Pennsylvania plays a major role in United States history, and no American child gets out of school without hearing plenty about it. There are still many Pennsylvania secrets, however; far more has happened here beyond Benjamin Franklin and the Battle of Gettysburg. Below, read about some of our state’s lesser known stories.
1. The oldest lazaretto in the country is in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Quarantine Lazaretto was built in 1799, due to the Yellow Fever epidemic that hit Pennsylvania hard. It is not only the oldest lazaretto in the country, but the sixth oldest in the world; for many immigrants to the United States, this building was their first experience in their new home country. You learn plenty about Ellis Island in school, yet most likely didn't hear about this place, which is colloquially known as the "Ellis Island of Philadelphia."
2. Celestia was once the home of an extremist religious community.
A man named Peter Edward Armstrong founded this community in 1884, which bordered on the cultish. He believed that armageddon was imminent. The community was so religious and so extreme that the title on the land's deed was under God's name for more than ten years before it was reclaimed by the government due to unpaid property tax. (The IRS doesn't care if you don't deal in worldly silver and gold, apparently.)
3. The oldest evidence of human civilization in the Americas can be found in Pennsylvania.
The Meadowcroft Rock Shelter can be found near Avelia in Jefferson Township. It holds incredible human artifacts that are at least 16,000 years old.
4. There's a (semi-secret), gigantic government facility underground near the Maryland border.
The Raven Rock Mountain Complex was built during the Cold War, to serve as a backup Pentagon in case the original was compromised due to nuclear war. The emergency complex can accommodate up to 30,000 people. For a long time, its location was top secret information.
5. The area surrounding Scranton was once the object of a long, fierce battle.
After the Revolutionary War, peace did not reign in the Northeast. The settlers in Connecticut and the settlers in Pennsylvania fought viciously over the Wyoming Valley. Numerous casualties resulted from this brutal conflict, which resulted in Wilkes-Barre being included in Pennsylvania's Luzerne County.
6. The United States' very first petition against slavery was made in Pennsylvania.
The residents of Germantown wrote up the petition in 1688. It was based on the Golden Rule-- a simple principle that could have saved us endless persecution and bloodshed had it been internalized by more people throughout history.
7. A Seinfeld sketch was inspired by a real-life cult that was founded in Allentown in 1971.
The Church of Bible Understanding was founded upon Evangelical Christianity and involved its members to live communally. They were encouraged to cut ties with friends and family outside the religion. The group raised money with a carpet cleaning business -- the very business that inspired the Sunshine Carpet Cleaning Cult on Seinfeld. The Church of Bible Understanding has gotten into trouble for transporting youth without parental consent and for running substandard homes for orphans in Haiti.
8. A labrador retriever was once admitted to Eastern State Penitentiary...as a prisoner.
To be fair, the dog was sent to jail for killing the governor's cat. Pep was imprisoned in 1927 and remained there for more than ten years.
What else would you add? Share your stories below.