Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Last Story

A couple weeks before exiting the newspaper industry, photographer Celeste Van Kirk and I traveled about 10 miles down U.S. Route 40 to Scenery Hill, Pa. It's such a unique town, so I wrote about it for the "Favorite Places" segment in July's edition of Living in Washington County magazine produced by the Observer-Reporter. What follows is my final story for the O-R.

Century Inn: A Scenery Hill Landmark

SCENERY HILL, Pa. - The stunning view is the first thing that strikes a motorist traveling down U.S. Route 40 into Scenery Hill. But it’s the people and charming shops in this historic town that keep visitors coming back.

Originally known as Springtown, it later became Hillsborough to honor Stephen Hill, who designed the village in 1819 after the completion of America’s first national road. The obelisk mile markers that dot the National Road still count down the mileage to Hillsborough, even though the name permanently changed to Scenery Hill in the late 1800s.

The village has become a hodgepodge of consignment shops, craft stores and antiques dealers. Quaint homes and churches are sandwiched between these unique shops, but one of the most interesting attractions might be the Century Inn.

Hill built this home in 1794, and it soon became an inn and tavern, according to server William Harvey.

Gordon and Mary Amanda Harrington bought the building for a "hefty sum" of $17,000 in 1945, Harvey said, and the family from Charleroi refurbished the house. The Harringtons’ daughter-in-law, Megin Harrington, currently operates the restaurant and inn.

Harvey, who has worked at the Century Inn since 1973, thinks there are a few reasons why Scenery Hill has become a tourist attraction.

"The view is obvious," Harvey said. "The people here are very friendly, and we work as a team. Being that it started as a frontier town, I think everyone here is very accepting of people who are different or new."

A short walk down the road brings visitors to Jan’s Tea Shop.

The owner, Jan Dunker, has lived in the area most of her life and opened this store in 1980. The building at times has housed a grocery store, ice cream shop and car dealership showroom.

She said the village sprouted along the National Road because it took a full day to navigate the trail from Washington or Brownsville, meaning travelers needed a place to stay the night before continuing their journey.

Those same 12-mile trips take less than 20 minutes today.

"To me it’s home," she said while fiddling with a coffee bean roaster.

Her friend, Linda McCracken, usually sips coffee while chatting in the shop. She is originally from Monessen and moved here 20 years ago after meeting her husband, Skip.

"It’s quiet," McCracken said. "People are friendly, and I enjoy visiting friends like Jan. You get a lot of people passing by."

So in that respect, not a lot has changed in this village along the National Road.

"Only that the roads are in a little bit better condition," McCracken said.

Dunker added: "And the mode of transportation has improved."

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.