THE BRANDYWINE VALLEY, LANCASTER & GETTYSBURG

 

ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN’S E-BOOK:

Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, is an ideal base from which to travel into the surrounding countryside, beautiful in its rolling hills and valleys. The towns of these neighboring suburbs, particularly those in the Brandywine Valley, have some of the best museums and attractions to be found anywhere. Nearby Pennsylvania Dutch Country provides you with the opportunity to see the Amish and the Mennonites as they live their lives according to their long-held customs and beliefs, while Valley Forge and Gettysburg offer a very different kind of experience-that of learning of the conflicts that have shaped our nation’s history. Your choice of one or more of these excursions will depend upon the time available to you and the depth of your interest, whether it be as a tourist or as a scholar, but all are worthwhile.

Recommended Pacing: The highlights of this itinerary are memories in the making and if you select based on your personal interests, you’ll be rewarded many times over. A quick tour of the highlights of the fabulous museums and gardens close to Philadelphia can probably be accomplished in two days-visits that give you an opportunity to study and to linger may take three to five days. Getting a feel for the Amish and Mennonite way of life can be accomplished in a day, unless you go their markets on market day, or tour the farms and homes open to the public. Time spent touring the visitors’ center and then driving through the battlefields at Gettysburg will vary with the level of your interest-this can be a day-long trip or if you find this period of history one that fascinates you, you could spend two to three days in the area. For sightseeing in Philadelphia itself see Philadelphia Itinerary.

Nearby points of interest include The Barnes Foundation only 5 miles south of the city center via I-76 to Route 1 in the town of Merion. The gallery was built by Dr. Albert Barnes, a wealthy physician and pharmaceutical manufacturer, to house his incredible art collection. This now includes more than 1,100 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Monet, Manet, Picasso, Modigliani, and others of these schools. (610-667-0290) Traveling a little farther, southwest of Philadelphia on Route 1 you will find yourself in the Brandywine Valley. This area in the southeast corner of the state abutting Delaware has a rich history, starting with the arrival in 1682 of William Penn, and offers many attractions including lovely mansions, gorgeous gardens, and fascinating museums, as well as beautiful countryside. The Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford is the first of the many attractions. This museum, located in a converted Civil War grist mill, focuses on the artwork of the Wyeth family-probably the most noted of all artistic families in America. The works of N. C. Wyeth, his son Andrew, and in turn his son Jamie are hung here in various galleries. In addition, there are changing exhibits of other area artists. (610-388-2700)

Just over the state line in Winterthur, Delaware, on Route 52, you find the outstanding Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library. If you are interested in the decorative arts of America, a half-day visit to this museum is a “must” and will make you crave for more. Originally the home of Henry Francis du Pont, this estate now houses a testimony to the arts and crafts of America. It was assembled through the purchase not only of specific works of art but also of complete rooms with their paneling, wall covering, art, and furnishings. Reservations are required for either the standard tours or for the special tours that focus on specific arts. A taste of this museum is a must: participation in any of their many study programs is a real reward. (302-888-4600)

A little farther along Route 1 from Chadds Ford, you come to Longwood Gardens. Pierre du Pont, one of the members of the family that founded the DuPont Company, expressed his interest in horticulture through the purchase of more than 1,000 acres of gardens, conservatories, and fountains in Kennett Square, which have become the world-renowned Longwood Gardens. Throughout the year there are changing gardens that follow the seasons. In the summer the festival of fountains during the day (and on some evenings with fireworks) are wondrous to behold. A visit here will take approximately half a day but if horticulture is of great interest, plan a full day. (610-388-1000)

Also in Delaware, on the outskirts of Wilmington on the site of the first DuPont powder works, is the Hagley Museum, an outdoor museum on 230 acres. While there is the home of E.I. du Pont, the first du Pont family home, to visit, the outstanding attractions of this museum are the waterworks and black powder works, which stretch along 2 miles of the Brandywine River. From the visitors’ center there is a shuttle bus that takes you along the route and stops at various points of interest. (302-658-2400)

Wilmington is also home to Nemours Mansion and Gardens. This Louis XVI-style château built in 1909 was the home of Alfred I. du Pont. Its 102 rooms are filled with European antiques and art and its extensive gardens present one of the best examples of French-style gardens in America. (302-651-6912)

