Not all history lives in a museum. Case in point: Pennsylvania residents can step back in time during a day-long visit to the historic area of Brownsville. Whether you opt to plan your trip in the summer or bundle up in the winter is up to you – either way, you’ll enjoy your time in this beautiful river town!
What Can I Do In Brownsville?
There’s so much here that the town offers personalized guided tours – all you have to do to book is call 724-785-9331. If you’re the type to enjoy the flexibility of a self-guided visit, though, Brownsville organizers recommend the following itinerary:
- Visit Brownsville’s Flatiron Building Heritage Visitor Center and the Frank L. Melega Art Museum. This is a two part entry, and for good reason – both attractions are too good to pass up and can be accessed in the same place. Free to the public and complete with guided tours, the heritage center focuses on the National Road Era and The Industrial Coal & Coke Era. A visit here will help recreate the industrialized past and tell the tale of how Brownsville – and America – came to be. After visiting the heritage center, you can head to the Frank L. Melega Museum, and browse through artwork influenced by local historic and modern artists alike.
- Take in the architecture. A quick stroll downtown will let you take in a view of the First Cast Iron Bridge in America; the new Iron Bridge Amphitheater; the new Iron Bridge Crossing apartment buildings; unique historic architecture; and the local library that was established in 1927. All make for beautiful sights and even great photo opportunities. Architecture fans will also enjoy a walk down historic Front Street, the site of more architectural gems and residential homes.
- Explore the history of transportation. If museums are your jam, you’ll definitely want to visit the Monongahela River, Rail and Transportation Museum. Visitors will see various artifacts from the rail and river transit systems that shaped the area. Photographs, documents, small model trains and various items from the boating industry will also help to tell the tale.
- See the state’s only castle. Nemacolin Castle is arguably the Mon Valley’s finest house museum. It’s primary name is Bowman’s Castle, although Nemacolin Castle is a common nickname for the structure. We’ve even written about this must-see spot in the past – so be sure to keep it in mind while in the area!
- Go to church. The Historic Church of Saint Peter is open to the public – you can call 724-785-7781 for a guided tour of the oldest local, continuously used Catholic church west of the Allegheny Mountains. Built in 1845 by Irish stonemasons, the building was constructed with locally quarried stone – and has a great story to tell to visitors.
- Grab a meal. You’ll have to keep up your strength during your visit! And we have recommendations for that, too. One of Brownsville’s oldest known eateries is Fiddles, famous for their hot dogs. Twelve Oaks Restaurant & Tavern is also a local favorite, so perhaps you’ll want to live it up at the historic mansion turned restaurant.
If that isn’t enough to fill out a day trip, we don’t know what is. Whether you’re the type to google for “old towns near me” or you’re just itching for a day away from the usual, Brownsville may be the perfect low key destination!Ready to plan a trip to Brownsville? In addition to browsing our website for additional information and even itineraries for this charming river town, you can visit our website calendar to see other local upcoming activities!
Have you ever heard of Nemacolin Castle? Don’t let the shared name of an infamous Pennsylvania resort fool you – Nemacolin Castle is arguably the Mon Valley’s finest house museum. It’s primary name is Bowman’s Castle, although Nemacolin Castle is a common nickname for the structure. Built in present-day Brownsville, it’s approximately one hour away from Pittsburgh. Best of all, this Pennsylvania historic landmark is open year round, with volunteers offering tours of the castle interior and its spacious grounds!
The History Of The Castle
According to the Nemacolin Castle website, the structure was built “at the western terminus of the Nemacolin’s Trail on the east bank of the Monongahela River.” Nemacolin Castle was built around the site of the area’s original local trading post. The trading post has roots in the 1780s – but construction on the castle began during the mid-to-late 1790s, at the hands of Jacob Bowman.
Jacob and his wife were the first of three generations to live in the structure. In the beginning, the building housed a new trading post on its ground floor, and a single room above that. It was as Bowman family grew – the couple had nine children total – that a broad hallway was added to the building.
Upon Jacob’s passing in 1847, the house passed on to Nelson Bowman, who added an east wing and a brick tower to the ever growing building. Nelson, and one of their sons, lived out their days in the home. It was after the son and his widow passed that The National Historical Society purchased the house and began to open it up to the public as a museum.
The Castle Today
Currently the structure is maintained and operated as a house museum by the local Brownsville Historical Society nonprofit group. Nemacolin Castle is one of a handful of 1850s buildings that stands and survives today, and the building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. It’s fascinating history of trade and family love makes it a wonderful attraction for visitors of many ages.
Best of all, the historical society offers tours year-round of the gorgeous structure. They just ask that prospective visitors contact them at 724-785-6882 or at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Why Google “historic houses near me” when this one is so close? We cannot recommend a visit to Pennsylvania’s own castle enough. Guests may also be interested in the town of Brownsville, home of the beautiful building!