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Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway

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Understand[edit]

"Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway" is actually a misnomer — going south from Buffalo, travellers would have passed east and south of Pittsburgh and ended up in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Pittsburgh-bound motorists would have turned west either at New Alexandria along the William Penn Highway or else at Greensburg along the Lincoln Highway.

History[edit]

text from my FB post to adapt:

1926 was a time when automobiles existed but were only beginning to become affordable to the middle class; before the Interstate Highway System was a thing, and when we as a nation were only just beginning to wrap our minds around the concept of long-distance travel by car.

Back then, you didn't have numbered routes — you had what were called "auto trails". Basically, if you followed the colored stripes of paint on roadside telephone poles, you could more-or-less be sure that you were on a road that was in a more-or-less decent condition for cars to drive on (though "decent condition" was definitely a relative term in those days). There was nothing official or carved in stone about the auto trails — more often than not, they were designated, maintained, and promoted by local chambers of commerce or tourist bureaux; the government had nothing to do with it.

I mention 1926 because that's the year when the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway opened to motorists. There's a website called "Pennsylvania in Old Road Atlases" with a scanned image of a map from 1925 promoting the soon-to-open highway with the slogan, "The Progress & Prosperity of All the World Depends Upon America's One Great Industrial Broadway". I like the sound of that — that was back when the Rust Belt wasn't so rusty.

The heyday of the auto trails was brief indeed, and that of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway even briefer. 1926 was also the year when Congress approved America's first nationwide highway numbering system (though some states, particularly in the Northeast, had already begun numbering their state highways a few years earlier). Just a few short years after its inauguration, the erstwhile Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway had been subsumed by the decidedly more prosaically-named U.S. Routes 19, 119, 219, and 62. Still, the era of the auto trails is a colorful chapter in American transportation history that lives on in memory.

Today Rebecca and I will be heading south along the closest thing to the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway's original routing as 1) my research has been able to determine and 2) the modern-day road network allows.

Prepare[edit]

How much time to allow? If you're going in midsummer and intend to through-drive the highway without stopping for anything other than sleep, one very long day is probably doable, but you're not going to actually get anything out of the experience. To allow time for a more leisurely pace and to experience some of the attractions in the cities and towns along the way, three days is more realistic. In autumn when the days are shorter and nights are longer, allow even more time than that.

Segue into a discussion about when is the best time of year to go — tl;dr summer good, fall better, winter bad.

Go into more detail: what's the climate like? When can it be expected to start/stop snowing? When do the leaves begin changing color?

Get in[edit]

Directions to downtown Buffalo

(Also, if you'll be following the route south-to-north instead, here's how you can get to Clarksburg.)

Go[edit]

Premilinary remarks — how many miles total, etc.

This itinerary is oriented for those headed north to south. If you're starting in West Virginia, you can follow the list of POIs in reverse order but the actual route may be slightly different due to one-way streets in the downtown business districts of some cities along the way — those discrepancies will be specified in the directions in red.

User:AndreCarrotflower/Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway/route

Buffalo metro area[edit]

If you were plotting out a road in 1926 that aspired to be "America's Great Industrial Broadway", you could scarcely pick a better place to start than 1 Buffalo. Enjoying a privileged location where the Great Lakes met the Erie Canal, Buffalo had long been an inland port of immense importance, where wheat and corn from the vast breadbaskets of the Midwest would arrive by freighter, be stored at port in towering grain elevators, then expedited via canal to New York City and international markets. But the local economy had by now diversified well beyond grain: Buffalo was also the second-biggest railroad hub in the country after Chicago, and the Lackawanna Steel Company took advantage of new rail links to the coal fields of Pennsylvania to set up what was then the world's largest steel mill just south of town. As well, the automobile (see below for more on that) and aviation industries, important ones locally as the 20th century wore on, were beginning to emerge around this time. Of course, within several decades Buffalo's industrial economy would suffer from a series of body blows from which it would never really recover — the Great Depression, the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway which enabled ocean-bound freighters to bypass the east end of Lake Erie completely, the genesis of the Interstate highways — but for now, the city was in its glory days.

Niagara Square as seen from the City Hall Observation Deck.

Before setting out on the road, it's worthwhile to explore Buffalo itself for a little bit. To a much greater degree than most U.S. cities, Buffalo has preserved quite a bit of its historic architecture and design, so you can still get a decent sense of what the city was like when the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway was open to early motorists. Probably the best place to do this is at the free observation deck at 1 City Hall on Niagara Square, which affords you a bird's-eye view over the period architecture and design of downtown from the 28th floor of the building. The observation deck is only open weekdays during business hours, but even if you're here on a weekend, 2 Niagara Square itself makes a fine showcase, including several features that were extant in 1926: the Hotel Statler on the northeast side between Delaware Avenue and Genesee Street; the Buffalo Athletic Club Building and One Niagara Square next door to each other on the southeast between Delaware and Niagara Street, and the McKinley Monument in the center. City Hall itself was not long in the future either, opened in 1931.

While this itinerary starts at the corner of Main and Scott Streets in downtown Buffalo, the original route of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway began two blocks north at the corner of Seneca Street, where it intersected with the Susquehanna Trail, another early auto trail. Today the northernmost blocks of the route are closed to vehicular traffic, as was the entirety of Main Street downtown in the early 1980s when the Metro Rail was built. But the "Cars Sharing Main Street" program is seeing the pedestrian mall gradually redesigned and reopened to cars — the stretch between Scott and Exchange Streets is scheduled to be completed by 2021.

By contrast with Niagara Square, lower Main Street is one part of Buffalo that looks absolutely nothing like it did back in the day. In 1926, it was a swath of somewhat downmarket commercial buildings sandwiched between the former rail yard and depot of the Lehigh Valley Railroad on the northeast, the warehouses and industrial works of what's now called the Cobblestone District on the southeast, and to the west, the notorious Canal District where poor Italian immigrant families lived in tenements interspersed with seedy bars and brothels. Who would have guessed that this area would someday be the tourist epicenter of Buffalo: 3 Canalside, a waterfront playground offering a bevy of activities and attractions including the Explore & More Children's Museum and the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park, harbor cruises and kayak rental, a lengthy slate of festivals, and in the winter, New York State's largest outdoor ice rink as well as Buffalo Sabres hockey at the KeyBank Center. And if you'd like to grab a bite to eat before setting out on the road, it's almost needless to say that you've got plenty of options in this neck of the woods: a couple of good ones are Pizza Plant at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel (on what was once the site of the old Lehigh Valley terminal), or the Labatt Brew House in the Cobblestone District for some not-half-bad pub grub.

A bit further afield is the...

  • 4 Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, 263 Michigan Ave. (about ½ mile [900 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via Scott Street and Michigan Avenue), +1 716 853-0084. Th-Sa 11AM-4PM. The exhibits here run heavily towards antique cars of the type that would have plied the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway during the days of the auto trails, including quite a few Pierce-Arrows, the luxury brand that made up the backbone of the Buffalo automobile industry until the company's 1938 bankruptcy. The museum's pièce de résistance, though, is a filling station built according to an original blueprint by Frank Lloyd Wright, which he drew up in 1927 (the year after the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway's opening) and had originally intended to be built a few blocks away at the corner of Cherry Street. $10, seniors $8, children $5, guided tour $15.

But without further ado, let's hit the road!

From the corner of Scott Street, proceed southward along Main Street for two blocks, whereupon the road veers sharply left behind the KeyBank Center and becomes South Park Avenue. Proceed eastward.

The view of Elevator Alley from Mutual Park as seen in December 2017. Hopefully you're enjoying better weather than this for your trip down the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway.
As you proceed along South Park Avenue, Buffalo's downtown business district quickly gives way to working-class residential neighborhoods in the shadows of Elevator Alley, the world's largest extant collection of grain elevators lined up along the Buffalo River. A short detour southward toward the river through the now-gentrifying "shantytown Irish" stronghold of the Old First Ward will give you a real sense of the industrial muscle that Buffalo once flexed. Mutual Park at the foot of Hamburg Street affords you a nice 180° panorama, which you could never have enjoyed in the 1920s: back then, the river was always chock-a-block with freighters loading and unloading at the elevators, which would have blocked your view! Mutual Park is also the site of:
  • 5 Waterfront Memories & More, 41 Hamburg St. (½ mile [750 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via Hamburg Street), +1 716 840-9580. Tu & Sa 10AM-2PM. With exhibits of historic photographs, documents, newspaper clippings, school and church records, family histories, and other archival material culled from the combined personal collections of museum co-owners Bert Hyde and Peggy Szczygiel, Waterfront Memories & More is a neighborhood heritage museum dedicated to the history of Buffalo's riverfront, harbor, and industrial district from pre-Columbian times through the construction of the Erie Canal up to the city's industrial heyday during the time of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway. As well, the museum hosts special events on a regular basis. Free.

