Pennsylvania has some of the oldest historical tourist sites in the United States. We are lucky in that way, but there are some beautiful and interesting places that are slightly off the beaten path that we don’t hear much about.
I thought it would be fun to write about them for this week’s article. Of course, they all have an agriculture connection, and if you can’t make a special trip, you “may be in the area someday,” as they say.
Harmony Historic District and the Harmony Barn
Harmony, in Butler County, was founded as a utopian settlement in 1804 by George Rapp. Residents were known as Harmonists.
By 1814, the town had approximately 150 structures, including homes and a variety of commercial buildings. Rapp sold the community assets to a group of Mennonites in 1815 and moved his followers to Indiana, only to return to Pennsylvania in 1825, settling in Economy, Beaver County.
Harmony’s historic district contains old homes and a museum, with guided tours of several of the old buildings. You can schedule a time to see the 1805 Harmonists’ barn, the oldest barn in western Pennsylvania.
For more information, visit harmonymuseum.org.
The Harbison Dairy Milk Bottle in the Kensington section of Philadelphia
Harbison’s Dairy started processing milk in 1865 and quickly became a household name. In 1914, the company erected a water tower shaped like a milk bottle on its roof, dubbed the Eiffel Tower of Kensington.
The factory closed in the 1960s, and in time the milk bottle began to deteriorate. A group of citizens repaired and repainted Kensington’s Eiffel Tower, which is now a designated landmark.
The bottle can be seen at 2041-55 Coral Street in Philadelphia and is easily visible from I-95 and the Market-Frankford Line of SEPTA.
Church Farm School, Exton
The Church Farm School was founded in 1918 as a boarding school for boys from families in need. The campus grew to 1,700 acres, housing large dairy and hog operations. Many crops were also produced. Boys who attended the school were required to work on the farm half of each school day.
Agricultural operations were sold in the 1970s, but the older buildings, including silos and dairy barns, remain as historical sites.
The school is located off Route 30. Its website is gocfs.net.
Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines, Pottstown
Incorporated in 1888, Ryerss Farm was originally known as the Ryerss Infirmary for Dumb Animals, receiving its first animal in 1889.
Visitors are welcome to see the horses in residence, and you can even register your horse for future care. Some of the older buildings remain on the property, which is at 1710 Ridge Road.
Bassett’s Ice Cream, Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia
Bassett’s Ice Cream of Philadelphia began operations in 1861, in New Jersey, and is America’s oldest ice cream company.
When the Reading Terminal Market opened in 1892, Lewis Dubois Bassett, whose ice cream was already popular in Philly, opened a shop in the market. It still exists, old marble counters and all.
Go and try a taste of the pomegranate blueberry chocolate chunk, if you are so inclined.
And check it out online at bassettsicecream.com.
The Armsby Calorimeter, Penn State University
Even if you venture occasionally onto the Penn State campus, or visit State College for some other reason, you may have walked by the building housing the Armsby Calorimeter and not even known it.
The calorimeter, proposed in 1898 by Henry Armsby, and completed in 1902, is in a small building on Ag Hill that is still used as a teaching tool. It measures how much energy an animal derives from various feeds, and it helped form the basis of animal nutrition practices today.
You can arrange to see the calorimeter by calling 814-863-1383 or emailing email@example.com.
And while you are there, stop by The Penn State Berkey Creamery for ice cream or smoked cheese curds.
These sites are just a small part of the beautiful historical agriculture landscape we are so fortunate to have. I hope you get to visit each of them at some point.
The Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board is always available to respond to questions and concerns. I can be reached at 717-210-8244 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.