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Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Samuel Lemon Tavern)

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Samuel Lemon Tavern
c. 1834; c. 1910 addition. U.S. 22 Gallitzin exit, 0.5 miles east of Cresson
  • Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Samuel Lemon Tavern)

Samuel Lemon had the good fortune to own the land and operate a tavern at Cresson Summit along the Huntingdon, Cambria, and Indiana Turnpike when the Allegheny Portage Railroad (APRR) came through in 1834. The original log tavern was quickly replaced with a larger stone building, which served as both an inn and residence. Built at the top of incline No. 6 of the APRR system as it made its way over Allegheny Mountain from Hollidaysburg to Johnstown, the seven-bay, two-story stone house faces the tracks within a hundred yards of the stationary engine house. Built on the traditional Pennsylvania five-bay, central-hall plan, the house was enlarged with two smaller-scaled bays at the west in the first decade of the twentieth century. The main entrance has a delicate fanlight above the door, while two simpler entries have rectangular transoms.

The house is now the centerpiece of a National Historic Site, which includes the path of the inclined plane, the preserved foundations of the engine house, and a stone bridge over the incline. These elements provide a tangible impression of what the area looked like in the 1830s and 1840s.

The stone skew arch bridge (technically in Blair County) was built 1832–1833 by J. Fenton, A. and J. Darling, and R. Kinimouth to carry the Huntingdon, Cambria, and Indiana Turnpike over the Portage railway. The bridge marked the intersection of two technologies: the bridge representing the old transportation route crossing the Portage Railroad representing the newest technology in the 1830s. To allow for the steepness of the turnpike's grade, the bridge was changed from its original design, perpendicular to the tracks below, to the present skewed configuration, where each course of stone along the length of the bridge was stepped so that it rises at a gentler grade over the tracks.

In 1992, a visitors' center opened in two gable-roofed, stone-faced buildings joined by an archway that mimics the opening of the Staple Bend Tunnel ( CA11). A short walk east, the modern wheelhouse, sheltering the remains of the stationary engine that formerly pulled railcars up the incline, was designed by Ken Bennet with technical review by Harold LaFleur, both of the National Park Service. The structure resembles the original wheelhouse.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


What's Nearby


Lu Donnelly et al., "Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (Samuel Lemon Tavern)", [Lilly, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 306-307.

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