Continue eastward along South Park Avenue.

Heading out of the Old First Ward, you pass over the Buffalo River via an enormous lift bridge and enter the newer but still working-class neighborhood called the Triangle. Descending from the bridge, you see the Tesla Gigafactory 2 on your right, where Elon Musk and company manufacture their much-touted solar roofs: a key piece, hopefully, of Buffalo's 21st-century industrial sector. Needless to say, Tesla wasn't here in the 1920s — this was the site of Republic Steel's Buffalo plant, the second-largest in the area until its closure in 1982.

The second traffic light after the Tesla Gigafactory is the corner of South Park Avenue, Bailey Avenue, and Abbott Road...

You're now entering South Buffalo proper. In the old days, the Old First Ward had almost as bad a reputation for crime, poverty, and social ills as the Canal District did. As the 19th century gave way to the 20th and Buffalo's Irish-American community gained in political and economic clout, many of them became affluent enough to escape the crowded Ward and move to the more spacious districts on the opposite side of the river, which by the 1920s were thriving neighborhoods with a decidedly greener and more suburban look and feel. Today, South Buffalo remains middle-class and proudly Irish: in fact, if you were to proceed straight at this intersection, you'd find yourself on Abbott Road heading into Buffalo's official Irish Heritage District, in which you'd find the Buffalo Irish Center, scruffily friendly pubs like Doc Sullivan's and Molly Maguire's where the Guinness flows freely, and even bilingual street signs (purely decorative; the actual Gaelic-speaking population of South Buffalo is effectively zero). But instead of that, we're going to...

...make a slight right at the light to stay on South Park Avenue, following the signs for U.S. Route 62.

Compared to Abbott, the old South Park Avenue commercial district has a decidedly down-at-the-heels look to it nowadays. But it does serve an important role as a link to South Park, the lovely setting for one of Buffalo's most enduring cultural institutions:
  • 6 Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, 2655 South Park Ave., +1 716 827-1584. Daily 10AM-5PM. Finding their roots (so to speak) in landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted's plan for formal plantings of native shrubbery and test gardens in South Park, the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens took on the full scale of their present identity in 1898, when designers Lord & Burnham built the conservatory that still stands today at the entrance to the park (many years later, the same firm would go on to design the National Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C.) Today, you'll find several collections of plants — the Panama Cloud Forest & Epiphyte Pavilion, the Palm Dome, the Florida Everglades pavilion, the Victorian Ivy & Herb House, the Orchid House, and the Rose Garden are only a few — arranged carefully in Victorian style. $7, seniors and students $6, 12 and under $4, members and children under 3 free. Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens on Wikipedia
Maybe not surprisingly given its name, South Park lies on Buffalo's southern city line. Beyond it is 2 Lackawanna, the rough-and-tumble company town built around the Lackawanna Steel Mill; as mentioned before, the largest in the world in the days of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway. But steel is only one of Lackawanna's two claims to fame. The other one... well, you probably caught a glimpse of it coming down South Park Avenue toward the botanical gardens, but now at the corner of Ridge Road it's staring you right in the face.
Our Lady of Victory Basilica as seen coming down South Park Avenue from the direction of the Botanical Gardens.
  • 7 Our Lady of Victory Basilica, 767 Ridge Rd., +1 716 828-9444. Daily 6AM-9PM; guided tours Su 1PM & 2PM. Father Nelson Baker was a towering figure in early-20th century Buffalo: as head of St. John's Orphan Asylum and Infant Home, which together looked after tens of thousands of children and babies every year, he's the reason behind Lackawanna's official nickname, the "City of Charity". After a devastating fire, Father Baker had to rebuild, and the end result was his magnum opus: Our Lady of Victory was completed in 1926 (the same year the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway opened to traffic) to an exquisitely ornate Baroque Revival design by Emile Ulrich, boasting gleaming white walls of Georgia marble and an 80-foot (24 m) copper-topped dome that was the second-largest in the country at the time of its construction, behind only that of the U.S. Capitol. In terms of describing the basilica's architectural grandeur, the list of superlatives could go on indefinitely — this is the kind of place that can't be done justice in words; you really have to see for it yourself — but to make a long story short, Our Lady of Victory is by far the grandest church in the metro area, which if you've read our article on Buffalo's churches you know is no small potatoes. Free. Our Lady of Victory Basilica (Lackawanna, New York) on Wikipedia
Pressing further southward along South Park Avenue, the environs become increasingly suburban. About a mile and a half (2.3 km) past the Basilica, you cross from Lackawanna into the town of 3 Hamburg. There's not much for travellers to see here per se, but if you've worked up an appetite and you're in the mood for anything beyond country-style roadhouse diners or the occasional fast-food joint, this is your last chance for a while. Detour east down Milestrip Road toward the McKinley Plaza and Quaker Crossing for a panoply of mid-range national chains, or head further south into the Village of Hamburg for locally-owned places, many offering surprisingly creative and upscale menus. Hamburg is also known as home of the Erie County Fair, the Buffalo Raceway, and the Hamburg Gaming casino. The first of these two would have been familiar to travellers along the original Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway, but the latter didn't open until 2004, three years after "racinos" with video slot machines became legal in New York State.

As you proceed southward toward the Village of Hamburg, you'll pass through three roundabouts: the first at the intersection of Clark Street and Legion Drive, the second at Prospect Avenue, and the third at Main Street. It's confusing, but just continue to follow the signs for Route 62. At the last of the three roundabouts, you'll bear right onto Main Street through the charming village center (and a fourth roundabout, at the corner of Center Street). At the corner of Lake Street, the road bends to the left. You'll continue to follow Route 62 southward for the next 24 miles (39 km).

After Hamburg, suburbia rapidly peters out, the surroundings begin to take on the countrified experience typical of the route; the crests in the road get a little higher, the dips a little lower. You are now entering the first foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The next town down the line is 4 Eden, which as a destination for visitors has two claims to fame: one, the Eden Corn Festival (if you're making the trip in early August, be prepared to potentially have to reroute around the town center), and two, the...
  • 8 Original American Kazoo Company, 8703 S. Main St., +1 716 992-3960. M-Sa 10AM-5PM, F till 6PM. Founded in 1916, the Original American Kazoo Company was the first, and is today the only remaining, manufacturer of metal kazoos in the United States. The kazoo aficionado in your crowd will revel at the museum, situated in an old Victorian house on South Main Street and chock full of exhibits on this uniquely American musical instrument (and, Tuesday through Thursday, offering a look onto the production floor out back to see kazoos being made); the kitsch aficionado will revel at the collection of antique novelty kazoos (e.g. liquor bottle-shaped ones in celebration of the end of Prohibition); the stuffed animal aficionado will revel at the somewhat incongruous inventory at the gift shop, where Ty and Russ brand plushies abound. And don't forget to stop by the make-your-own-kazoo station before you leave — you won't find a souvenir like this anywhere else. Guided tours $2, self-guided tours free.
Passing southward along the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway through rural environs in the town of Collins, New York.
14 miles (23 km) past Eden, straddling the county line, is the small village of 5 Gowanda. In the 1920s, Gowanda was known as the "glue capital of America" — proximity to the also-thriving local tanning industry made the Eastern Tanners Glue Factory the largest in the country at the time, unfortunately for the waters of Cattaraugus Creek, into which chromium, arsenic, zinc, and other chemical by-products were dumped for many years. The factory closed its doors in 1985 and there's not much to see or do nowadays in this one-horse town, but if you're keen to stretch your legs a little bit (and don't mind a short detour off the highway), Gowanda is the main gateway to the:
  • 1 Zoar Valley (about 4 miles [6.5 km] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via Gowanda Zoar Road, Unger Road, and Vail Road), +1 716 372-0645. A stunningly picturesque canyon that Cattaraugus Creek has carved nearly 500 feet (150 m) deep into the soft shale bedrock below, Zoar Valley offers hiking (the two-mile [3.2 km] Holcomb Pond Trail takes you right to the rim of the gorge), fishing (the creek is well-known for brook, brown, and especially steelhead trout), and even white-water rafting when creek levels are high enough. Be careful if you visit, though: Zoar is officially classified a "State Multiple Use Area", not a state park, which means it's not maintained with safety barriers or other infrastructure to the degree you might expect. Consequently, deaths from falling down the cliffs make the local news every couple of years, and the remote and rugged terrain often complicates emergency rescue operations. Free. Zoar Valley on Wikipedia

Cattaraugus County[edit]

In the tiny hamlet of Dayton, New York, turn left off Route 62 onto State Route 353, which you'll stay on for the next 22 miles (36 km).

