

The Academy Theatre in Meadville opened in 1886 as an opera house called the Academy of Music. It was later a movie theater, and now hosts a variety of performing arts.

Restored in the 1990s

Meadville is the home of Allegheny College, a private liberal arts college founded in 1815. It has about 1,900 students.

Bentley Hall (1835)

Meadville is also the home of the PennDot (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) Road Sign Sculpture Garden.

Murals and sculptures made of road signs

The Baldwin-Reynolds House Museum in Meadville was the home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Henry Baldwin (1780-1844). It had Meadville’s first indoor plumbing.

Built in 1843

The city of Titusville (pop. 5,601), east of Meadville, has a campus of the University of Pittsburgh, established in 1963.

Primarily a two-year campus

The Drake Well Museum, south of Titusville, covers the birth of the oil industry by Edwin Drake in 1859.

Established in 1934

The Oil Creek and Titusville Railroad, a 16-mile tourist railroad, has a Caboose Motel.

21 caboose units

In the community of Linesville (pop. 1,040), it is popular to throw bread at the carp at the Spillway adjacent to Pymatuning Lake. It’s been called “Pennsylvania’s 2nd-Most Popular Tourist Attraction.”

NEXT: WARREN COUNTY

Pennsylvania: Erie County

We begin our tour of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in Erie County (pop. 280,566), in the state’s northwestern corner. It is the state’s only county on Lake Erie, and the only Pennsylvania county that borders Canada (across the lake).

The county was named for the lake, which was named by the Erie people, an Iroquoian group who lived along the southern shore. The only other Erie counties are in New York and Ohio.

The county seat of Erie County is Erie (pop. 101,786), Pennsylvania’s fourth-largest city. Erie reached its peak population of 138,440 in 1960.

Erie Land Light (1867)

The 14-story Renaissance Center (1928), formerly the Erie Trust Company Building, dominates the downtown Erie skyline.

Renovated in the 1990s

The Old Customshouse (1839) is now part of the Erie Art Museum.

The museum has five connected buildings.

The Warner Theatre (1931) closed as a movie theater in 1976. It’s now the home of the Erie Philharmonic and a variety of other concerts and touring shows.

The Grand Lobby

The Lawrence Park Dinor (a northwestern Pennsylvania variation of “diner”) has been in operation since 1948. It was manufactured by Silk City Diners of Paterson, N.J.

Known for “Greek sauce” on French fries

Erie is the northern terminus of the 343-mile Interstate 79. The southern terminus is Charleston, W.V. Amtrak’s “Lake Shore Limited” (Chicago to Boston and New York City) stops in Erie.

Union Station (1927)

The Erie SeaWolves, Double-A Eastern League affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, play at UPMC Park (1995) in downtown Erie. UPMC is the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Formerly Jerry Uht Park

Actress Ann B. Davis (1926-2014) grew up in Erie. She graduated from the University of Michigan.

On “The Brady Bunch”

The Bicentennial Tower, built in 1996 to commemorate the city’s 200th birthday, has a 187-foot-high observation deck.

Views of Lake Erie, Presque Isle, and downtown Erie

Presque Isle State Park, on a long peninsula near Erie, is Pennsylvania’s most-visited state park. It has a marina and 13 beaches for swimming.

The borough of Edinboro (pop. 6,438), south of Erie, is the home of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, a public university with about 6,000 students. It was founded in 1857 as a teachers’ college.

NEXT: CRAWFORD COUNTY