Also on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Valley Forge National Park is 20 miles northwest of the city, via I-76 west. For those interested in the War of Independence, this visit is one not to miss. It was in Valley Forge that George Washington’s army of 12,000 troops camped in the winter of 1777. The British occupied Philadelphia at that time and the Continental forces were ill, badly trained, and in need of provisions. With assistance from Congress, the army began to rally and by the spring of 1778 had been transformed into a disciplined, spirited, and self-confident force, which went on to defeat the British at Yorktown. The visitors’ center is the place to begin this visit and to understand the dynamics of the history of this time. Plan to drive into the surrounding areas of the park, where at significant points the National Park Service provides interpreters of the events and the battles. A visit here for the tourist, contrasted with the student, will take two to three hours. (610-783-1077)

The real driving itinerary starts out by taking you a little farther into the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. In Lancaster County farming has long been a way of life for the Amish and the Mennonites. With their unique style of life centered around their deeply felt religious beliefs, these people and the land on which they live have become magnets for visitors for over 300 years. Whether the attraction is the simple way of life they have devised, their quilts for which they are widely known, or their wonderful food products is less clear than the fact that these folk seem to set an example of life that others envy. The Amish and Mennonite people, originally from Germany and Switzerland, speak either English or their own language-a mixture of English and German. They dress simply: women are clothed in black, with either straw hats or bonnets and men are equally simple in style. Even young boys will be seen with hats. Schools are often in just one room but the education the children receive is no less rigorous than that in other American institutions.

To reach Lancaster County from Philadelphia, take I-76 west either to Route 222 and then south to the city of Lancaster or Route 202 west from Philadelphia to Route 30 into Lancaster. (If you are coming from the Brandywine Valley, take Route 322 north then turn west on Routes 202 and 30.) While access by car will afford you views of the scenic farmland and roadside stands with quilts, crafts, and food products, Lancaster can also be reached by flying into either the Lancaster or Harrisburg Airports.

Once there, or in planning your trip in advance, you should contact the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, 501 Greenfield Road, Lancaster, PA 17601, 800-723-8824.www.800padutch.com Other information centers include the Downtown Lancaster Visitors’ Center at S. Queen and Vine Streets (717-397-3531) and the Mennonite Information Center, 2209 Millstream Road, off Route 30, 4½ miles east of Lancaster (717-299-0954).

Centers can give you information on buggy rides, one of the most unique ways to see a portion of this countryside, and the opening days and times of the many farmers’ markets. www.mennoniteinfoctr.com/

The city of Lancaster is the seat of Lancaster County and is worth a visit for its historical buildings and the central market. Guided walking tours lasting 90 minutes are available. Five miles south of downtown Lancaster off Route 222 an interesting visit may be made to the Hans Herr House and Museum at 1849 Hans Herr Drive. This restored home, the oldest in the county, was the home of Hans Herr who with a small group of Mennonites escaped religious persecution in Germany in the early 18th century. (717-464-4438) Another interesting stop would include Wheatland, the home of President James Buchanan, located at 1120 Marietta Avenue. This mansion is elegantly decorated with the furniture gathered during his years in Washington. (717-392-8721)

Roads spiral out in every direction from historic downtown Lancaster and weave through the countryside and villages where the Amish have established their homes and communities in and amongst our modern society. If you truly want a glimpse into their way of life and see how it neighbors ours, I would recommend you spend a day exploring the roads that transect the acres upon acres of farmland. Depending on the time of year and the stage of harvest, you will see them plowing their land with the aid of large draft horses or families congregating en masse in the fields to manually pick the crops. Drive through the villages whose shops often sell their handmade products and share the road with canvas, black-topped, horse-drawn buggies and children walking home from school. If you didn’t have an opportunity to stop at a visitors’ center, ask the locals about the weekly markets and inquire as to which ones are largely attended by the Amish. This is a wonderful way and opportunity to meet the Amish personally as they often man their own stands selling produce, pretzels, boxes, baskets, carvings, and quilts.

The Amish are not a sightseeing attraction, but rather a community that displays a commitment to its religious beliefs, upon which it bases its way of life.