6 Cattaraugus is the first village you pass through along the Route 353 portion of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway, a place with a fairly distinguished industrial history in its own little way. The village got its start in the 1850s when the Erie Railroad built a station in town, which soon became a nexus of trade for the surrounding region: cheese, butter, apples, and maple syrup were foremost among the products that Cattaraugus-area farmers shipped to markets nationwide via railroad. By the 1920s, though, Cattaraugus had become almost a "company town" for Setter Bros., a leading manufacturer of veneered wood products, meat skewers, and lollipop sticks.
In Cattaraugus' historic village center, you'll find the:
The Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway passes through the historic village center of Cattaraugus. The American Museum of Cutlery is on the far right margin of the photo.
  • 9 American Museum of Cutlery, 9 N. Main St., +1 716 257-9813. Th-Su 1PM-4PM. Starting in the years after the Civil War and continuing to a certain extent today, the knifemaking industry was another linchpin of the Cattaraugus County economy — and the American Museum of Cutlery's mission is to chronicle its contribution to both the local and the wider American history with displays of antique knives, swords, axes, and other implements from pre-Columbian times through today. At the forefront of the museum's purview, though, is the story of the Cattaraugus Cutlery Company, long headquartered in Little Valley and the first, largest, and most renowned of the area's manufacturers (Admiral Byrd even took along a set of Cattaraugus knives on his expedition to the South Pole!) Free.
As you break more and more free of Buffalo's orbit, the surroundings become correspondingly more mountainous and isolated-feeling. 7 Little Valley is the next town over from Cattaraugus, but despite its status as county seat, there's not much happening there (unless you've come during the Cattaraugus County Fair in late July or early August). Really, the thing to do on this section of the highway is just kick back and admire the pastoral scenery. Depending on your carrier, cell phone service may be spotty along this stretch, but all the better for you to disconnect from your gadgets and enjoy the simple pleasures of a drive through the country, just like our 1920s forefathers used to.

About five and a half miles (9 km) past Little Valley, North State Street forks off Route 353. Hang a left onto it.

Before the arrival of white settlers, Cattaraugus County was part of the vast territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians, which covered all of New York State west of Canandaigua Lake as well as adjacent areas of northwestern Pennsylvania. But by 1850, the Seneca had been relegated to three reservations in the southern portion of their traditional homeland. The largest and most populous of these was the Allegany Reservation, a long snake of land straddling both shores of the river of the same name as it meanders through south-central Cattaraugus County, and you're currently approaching its northern boundary.
The city of 8 Salamanca, which you're now entering, is on the Allegany Reservation; in fact, it's the only city in the United States located on a reservation. But despite that, its population is and always has been majority-white. How is that possible? It's all due to a quirk in the wording of the treaty under which the reservation was founded: while the Seneca retained ownership of the underlying land, they were free to lease the land to whomever they chose, and any improvements built on leased land — buildings, streets, railroads — were the property of the lessee. This was the stable if occasionally tense state of affairs in Salamanca in 1926 when the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway was first established, but fast-forward to 1991, the end of the city's original 99-year lease, and massive changes were in the offing. The Senecas agreed to continue to lease the land, but at a higher price — $800,000 a year total, plus a lump-sum payment of $60 million to make up for the inequities in the original lease agreement, plus a new municipal tax to be paid by non-Seneca residents to the tribal government — and the Senecas were now asserting ownership of both the land itself and everything on top of it too. The residents balked, but the courts sided with the Senecas, and in 1997, the last fifteen households that were still holding out against the new terms were finally evicted. Today, the money collected in taxes and fees on non-natives gets redistributed equally among the citizens of the Seneca Nation — a form of universal basic income that's been in effect since long before anyone had heard of Andrew Yang.

After about a mile (1.8 km), North State Street veers to the left and becomes West State Street. Then, after its intersection with Erie Street, it changes names again — to East State Street. Continue straight.

The City of Salamanca was incorporated in 1913 as an amalgamation of what were once two adjacent villages, and nowadays it counts a population of about 5,500. The Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway runs through its northern outskirts, circumventing downtown entirely. But if you'd like to stop off, there are a couple of worthwhile attractions to check out.
  • 10 Seneca Iroquois National Museum (Onöhsagwë:de' Cultural Center), 82 W. Hetzel St. (1½ miles [2.3 km] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via West State, Center, and Broad Streets), +1 716 945-1760. Tu-Sa 9AM-5PM. The Seneca Iroquois National Museum trends more toward the dry/educational end of the spectrum than the engaging/entertaining, but if you have a more-than-passive scholarly interest in Seneca history, ethnology, religion, art, handicrafts, traditional medicine, etc. etc. ad nauseam, this museum's vast collection covers all those topics exhaustively. A special emphasis is placed on the 1965 construction of the Kinzua Dam downriver in Pennsylvania (more on that later), a tragic chapter in Seneca history whereby 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of tribal land — a third of the reservation's area, including some of its most fertile farmland and important cultural sites — were condemned and are now under the water of the Allegheny Reservoir. (Jimerson Town, the planned community at the west end of Salamanca where the museum is located, was one of two built by the federal government to house those displaced by the reservoir.) Outdoors there's an amphitheater where traditional cultural performances of various types are hosted. $9.50; seniors, students and military veterans $6; children 7-17 $5.25, children 6 and under free.
  • 11 Salamanca Rail Museum, 170 N. Main St. (¼ mile [250 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via North Main Street), +1 716 945-3133. Tu, Th & Sa 10AM-4PM. It's no stretch to say that Salamanca would not exist today but for the railroads. The low-lying swampland on which the city was built was useless to the Seneca but vital as a transportation link through the hilly terrain of the local area, and by the 1920s there were no fewer than three lines — the Erie, the Pennsylvania, and the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh — passing through town, by which tens of thousands of bundles of wood from the thick forests of southern Cattaraugus County were shipped every day to lumber markets nationwide. Today, the handsome old BR&P depot has been fully restored and reopened as a museum detailing Salamanca's railroad history through historic artifacts, old photos, and engaging video presentations. Donation.
But, above all, Salamanca is the gateway to...
Red House Lake in Allegany State Park.
  • 2 Allegany State Park (park entrance 2¼ miles [3.6 km] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via Wildwood Avenue and Parkway Drive), +1 716 354-9121. Th-Su 1PM-4PM. The largest state park in New York with a land area of 101 square miles (262 km²), Allegany traces its history back to c. 1904, when the heirs of wealthy Cleveland railroad magnate Amasa Stone sold off his vast Cattaraugus County hunting retreat to the state government, who went on to formally establish the park in 1921. Motorists along the original Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway would have found it mostly undeveloped, save for a few campgrounds (built using mostly World War I surplus tents) and a swimming hole, but the next decade would see the Civilian Conservation Corps hard at work blazing hiking trails, building roads and picnic areas, and generally improving the park to more or less its current state. As for modern-day travellers, Allegany is a great detour to take especially if time is not of the essence: hiking, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, some of the best cross-country skiing in the Northeast, sandy beaches on the shores of pristine mountain lakes, dramatic scenic overlooks, picturesque rock formations, and practically every other imaginable form of outdoor recreation awaits you amidst the forest-cloaked peaks and valleys of "Western New York's Wilderness Playground". But most of all, Allegany is almost inarguably the best choice for anyone who's keen to use a trip down the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway as an opportunity to "rough it" for a night: its numerous camping options encompass everything from standard tent and RV sites to posh vacation cottages to remote backcountry lean-to shelters. Entry fee $6 per vehicle, $7 if swimming, collected daily 9AM-4:30PM during high season (mid-June through Labor Day); weekends and holidays only during shoulder season (Memorial Day through mid-June and Labor Day through Columbus Day); tent campsites $18-30/nt and cabin rental $22-65/nt plus $5/7 nightly fee for non-residents of New York State respectively; see website for additional info. Allegany State Park on Wikipedia

Turn right from East State Street onto Central Avenue, and proceed two blocks to the corner of Wildwood Avenue. (You'll see a sign reading "Olean — 18 miles").

Even if none of these attractions interest you, another good reason to stop off in Salamanca is to fill your gas tank. New York State is constitutionally forbidden from collecting taxes of any kind on Indian reservations, and consequently the Senecas are famous among in-the-know Western New York road-trippers for tax-free gasoline, offering a savings of about 60¢ per gallon compared to off-reservation prices. First Nations Convenience, on the corner of Central and Wildwood Avenues, is the only gas station that's directly on the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway; if they're closed or you'd rather go elsewhere, head westward down Route 417 for about two and a half miles (4.4 km) and you'll find a bunch more near the I-86 onramps. If you're so inclined, tobacco products are also sold tax-free on the reservation; in fact, cigarette manufacturing has become one of the Senecas' most profitable industries.

