Mansions of Smethport
Gilded Era Smethport, nestled in the hills along scenic Pennsylvania Route 6, was first surveyed by Dutch land surveyors in 1807, who selected it as northwest Pennsylvania’s most perfect town site. Today, one finds a quaint Victorian village with amazing architecture brimming with history and charm.
In the 1880s, several factors propelled Smethport into the forefront of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The combination of massive timber resources, oil reserves, and railroads caused McKean County’s economy to skyrocket in the early 1870s. Vast amounts of money flowed into Smethport, the governmental seat and financial center of the county. By the 1880s, Smethport’s Mansion District was in full construction.
Take your time to explore. Breath in the fresh country air and allow yourself to experience the small-town charms of Smethport, including Hamlin Lake which is just a short walking distance from downtown.
The Smethport Mansion District Walking Tour highlights the rich Victorian architecture of many of the homes. With mapping and photos, the brochure guides you past 34 historic structures, along with offering you fun facts about Smethport. For example, the first automated bowling pin setter was invented in Smethport, as was Wooly Willy, a popular children’s magnetic toy. The walking tour is self-guided and visitors may pick up the brochure at the kiosk in front of the McKean County Courthouse located at 500 W. Main Street in Smethport.
As you stroll, see if you can identify the Mansions which were built as wedding gifts. One of the wedding mansions is the Orlo J. Hamlin Mansion, a superb example of Victorian Queen Anne architecture, located at 911 W. Main Street. This mansion was completed in 1902 as a wedding gift for Henry Hamlin’s son.
The Bucktail Regiment - the famous Civil War unit of sharpshooters - was mustered in April 1861 on the steps of the McKean County Courthouse. A Grand Army of the Republic Monument on the courthouse lawn was designed and erected in 1886 by St. Johnsbury Granite Company of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, to pay tribute to this historic event.
Step back in time with a visit to the Old Jail Museum, rated as one of Pennsylvania’s sixth most haunted places by Pursuits Magazine! Be sure to step lightly or you might rouse the resident ghost who is said to haunt the downstairs dungeon. The Old Jail Museum, which was the original jailhouse, is located at 502 West King Street. Visit the dungeon, explore the displays, shop their general store, or conduct genealogical research in the record room. Museum hours are April, May, Sept. and Oct., Tuesday-Thursday 1-4pm; and during June, July and August, hours are Monday-Friday 1-4pm. A series of special events are held throughout the year, so be sure to check the McKean County Historical Society’s Facebook site for event listings. For information or to schedule a special group tour, phone 814-887-5142.
Hamlin Lake Park is a free public access recreation center which offers fishing, boating, and kayaking. Goosechaser Trail is a 3/4-mile trail which loops along the banks of Marvin Creek in Hamlin Lake Park. It is named for the Canadian geese which frequent the lake. The trail skirts the habitats of many wetland creatures including water fowl. American Bald Eagles are often sighted at Hamlin Lake. Nearby is the 1-mile Shawmut Trail which follows along Marvin Creek to the historic McKean County Poor Farm.
Enjoy exploring the shops along Main Street. The Rose Boutique features many locally crafted treasures. A sample of gift items offered for sale include beautiful hand-painted glass lamps, hand-knitted baby clothes, soft blankets, handcrafted wreaths and painted shutters. The shop is located at 111 West Main Street and is open Tuesday-Friday 11am-5pm, and Saturday 11am-4pm. For additional information phone 814-887-2720.
Enjoy a great meal in a casual atmosphere at the Corner Bistro & Pizza. Co. which serves both lunch and dinner. This family owned restaurant offers a wide selection of American and Italian entrees including Chicken Parmigiana, a Seafood Platter, Bistro Steak Tenderloin with Shrimp, and their New York Style Thin Crust Pizza. Located at 437 West Main Street, they are open seven days a week, phone 814-887-7755.
If you desire to try out the fishing at Hamlin Lake, explore the water trails by kayak, visit the amazing Kinzua Sky Walk, or one of the many nearby attractions in the Allegheny National Forest. You have a variety of lodging choices. Smethport has two charming B&B’s, along with short term and extended stay at the Pennsylvania Wilds Executive Suites-Hamlin Lake Haus and the Sherriff Sartwell Mansion.
Both the Blackberry Inn (located at 820 West Main Street) and the Mansion District Inn (located at 905 West Main Street) are within walking distance of downtown. Each of these charming B&B’s are beautifully restored mansions, now offering public lodging with a distinctive flair. For reservations at the Blackberry Inn phone 612-940-4014, and for the Mansion District Inn phone 814-598-7403.
The Hamlin Lake Haus along the shoreline of Hamlin Lake at 401 W. Water Street, and the Sheriff Sartwell Mansion across from the courthouse at 412 West King Street, can be reserved by calling 814-887-5107.
The distinctive lodging choices listed above, along with other shops, restaurants, and a full list of nearby attractions, as well as a downloadable copy of the Smethport Mansion District Walking Tour may be found at www.visitANF.com.