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Great Forest

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This region comprises three large counties bordering New York (Warren, McKean, and Potter) and the forested counties south of them (Clinton, Cameron, Elk, Forest, Clarion, Jefferson, and Clearfield). The topography is a continuation of the Appalachian Plateau, but at a higher elevation, becoming almost mountainous in McKean and Potter counties. The Allegheny River and the Susquehanna's tributaries flow south, as do most streams in the region. This allowed products and raw materials to be shipped to Pittsburgh or Harrisburg, but made return trips difficult before steamboats began operating in 1830. Westward migration, particularly from Connecticut, spurred settlement, since it was easier to reach the forested lands from the north via the Erie Canal than paddling upriver from the south. The earliest settlers brought with them an appreciation of and preference for the Greek Revival style for houses, churches, and schools, and fine examples remain.

Lumber and oil were the major industries in this region. Lumbering was so successful that vast sections were clear-cut by 1900. Special narrow-gauge railroads, which could reach into the small valleys more easily than standardgauge tracks, aided this process. Paper, glass, and refractory bricks continue to be made in the region. Farming, already difficult due to the short growing season, became harder due to the erosion caused by the deforestation. Today the region is reforested and is some of the most productive hardwood forest in the United States. It is also state and national forest and is popular recreationally, featuring scenic drives, especially during the fall season. The state parks are dotted with rustic buildings constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

The region's cities are small, with populations under 10,000; Warren and Bradford are the largest. Brookville and Smethport are especially attractive places to visit. Architects for major buildings were often imported from Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio, cities that are closer to the region than Pittsburgh. Edward Albert Phillips, who moved to Warren, Pennsylvania, from Buffalo, has a large body of work in traditional styles. Frank Furness is easily the most famous architect to have a building in the region; the carriage house ( CL25) he designed for the Fox family of Philadelphia is unique. Hyde-Murphy, operating out of Ridgway in Elk County from 1884 to 1961, was the most successful builder in the area. And with their in-house architect Henry C. Park, who moved to Ridgway from New York in the 1890s, either built or remodeled an enormous number of buildings in the center of Pennsylvania, from coal patch houses to mansions. The company began as a sawmill, and it became known for the quality of its millwork.

U.S. 6 travels from east to west across Warren, McKean, and Potter counties and, at four hundred miles, is the longest highway in the commonwealth. Along the northern tier, it is marketed as a scenic highway with links to the various historic sites along its length. Farther south, I-80 traverses Clarion, Jefferson, and Clearfield counties. East–west travel is always difficult in Pennsylvania, as it generally requires crossing innumerable hills and valleys, some quite challenging, and often requiring bridges of enormous size.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lu Donnelly et al.

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