Turn left on Wildwood Avenue and then stay straight for about six and a half miles (10.3 km) through the Town of Great Valley, following the signs for State Route 417 east and U.S. Business Route 219 south. At the split, turn right to stay on Business 219 and continue straight toward and past the onramps to Interstate 86. You're now on the mainline of U.S. Route 219.

As mentioned before (and as should be obvious given the signage you're seeing on the side of the road), when the auto trails were superseded by numbered highways in the early 1930s or thereabouts, this section of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway was designated U.S. Route 219. Originally, 219 consisted entirely of two-lane country roads like most of what you've been driving on thus far. However, in the early 1960s, the section south of Salamanca was upgraded to a so-called "super-4 expressway": that is, a four-lane divided highway with higher traffic capacity and usually higher speed limits, albeit with at-grade intersections instead of exit ramps.

About two and a half miles (4 km) past the Interstate ramps, you'll turn onto North Main Street. It's not signed very well, so pay attention.

The highway was also rerouted at that time to deviate around the village of 9 Limestone, which you're currently approaching. This same thing happened on numerous other stretches of the old Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway too, and in the driving directions this article provides, you'll notice that you're frequently directed to turn off numbered highways onto small-town Main Streets only to get back on the same numbered highway later on down the line. This is because, to the greatest degree possible given the modern-day road network, this itinerary has been designed to follow the original 1926 routing of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway.
There's nothing worth stopping for in Limestone, so...

At the south end of Main Street, merge back onto Route 219 southbound.

But then... (told you this happens frequently!)

One mile (1.6 km) down the road, on the left, you'll see the Cow Palace Bar & Grill on the corner.

If you're hungry, the place serves a full menu of pub grub but reviews are wildly mixed, so caveat emptor.
Welcome to Pennsylvania! For safety, respect their speed limits. And please fasten your seat belt.

Make a left there, and then an immediate right. You're now on Hillside Drive. If you're following the itinerary south-to-north, the merge from Hillside Drive onto the northbound 219 is a half mile (750 m) past the Cow Palace. This is actually the original routing of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway, but the guardrail in the middle of the modern-day 219 prevents southbound traffic from accessing the north end of Hillside Drive directly.

From there, the 1 Pennsylvania state line is just a third of a mile (500 m) away.

Pennsylvania Wilds[edit]

At the state line, Hillside Drive changes its name to East Main Street. Proceed south for four miles (6.4 km) to the corner of Main Street. Turn right, cross the bridge over Tunungwant Creek, and pass under the Route 219 overpass.

More than the railroads, more than lumber and wood products, more than cutlery, the historic economic linchpin of the so-called Twin Tiers region was petroleum — and 10 Bradford was one of a handful of boomtowns that sprouted on either side of the state line in the latter half of the 19th century. Certainly oil isn't the first thing that springs to most Americans' minds when they think of this part of the country (if they think of it at all), but in fact it was only some 60 miles (90 km) southwest of here in Titusville where it was first discovered that the "rock oil" the Seneca had been using medicinally since time immemorial was also useful as a fuel for lamps, leading sequentially to the foundation of the Seneca Oil Company, the drilling of the world's first commercial oil well in 1859, and the birth of the petroleum industry. All you have to do to grasp exactly how much oil meant to the area back in the day is grab a map and look at nearby place names: Oil City, Derrick City, Olean. By the time of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway, the focus of America's oil industry had shifted west to places like Texas, Oklahoma, and California, but Pennsylvania's wells were still productive and indeed renowned for the high quality of their product, with a chemical composition ideal for refining into lubricants. Bradford itself was the home of Kendall brand motor oil, famous for its high performance and popular for use in race cars, and its refinery today is the world's oldest in continuous operation.

At the west end of downtown, in front of the brick Emery Towers building, Main Street ends at the corner of South Avenue. Make a left.

Today, in one way or another, most of the prominent visitor attractions in Bradford touch on the oil industry and its impact on local history. South of downtown is where you'll find:
  • 12 Zippo/Case Museum & Flagship Store, 1932 Zippo Drive (¼ mile [300 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via Race and Congress Streets), +1 814 368-1932. M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 11AM-4PM; closed January 1 and 2, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Without petroleum, there'd be no butane, and without butane, the world would never have borne witness to the majesty that is the Zippo lighter. While inventor and Bradford native George Blaisdell didn't found the Zippo Manufacturing Company until 1932 — several years after the end of the auto trail era — this is still a worthwhile stop for aficionados of the Cadillac of cigarette lighters, well regarded for its high-quality metal construction and "windproof" flame. The W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company, on the other hand, is a brand that would indeed have been familiar to travellers on the original Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway: this manufacturer of pocket, fixed-blade, sporting, and kitchen knives was founded in 1889 by a trio of former employees of the aforementioned Cattaraugus Cutlery Company and is now a division of Zippo. Each in their own way, Zippo and Case have become icons of American pop culture — and their penchant for introducing limited-edition specialty designs and product lines has made them valuable collectors' items. The museum itself will regale you with the history of both brands, while the onsite store will sell you any of the dozens of models currently in production. Free.
Period architecture on Main Street in downtown Bradford. The eight-story, Art Deco-style Hooker-Fulton Building (right) was still five years in the future when the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway opened to traffic in 1926, but all the others in this picture would have been seen by motorists of the day.
  • 13 Penn Brad Oil Museum, 901 South Ave., +1 814 362-1955. F 9AM-4PM, Sa 9AM-2PM. The Penn Brad Oil Museum offers an informative if slightly kitschy overview of the McKean County oil fields and the community that sprouted up around them — in the words of the UncoveringPA website, the introductory video presentation will be right up the alley of "those who find themselves longing for the days of poorly produced" educational science filmstrips. The museum itself is stocked with genuine historic artifacts and machinery, with guided tours offered mainly by retired oil field workers, all the better to put everything in its proper context and glean firsthand knowledge of the industry. Outside, the grounds are peppered with exhibits such as a 70-foot-tall (21 m tall) replica derrick as well as a reconstructed "oil lease house" of the type 19th-century workers and their families would have inhabited. $5, seniors $4.50, children, active military and families thereof free.

About a mile and three-quarters (3 km) past Main Street, you'll see a sign directing you to make a left turn to get to Bradford, Salamanca, and Ridgway. You're at the corner of Owens Way. Turn left...

Originally, instead of turning onto Owens Way, you would have continued straight along South Avenue for another half-mile (750 m) onto the modern-day route. Nowadays, however, it's impossible to follow the original 1926 course of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway through this section: Route 219 was rerouted in the early 1970s to bypass downtown Bradford via a modern four-lane freeway, and while South Avenue does continue past Owens Way today, it ends in a cul-de-sac.

...then make your next right to merge onto the southbound Route 219.

