Dream Drives: Valley Forge And Pennypacker Mills, Montgomery County

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Valley Forge is famous, but don’t miss a nearby glimpse of Pennsylvania history at Pennypacker Mills.

Graham Dellinger of Valley Forge National Historic Park showed CBS3’s Meisha Johnson why the park is such a draw in the fall.

“You can’t find a better variety of trees than you do here at Valley Forge,” Graham said.

The story of Valley Forge is “really the creation of America,” Graham said. “It comes back to these men and women who served here at Valley Forge.”

For more than 200 years, rangers have taken pains to preserve pieces of the Continental Army’s 1777-1778 encampment, including one of the houses where Gen. George Washington lived.

During the American Revolution, log cabins (known as huts) spread for miles, enough to create a city of 12,000 soldiers to house the Continental Army.

“When the Army came here on December 19, 1777, this was nothing but farmland,” Graham said. “So they constructed these cabins.” Now tourists can step inside reconstructions of the cabins at the Muhlenberg Brigade Area.

The cabins were rugged places by today’s standards, but “pretty nice for these guys,” Graham said. “You had a fireplace. You had a roof over your head. So when you’re used to fighting and living outdoors for most of the year, this is definitely a huge step up.”

“It smells to me like a campfire,” Meisha said.

“We sometimes call that the smell of history,” Graham said.

It’s not a long drive from Valley Forge to an historic mansion in Schwenksville: Pennypacker Mills.

The home was first built in the early 1700s and once hosted Gen. Washington. In the early 1900s, it was expanded and remodeled by former Pennsylvania governor Samuel Pennypacker. It has looked almost the same ever since, down to the kitchen and the laundry.

“It was as modern a house as it could be at that time,” said historic site supervisor Ella Aderman.

Modern is a relative term. “They didn’t have electricity,” Ella said. “They had a lot of oil lamps. If you had any ideas of doing anything, to do stuff, you had to do it yourself, so you had to crank up the Victrola to listen to it.”

For those who remember their childhood View-Masters, Ella demonstrated its 18th century predecessor: the stereoscope, a viewfinder that gives the illusion of three-dimensional images.

The best place to relax at Pennypacker Mills was the porch overlooking the barn. Today, the barn houses a small museum about the 1900s. Sometimes tourists are allowed to try out some of the devices, like a flour grinder.

“There’s even a general store display so you can see what a grocery trip would look like,” said Ella. Even the prices are posted.

Pennypacker Mills (5 Haldeman Road, Schwenksville, PA 19473) hosts events, demonstrations, and workshops throughout the year. It’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00am to 4:00pm, and open Sundays from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. For more about upcoming events and workshops, go to www.montcopa.org/928/Pennypacker-Mills

Valley Forge National Historic Park is open daily from 7:00am to dusk year-round. To get there via GPS, use this address: 1400 North Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, PA 19406. The park’s website is at www.nps.gov/vafo

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