Ruth Hoover Seitz,
Pennsylvania's Historic Places
(Good Books, 1999)

The biggest problem here is, I'm from Pennsylvania.

Specifically, I'm from Lancaster County. So, too, is Ruth Hoover Seitz, author of Pennsylvania's Historic Places, although she grew up in the Pottsville area. Me, I was born and raised in Lancaster, and I still live there.

So I was a little critical when I saw that Seitz's book included only three locations from history-rich Lancaster County: the Ephrata Cloister, the Landis Valley Farm Museum and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. They are, of course, three very important sites. And yet I found myself second-guessing her choices, wondering why places such as Lancaster's Central Market, the oldest farmers' market in the United States, or the homes of Revolutionary War Gen. Edward Hand or U.S. President James Buchanan didn't make the cut.

All right, let's be realistic here. Pennsylvania has a lot of historical sites to consider, and Seitz couldn't well devote her entire book to one county. With that in mind, I was quite pleased with this book, which not only provided a nice overview of more than two dozen locations of interest. Even better, she put each in a historical narrative that gave a solid framework to its value as a historical monument. Seitz explains the history of each place and puts it into context. She also details what is available to see at each location, and lets readers know if, for instance, the structures there are original or reconstructions.

A bigger book might allow for a more expansive selection of historic sites, but given the limitations of the format, Pennsylvania's Historic Places gives the novice Keystone State historian a good place to start.

book review by
Tom Knapp

24 January 2015

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