The train chugs through between New York and everywhere else. The RVs who mammoth their way into town tend to turn north to State College or head south to the lake. Whether they come to turn Happy Valley into the third largest city in Pennsylvania for a few weeks each fall, or to camp, boat, and fish on the state’s largest inland lake at Raystown, the traffic here is huge and tends to gravitate to the massive.
That’s nice. But you folks reading this might consider going a little smaller while you’re here.
I live in Huntingdon and work at Juniata College and have spent a few years walking in this place. And when you slow down, the details can come at you fast.
Stroll downtown Huntingdon and you will see what was once a thriving global industrial center: the historic homes and their porches wide as an industrialists’ waistcoat, the J.C. Blair brick “skyscraper” of eight stories that was once the tallest building in Pennsylvania between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, our photogenic town hall (pictures of which you can purchase on any number of postcards and calendars), and the shops undergoing transformation on the town’s main streets.
Where merchants once sold shoes and home goods are galleries, thrift shops, cafes, gift stores, florists, and more. You can spot a koi pond tucked in behind a building, a miniature historic house next to our historical society, or marvel at mosaics you and murals that you discover as you turn a corner or drive into town. You can even discover, as you amble up the road next to the fiberglass plant—an industry that is making Huntingdon again a thriving global supplier—the mounds of green marbles that, by their sheer novelty, will entrance anyone who comes upon their unexpected glimmer.
A favorite route I take with my kids is to start at the library in the center of town, at the corner of 4th and Penn Streets, visit the ArtSpace—a gallery with rotating shows put on by the county’s arts council—before heading to lunch at Boxer’s, a great pub with rotating craft beer selections, or Stone Town Gallery, a restaurant in an art gallery featuring the work of regional artists, as well as a paint-your-own pottery studio. After that, we might grab a movie at the Clifton 5, a restored historic theatre with fully modern digital projection, or walk up to Standing Stone Coffee Company for a warm beverage or smoothie.
That’s just one option: we sometimes hit Sweetheart’s Confectionery for a cupcake (or a dozen). We might go to something at the Huntingdon Community Center on 4th Street. It might just be a nice day to walk up Mifflin and look at the gardens in the yards. Or to note the decorations—people here decorate for holidays the way most people save it up for Christmas. It feels sometimes like Arbor Day even gets its due with twinkly lights and door hangers.
And why not walk? Odds are, if you’re visiting, you’ve spent a good amount of time in traffic. If you came for Penn State football, you dealt with the blue-and-white march of idling and racing automobiles, and need to stretch the legs. If you came to camp or visit the lake, when you finish the unpacking or have accidentally burnt yourself to a crisp out in the sun, a good stroll will help you out.
I know you like the lake. And State College is great—I’m a proud Penn State grad. But for a change, and at a pace where you can take in the delights of the unexpected, the creativity of our residents and the geographic splendor of where we are located, get out there and walk around Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
By Gabe Welsch