Historic Route 30 Roadtrip

By Wendy Royalfall 2012

Route 30 stretches across the U.S. from Astoria, Ore., to Atlantic City, N.J. In Pennsylvania, the historic highway enters from the west in Beaver County and exits near Camden, N.J. Much of PA Route 30 is part of the historic Lincoln Highway, which was the first paved transcontinental highway in the nation.

In 1995, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge designated the 200-mile stretch from Westmoreland County to Adams County as the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. Even though this designation highlights only a portion of PA Route 30, none of the highway is without its share of rich history.


This road trip begins at the site for which Pittsburgh got its name. The city's historical past has its roots in the conflict that preceded the war for independence. The French & Indian War pitted British Colonial America against the French and Native Americans who wanted control of the frontier, which at the time was western PA.

Fort Pitt was strategically constructed at the forks of the Ohio River. The original structure was called Fort Prince George until the French commandeered it in 1754. Upon taking control, the French began construction on Fort Duquesne.

An attempt to recapture the fort by British Gen. Braddock in 1755 was unsuccessful. A later attempt by Gen. John Forbes and a young George Washington resulted in the outnumbered French burning the fort to the ground. After the victory, Forbes named the site "Pittsburgh" for the British Secretary of State, William Pitt.

Today, the history of the fort is told at the Fort Pitt Museum, located in Pittsburgh's historic Point State Park. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

You can't hit the road just yet. A must-see while in Pittsburgh is the Sen. John Heinz History Center, Pennsylvania's largest history museum. The 275,000-square-foot affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution covers everything from the French & Indian War to memorable gridiron matchups of the Steelers.

The Sen. John Heinz History Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Drive roughly 50 miles east and you'll reach Ligonier, a quaint town, also with strong ties to the French & Indian War. When Forbes was given the charge to reclaim Fort Duquesne for the Crown, he made preparations to make sure that his army would be well supplied and protected as they marched through hostile territory.

Forbes' first order of business was to construct a new road across Pennsylvania, guarded by a chain of fortifications. The last and most elaborate of the forts along the road was Fort Ligonier. The fort served as a supply depot and staging area for 5,000 American and British troops.

Eight acres of the original site have been preserved, and the fort was reconstructed. Inside, visitors will find the officers' mess, barracks, quartermaster and the underground magazine, to name a few. A 1,600-foot outer retrenchment surrounds the fort. External buildings include the Pennsylvania Hospital, a smoke house, bake ovens, a forge and a sawmill.

Fort Ligonier is open daily from April 21 through November 11, 2012.


Travel another 50 miles due east and you'll arrive in Bedford and the site of another of Forbes' fortifications, Fort Bedford. In 1769, James Smith and his "Black Boys" captured the fort, which was then occupied by British troops, giving it the dubious distinction as the first British fort to be captured by American rebels. After the French & Indian War ended Fort Bedford was used as a British outpost on the frontier.

The Fort Bedford Museum is located along the Juniata River in Bedford. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays to Sundays from May to October.

While in Bedford, a visit to Old Bedford Village is highly recommended. This living history village consists of 38 buildings including the village church, the broom shop, blacksmith's shop, a school, cabins and other structures typical to 18th- and 19th-century life.

Throughout the year, Old Bedford Village hosts re-enactments and living history events. To view summer events in the village, visit whereandwhen.com.

Old Bedford Village (OBV) is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Wednesday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. From Labor Day through the end of October, OBV is open Thursdays to Sundays only.


The 56-mile route between Bedford and Chambersburg is a scenic one. The Tuscarora Mountain Ridge near McConnellsburg in Fulton County is especially spectacular in fall.

Franklin County, like so many along our route, has experienced the often-devastating results of culture clashes. Stories of the struggles of early settlers permeate the area. The threat of attacks by native peoples on encroaching pioneers was a constant concern. One such attack occurred on July 26, 1764, at a schoolhouse near Greencastle. Schoolmaster Enoch Brown pleaded for the lives of his students, but he was shot and scalped. Eleven children were scalped, although one child managed to survive the massacre. Brown and his students were buried together, and a memorial stands in remembrance of the horrific event.