Hopefully Bradford gave you your fill of urban luxuries, because it's the last you'll be seeing of that kind of thing for awhile. As you press southward, it becomes readily apparent why they call this part of the state the "Pennsylvania Wilds". The land is thickly wooded, traffic along the roads is minimal, and civilization seems to completely drop away. Your cell phone, which likely flickered back to life temporarily around Salamanca or so, is probably dead to the world again. As for scenery, the stretch of road immediately after Bradford doesn't afford you much of it — the tall trees make an opaque roadside curtain — but that will change soon enough.
About five miles (8 km) past Bradford along Route 219, you enter the vast 11 Allegheny National Forest, and you'll continue skirting its eastern boundary for the next 13 miles (20 km) or so. Functioning in many respects as a southern extension of Allegany State Park in New York, these 802 square miles (2,077 km²) are nowadays carpeted thickly with hardwood trees such as black cherry, black birch, and red and sugar maple, but to motorises on the original Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway they would have looked totally different. The original old-growth forests had been clear-cut over the second half of the 19th century as the lumbering, tanning (which used hemlock bark), and wood chemical industries made their mark on the local economy, and by the 1920s the landscape was one of denuded hills from horizon to horizon. The National Forest Service took over the land in 1923, but many doubted the forest would ever recover — the local nickname in those early days was the "Allegheny Brush Patch". But thanks in part to the dramatic decrease in the local deer population (victims of overhunting), that's exactly what happened as the 20th century wore on. Today, like the state park to its north, Allegheny is a great stop-off for those travellers who've got time on their hands: the full complement of outdoor pursuits it offers includes mountain biking (check out the exhilarating trails in and around Jake's Rocks, suitable for all skill levels), world-class fishing (pike, walleye, and muskie abound in these pristine mountain streams), hiking, horseback riding, and ATV riding (innumerable miles of trails crisscross the wilderness) in the warmer months, while in winter those same trails accommodate cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, and snowshoers. And if you're in search of a camping experience a touch more rustic and secluded than those you've yet encountered, you'll find an embarrassment of riches here, especially on the shores of the reservoir.
Further afield, the western portion of Allegheny National Forest is home to...
  • 3 Kinzua Dam, 1205 Kinzua Rd., Mead Township (15¼ miles [24.7 km] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via State Route 59), +1 814 726-0661. One of the largest dams in the U.S. east of the Mississippi, Kinzua wasn't built until 1965, long after the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway and the other auto trails were decommissioned. But for folks who want to really know this area, an understanding of its role as a shaper of the local geography and history is indispensable. Conceived as a belated response to Pittsburgh's Great St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936, the Kinzua Dam not only solved the flood control problem but also provided the region with 400 megawatts of hydroelectric power as well as opportunities for water-based recreation in the newly created Allegheny Reservoir and Quaker Lake. But that all came at a high cost to many of the folks upstream: the devastation wrought on the Seneca reservation by the creation of the reservoir was mentioned above, and more than a few non-native towns — Corydon and Kinzua in Pennsylvania; Onoville, Quaker Bridge, and Red House in New York — are now underwater as well. The days of the Army Corps of Engineers leading guided tours of the inside are over, but the scenic overlooks and walking trails around (and across!) the dam give a good sense of the scope of this modern-day engineering marvel, and the Visitors Center contains a small museum too. Plus, the waters nearby are home to some of the best fishing in Allegheny National Forest. Free. Kinzua Dam on Wikipedia
The view from the Kinzua Sky Bridge.
And to the east is...
  • 4 Kinzua Bridge State Park, 296 Viaduct Rd., Hamlin Township (8 miles [12.8 km] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via U.S. Route 6, Bridge Street, Lindholm Road, and Viaduct Road), +1 814 778-5467. Park open daily sunrise to sunset; visitors center open M-Sa 8AM-4PM (Jan-Feb), daily 8AM-4PM (Mar & Nov-Dec), daily 8AM-6PM (Apr-Oct); closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. It wasn't yet a state park, but the Kinzua Viaduct was extant and a viable side trip for travellers along the original Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway: not only was it notable as (what was once) the world's highest and longest railroad trestle, carrying the Erie Railroad 301 feet (92 m) over Kinzua Creek, but local lore claimed that a robber had once hidden $40,000 in gold somewhere near its base, attracting occasional treasure hunters. The state park was established in 1963, with hiking trails leading from the rim down to the bottom of the valley, but its pièce de résistance wasn't unveiled until 2011: several years after an F-1 tornado partially destroyed the viaduct (along with nascent plans to return it to active service after over 40 idle years), the remaining stub was repaired and reopened to pedestrians as the Kinzua Sky Bridge, offering dazzling panoramic views over the valley. If you're afraid of heights, this isn't the attraction for you, but if not, the scenery is unparalleled. Free. Kinzua Bridge on Wikipedia

The junction of U.S. Routes 219 and 6 marks the point where the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway passes out of Allegheny State Forest. Continue south on Route 219.

With a population of only about 400, 12 Wilcox is a small village by anyone's measure, but after the primeval wilderness you've been passing through for the past 30 miles (45 km) or so, it seems positively urban. Like many settlements of the region, the lifeblood of Wilcox's economy in the 1920s was the thick forests that surrounded it: the Wilcox Tannery, said to be one of the world's largest at the time, used the bark of the once-plentiful eastern hemlock to obtain tannin, used to cure leather. The company closed in 1962 and burned to the ground four years later, but there's still plenty of tannin to be found in Wilcox nowadays: since 1994 it's been home to the Winery at Wilcox, one of the largest in the state, producing 30 varieties trending toward the sweet and fruity (and pricey) all sourced from Pennsylvania grapes. (Needless to say, don't drink and drive.)

At the south end of Wilcox, Route 219 merges with State Route 321. Make a left to stay on the southbound 219, and proceed for another five and a quarter miles (8.6 km) into Johnsonburg. You'll come to the corner of Marvin Street — it's not signed, but there's a traffic light and a sign that reads "Veterans of Johnsonburg Bypass". Turn left.

In addition to lumber and tanning, the pulp and paper industry was another avenue by which the forests of the region were (and, to a certain extent, still are) exploited economically. Of all the mills splayed out along this stretch of the highway, the borough of 13 Johnsonburg is home to the largest. Founded in 1888 as the Clarion Pulp and Paper Company, at the time of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway's opening it had just been purchased by the Curtis Publishing Company of Philadelphia — best known as publisher of the Saturday Evening Post — and would soon go on to become the largest manufacturer of coated paper in the world. It's still in operation today as the 14 Domtar Corporation Johnsonburg Mill: if you're a Harry Potter fan, your books were most likely printed on paper made there.

After crossing the first of several bridges over the Clarion River, Marvin Street changes its name to Center Street. Continue straight.

Heading southwest along West Center Street past the Domtar paper mill in Johnsonburg.
The mill employees of the day (and the local populace of today) were by and large Italian-American, principally of Calabrian stock, whence another characteristic for which Johnsonburg was notorious in the 1920s: organized crime. Although it counted a population of only about 5,000 at the time, its reputation as a nexus for Mafia violence was so outsized that it earned itself the nickname "Little Chicago". Gangland history aficionados might want to make a stop at the old...
  • 15 Johnsonburg Hotel, 617 E. Center St. Established in the early 1890s by L. C. Horton, during the Prohibition era the Johnsonburg Hotel was a popular hideaway for big-city Mafiosi when they needed to lay low for whatever reason. Among the underworld luminaries who've slept here was Al Capone, on several different occasions — "Little Chicago", indeed. Out of business for many years, the building now stands vacant.

After a mile and a quarter (2 km) on Marvin and Center Streets, as you approach Route 219 once again, the road forks. Take the left fork and merge back onto the southbound 219.

After Johnsonburg, the thick canopy of forest begins to clear away somewhat, and scenic vistas begin to become visible.

You'll continue southbound on Route 219 for a little less than nine miles (about 14.2 km) past Johnsonburg, toward...

...14 Ridgway, which got its start in much the same way as the other towns you've passed through on this stretch: as a lumber camp. Every year, innumerable logs of high-quality hemlock, cork pine, and other local species were tied up into rafts and floated to Pittsburgh or other downriver destinations, or else cut into planks at local sawmills and shipped to market by railroad. By the turn of the century, local bigwigs had grown fond of repeating the claim that Ridgway was home to more millionaires per capita than any other U.S. city, and while that statistic is somewhat dubious — there were at least a couple dozen other industrial burgs in the Northeast and Great Lakes areas making the same claim — it's no doubt that the economy here was extraordinarily prosperous. And unlike many neighboring towns, which fell on hard times in the 1910s and '20s after the timber supply was exhausted, Ridgway was able to hold onto much of that prosperity by diversifying its economy: tanning, manufacturing, and coal came to claim places of prominence as time wore on. But every year in late April, the good old days of the lumber industry echo into the present with the...
  • 1 Chainsaw Carvers Rendezvous, former Motion Control Industries building, Gillis Avenue (about ⅔ mile [1 km] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via Main Street and Gillis Avenue), +1 814 772-0400. Where over a hundred creative artisans converge for a weekend-long sculpture competition, Ridgway-style: starting with an ordinary 8-foot (2.4 m) log, the namesake implement is employed to fashion magnificent wooden sculptures. Even if you're not competing yourself, it's free to watch, and if you're in the market for some chainsaw sculpture of your own, the finished pieces are put up for sale at the end — just make the artist an offer.

Within the borough of Ridgway, the road takes on the name North Broad Street. After you cross over the old Pennsylvania Railroad tracks and the bridge over Elk Creek, you enter downtown. The traffic light in the center of town marks the corner of Main Street.

Historic downtown Ridgway.
Old turn-of-the-century small-town downtowns don't come much more charming than Ridgway's, but take a closer look and you'll notice some really high-quality craftsmanship in the architecture: exquisite features that would be impressive on big-city buildings, but are truly extraordinary to see in an out-of-the-way place like this. Most of the prominent buildings in town were the handiwork of the partnership of Walter P. Murphy and J. S. Hyde. The Hyde-Murphy Company was renowned as one of America's foremost manufacturers of architectural millwork, providing trim, mantels, stairs, paneling, grillwork, art glass, and other materials not only to buildings in north-central Pennsylvania but, thanks to sales offices in Boston, New York City and elsewhere, throughout the Northeast. Today, the National Register of Historic Places-listed 16 Lily of the Valley Historic District comprises much of the downtown commercial district as well as the sumptuous mansions on the side streets to the south and east, once home to wealthy lumber barons. For the architecture buff, it's definitely worthwhile to linger and poke around for a bit.

