The History Buff
Centre County has a long and rich history. The area is dotted with historic sites and relics, and offers numerous museums and tours to explore the fascinating stories and innovative businesses that were part of the development of modern civilization here.
Bellefonte has been home to seven Governors and was a frequent stop on the transcontinental airmail route. Boalsburg, considered the birthplace of Memorial Day, is home to The Boal Mansion and The Columbus Chapel , “the most important Columbus collection on the North American continent.” Philipsburg is home to a number of sites of historical interest, including the Rowland Theatre and the Union Church and Burial Ground -also known as the "Mud" Church.
The Centre County Historical Society is headquartered at the Centre Furnace Mansion, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Mansion and iron furnace stack represent the beginnings of the area's charcoal iron industry, and the birthplace of The Pennsylvania State University.
Visit the Visitors Bureau website (www.visitpennstate.org) for a complete list of museums and historical societies in the county. Here's a sampling of some of the points of interest for a guest interested in our past. How many of these museums and sites have you visited?
American Philatelic Society
Location: 3100 Match Factory Place, Bellefonte
Description: National society for postage stamp collectors. The American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte is the home of the American Philatelic Society and American Philatelic Research Library. The Center is located in a restored nineteenth-century match factory complex on the National Historic Register, dating back to 1899. Visitors are welcome to tour the historic Center and see the valuable services we offer first hand!
Boalsburg Heritage Museum
Location: 304 E. Main Street, Boalsburg
Description: A unique museum housing historical treasures in the charming Village of Boalsburg. Step back in time by touring the house and grounds; enjoy artists of today. Free admission.
Centre Furnace Mansion
Location: 1001 E. College Avenue, State College
Description: Tour the historic mansion, gardens and iron furnace site associated with the Centre Furnace, established in 1791. In 1855, owners James Irvin and Moses Thompson gifted 200 acres of Centre Furnace land to establish "Farmers High School" - today known as Penn State University. Now the HQ of the Centre County Historical Society and listed on the National Register, the mansion is interpreted for the period of 1842-1891.
Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion Museum
Location: 163 Boal Estate Drive, Boalsburg
Description: The Boal Estate has been the Boal family home for over 200 years, and tells the story of America as seen through eight generations of one family. The Mansion has the original furnishings, artwork, and artifacts belonging to family members, including two fragments of wood claimed to be from the true cross of Jesus. The fourth generation, Colonel Theodore Davis Boal, called Terry, went to Europe in the 1890's and married Mathilde, a descendent of Christopher Columbus, who inherited the Columbus Chapel and brought it to Boalsburg in 1909.
Curtin Village at Eagle Ironworks
Location: 251 Curtin Village Road, Howard
Description: Curtin Village at Eagle Ironworks is one of Central Pennsylvania's most unique and best preserved state-owned historical sites. Curtin Village was part of a large iron plantation operated by Roland Curtin and his family from 1810 to 1921. Today, the buildings and grounds are preserved to depict life in an 1800's company town. The site features Pleasant Furnace, The Roland Curtin Mansion, and the Worker's Village. Tours on weekends June through October.
Fort Roberdeau Historic Site
Location: Historic Sinking Valley, 383 Fort Roberdeau Road, Altoona
Description: Fort Roberdeau was originally built in 1778 to safeguard a lead mining operation that General Roberdeau had planned and financed. The lead produced here was shipped east to be made into musketballs. The fort safeguarded not only miners, but the local population, from Tory and Native American raids, and established a foot hold for future generations of settlers. Our award-winning school tours are something a little bit different from what you may find at other historic sites. They are an exciting day of 18th century learning.
Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County
Location: 320 West High Street, Bellefonte
Description: Dedicated to the revitalization of Bellefonte and the preservation of the Borough's rich historic, cultural and architectural heritage.
Mifflinburg Buggy Museum
Location: 598 Green Street, Mifflinburg
Description: The Buggy Museum complex includes a modern visitor center, the only intact 19th-century carriage factory, a buggy maker's home and a showroom. See the original shop with belting and pulleys, tools, machinery and forges. It looks as if the owner and his workers just recently walked away.
Pasto Agricultural Museum
Location: 2710 West Pine Grove Road, Gate K, Pennsylvania Furnace
Description: The museum has approximately 1,300 rare and unusual farm and household items dating from 4,000 BC to the 1940s, covering more than 6,000 years of working the land. Visitors can learn about early American farm life while gaining hands-on experience with the history of agriculture and household equipment by turning the cranks and moving levers.
Pennsylvania Military Museum
Location: 602 Boalsburg Pike, Boalsburg
Description: The Pennsylvania Military Museum preserves and honors Pennsylvania's military history from 1747 to the present with special emphasis on the 20th century, interpreting for citizens and visitors the story of the Commonwealth's "Citizen Soldiers", civilian activities on the home front, and the contributions of Pennsylvania industry to military technology.
Piper Aviation Museum
Location: One Piper Way, Lock Haven
Description: The Piper Aviation Museum Foundation was formed to preserve the history and legacy of the Piper Aircraft Corporation and its founding family. See preserved aircraft, simulated cockpits, and other Piper-related products, with a focus on the time period between 1935 and 1984.