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2017 Pennsylvania Calendar and Book Buying Options

12.29.2014

Holiday Inn 1950s Roadside Americana, Altoona, PA

I found this postcard of a generic 1950s or 1960s era Holiday Inn hotel sign. On the back of it it mentions the location as 2915 Pleasant Valley Boulevard, Altoona, PA. We know it is from the 1950s or 1960s thanks to "The Nation's Innkeeper" slogan, and the presence of John Holiday, the guy on the bottom right that looks like an explorer.
This illustrates a classic piece of roadside americana. I can just picture walking into the hotel, getting a meal at the restaurant, and hearing some lounge singer play in a smoky room. My imagination could be wrong on this image, but nonetheless, this postcard is pretty cool.
The hotel appears to have become a Quality Inn at some point. The latest hotel review, as of 2010, mentions the hotel being dated. In October of 2013 on Google Maps, it shows the building appearing to have been converted into an office building of some sort.


12.17.2014

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA

In the way that Phipps Conservatory is the premier botanical gardens of Western Pennsylvania , the botanical gardens for Eastern Pennsylvania is the world famous Longwood Gardens. This traces its roots back to 1798 with the beginnings of exotic planting. Prior to that, the tract was exclusively used as a working farm that was on land purchased directly from William Penn. By the time 1850 came around, the property had one of the world's finest collections of trees. The founding Pearce family sold the property to the Pierre du Pont, a member of the famed famed du Pont family of Delaware. His legacy led towards the success of the Johnson Street Rail Company Steel Works, later on it was a US Steel Plant and a Lorain Steel Company plant, formerly located on the Stony Creek River in Johnstown. His greatest industrial legacy lies with the growth of General Motors into the world's largest corporation at the time, a company that would help lead our nation into the strongest period of growth and wealth distribution that our nation ever saw. 

Pierre du Pont saw that the Longwood property was threatened by logging and rescued it, creating a private residence. Knowing the pure beauty and how special this property was, he added extensively to the property, creating a botanical garden in which he deposited specimens of plants that he found in his world travels and at various Worlds Fairs. 

Within the conservatory complex, he added a huge pipe organ, that is still preserved and played. It has 10,010 different pipes that requires a 72 horsepower engine to blow into the pipes. It is located in the room that was built to be a ballroom. He also added a fountain system. In older age he opened up the property on weekends to public and would often give tours in anonymity. I don't know if it is just me, but all of this almost reminds me of "The Great Gatsby." In 1946 he specified in his will that he wanted Longwood to be maintained and open to the public every day of the year. Today the conservatory has twenty large indoor gardens with 11,000 different species of plant and tree life. 

These photos are from our visit last year.
 Cacti!
 The holiday displays are truly stunning
 This design in the floor was actually created with a pond of water and floating apples.
 A welcome sight of summer in the middle of the winter.
 Here is the apple mosaic again. The creativity is truly mindblowing.

 Poinsettia
 My favorite flowers in the whole conservatory.
 Like a flock of little birds
 Brit and my sister Taryn
 My mother
 Orchid room!
 Pineapples!
 Oranges! I always love the fruit rooms!

 Beautiful roses
 Outside they have lights throughout the entire 1077 acre property. As huge as the indoor conservatory is, it encompasses only a small amount of the property. Gardens are scattered throughout, which include spectacular displays and even a tree house for the kids to play in. This is a very neat property and my photos do it no justice. You really need to see it to believe it. This is definitely one of the coolest holiday displays that is out there.

12.16.2014

Holiday Things to Do: Phipps Conservatory in Oakland, Pittsburgh

As much as I am into the research, preservation, and revitalization of old buildings and institutions, I am also a huge supporter of the landmarks, organizations, and institutions that have survived and made, and continue to make, our state special. Without supporting the institutions that we have, we will see more of the buildings and places that we love fall into disuse. 

Last night we checked out the beautiful holiday displays at Phipps Conservatory in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. This place is gorgeous during every season, but it really sparkles during the holiday season.
 They have beautiful lights and Christmas trees everywhere!
 The glass centerpiece in the entry rotunda is always a sight to see.
 In the entryway to the gardens, in the center of the complex, they have a musical group serenade everyone. A school band was there last night, playing some great songs and closing out with Stevie Wonder's "This Christmas." 
 The Chihuly Glass sculptures throughout the gardens are just phenomenal.
The seasonal room here is all decked out for the holidays and it features a changing light display that you can see from outside of the building. The glasswork in the building is as stunning as the array of gardens. 
 Brit playing with her new camera! 
 Dozens of Christmas trees of many different varieties are scattered throughout the complex.
This is such a relaxing place to visit
 Now on to Brit's favorite room, the orchid room!
 More beautiful glasswork
Orchids!
 The outdoor gardens are beautifully adorned with lights.
 Brit in action!
 Fisheye! You can see the VA Hospital in the upper right of this photo.
These light things are pretty awesome. I am not sure of what they are called, but they are really cool. 



You can see an orange light shining in the top center of the picture. It is the beacon of Oakland on top of Pitt's Cathedral of Learning 
The coolest thing about these is the fact that they look very different in each direction, along with the coloring. 
This Rosemary plant has been in training since 1991. I hope to get my Rosemary like this one day. My Rosemary plant has been growing for two years. 
The miniature train display is loosely themed, with a coal mine, volcano, logging operation, and more.
And bears!
Did I say that the holiday displays are amazing?
Another type of Christmas Tree
Did you roll that snowman through the grass or something?
Now to the centerpiece tree of the display:
And a surfing grassy snowman!
That is keeping one eye on the tree and the other on us!
So beautiful
Fishing bears!
Cacti!
The beauty of the Phipps gardens and displays is matched by the architectural beauty of the structures.
Fisheye!
No fisheye!
We couldn't get enough of the beauty in this room.
Fisheye again!
I highly recommend visiting Phipps Conservatory during the holiday season and during all of their displays throughout the year. Here are reports that I wrote about the Spring Flower Show earlier this this year: part one and part two
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