Later, the area played an important role in the Underground Railroad. Radical abolitionist John Brown chose Chambersburg as a staging point for his raid on the Harper's Ferry arsenal. While in Chambersburg, Brown was known as mine owner Dr. Isaac Smith. With this false identity, he was able to receive large shipments of arms without raising suspicions. Renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass met with Brown in secret in an attempt to dissuade him from carrying out his plans for Harper's Ferry.  Douglass was unsuccessful, and Brown's raid ultimately failed. Brown was found guilty of murder, treason and inciting a slave insurrection. He and nine of his followers were hanged in Charles Town, Va.

For nearly a year and a half, Chambersburg was embroiled in the Civil War. At one point, 60,000 Confederate troops, including Gen. A.P. Hill and Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee, camped in and around the town,

By the end of the summer of 1864, it was becoming quite clear that the Confederate cause was lost. Having sustained great loss in the South, Gen. Jubal Early issued a ransom on the town of Chambersburg in the amount of $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in Yankee currency. Since the town was unable to pay the ransom, Chambersburg was set ablaze. By day's end on July 28, 1864, more than 550 structures were burned.

The John Brown - Mary Ritner House is open for tours Thursday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


As the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, with 51,000 casualties, Gettysburg's place in history will never be questioned. It was that monumental clash of two armies in the fields and orchards of Adams County that inspired Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

The National Park Service has preserved the Gettysburg Battlefield for generations to remember the sacrifice and to learn from that turbulent period in history. This important stop on your road trip will easily take the better part of a day, and that is if you just see the battlefield and museum. If you want to see some of the other historical sites in Gettysburg, allow extra time.

To truly get the most out of the battlefield tour, I suggest visiting the National Park Service Museum and Visitors Center first. It could take up to two hours to see all of the exhibits in the 12 galleries. One of the most popular attractions at the museum is the famous cyclorama painting depicting Pickett's Charge. The iconic 1880s oil painting is 377 feet in circumference and 42 feet high.

The film, "A New Birth of Freedom," is shown exclusively in the theaters at the visitor center. Morgan Freeman, Sam Waterston and Marcia Gay Harden lend their voices to the film that is sponsored by the History Channel. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket counter in the museum lobby. Proceeds from the film benefit Gettysburg Battlefield preservation. 

The Gettysburg Museum & Visitor Center is open daily, April to October, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and November to March, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Touring the Gettysburg National Military Park can be done in several ways. Most choose to take a self-guided driving tour of the park, stopping at the monuments that dot the landscape. In all, the park is said to have more than 1,000 monuments and markers.

Another option is for guests to take a double-decker bus tour of the battlefield. As you drive through the park in comfort, the Battle of Gettysburg is brought to life through a dramatized stereo experience. The bus tours last approximately two hours and depart from the Main Gettysburg Tour Center at 778 Baltimore St.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.gettysburgbattlefieldtours.com.

For a unique and eco-friendly battlefield tour, guided Segway Tours of Gettysburg take riders to all the main historical sites. Mandatory training precedes the tour and is included in the price of the tour. These tours seem to fill up pretty quickly during the summer, so reservations are strongly recommended. Tours depart from the main SegTours field office in the Gettysburg Shopping Center.

Regardless of the method of transportation, a visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield is always a solemn and enriching experience. The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. from April 1 to October 31, and 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. November 1 to March 31. Park hours are strictly enforced.


With its proximity to the Mason-Dixon Line you can imagine that the city of York also has a Civil War story or two to tell. Yet it is York's impressive connections to the birth of our nation that we'll explore on our roadtrip.

It's ironic that York played an instrumental role in claiming our independence from the very country for which it got its name. The Articles of the Confederation were adopted in York after the Continental Congress was moved from Philadelphia in advance of the encroaching British army. In fact, York was the capitol of the United States for nine months.

