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10.30.2016

French Azilum and the Marie Antoinette Overlook, Susquehanna River, Bradford County, PA

Today we visit French Azilum and the Marie Antoinette Overlook, along the Susquehanna River and Route 6 near Towanda, PA. It overlooks a stunning horseshoe bend in the Susquehanna River and provides an excellent place for checking out some autumn colors. For some a better understanding of the history of this location, we need to take a look at some context. 

You were in trouble if you were one of the powerful elites in France in the 1780s and 1790s. The working classes and other oppressed groups were through with being taken advantage of. The people rose up in the French Revolution to fight for better futures for themselves and their children, whether it be on the mainland, or within many of the nation's colonies. The brutally oppressed people of Haiti, who were forced into enslavement either as natives or through the slave trade, had risen up against their French oppressors. The Haitians won the fight, the only successful slave uprising that lead towards the creation of an independent nation state. The French captors were forced into exile off of the island.
Towards the end of the revolution in France, when it became clear that the monarchy was going to fall. Some prominent Philadelphians were sympathetic to the plight of the aristocrats and proposed the creation of a settlement. The village was built tract along a horseshoe bend along the Susquehanna River near Towanda, PA. This was an area that was largely uninhabited by European Settlers. 1600 acres were purchased, and a grid system was set up with 30 log buildings built, along with a school, several small shops, a chapel, gristmill, blacksmith shop, and more would be built. It is rumored that Marie Antoinette was to flee to this settlement, though this is not officially verified. She faced the guillotine before she would have the chance to successfully flee. While the French Revolution was bloody and violent, the result would be the end of absolute monarchies in western Europe and a trend of countries moving forward with secular and enlightened governments that were more tolerant of all groups of citizens. 
The land would have supported much more development, but the settlement would end up being very short lived. Napoleon declared amnesty and many of the French returned home. Some of the families that lived on the settlement ended up living in the region, with some descendants still living in the area. Most of the land is currently used for farming. None of the original structures remain. A cabin from the period was relocated to the site, and a home that was built by a family member of the original settlers was built in 1836, and they serve as a museum for this quirky piece of history. 
Recognition of the historic site, specifically with a beautiful lookout overlooking the Susquehanna River Valley from Route 6, was created as one of the many awesome WPA projects during the Great Depression. Regardless of the history of the spot, this is a stunning lookout point that is worth seeking out. 
An elegant structure at the overlook.
This overlook is stunning and it is yet another place of sheer beauty along the Route 6 corridor. The Marie Antoinette Inn, a nice little bar and restaurant, is located right at the overlook. 


Be sure to check out our Interesting Pennsylvania 2017 wall calendar, available through the drop down menu at the top of this page, or through this link. It is available on early-bird special for free with purchases of our book through the page, or individually for $9.99 plus shipping. 

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