For a better understanding and appreciation of this culture, there are some staged exhibits such as the Amish Farm and House on Route 30 east of Lancaster (717-394-6185), the Amish Village in Strasburg (717-687-8511), and the Weavertown One-Room Schoolhouse in Bird-in-Hand. Also, the Ephrata Cloister, 632 W. Main Street in Ephrata (northeast of Lancaster on Route 222) provides guided tours of several of the religious commune’s original Germanic-style buildings. (717-733-6600)

However, after visiting the region and many of the advertised locales, we found the Amish Country Homestead by far the best and the most comprehensive and rewarding in terms of a glimpse and understanding of the Amish. Located between the charming towns of Bird-in-Hand and Intercourse on Route 340, the Amish Country Homestead complex includes a nine-room furnished house, where you learn about Amish clothing and living without the benefit of electricity; a wonderful large shop; and the Plain & Fancy Restaurant, which serves, family style at long tables set for twelve, the traditional Amish meal of seven sweets and seven sours. Joining other guests, you sample fare such as baked sausage, chicken pot pie, dried corn, sweet and sour relishes, shoo-fly pie, dumplings, and homemade breads. At the homestead you can also arrange for individual buggy rides or a more extensive, organized bus tour that visits an Amish farm. The highlight of a visit to the homestead is its remarkable theater and the program entitled “Jacob’s Choice.” This is the only “experiential” theater on the East Coast and it is truly unique. The audience, sitting on benches as the Amish do in church, feel as if they are observing life on an Amish farm as they watch the story of the Fisher family brought to life through a high-tech, multimedia presentation with remarkable special effects and three-dimensional sound and imagery. (717 768-3600)

While exploring Lancaster County, as well as becoming acquainted with the Amish community, those interested in things that tick will want to visit the Watch and Clock Museum located 10 miles west of Lancaster in Columbia. Take Route 30 west to Route 441 and then go left on Poplar Street. This museum has a collection of about 8,000 timepieces and clock-related items. (717-684-8261)

In the nearby town of Strasburg is the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. (From Lancaster take Route 896 then turn east on Route 741 for 1 mile.) For those interested in trains-either full-size or model trains-this is the place to visit. (717-687-8629) You can take a 45-minute trip through the Amish countryside on a train with a coal-fired locomotive-call 717-687-7522 for the schedule.

Harrisburg, the state capital, lies west of Lancaster via Route 283. The capitol building, an Italian Renaissance structure dedicated in 1906 by President Teddy Roosevelt, is worthy of a visit and a guided tour. (717-787-6810) The State Museum of Pennsylvania, 3rd and North Streets, houses and features the arts and artifacts of the state. (717-787-4980)

Leaving Harrisburg to the east on Route 322, you soon come to the town of Hershey, the city of chocolate, with the Milton S. Hershey Museum, and Hershey Gardens. If chocolate is a passion of yours, then you will enjoy the tourism that has grown with the success of Milton S. Hershey, the creator of the chocolate kiss. (717-534-3492)

An interesting loop from Harrisburg is to leave town on Route 15 along the Susquehanna River proceeding north to New Columbia and then west on I-80 to Milesburg. Turn south at this point on Routes 144 to Bellefonte and 322 back into Harrisburg or detour southwest from Bellefonte on 150 and then west on 322 to State College. Home to Penn State, the community of State College embraces the university. The little towns and the surrounding farms and countryside are wonderful. Turn off the main roads to visit these smaller settlements and in so doing you will not only see the countryside of farms and quiet villages linked by winding roads of much scenic beauty, but also have the opportunity to feel and experience a part of Pennsylvania into which the Amish way of life has expanded, building on their traditions of faith. Robert Louis Stevenson in 1879 said, “And when I had asked the name of the river from a brakesman and heard it was called the Susquehanna, the beauty of the name seemed to be part and parcel of the beauty of the land-that was the name, as no other could be, for that shining river and desirable valley.”

South of Harrisburg lie the battlefields of Gettysburg, reached by taking Route 15. Gettysburg is famous for its place in history and those interested in the Civil War will want to include it in a trip in this part of Pennsylvania.

