Historic sites in Pennsylvania that are worth the trip

Pennsylvania’s pivotal role in the forging and founding of America provides the state with a rich history full of fascinating characters and nearly countless historic sites, long preserved for posterity and for you to learn from and enjoy.

From Allegheny County’s historic courthouse to Gettysburg’s Dobbin House and Philadelphia’s Johnson House, Pennsylvania’s historic sites are ready and waiting to satisfy your historical curiosity. The history and heritage section of visitPA.com is brimming with information on these and many more of the state’s historic attractions. There you can plan your travels through history centered around a particular geographic area or based on a specific passion including our Civil War heritage, hallowed grounds, historic towns, multicultural heritage or Underground Railroad heritage. 

The Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh will excite your children’s imaginations (and yours too!) with its medieval architecture – tall, turreted towers, steep slate roofs and granite walls.  Built in 1888, the courthouse sports architecture styles from many different eras. Pennsylvania’s first female judge, Sara Mathilde Soffel, served here for 32 years beginning in 1930.  

America’s oldest, continuously occupied residential street is in Old City Philadelphia at Elfreth’s Alley. Thirty-two Georgian and Federal style homes built between 1720 and 1830 line the street and were originally occupied by everyday Pennsylvania artisans. Now, they help convey what life was like for those living in a newly-founded United States. Two homes offer guided tours to the public, and the Elfreth’s Alley Museum offers exhibits that tell the stories of residents of the homes throughout their 300-year existence. 

Take time to visit Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was written. While you’re there, explore all three city blocks of the Independence National Historical Park, or Independence Mall as locals call it, where you can see the Liberty Bell and other buildings and sites important to the founding of our nation.

The Dobbin House Tavern is not only the oldest building in Gettysburg, but it overlooks the site where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. It was a stop on the Underground Railroad and served as a hospital for wounded soldiers after the Battle of Gettysburg. Today, it appears as it did more than 200 years ago and operates as a colonial tavern where every detail down to the china, flatware and servants' clothing is entirely authentic. 

The only accessible and intact stop on the Underground Railroad is in Philadelphia. The Johnson House Historic Site looks much as it did in 1768 when it belonged to a Quaker family that worked to abolish slavery and helped to improve the lives of freed African Americans. The house offers docent-led tours and events that are fun for the whole family.


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