Turn left at the light, and from there proceed straight for 17½ miles (28 km), following the signs for the southbound 219.

The next town down from Ridgway is 15 Brockway, which in 1926 had just been rechristened with its shortened name after having been called "Brockwayville" for the past century or so. Brockway had started out as a sawmill town like its neighbors, but just after the turn of the century its economy took a turn in a very different direction: the Brockway Glass Company was founded in 1907 and was the town's dominant employer by the time the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway opened. Manufacturers of glass containers, tubing, and later plastic products, the company was bought out in 1987 by Owens-Illinois, who still operates 17 O-I Crenshaw Plant 19 a couple miles (about 3 km) outside of town. If any of this piques your interest, and you happen to be passing through town on a Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, check out the...
  • 18 Taylor Memorial Museum, 765 Park St. (½ mile [800 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via Main Street, 8th Avenue, and Park Street), +1 814 265-8519. Tu & Th 1PM-5PM. Operated by the Brockway Historical Society, the museum's collection of locally manufactured glassware is vast, and its collection of artifacts relative to the agriculture, forestry, and mining industries of the region almost as much so. And if you happen to have ancestors from the area (doubly so if you're of Italian heritage), check out their genealogical research area. Donation.

In the center of downtown Brockway, at the traffic light where the Sheetz gas station is, you'll see signs directing you to turn left to stay on the southbound 219. Do so. After about seven and a half miles (11.9 km), you come to the onramps for Interstate 80, nowadays one of the two major east-west highways through Pennsylvania.

You're now approaching 16 DuBois, Clearfield County's seat and, with a population of around 7,500 (or nearly 20,000 if the surrounding "suburb" of Sandy Township is included), the largest city along the Pennsylvania Wilds portion of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway.

The Interstate highways didn't exist in 1926, so continue southbound on Route 219. About two miles (3.4 km) past the I-80 onramps, you come to the corner of DuBois Street.

DuBois was incorporated as a city in 1877, but before that it was an odd Frankenstein's Monster of two rival frontier settlements facing each other on opposite sides of Sandy Lick Creek, each with its own identity: DuBois itself, which you're passing through now, sprang up around John DuBois' lumber mill beginning in 1842, while Rumbarger, the land that makes up the modern-day downtown, was a coal mining community of slightly newer vintage. Though the amalgamated city took on the former's name, it was the latter's economic base that came to dominate, especially after the thick forests of the area began to be depleted. Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway motorists would have witnessed DuBois at its apex, sporting a population of nearly 14,000 and an economy centered around the vast deposits of bituminous coal of which Pennsylvania was then the nation's leading producer.

Make a right on DuBois Street and proceed into downtown. Half a mile (750 m) down the road is the corner of Main Street.

Though the salad days are long gone, modern-day DuBois still has all the trappings of a proper city, albeit a small one: here you'll find plenty of chain restaurants, hotels, and other services. There's even a shopping mall, the 1 DuBois Mall, where the lineup of national chain department stores includes JCPenney, Old Navy, Ross Dress for Less, Bath & Body Works, Big Lots, Dunham's Sports, and more. And if you're looking to bed down for the night after a long day of driving and aren't interested in roughing it at a campsite, this is the place to seek out lodging with all the modern creature comforts.

Turn left on Main Street.

Services aside, DuBois doesn't offer a whole lot that's of interest to visitors per se, particularly not those looking to approximate a 1926-authentic trip down the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway. Among the options that do exist are:
  • 19 Doolittle Station, 1295 Rich Hwy. Opening hours vary by attraction, see website for details. Without any navigable waterway in its vicinity, the railroads were DuBois' economic lifeline back in the day, and Doolittle Station is a kitschy roadside stopover that pays homage to that aspect of local history in a fascinatingly offbeat way. A historically accurate reconstruction of the old B&O Railroad depot from 1880 is surrounded by a cluster of authentic restored railroad cars, each containing a different attraction: a pair of restaurants serving '50s-style diner fare and gourmet farm-to-table cuisine respectively, a craft brewery, a model railroad museum, an animatronic dinosaur exhibit for the kids. And if you're looking for what's undoubtedly the most unique lodging experience along the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway, look no further than the Sleeper Car Bed & Breakfast, retrofitted into a historic 1901 Pullman Presidential car.
  • 20 Winkler Gallery of Fine Art, 36 N. Brady St. (about ⅓ mile [650 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via West Long Avenue and North Brady Street), +1 814 375-5834. Tu-Th noon-6PM, F-Sa 11AM-8PM. Founded in 2003, the Winkler Gallery was unknown to motorists along the original Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway — though if they deviated about half a dozen blocks eastward to the other side of downtown, they'd certainly have seen the building, erected in 1920 and then home to Klewan's department store. But travellers of the here and now are in for a treat, in the guise of one of the finest independent galleries in the United States. The Winkler Gallery does DuBois' art scene proud, not only in serving as a showcase for the works of namesake watercolorist Perry Winkler and the rest of the cooperative of local artists and artisans who run the place, but also with a full slate of traveling exhibits, artist workshops, and other educational programming to sink your teeth into. And the kids will love taking a ride on the gallery's fully restored antique carousel, now the world's oldest in working order (built c. 1896). Free.
"The Seer of Seers, the Prognosticator of Prognosticators, the Only One True Weather-Forecasting Groundhog".

Continue southward along Main Street for three and a quarter miles (5.2 km) past DuBois Street. As you approach its southern end, the road suddenly veers to the left, and you find yourself at a busy intersection across from a Sheetz gas station. Make a right and proceed southbound, following the signs for U.S. Route 119.

Though DuBois is the most populous town along this stretch of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway, 17 Punxsutawney is the main tourist draw. You probably know it as the home of Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who, according to popular American folklore, emerges from his burrow every year at sunrise on February 2, foretelling either six more weeks of winter (if he sees his shadow due to clear skies) or an early spring (if the opposite happens). Groundhog Day has been celebrated here in an official capacity every year since 1887 — in the era of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway, the celebration ended with a communal feast of barbecued groundhog, which was said to taste like a cross between pork and chicken — and it's definitely still the peak of the tourist season around these parts today. Gobbler's Knob (see below) is the center of the action on the big day: folks start showing up as early as 3AM to this hilltop clearing south of town, with a crackling bonfire and hot soup and coffee courtesy of local food trucks to fend off the bitter winter cold. The sunrise ceremony is emceed by the head of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, all decked out in top hat and tails for the occasion, and from there the revelry lasts a good two or three more days with craft fairs, spaghetti dinners, dances, wine tastings, and all manner of other celebrations.

16½ miles (26.7 km) past DuBois, you come to the corner of Mahoning Street. Make a right, following the signs for 119 southbound and State Route 36 northbound.

