I've passed through Lewisburg, Pa., many times, and while I've been intrigued by this small, historic town about 160 miles southeast of Buffalo, I stopped there for the first time this summer.
After hearing from several sources that it was the perfect place to stop for rest and refreshments, we included it as an overnight stop on our itinerary when we took a trip through Pennsylvania.
Lewisburg, which was founded in 1784, turns out to be a great place to stop when traveling and a destination in itself. Since it's only about four hours from Buffalo, one could easily come for a day trip.
We arrived in Lewisburg around lunch time and grabbed a quick bite at one of the fast-food places along Route 15 before heading to Market Street in the historic downtown district. The district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and many of the buildings here date back to the 1800s.
The best way to see the historic downtown area is on foot. Our first stop was the Packwood Museum, which contains the art and antique collections of the late Edith and John Fetherston. The home, originally constructed as a two-story log cabin between 1796 and 1799, served as a hotel and tavern through the 19th century. It was purchased by the Fetherstons as their retirement home in the 1930s and named Packwood after their ancestral home in England.
Unfortunately, the museum was only partially open the day we visited, so we were only able to see the special exhibit room on the ground floor of the museum. Perhaps we will get the full tour on our next visit. Another museum in town, the Slifer House, once the home of Pennsylvania statesman Eli Slifer, is filled with Victorian-era furnishings.
Our next stop was the Street of Shops, a short stroll down North Water Street. This unique building, which once housed a wool mill, has been restored inside to resemble an old-time village street. Here you'll find 125 shops carrying all sorts of items, including antiques, artwork, collectibles, home decor items and more. It has a sister property, Roller Mills Marketplace, located about a block away, which has over 400 antique dealers.
It was then back to Market Street to check out some of the historic buildings and shops. One building of note is the Lewisburg Hotel, established in 1834, which has been restored to its original grandeur and now offers 16 guest rooms, including three suites. Many notables have stayed in the hotel over the years, including poet Walt Whitman and sports legend Jim Thorpe, as well as more recent notables like Ralph Nader, Kevin Costner and Tony Hawk.
Another unique downtown building is the Campus Theater, which opened in 1941. It is one of the few remaining single-screen art deco movie palaces in the country. A 29,500-square-foot, two-story Barnes & Noble bookstore, which serves nearby Bucknell University, was recently opened on Market Street in a restored circa-1900 building which once housed a hardware store. As you stroll down Market Street and other downtown streets, note the 1,500 three-globed streetlights, one of Lewisburg's trademarks; 1,500 of them were installed in 1912.
Since it was a nice day, we stopped at Hufnagle Park, a two-block long park in the downtown area that has one of the biggest kids' play areas I've ever seen. Even my teenagers enjoyed using the playground equipment, and my husband and I appreciated the many benches to rest on after our long day of walking around town.
As dinner time approached, we checked into our hotel, the Best Western Country Cupboard, which is adjacent to the Country Cupboard, a local landmark that probably draws more visitors to town than any place else.
The Country Cupboard was started in 1973 by Dan Baylor as a simple roadside farm market and it has grown tremendously since then. Today, it is a huge complex that consists of a 750-seat restaurant and a gift shop that seems to go on and on. The Best Western, along with a Country Inn and Suites, are also part of the complex.
While they have an all-you-can-eat buffet with all sorts of home-cooked items, we opted to order from the menu and had their specialty, "broasted chicken," which comes with a cranberry orange sauce, stuffing and choice of sides. Some of their other specialty dishes include baked lima beans, baked corn, creamed cabbage and pumpkin raisin muffins. Recipes for some of these dishes can be found in a small cookbook sold in the gift shop.
After dinner we spent an hour or so until closing time browsing through the huge gift shop; if we had more time we could have spent hours here. Items for sale include home decor, linens, teapots, teacups, glassware, kitchen utensils, clothing, jewelry, a trim-a-tree shop (August through December), a greenhouse and a flower shop. Let's not forget the sweets; they have lots of candy sold by the pound, jams and jellies, gourmet foods, and an in-house bakery with breads, rolls, muffins, pies, cakes and their famous sticky buns.
Since it is a college town, if you're planning a visit to Lewisburg this fall, you might want to avoid the last weekend of October, a big weekend at Bucknell University.
On Nov. 5 and 6, the Lewisburg Arts Council is sponsoring its annual Stroll the Arts. On Nov. 5, artisans will be demonstrating crafts in many of the shops in downtown Lewisburg. There will also be a silent auction to benefit the arts council. On Nov. 6, bands will be appearing in several venues around town. Can't visit until next year? The arts council sponsors a huge outdoor art festival along Market Street in the spring.
If you go
Lewisburg tourism information, www.lewisburgpa.com
Street of Shops, 100 North Water St., (570) 524-5765, www.streetofshops.net
Lewisburg Hotel, 136 Market St., (570) 523-7800, www.lewisburghotel.com
Packwood House Museum, 15 N. Water St., (570) 524-0323 www.packwoodhousemuseum.com
Slifer House Museum, 80 Magnolia Drive, (570) 524-2245, www.sliferhouse.org
Campus Theater, 413 Market St., Lewisburg, (570) 524-9628 www.thecampustheatre.com
Country Cupboard, 101 Hafer Road (off Route 15) (570) 523-3211, www.countrycupboardinc.com
Stroll through the Arts, Lewisburg Arts Council, www.lewisburgartscouncil.com
Directions: Take the New York State Thruway east to the I-390, follow the I-390 until it turns into the I-86. Follow the I-86 east until just before Corning. Take Route 15 South to Lewisburg.