Anna Mae Chicka raises the flag at the Stone House Museum for 1996 Saitsburg Canal Days Photo: June Vatter
Saltsburg Canal Days
Originating in 1981, Saltsburg Canal Days were
initiated by a local group, Historic Saltsburg Inc. (HSI) to
celebrate their Western Pennsylvania town's canal heritage and its
historic role in the development of Pennsylvania's transportation
industry. Under the leadership of its first president, George
Johnson, Historic Saltsburg sought to raise the public's awareness
of the Canal period (1829-1860), develop their appreciation of the
town's rich heritage, and halt the destruction of Saltsburg's
The Pennsylvania Main Line Canal linking Philadelphia
with Pittsburgh had operated successfully in Saltsburg for thirty
years before being supplanted by the railroad in 1882 when tracks
were built on the leveled and dried up canal bed. After Conrail
abandoned its track through Saltsburg in 1977, the land was
acquired by the borough government of Saltsburg. Fearing that the
land would eventually be divided and sold, HSI urged the council to
place a five-year moratorium on the sale of the canal bed.
As the moratorium period neared its end in 1982, the
slide and tape show, "A Trip on the Pennsylvania Canal" was created
as public relations device to secure the future of the Canal site;
the same year the Saltsburg Canal site was placed on the National
Register of Historic Places. A plea went out to area individuals,
organizations, and churches to help determine the fate of the
Canal. Sometimes working until midnight with flashlights,
volunteers were recruited to remove thick underbrush and small
trees, do grading, cutting and installing of fence posts, removal
of railroad ties, landscaping, laying of stone walkways, installing
of park equipment and historic signs. Several matching funds
grants, the use of donated equipment, supplies, and manpower,
allowed the borough to participate the canal park development.
Visitors to the Saltsburg Canal Park today enjoy a miniature
waterfall, scenic walkway, footbridge and picnic tables. In
November 1986, the canal site and Saltsburg's architectural
district were selected for development by the National Park
Service, and on October 2, 1989, the Saltsburg council voted
unanimously to approve the site concept plan for the redesign and
development of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal Park.
Today, Canal Days is a week-long event that
celebrates the community's victory for an authentic restoration of
a site that was essential to their town's history and heritage. The
18th Canal Days Festival in 1999 featured a re-enactment camp and
battles, tours of the Rebecca B. Hadden Stone House Museum (built
in 1830 as a tavern), a parade, a classic car show, entertainment
by several rock groups, a quilt show, and the Laurel Highlands
pipes and drum band. For the kids, there were a petting zoo, rides,
games and a train. And, no Saltsburg Canal Festival weekend is
complete without the Saltsburg Public Library's Duck Race!
Project documentation includes a newspaper article
entitled "A Chronology of Saltsburg's Canal Project," newspaper
articles and promotional materials covering previous festivals, a
two-page history of Canal Days, a paperback book from 1988 Canal
Days commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Saltsburg Canal,
five 5 x 8 black-and-white photographs, and thirteen 8 x 10 color
photos of Canal Days festivals.
Originally submitted by: John P. Murtha, Representative (12th District).
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