Tuesday, April 20, 2010


There's a cool Web site called The Historical Marker Database at www.hmdb.org. It shows thousands of historical markers and plaques in this country and others, too. What I really like is that they allow you to add photos and remarks. So I added some photos of our area where they were needed.

Not too long ago, I was contacted by Bill Pfingsten, who is one of the Web site editors, responding to my offer to take any photos that were still needed. He gave me a list, and yesterday Mr. Box (who recently underwent an inspection and 90,000 mile check-up) and I ventured into the Hershey and East Hanover Twp. areas to photograph some markers for which the Web site had no pictures at all. (On Sunday, I photographed two places on South Thirteenth Street in Harrisburg and some French and Indian War markers along Linglestown Road).

Our route took us east on US 22 to take a picture of the Union Canal marker near PA 39. There are two --  one on each side of the road -- that refer to the Canal at Union Deposit to the south. When I was director of the state historical marker program, I found that there were in many cases a marker on each side of the road. That would be a tremendous luxury today!

Turning south on PA 39, I headed toward Hershey. This used to be a meandering country road but has recently been transformed by housing developments, including apartments and townhouses, and all of the attendant stuff like convenience stores, gas stations, and strip malls. I took the cut-off through Union Deposit to check on the Union Canal marker located there. There was a large earth-moving project going on there, and I hope it does not swallow up the marker.

I drove further down the road toward the Giant Center and Hersheypark in an attempt to reach the Wilt Chamberlain's Scoring Record marker. It's located at the old Arena building, right at an entrance not used by the public. It's a really dumb location, if you ask me. First of all, it's not accessible by the general public unless there is an event at the Arena. I had to pass through a guard station to gain access to the marker. I could swear that there's a trash can tethered to the marker! That marker should be out by the road so everyone can see it.

Next up, the Pennsylvania State Police marker on Cocoa Avenue. It stands where the first State Police Academy once stood. Across the tree-lined street are very attractive small houses and behind the marker are the athletic fields of the high school. Just down the street are the Hershey Public Library and the community pool. This is a lucky marker -- it's in a pretty upscale neighborhood.

I made a U-turn and headed back through Hershey to go up PA 743 toward East Hanover Twp. On the way, I made two stops. The first was at Derry Presbyterian Church, where there is a beautiful church campus and a historic graveyard. What is most interesting to me, though, is the church's Session House, a log building that was enclosed in glass by Milton S. Hershey. It is claimed to be the oldest log building on its original site in all of Pennsylvania.

The second stop was at the new State Police Academy. It is a sort of rambling building on the top of a hill near the amusement park and the shopping outlets. I could hear gunfire from the shooting range and noticed a new small building that is serving as a museum of State Police history. The view across the valley from the hill was delightful.

When I reached US 22 again, I turned right to the Hanover Resolves marker. This was the very first marker ever installed by the state, way back in 1946, the year I was born. I am wondering if it is the same marker, or whether it was replaced at some time during these years, after the original was mowed down by some semi or snowplow. The plaque does lean eastward, however, a telltale sign that it has been assaulted by snow thrown up by a plow.  Anyway, I always get a charge when I see that marker, knowing that it was the first one.

I turned back on US 22 and drove a short distance to the Hanover Church marker. It used to be on a concrete pole very near the intersection, almost obscured by road signs. A couple of years ago, it was installed a short distance from the intersection on a new hollow aluminum post, which is deemed to be safer as it will break away if struck. I was a little surprised that the new post is so tall, however! Maybe because the other one was so short.

I decided to drive the "about two miles north" that the marker indicated to find the site of the church. There was a well-preserved cemetery there with a newly-restored wall. I walked through the cemetery and read some of the inscriptions. I was especially attracted to a carving in stone of some flowers, including a tulip, which is a Pennsylvania German favorite motif. These were Scots-Irish and English Presbyterians, however.

One thing I noticed about the marker itself was the need to move an 'f' that bumped into a 'g' in the line above. They were competing for the space in between the lines. When the marker plate is made, actual three-dimensional metal letters are placed on a sheet of metal to create the text, so there is no adjusting like a computer might be able to do. You can watch a short video about how such markers are made here. Pennsylvania's markers are made in Erie.

Well, that was the end of my little sojourn. It was a beautiful spring day, and the area I covered is very pleasant. It was fun to work with the markers, again, too. This junket reminded me of the times the Box and I drove all over Washington and Dauphin (and other) counties surveying every state marker's condition and photographing it.
 This is a marker used in the city of Harrisburg. You 
can see an old photo of the place and look right at
it to see how it looks today.
Here's the same building on 13th Street today.
Oh, and the Box!
The Barnett's Fort marker has one
of the worst locations in the state! 
There should be a "no post" zone 
around markers so they are not 
inundated by neighbors.

This earth-moving project along the road to Hershey 
near Union Deposit might endanger the Union Canal 
marker. Contractors sometimes remove the markers 
without permission and then "forget" to put them back up.

 Here's the State Police marker in its cushy location.

Derry Presbyterian Church has a beautiful campus.
The second building, now a chapel, is at the right.
The current church is in the background.

Not only is the Session House itself on the National
Register, but so is the enclosure built by Mr. Hershey.

 Now tell me that PennDOT hasn't whacked
this marker a few times with some nice wet 
and heavy snow.
The Hanover Church marker is now in the
foreground of the forest of signs. You can
see the original short concrete post in the
distance, nearest to the intersection.

Here is the flower motif in the Hanover Church 
cemetery that I was telling you about.
Someone with some style painted these chairs in the 
Hanover Church cemetery. Patriotic and very useful 
for visitors. The newly-restored wall is in the background.

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