The Susquehanna Trail forks at Amity Hall

Story of the Susquehanna Trail in the Good Roads Movement: Part 3

Intersection of Wm. Penn Highway and Susquehanna Trail at Amity Hall in 1930s (Postcard from Collections of S. H. Smith)

Intersection of Wm. Penn Highway and Susquehanna Trail at Amity Hall in 1930s (Postcard from Collections of S. H. Smith)

In Part 1 of the Story of the Susquehanna Trail in the Good Roads Movement, I asked my readers to solve the mystery location of a Susquehanna Trail road sign in York County by identifying the full name of the intersecting road.  Nobody commented with the correct answer following the Manchester Township clue, therefore here is your next clue: the sign is at a “Y” intersection.

We have the Susquehanna Trail road name in York County as a result of the Good Roads Movement in Pennsylvania.  The Susquehanna Trail Association was established in Williamsport on February 2nd, 1917; it was modeled after the successful nationwide Lincoln Highway Association, founded four years earlier.

Just as with the Lincoln Highway, the Board of Governors of The Susquehanna Trail Association deliberated and made site visits to select the existing road segments that would be part of the Susquehanna Trail.  By late 1917, you learned in Part 2, the Board of Governors had selected the road segments they would champion as the Susquehanna Trail between Harrisburg, through Williamsport and north on the Williamson Road through Tioga County to connect with improved roads in New York State.

In Part 1, I noted that the 1925 Official National Survey Maps and Guide for Pennsylvania listed the principal named highways in Pennsylvania and their State Route numbers.  I summarized the history of State Routes 1 to 4 in greater detail, since I’m looking at the beginnings of the Susquehanna Trail:

  • Lincoln Highway . . . . . . . . . State Route 1
  • Lackawanna Trail . . . . . . . .  State Route 2
  • William Penn Highway . . . . State Route 3
  • Susquehanna Trail . . . . . . . . State Route 4

Recall that the William Penn Highway dates from 1916 as an east-west highway from Easton, through Harrisburg, then north a distance along the Susquehanna River to the Juniata River, then west to Pittsburgh. The 1930s postcard, at the beginning of this post, shows the Susquehanna Trail forking off, to the right, of the William Penn Highway at Amity Hall.  Between Amity Hall and Harrisburg, the Susquehanna Trail followed the already established William Penn Highway.

Two of the early, prominent Pennsylvania highways converge at tiny Amity Hall.  In traveling back home from Penn State Football games with my Dad, Harold Smith, every now and then, he’d have a comment or two about the Amity Hall gas station upon seeing the Amity Hall sign along Route 322.

RiverTrailDuring the 1930s, Dad worked as a truck driver, primarily during late fall and winter, when he was on furlough from the Pennsylvania Railroad.    Amity Hall was always a stop, to get gas and grab a bite to eat at the inn, when he hauled into north central Pennsylvania or New York State.  I regret not taking the Amity Hall exit one of those times, when Dad was alive, although a few years ago, I did just that.  I did not see the gas station as I drove past the ruins of the inn, however I did discover some nice scenery in the vicinity.

While reading the Susquehanna River Trail signage, I questioned a nearby older cyclist if he knew where the old Amity Hall gas station stood.  He offered to show me the location and filled me in on some of the local history and lore.

YouAreHereThis YOU ARE HERE detail is from the larger Susquehanna River Trail sign.  In green, I’ve annotated the Susquehanna Trail forking off of the William Penn Highway.  The original William Penn Highway is now known as River Road in this area along the Juniata River.  The original Susquehanna Trail is now a very short road segment connecting on and off ramps from the four-lane highways in the area.  This historic original intersection of the William Penn Highway and the Susquehanna Trail still exists; it is just “hidden” next to the modern four-lane Route 322.

The Amity Hall Inn, shown at the left side of the postcard, was built in 1828.  In the 1800s, it served travelers along early wagon roads and the nearby Pennsylvania Canal next to the Juniata River.  In the 1900s, a gas station was added to serve the motoring public and eventually a Motor Lodge was added to the rear of the Amity Hall Inn.  The cyclist thought the gas station was trucked off to be reused some time before the Amity Hall Inn & Motor Lodge shut down in the late 1980s.

The following is a 2014 Bing.com Birds Eye Aerial Photo of Amity Hall; that I’ve annotated with the original locations of the William Penn Highway and the Susquehanna Trail.  If one takes the Amity Hall off ramp when heading to Harrisburg, it leads directly to the original intersection of the William Penn Highway and the Susquehanna Trail.  I’ve noted the location of the former gas station, pictured in the postcard at the beginning of this post.  Vandals started a fire in the shuttered Amity Hall Inn & Motor Lodge in 2009.  Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze before it entirely consumed the structure.  The 2014 aerial photo shows the ruins still stand.

2014 Bing.com Birds Eye Aerial Photo of Amity Hall, PA (Annotations indicating original intersection of the William Penn Highway and the Susquehanna Trail by S. H. Smith, 2014)

2014 Bing.com Birds Eye Aerial Photo of Amity Hall, PA (Annotations indicating original intersection of the William Penn Highway and the Susquehanna Trail by S. H. Smith, 2014)

Following my visit to Amity Hall, I purchased the postcard, shown at the beginning of this post.  I’ve indicated the postcard viewpoint direction in the lower left of the 2014 Bing.com Birds Eye Aerial Photo.

Amity1938This 1938 Aerial Photo of Amity Hall is from the Penn Pilot web site containing historical aerial photographs of Pennsylvania.  It is orientated with North at the top and is a straight down view; as opposed to the Bing.com angled birds eye aerial view, although still the same northerly direction.  The Susquehanna Trail forks off to the right at Amity Hall.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT – My cyclist guide, during my visit, explained he has talked to people claiming to have witnessed and/or experienced paranormal activity in the vicinity of the Amity Hall Inn & Motor Lodge; both before and after the fire.  He realizes the place is historic however he is convinced the place is haunted; and it is his impression that is really the reason why not much is being done with the ruins.

Further posts in this series will examine the 1918 competition between Adams County and York County as they advocated for the southern extension route of the Susquehanna Trail to pass through their respective territories.

Related posts include:

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts

About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America." Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.
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