To visit Gettysburg and to gain an understanding of the Civil War you will need to plan a minimum of one full day in this area. Gettysburg was the site of the war’s worst battle and the greatest loss of men in just three days during the summer of 1863. With Robert E. Lee making a move toward capturing the capital of Harrisburg and Major General Joe Hooker moving north, the two armies, war-worn, tired, and discouraged as they were, met and fought in what history has recorded as the deciding battle of the Civil War. When it was over thousands were dead and more wounded. It was at the consecration of the Gettysburg cemetery for the war dead that President Lincoln made his famous address beginning, “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

In addition to a quaint and historic town, among the memorable sights here are the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and www.nps.gov/gett Visitor Center, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, the Eisenhower National Historic Site with the Eisenhower home complete with furnishings and a recent acquisition of the national park, the David Wills House, which is on the National Register of Historic Homes and is where President Lincoln stayed the night before delivering the Gettysburg Address.

Incredibly nearly 6,000 acres have been preserved as the Gettysburg National Military Park (open Apr 1 to Oct 31 from 6 am to 10 pm; Nov 1 to Mar 31 from 6 am to 7 pm), securing for all time one of our history’s most poignant battles and a war, tragically fought brother against brother, friend against friend, countryman against countryman. A few homes and farms, pastures and cornfields divided by the old split rail fences are scattered across the vast acreage. With the exception of the over 1,400 monuments that adorn the acreage placed by veterans to honor their fallen comrades, it is almost as if time has stood still. An ideal way to tour the park is by car on the well marked Auto Tour signed and easy to follow along the predominately one lane roads that spider web through the park.

Begin at the Museum and Visitor Center (open daily 8 am to 5 pm or as late as 7pm during the summer, closed holidays) where you can obtain a complimentary map that details the auto tour route and explains significant points of interest as signposted and numbered along the journey. But before you head out to explore the battlegrounds of the park, you will want to spend time at the Museum and Visitor Center. The center boasts twelve galleries which are principally dedicated to the Gettysburg Campaign and the Civil War. Five of the galleries include short video presentations on the causes of the war, the three days of Battle at Gettysburg, and the results of the war.  The two Voices Theaters feature readings from battle participants.  If you have time for nothing else, be sure to view the twenty-two minute film, “A New Birth of Freedom”, narrated by Morgan Freeman that, as described by the producer, “is a film about Gettysburg and the war that changed America.” Adjacent to the battlefield, the museum also showcases an extensive collection of artifacts and archival materials, has interactive displays-all providing the visitor with a distinctive and very moving perspective of the Civil War.  If you want to research information about the people, the battle, the collection, and the monuments there is even a computer research room available to visitors. And finally, The Refreshment Saloon is a museum café whose menu features Civil War-era foods and recipes. All-in-all, this is an incredible museum and a visit here will only serve to enhance your visit and experience of Gettysburg.

Once you are ready to venture out to the park, through a program referred to as the Licensed Battlefield Guide Service, it is also possible at the Visitor Center to hire a guide to accompany you in your own vehicle on a two-hour tour of the battlefield. Guides are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Seasonally, there are also buses with knowledgeable guides that depart from the center. Also available for purchase are Audio Programs available on tape or CD. Note: In addition to the programs offered by the park service, there are also a number of commercial tours offered by companies near the park.

Adjacent to the Visitor Center is the Cyclorama Center which displays the newly conserved Cyclorama painting entitled “The Battle of Gettysburg.” This magnificent exhibit depicts the battle referred to as Pickett’s Charge-one of the defining moments of Gettysburg with the climatic attack by the Confederates.

Also, neighboring the Visitor Center is the Soldiers’ National Cemetery open all year from dawn until sunset as is the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Purchased in the 1950s, the complex of three farm buildings served as a refuge for the President and Mrs. Eisenhower during his time in Washington and then later became their retirement home. The home and grounds transferred to the National Park Service in 1979. The home and immediate grounds are open to the public by shuttle bus from the Visitor Center.

Located at the heart of town, you will also want to take time to visit the David Wills House. David Wills was the man responsible for the Gettysburg cemetery and President Lincoln, his invited guest, spent the night in his home the evening before he gave the famous Gettysburg Address. Now a museum, six rooms of the David Wills House are a gallery and what was David Wills’ office and the room where Lincoln actually scripted the speech are staged as if one were back in the year 1863. (8 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, PA. 17325, 717-334-1124)

www.nps.gov/eise Information on visiting Gettysburg may be obtained from the Gettysburg National Military Park, www.nps.gov/gett, 1195 Baltimore Pike, Suite 100, Gettysburg, PA 17325, 717-334-1124. www.gettysburg.com.

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