The Golden Plough Tavern, built in 1741, served far more than food and drink in colonial times. Like other taverns, the Golden Plough served up the news of the day. Today, the tavern is part of the Colonial Complex located on Market Street. The General Gates House, Barnett Bobb Log House, the Colonial Court House and the Golden Plough make up the complex.

The General Gates House (c. 1751) depicts the home as it would have been when Gen. Horatio Gates lived there while the Continental Congress met in York.

The Colonial Courthouse, where the Continental Congress met, has been reconstructed and is located across from the Golden Plough.

Built in 1811, the Barnett Bobb Log House is a two-story structure built from squared timbers that are dovetailed at the corners. The home depicts family life in the 1830s.

The Colonial Complex is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours depart from a small brick building behind the Colonial Court House.


The border between York and Lancaster counties is the Susquehanna River. Wrightsville is on the York County side, and Columbia is in Lancaster County. Both have very storied pasts, but it's the Civil War history of the bridge that joins the two that intrigues me. As you cross the Susquehanna on Route 30, you should be able to see the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge on your right.

At the time of the Civil War, the structure that spanned the Susquehanna between the two towns was the world's longest covered bridge. As Confederate troops moved into York and Wrightsville, concerns for the capitol city of Harrisburg grew. Union officers placed explosives on the bridge to destroy it and prevent an advance. However, the detonation did not burn the timbers. It wasn't until the Confederate troops were starting to cross the bridge that Union soldiers saturated the bridge with oil and set it on fire.

Ironically, the bridge was supposed to be set ablaze by the confederates. Gen. Lee had ordered the bridge burned, but Gen. Jubal Early disobeyed, thinking it might be strategically valuable to keep it intact. Nonetheless, the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge was destroyed on June 28, 1863, just days before the Battle of Gettysburg.

Today, the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge (Veteran's Memorial Bridge) is a concrete open-spandrel arch bridge that was dedicated on Armistice Day, 1930.


Lancaster was home to the nation's only bachelor president, James Buchanan, who was elected in 1856 during a tumultuous time in our history. He was witness to the great divide that ripped apart the very nation he presided over. His legacy, unfortunately, was not a good one.

On the day of Abraham Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, 1861, Buchanan said to the new president, "My dear sir, if you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man indeed."

Wheatland is the stately home of James Buchanan. Today, docents in period clothing shed light on the president's personal and political life. Visitors will see all of the rooms elegantly dressed in period furnishings, and they will explore Wheatland's gardens, where Buchanan often retreated during times of turmoil.

President James Buchanan's Wheatland is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from April to October. Note: hours of operation are modified during off-peak months.


As this historical road trip takes you into Chester County (the county first created in Pennsylvania), you are drawing closer to the nation's birthplace. Malvern is the site of the bloody Revolutionary War battle known as the Paoli Massacre.

Five days after Washington's defeat at Brandywine, the Continental Army intended to confront British Gen. William Howe's army in nearby Goshen. But, a relentless rainstorm prevented the battle. Howe stayed in Goshen until the weather cleared. Washington's troops moved on to get more ammunition, but they left behind Brig. Gen. ("Mad") Anthony Wayne and his division. Wayne's responsibility was to carry out a surprise attack on the rear column of the British army.

On Sept. 18, British Gen. Charles Cornwallis's division of approximately 6,000 men took up positions outside Paoli with the intention of crossing the Schuylkill River to attack Philadelphia.

When Wayne arrived in Paoli, he sent a message to Washington to let him know that his troops were positioned within a half-mile of the British, writing, "...There never was, nor never will be a finer opportunity of giving the enemy a fatal blow than the present. For God's sake, push on as fast as possible."  Later that day, Wayne sent a second dispatch to Washington, concerned that he hadn't had word from his commander since the day prior. What Wayne didn't know was those messages were intercepted, and Cornwallis knew of Wayne's position.

