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This past week, my family toured through New England, and I had the chance to soak in the many different settings, styles and infrastructures. Although I didn’t set out from Lancaster with a quest in mind, I think I found some clarity, in the end, regarding Central Pennsylvania’s place in the order of things.
We began our trip with a Circle Line “three-hour tour” (really) all the way around Manhattan island. The high-rise, high-rent ($5,000 per month!) apartment homes pointed out by the guide were completely foreign living to us.
Then we spent a morning in Clinton, Conn., and I saw a theme emerge that carried all the way through New England — the excellent tree barriers built into the infrastructure that almost completely hid the homes and businesses from the major roads. Very impressive.
Landing in Plymouth, Mass., we toured the Plimoth Plantation, a full-immersion experience of the first functioning town in New England, complete with actors in character. The thatched-roof, single-room homes were brutally functional and unadorned.
The next day was all Boston; the historic city we wandered through on our Freedom Trail guided tour was a mix of familiar townhomes that one might find in our Central PA cities – I felt the Colonial connection between the early states very clearly here. Remember, Central Pennsylvania did host the Continental Congress while those men were away from Philadelphia.
The next day we were out in Lexington and Concord, Mass. – the suburbs of Boston now. The roots of the home styles you and I would call Colonial were clear to see; very few properties were done in brick. Then we visited the essential Colonial homes: the Adams birthplaces in Quincy, Mass. These spare saltboxes evoked the hard life of early American settlers dating to the early 1700s.
For our last leg, we tripped out to the Berkshires and stayed in Stockbridge, Mass., touring the Norman Rockwell Museum, which is brimming with the iconic American small-town painter’s work. A final return down the Hudson River Valley found us back across the Delaware and in PA. The rain-soaked mountaintops and roaring rivers seemed like a distant land to our kids.
The homes and buildings in New England seemed at once familiar, yet foreign. We didn’t see any cows on our trip. Nor corn. Most places were quite hilly.
Central Pennsylvania felt like home as we returned – the vast expanses of farmland, the silos, the quiet borough streets, all of it.
I think we can take pride in our corner of the United States and enjoy the unique features of the land here as our own national treasure. Oh and by the way, take time this summer to get out and see our Central PA parks and historic sites!