The 1993 Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day is what really put Punxsutawney on the tourist map — 40,000 people showed up at the Gobbler's Knob ceremony that year, a twenty-fold increase over the previous typical attendance and about six times the population of the town itself — and unsurprisingly, the local tourism industry takes the whole groundhog business very seriously indeed. Nowadays in Punxsutawney, Groundhog Day is a 365-day-a-year phenomenon: the strip mall at the east edge of downtown is called Groundhog Plaza and is anchored by a Shop 'n Save with a big sign in front advertising "GROUNDHOG SOUVENIRS", local streets are lined with a couple dozen fiberglass statues of Phil himself in various outfits and poses, and groundhog-themed attractions clamor for the attention of visitors all year round. These include:
  • 21 Gobbler's Knob, 1548 Woodland Ave. Ext., Young Township (1½ miles [2.5 km] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via East Mahoning Street and Woodland Avenue Extension), +1 814 618-5591. Though it's obviously a good deal quieter offseason, Gobbler's Knob is open to the public all year round, with a pleasant half-mile (800 m) walking trail through the woods, the grand stage and Phil's ceremonial stump left out on display for curious passersby, and as of 2020, the Groundhog Visitor Center, a centralized nexus for groundhog aficionados visiting the Punxsutawney area. Though the latter is brand-new as of this writing, future plans are for it to comprise a groundhog sanctuary, a small historical museum, a souvenir shop, and of course, the headquarters of the venerable Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Free.
  • 22 Phil's Burrow, Punxsutawney Memorial Library, 301 E. Mahoning St., +1 814 938-5020. M-Th 10AM-7PM, F-Sa 10AM-5PM. When he's not attending to his annual duties at Gobbler's Knob, you'll find Punxsutawney Phil relaxing in this glass-enclosed, climate-controlled terrarium built into the walls of the public library on charming Barclay Square. You can step inside to get a look if you like, but if you catch the library itself closed, you can see him from the outside of the building too — just look for the green awning. Free.
  • 23 Punxsutawney Area Historical & Genealogical Society, 400 W. Mahoning St. (¼ mile [280 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via West Mahoning Street), +1 814 938-2555. Lattimer House Th & Sa 10AM-4PM, F & Su 1PM-4PM; Bennis House Th-Su 1PM-4PM; Snyder Hill Schoolhouse by appointment. Groundhogs are all well and good, but if you'd rather delve into Punxsutawney's history as a lumbering, coal mining, and railroad center, check out this sprawling museum complex that comprises the Bennis and Lattimer Houses, a pair of handsome Victorian mansions facing each other across Mahoning Street at the west end of downtown, as well as the old one-room 24 Snyder Hill Schoolhouse south of town. Exhibits of historic artifacts, old photos and postcards, and interactive interpretive materials cover all aspects of local history, from pre-Columbian days through the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway era to modern times. And if you have family roots in the area that you'd like to research, here's the place to do it. Free.
  • 25 Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center, 201 N. Findley St. (400 feet [130 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via North Findley Street), +1 814 938-1000. M & Th-Sa 10AM-4PM year round, Apr-Dec also same hours on Tu, Jun-Aug also same hours on W. Punxsutawney's self-appointed nickname, the "Weather Capital of the World", is an odd one — doesn't literally every place on the planet have weather? — but this downtown museum does a pretty good job following through on that theme. The Weather Discovery Center focuses equally on the scientific and folkloric aspects of meteorology, with exhibits not only on Punxsutawney Phil and other traditional methods of forecasting but also subjects as diverse as tornadoes and thunderstorms, the water cycle, and emergency preparedness. $7, active-duty military and families thereof $6 with ID card, children 2 and under free.

After passing through downtown for four blocks, you come to the corner of Gilpin Street, where Routes 119 and 36 split off from each other. Turn left here, following the signs for the southbound 119, and continue straight for 23 miles (36.8 km).

Indiana County[edit]

Lovely pastoral scenery just south of Punxsutawney.
The stretch of road south of Punxsutawney is an especially beautiful one. By now, the forests have mostly given way to rolling meadows and fields of corn and hay, dotted with charming old stone farmhouses. Other than just relaxing and enjoying the passing scenery, there's not much to see or do on this stretch of the route itself, but a worthy detour is 5 Smicksburg, nine miles (15 km) west via State Routes 954 and 210. Its population is tiny — only 46 as of the last census, among the lowest of any incorporated municipality in the state — but Smicksburg is important as the heart of the local Amish country. Though Amish communities have existed in Pennsylvania since the 18th century, they didn't begin arriving in significant numbers in Jefferson and Indiana counties until some decades after the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway era. But thanks to their conservative dress, rejection of technology, and general avoidance of the evils of the outside world, the lifestyle of the Amish of Smicksburg isn't terribly different from what you'd have seen elsewhere in the state, in 1926 or any other time period. And as always, the Amish suspicion of outsiders coexists somewhat paradoxically with an economy based largely on catering to curious tourists, which means there's plenty of opportunity to get your hands on their famous high-quality furniture, quilts and other handicrafts, or to fill your belly with hearty Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. Remember, though, that the Amish are an observant religious sect who are big on the whole "keeping the Sabbath Day holy" business, so Smicksburg is not a particularly good detour if you're passing through on a Sunday; you'll find virtually all Amish-owned shops and restaurants closed on that day.

Continue southward along Route 119 to the offramp for the westbound State Route 110 (toward Creekside). Exit right and proceed for slightly more than a mile (about 1.8 km). You'll come to a sign for 2 Frye's Antique Mall on your right...

...where genuine antiques are offered up for sale by over 25 vendors under one roof, seven days a week: everything from Pennsylvania Dutch primitives to Victorian items to vintage collectibles. If you're looking for a place to pick up a 1920s-era keepsake to remember your trip down the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway by, Frye's might be worth a stop.

The sign at the fork in the road directs you to make a sharp right to continue on the westbound 110. Instead of doing that, continue straight. You're now on Old Route 119, headed toward...

18 Indiana, a town whose early history closely mirrors that of the others you've passed through along this journey: founded in 1805 and named the seat of the newly minted Indiana County eleven years later, its economy was at first based on timber; then, after the forests had all been clear-cut away, coal mining came to prominence. Such was the state of affairs that would have confronted travellers passing through on the original Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway, but Indiana's identity would soon take a hard turn in a different direction.

As you enter the Indiana borough limits, Old Route 119 changes its name to North 4th Street. Continue southbound. About two and three-quarters miles (4.4 km) past the turnoff from 110, you come to the corner of Philadelphia Street. Make a right.

Today, Indiana is best known as home of 26 Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). Founded in 1875 as the Indiana Normal School, a teacher training institute with only a few hundred students, it was still known as such in 1926 when the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway opened to travellers. But, the next year, the school was given the authority to confer degrees on graduates, and its name was changed to the Pennsylvania State Teachers College at Indiana. Today, with a full slate of undergraduate and postgraduate programs, a student population of over 11,000, and a sprawling campus just southwest of downtown, it's come to dominate the town both economically and demographically.
As well, with a climate that's ideal for the growth of a wide variety of popular evergreen species, Indiana is also known as the Christmas Tree Capital of the World. The industry was just beginning to come to prominence at the time of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway; 1918 was the year, and Indiana was the place, where Christmas trees were first farmed as a cash crop. Nowadays, you'll find dozens of tree farms dotting the surrounding countryside.

Continue westward on Philadelphia Street for four blocks.

Indiana marks the outer edge of the exurbs and satellite communities surrounding Pittsburgh. Modern-day travellers along the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway will notice that the landscape — while still often rural — becomes less remote-feeling. The towns you pass through along this next stretch tend to be larger and spaced closer together, and offer much more in the way of services for the traveller. As for Indiana itself, it's a great stop-off for those whose tastes skew more toward the hip and trendy — if you're looking for things like funky urban fashion boutiques, hipster record shops, interesting restaurants, and craft breweries, you'll get your first real taste of them since leaving Buffalo — and if a bed for the night is what you seek, hotel rooms come dirt cheap when IUP is on summer break.
The Silas M. Clark House (right) is one of several handsome old mansions you'll find in the area between downtown Indiana and the IUP campus. It's now home to the Historical & Genealogical Society of Indiana County.

At the corner of South 6th Street, turn left.

Indiana's got its share of visitor attractions, too:
  • 27 Historical & Genealogical Society of Indiana County, 621 Wayne Ave., +1 724 463-9600. Tu-F 9AM-4PM, Sa 10AM-3PM. As far as the exhibits go, it's pretty much your average run-of-the-mill small-town history museum, with displays of artifacts pertinent to Indiana and vicinity (with special attention paid to local military artifacts and history) as well as the onsite Frances Strong Helman Library for academic researchers and those looking into their Indiana County family roots. But the real reason to visit is the building itself: the Historical & Genealogical Society is located in the 1870 Silas M. Clark House, the magnificently restored Italian Villa-style residence of a prominent local attorney, political figure, and eventually State Supreme Court justice, and was serving as the local offices of the American Red Cross back in the days of the original Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway. Even if you've got no interest in the museum itself, fans of Victorian-era architecture should not miss the chance to gawk at this and the several other handsome old mansions that grace this section of Indiana. Free.
  • 28 IUP University Museum, Sutton Hall Room 111, 1011 South Drive (about ¼ mile [450 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via Grant Street), +1 724 357-2530. Tu, W & F 2PM-6:30PM, Th noon-7:30PM, Sa noon-4PM; closed for university holidays. Sutton Hall, the original building that housed the State Normal School, would have looked oddly out of place to 1926-era motorists on the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway: a grand, stately brick Italianate hall set amidst a scattering of farmhouses and fields on the outskirts of town. Nowadays, of course, it's the centerpiece of IUP's sprawling campus, and it's where you'll find this museum that seeks to "bring... the material history and arts of the region together in an environment that encourages exploration, dialogue, and enjoyment". Temporary exhibits tend to focus more on the "arts" half of the equation — if you're keen on getting acquainted with the local and regional scene, especially works by IUP students, check out the events calendar on the website — while the permanent collection deals more with local history and culture, including that of the university itself. If you're passing through in November or December, the annual "Holiday Wheels & Thrills" model train display is always a hit with the younger set. Free.
Though he was only a teenager at the time of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway's opening and his first role was still several years in the future, Hollywood movie star Jimmy Stewart would go on to become Indiana's most famous native son, with a boatload of major motion-picture credits to his name: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Philadelphia Story, Harvey, and of course the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life, in which his portrayal of George Bailey is widely regarded as his signature role. Today, Stewart's hometown pays tribute to him at the holidays with the annual It's a Wonderful Life Festival (featuring a Christmas parade, the lighting of the downtown Christmas tree, a free screening of the namesake film, and various presentations and exhibitions), and all year round at...
Evidently Jimmy Stewart isn't as big a star as Punxsutawney Phil; his hometown has erected only one statue in his honor.
  • 29 The Jimmy Stewart Museum, 835 Philadelphia St. (about ¼ mile [400 m] off the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway via Philadelphia Street), +1 724 349-6112. M-Sa 10AM-4PM, Su noon-4PM; closed July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day, New Year's Eve and Day. Inside the the third floor of the Indiana Borough Community Building is a vast trove of memorabilia that together recounts Jimmy Stewart's "wonderful life" not only as a leading man on stage and screen but also as a military hero, civic leader, husband and father. You'll see original movie posters, clothing and other personal effects, old photographs, artifacts from the hardware store his father owned in town, even the front door of the home where he lived in Hollywood after becoming famous. $10; seniors, students and active military $9, children 7-17 $8, children 6 and under free. The Jimmy Stewart Museum on Wikipedia
Even if the museum's not open or you're not interested in a visit, next door in front of the Indiana County Courthouse you'll see the 30 Jimmy Stewart Statue — a life-size bronze one of him as the title character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, unveiled on the occasion of his 75th birthday in 1983.