Wayne set up camp and waited for reinforcements.  As the troops bedded down for the night, Wayne busied himself planning his surprise attack and making sure all the ammunition was dry after recent rains. That evening, an old man was brought before the general to recount a story he heard about a servant who was captured by the British army. Before being released, the servant overheard troops discussing an attack on Wayne that very night. Wayne dismissed the man's story and remained stoic in the belief that the British were busy planning an attack on Philadelphia. He did, however, send out more men to patrol the road leading to the British camp.

On Sept. 20, 1777, 5,000 British troops under the command of Gen. Charles Grey were ordered to unload their weapons or remove the flints from their guns. Only bayonets or swords would be used in their secret raid on American troops. Grey did not want the sound or sight of gunfire to give away their position.

Grey managed to either kill or evade all of the sentries on guard, except for two on horseback. They raced to the camp to warn Wayne's troops, but it was too late. By the time the sentries shouted their warning, the British were upon them.

What followed in the dead of night can only be called a massacre. Confused and half asleep, Wayne's army was attacked from all sides. Wayne was able to assemble a retreat, but the savagery of the attack was unlike any the troops had experienced. Many surrendering soldiers were shown no mercy. When the raid was over, 53 men were killed, 140 had been wounded, and 71 were captured. Using the bayonet as a strategy was not uncommon to the British, but the colonists found the practice to be barbaric. "Remember Paoli" became a battle cry for the Continental Army and caused the British troops to fear the revenge of Mad Anthony.

The Paoli Battlefield has remained almost completely unchanged for 235 years. Each year, the organizers of Night of the Generals Candlelight Tour & Illumination invite visitors to experience their piece of Revolutionary War history. A candlelit trail leads guests to different stops, where re-enactors recount battles of the 1777 Philadelphia Campaign. The 2012 event will take place on Oct. 8 from 7 to 9 p.m.

The Paoli Battlefield Park is open from sunrise to sunset.

Also, throughout the year, the General Warren Inne hosts a lecture series.

Built in 1745, the General Warren Inne is no stranger to American history. Because of its location on the main road between Lancaster and Philadelphia, it was a major carriage stop.

As a Tory stronghold, the inn housed many important British guests, including Generals Howe and Cornwallis. The Paoli Massacre was planned and launched from the General Warren Inne. Folklore has it that Gen. Grey tortured a local blacksmith on the inn's third floor to gain information.

The General Warren Inne continues to welcome weary travelers with a fine meal and a comfortable room. Lunch and dinner are served in the restaurant, while lighter fare can be enjoyed in the tavern. The inn has several suites from which guests can choose.

The General Warren Inn, 9 Old Lancaster Road, Malvern, PA 19355


The last stop on our Route 30 History Road Trip is the home of Gen. Anthony Wayne, Waynesborough. The Georgian-style manor house is located just a few miles from the site of the Paoli Massacre.

Wayne led the Pennsylvanians in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, survived the brutal Valley Forge encampment and was lauded for his victory at Stony Point on the Hudson River.

After his military service, Wayne retired to Historic Waynesborough for 10 years, until President George Washington called him back to service. Wayne's tenure as major general and commander-in-chief of the Legions of America started in 1792. He died just four years later. He was the only commander-in-chief of the American military who wasn't also the president of the United States.

Members of the Wayne family continuously owned Waynesborough from 1724 to 1965. Today, tours are given Thursdays to Sundays from 1 to 3 p.m. from March 31 through mid-December.  Please call before planning your tour. Tours may not be available during special Saturday events.

Historic Waynesborough, 2049 Waynesborough Road, Paoli, PA 19301


Even though it isn't on Route 30, we are just 20 miles from Center City, Philadelphia.  You may want to take a little side trip to discover even more amazing historical sites in the birthplace of America. See where the Founding Fathers met to hammer out the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Visit Christ Church, where the congregation included George Washington, Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, and John Adams.


Our journey across PA Route 30 has uncovered an abundance of history, yet it is just a portion of the incredible milestones for which Pennsylvania is known.


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Where & When Article: Historic Route 30 Roadtrip
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