This is my first post documenting our family adventures. We try to make them a weekly occurrence on Saturdays or Sundays (sometimes both!) We all pile in our conversion van and head out for a few hours to see sights in the area. They are usually not in the city because we are not huge fans of crowds and you never know what sort of traffic nightmare you might be in for if there’s an event. That being said, we are not afraid to drive. A lot of our adventure is spent in the car and I would be lying if I told you that there is no complaining from the children. Everyone in the car has at least one meltdown during every trip (adults included) but we are together and making memories we will laugh about later. Like the time we drove almost an hour north near Butler to find a covered bridge that didn’t exist. Frustrated, my husband accidentally stalled out my car by shifting into reverse too fast. That was fun.
My sources for finding spots to visit are varied and include websites, books, google maps, news stories, and especially local legends/ghost stories. One of my favorite websites for finding strange attractions is Atlas Obscura. The best feature is their map where you can zoom in on the area you will be visiting. You can click on each of the markers to read an article about what is there.
Atlas Obscura led us to one of today’s destinations: Arthurdale, WV. Arthurdale Historic District aka Eleanor Roosevelt’s Little Village was the first of many New Deal planned communities during FDR’s presidency. It was a pet project of Eleanor and she spent a lot of time and money trying to start and maintain it. The community was meant to improve the lives of unemployed coal miners and their families by providing housing and collective support through cooperative businesses. The miners were to sustainably farm on the land and work in various businesses in the town to support the local economy. Eleanor championed the project for 8 years before the federal support was pulled while WWII was ramping up. In 1941, the federal government sold all of the holdings at a loss.
We parked at the Arthurdale Heritage, Inc which holds a visitor’s center, museum, and gift shop. It was closed (minus one point for poor planning) at the time (opens at 1PM on Sundays) but we took a short walk around the grounds. In one window, you can see a mannequin sitting at a loom. The boys posed for a picture.
We walked behind the museum building to check out a lot of the cool ruins. It was rainy and cold and Johnny refused to wear his jacket.
He said he saw a snake.
After being outside for a while, we needed some comfort food. I checked Google Maps and saw a place called Miller’s Eats and Sweets in nearby Masontown, WV.
They had loads of desserts in a glass case when you first walk in but we went straight upstairs to the dining area. On the menu, there were almost too many breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. The favorite at the table was the garbage plate breakfast.
I got some Strawberry Lasagna for home and I will be eating it during tonight’s Game of Thrones. YUM!
After lunch, we headed back over the Mason Dixon line (we actually saw a sign marking it as such) and went to Friendship Hill. It is a National Historic Site and one of 5 in Western Pennsylvania. The other four are Allegheny Portage Railroad, The Flight 93 Memorial, Fort Necessity, and the Johnstown Flood Memorial. Friendship Hill was the country estate of Albert Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury during the Jefferson and Madison presidential terms. During his thirteen year term as treasurer (longest term in U.S. History), he was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. Gallatin was also a Senator, Representative, and a U.S. Ambassador to both France and the UK. The large house sits overlooking the Monangahela River just outside of Point Marion, PA.
A bronze statue of Gallatin looking out over the river.
The house is massive and was fully constructed in stages. You can read about Gallatin’s process of building it here on the Post-Gazette website. When we walked in the house, we could hear period music playing. George said we should try to find where it was coming from so we went into the next room to find a volunteer actually playing a flute. The volunteer took a break from playing to tell us about this specific room. We were in the Ladies’ Parlour which was adjacent to the Men’s Parlour. The family and guests would talk and play cards here (a game called Wisk.) He explained that the floors we were walking on were newer (added by the last private owner) but in a cross section cutaway, you can see the original floors that Gallatin put in. You can also see into the stone-lined basement.
Gallatin and the Marquis de Lafayette actually sat in the Men’s Parlour when the French general visited in 1825 on his tour of the U.S.
The staircase leading up to the third floor was beautifully preserved and off-limits to visitors. They must have known George was coming.
We went into the old stone kitchen and both Johnny and George were terrified of this faceless lady.
On the second floor (accessible from the servants’ stairs) we found some rooms set up like bedrooms.
Johnny and George were definitely terrified of these faceless children.
George kept an eye on them from afar.
We found a room with a view and an excellent place to catch up on your correspondence.
Before exiting through the gift shop, we picked out some prints to be framed and stamped our Passport Book. The Passport Book is a neat way to document your journeys to various National Historic Sites.
Each site has a stamper with the name of the location and today’s date.
There are also pockets in the book where we place postcards from each location we visit in our van.
We left the building to explore some of the 675 acres that make up the estate. We found commanding views of the river valley.
While everyone else got the van, George and I decided to explore a trail that led to the grave of Gallatin’s first wife, Sophia. How she died is a mystery lost to time and her grave isn’t marked save for a stone wall around it.
George was looking for rocks (of course) to throw in any water we might find but I made him put this one back. I noticed a lot of the trees lining the trails had a single rock at their base. I didn’t know if it was intentional and definitely didn’t want to take one.
We found a pond!
You see alligators in a pond one time (last April in Myrtle Beach) and every single pond must have them. George said we should get out of there because he saw alligator eyes peering out of the water.
We could see the van approaching as we walked next to this large field.
“Mom, I’m getting really, really tired.” I told him one more picture and the way he said “cheese” was so disheartening.
We got back in the car and George was out!
Family Adventure Success!
Check out this map of the places we visited.