Proceed southward on South 6th Street for three blocks, whereupon you'll come to a fork in the road at the corner of School Street. Make a slight right onto Wayne Avenue and continue for about two and a quarter miles (3.7 km). You'll come to a strange, poorly signed intersection — almost half-highway offramp, half-regular intersection — with a Quality Inn on the left and signs up ahead directing Punxsutawney- and Ebensburg-bound traffic to stay straight via northbound U.S. 119 and U.S. 422. Make a right at this corner — you're now back on Old Route 119 — and continue straight for three miles (5 km). You'll come to a fork in the road at the corner of Mullen Avenue; bear right and then make your next left onto North Main Street.

19 Homer City is the town you're now coming into, founded in 1854 and named in honor of the ancient Greek epic poet. Unlike most of the places you've passed through thus far, Homer City was neither a lumbering center nor the company town of a nearby coal mine: rather, it coalesced around the grist mill that early settler John Allison built on the shore of Yellow Creek and, after the Pennsylvania Railroad built a branch line through town, grew into a small but prosperous market and service center for farmers and artisans of the surrounding region. Coal certainly plays a role in its modern-day economy, though: just outside the borough limits in Center Township is where you'll find NRG Energy's 31 Homer City Generating Station, the largest coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania whose Unit 3 boasts the tallest smokestack in the United States (and third-tallest in the world), at a height of 1,217 feet (371 m). The plant is easily visible from the highway — and, indeed, for miles around — but since there's no real reason to stop off in Homer City, we instead...

Continue south on Main Street, which changes its name back to Old Route 119 upon crossing the borough limits. After about a mile and a half (2.5 km), you come to the junction of (the present-day) U.S. Route 119. Turn right and proceed southward for a little over a mile (about 1.8 km). You'll come to the corner of Graceton Village Road (it's not signed very well; look for Bee Brite Laundromat on your right).

Remember: we're following the original 1926 routing of the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway as closely as possible, which often means turning off main highways onto smaller roads that run in a more-or-less parallel direction.

Turn right to get off 119 and then left onto Graceton Village Road, continuing southwestward parallel to the modern-day highway until you get to the corner of Graceton Road (look for the wooden sign on your left pointing the way to the Graceton Coral Sportsmen's Club). Make a right, then a left onto 1st Street. Note that there's a Jersey barrier that runs down the center of 119 blocking access to the northbound lanes from Graceton Village Road. So, if you're following this itinerary south-to-north, you'll have to get on 119 from Graceton Road directly. Follow the signs from the corner of 1st Street; it's easy.

Here we deviate off the modern-day highway through 20 Graceton and 21 Coral, a pair of tiny little twin hamlets with a population of about 600 between them. Not much to see or do here, obviously, but if you're itching to get out of the car and stretch your legs a bit, it's worth mentioning that this stretch of the route runs alongside the Hoodlebug Trail, which extends ten miles (16 km) from Indiana south to Black Lick on the bed of the now-defunct Indiana Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, which still in the auto trail days remained the main avenue of passenger transportation through the region. Nowadays it's open to joggers, bicyclists, and (in the winter) cross-country skiers.

Proceed southwest on 1st Street for about two-thirds of a mile (1 km). Turn left on Beech Street, then immediately thereafter make a right and get back on the southbound 119. Continue for asdgkedrgfaskljha

  • Black Lick?
  • Blairsville - Pennsylvania Canal; transportation center; different economic base?
    • Underground Railroad museum

For 12½ miles (20 km) beginning in Blairsville, the BPH ran concurrent with the William Penn Highway (modern-day US 22), another early auto trail running between Pittsburgh and NYC. Today, this is the fastest and most modernized stretch of the route — more like an Interstate than a country road. Pittsburgh-bound traffic had two options: either continue westward along the William Penn Highway after the splitoff at New Alexandria, or continue south to Greensburg and take the Lincoln Highway (modern-day US 30) into town.

The original routing of the highway through New Alexandria went along Main Street and West Main Street. It's no longer possible to go that way when headed north to south because the turnoffs to Main Street are inaccessible from the southbound lanes of the 119 and vice versa, but note this for those doing the itinerary in the opposite direction.

Laurel Highlands[edit]

Downtown Greensburg, looking west down Otterman Street (the westbound Lincoln Highway) from the corner of Main Street (the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway). Along with the William Penn Highway, the Lincoln Highway was one of two auto trails where Pittsburgh-bound traffic would turn off: from here, it was only 30 mi (48 km) further to downtown.
  • Greensburg
    • Westmoreland Museum of American Art
  • Mount Pleasant
    • Mammoth Park
  • Connellsville

After Connellsville, quasi-suburbia gives way once again to an isolated rural milieu.

  • Between Connellsville and Uniontown, you're within striking distance of Frank Lloyd Wright's Duncan House, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob; Ohiopyle is over there too
  • Uniontown

West Virginia[edit]

The stretch of modern-day US 119 and 19 from Point Marion, Pennsylvania (just before the West Virginia state line) through Fairmont presents the most challenging driving conditions on the BPH, through isolated backwoods terrain. If you're not used to driving on country roads, keep your wits about you. Steep grades, narrow lanes, and sharp curves predominate. Posted speed limits are noticeably lower than previous and subsequent sections — commonly 35-40 mph — and strict obedience to them is even more important than otherwise. OTOH mobile phone service is much stronger here than e.g. the Pennsylvania Wilds.

  • Morgantown
    • WVU stuff
    • Personal Rapid Transit? (maybe infobox?)
    • other than Buffalo, this is probably best city for quote-unquote "culture" along the entire highway — interesting ethnic restaurants, funky shops, nightlife, etc.
    • Probably should warn that Snider St. coming into town is very narrow & steep w/no guardrails. Be extremely careful especially in wintertime.
  • Fairmont

The final stretch of highway, between Fairmont and Clarksburg, is more open and a bit less hilly, passing alongside the West Fork River through farmland dotted with small towns.

  • Clarksburg
    • BPH actually ends on outskirts of town @ jct US 19/US 50, but it's worthwhile to go into downtown and check out architecture, etc.

Stay safe[edit]

Mountain/rural driving. Narrow/curvy roads, watch out for animals, snow & ice in winter, be extra careful at night. Mobile reception is generally good but spotty service in some areas for some carriers (esp between Cattaraugus County & DuBois)

Crime in any of the cities along the way? (Buffalo?)

Go next[edit]

Susquehanna Trail (Niagara Falls --> Washington DC) passed through Buffalo. On the WV side, w:Northwestern Turnpike = US 50, not an auto trail but historic nonetheless.

Where to fit Pittsburgh in here?

  • if headed N-S
    • further south along US 19 to Mountaineer Expressway, New River Gorge
    • or turn east toward Berkeley Springs & Harpers Ferry
  • if headed S-N
    • NIAGARA FALLS
    • Toronto
    • Erie Canal?
  • if you simply want to go back the fast way from Clarksburg to Buffalo, US 50 E --> I-79 N --> I-90 E. Reverse direction to get from Bflo to Clarksburg, obvs.

Routeboxes (delete this section when article goes live)[edit]

see User:AndreCarrotflower/Buffalo-Pittsburgh Highway/route

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