Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Grand Opening of The River of Revolutions Interpretive Center

On Monday we held the grand opening for our River of Revolutions Interpretive Center. Since the center was completed over the summer, several groups have gone through it before, but we've never had such a large number of people visiting it at one time. So we put everything to the test. The result? All good. The food, the speakers and, most importantly, the reactions to the displays were great. Below are some photos from the event which took place at our headquarters located at 140 College Drive, Pottstown, PA.

Congressman Jim Gerlach shakes hands with Heritage Area Exec. Dir. Kurt Zwikl

Pottstown Mayor Bonnie Heath checks out the "Recreation" display

A Heritage Area Board Member reads about the Environmental Revolution.
A visitor learns about the Schuylkill River's impact on the American Revolution.

The project was led by Steel City Displays, of Malvern, and the center was designed by Miller Designworks of Phoenixville. On the left, designer Scott Sharadin signs in.  On the right, designer Lee Fitler looks through an eyepiece that allows visitors to see like a hawk.

 PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources Deputy Secretary John Giordano spoke at the event. Looking on is National Park Service Liaison to the Heritage Area board, Barbara Pollarine.

People spent a lot of time enjoying the displays...

...and the food!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Walking and Driving Tours in the Schuylkill River Heritage Area

There's a lot to see and do in the Schuylkill River region. History here is as rich as the soil that once made  Southeastern Pennsylvania the "Breadbasket of the Colonies." Or maybe you didn't even know that up until the 1840s this was considered a breadbasket. That's understandable. The heritage of the five county (Schuylkill, Berks, Montgomery, Chester and Philadelphia) Schuylkill River region is not only rich, but also multidimensional encompassing the American, Industrial and Environmental Revolutions.

There are many ways to explore the history and culture of the region. This time of year, when the air is crisp and the leaves are changing, one great option is to take a driving or walking tour. On our website, we've put together a sampling of driving and walking tours that can take you to some of the most scenic and interesting places in this area. Here are a few to consider:

1. The Berks County Hex  Barn Art Tour: This 28-mile self-guided driving tour brings you deep into the scenic heart of Berks County, where you'll view 22 barns bearing this art form that is unique to Pennsylvania German culture in Berks County. The Hex tour was developed by the Greater Reading Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with its companion piece, the Berks County Covered Bridge Tour.

2. The Molly Maguire Auto Tour: This tour consists of four cassette tapes (or CDs) and a 24-page guide which can be purchased from our website by clicking the link above. It takes visitors on a journey of discovery through Schuylkill and Carbon Counties to 24 sites that tell the story of the Molly Maguires,
a group of Irish immigrant miners accused of using violence in retaliation for dangerous and repressive conditions in the anthracite coal mines and patch towns. Historians still do not agree on whether the group were victims or villains. This tour offers a great way to learn more about the history of this mysterious group, and about the hard lives of immigrants who toiled in the anthracite coal mines.

3. Pottsville Walking Tours: What's in Pottsville, you may wonder? There are two walking tours of this Schuylkill County borough that can easily answer that question. One, the Mural Tour, takes you to 16 different sites where murals literally paint a picture of the city from days gone by. The other, the Points of Interest Tour, maps out 20 different sites including America's oldest brewery, the prison where the Molly Maguires were hanged, Pottsville's oldest church, and more.Tiffany stained-glass windows, historic monuments, antique cars and even an art deco diner are all featured.

4. Philadelphia Walking Tours: What do you want to see in Philly? What would you like to learn more about? Chances are there's a walking tour that will help you explore it. lists eight different walking tours with such varying themes as: architecture, Colonial history, food, Early American drinks and more.

5.  Historic Sites: Many historic sites offer guided and self-guided walking tours of their homes and grounds. One example is the Daniel Boone Homestead, pictured left, which offers a self-guided tour map to eight different 18th and 19th century structures including a smokehouse, saw mill and blacksmith shop. In addition to these buildings, the tour incorporates other sites, such as Daniel Boone Lake, a historic cemetery and an 18th century rifle range.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

River of Revolutions Interpretive Center

Even if you live near the Schuylkill River, even if you cross its bridges every day, you might not realize that the river itself, and the region surrounding it, has a pretty impressive history.
Barge on Schuylkill Canal
For example, did you know that George Washington and his army forded the river multiple times during the Revolutionary War in an effort to keep the British out of Philadelphia?
Or that the Schuylkill Canal served as a major transportation route during the Industrial Revolution, with barges carrying anthracite coal from Schuylkill County to Philadelphia, where it helped fuel factories across the nation?
 Or that the river was the site of the first major environmental cleanup of its kind in the 1950s?

At the Schuylkill River Heritage Area we think a lot of people probably don't fully realize how crucial the Schuylkill River has been to the history of our nation. That's one of the reasons we developed the brand new River of Revolutions Interpretive Center. The center features interactive exhibits, maps, video monitors, informative wall panels, and family-friendly displays that tell about the role the Schuylkill River region played in the American, Industrial and Environmental Revolutions. Since it is a visitor center, there is also information about the many recreational opportunities and visitor sites that are located in the five counties that make up the Schuylkill River Heritage Area (Schuylkill, Berks, Montgomery, Chester, and Philadelphia).

A Grand Opening ceremony will be held later this month, but the center is already open to the public. All are invited to visit and learn about the many ways in which this river was central to America's history. It is located in the Schuylkill River Heritage Area offices, at 140 College Dr., Pottstown, PA Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. It can also be conveniently accessed from the Schuylkill River Trail, since it is adjacent to the Pottstown Riverfront Park Trailhead.