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Celebrating History, Remembering Heroes along the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor

Feb 02, 2015 08:03AM ● Published by Vanessa Orr

Mister Ed's Elephant Museum has two outdoor gardens, which are home to some of the larger elephant statues.

Gallery: Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor #2 [14 Images] Click any image to expand.

My Aunt Bea (seriously, that was her name) used to collect elephant figurines, and it was always a treat when we went to visit her as kids at Christmas to see her ever-expanding collection. But Aunt Bea had nothing on Mr. Ed, the original proprietor of Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum and Candy Emporium, who now boasts more than 12,000 elephants, in some form or another, in his collection.

One of the first things that a friend told me when I said that I was going to do a road-trip along the Lincoln Highway was that I MUST stop at Mister Ed’s. I’d never heard of it, but as I drove the 200-mile Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, which winds through six Pennsylvania counties from Westmoreland County to Adams County, billboards touting its many attractions made me even more excited to visit.

And Holy Dumbo! I was not disappointed! From the massive white elephant statue that greeted me outside the parking lot, to the even more massive Barnum Circus elephant inside the store, this was a pachyderm paradise! There are elephants of every size, shape and kind, and they take up about every spare inch of space in Mister Ed’s, which also features 70 flavors of homemade fudge, more than 700 varieties of old-time candy, and not surprisingly, all kinds of peanuts—roasted right on-site.

Originally started in the 1970s by Ed Gotwalt, who received his first elephant as a wedding gift, the museum grew and grew until it became, well, elephantine—and now it’s a favorite attraction for parents and kids alike. There’s no charge to visit this homage to the huge beast, though donations are encouraged and go to support The Elephant Sanctuary, Adams County SPCA and the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter.

Once you’ve had your fill of elephants, or candy, or both (seriously, I had to pry myself away from the savory bacon sticks), and get back on the Lincoln Highway, I recommend one more quick detour on your way to Gettysburg. The historic Round Barn and Farm Market is located just a half-mile north of the highway (which is also Rt. 30 at this point), and is definitely worth a stop.  Built in 1914 by the Noah Sheely family, this ‘barrel barn,’ has a circumference of 282 feet, with a diameter of over 87 feet. At the time it was built, it could hold 50 head of cattle and 15 mules or horses; now it is home to an amazing variety of home-grown fruits and vegetables. If you want to go inside, though, make sure to visit from May on—right now, the market is closed for the season.

The Lincoln Highway will lead you right into the heart of Gettysburg, where there are so many things to do that the city rates its own travel column, which will run later this spring. I would suggest, however, before getting back on Rt. 30 to return home, that you plan to spend at least a weekend (or longer) in this remarkable city that is home to amazing food and wine, as well as significant historical attractions.

Two more places that I did not mention in last month’s column, but that absolutely deserve a visit before you leave the highway, are the Jean Bonnet Tavern, four miles west of Bedford, and the Flight 93 Memorial, which is 30 miles west of Bedford (or about 1-1/2 hours from Pittsburgh, if you’re heading east on Rt. 30). The tavern, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in the 1760s, and the original building still features thick fieldstone walls, huge fireplaces and chestnut beams. It’s easy to imagine troops mustering in the main room or the tavern back in the day; the amazing food—including slow roasted prime rib, fresh seafood and Tavern Crab Cakes—keeps patrons coming back now.

While much of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor celebrates a time gone by, a stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial is a somber reminder of the importance of celebrating more recent heroes—the people who died on Flight 93 while thwarting a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. A long, winding road takes visitors to the field where 40 passengers and crew lost their lives, and where their names are memorialized on large, white stone slabs that bear witness to their sacrifice. Details of the crash, the passengers, and the investigation are displayed on outdoor boards in a plaza, and a glass-walled indoor area holds a large bulletin board where visitors can leave their impressions, memories and messages to those who lost their lives. Many people also leave mementos along the walkway that edges the field; since 2001, more than 1 million people have stopped by to pay their respects.

To learn more about all of the things that you can see along the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor—including antique stores, covered bridges, and an artisan trail featuring goods “handmade along the highway” visit www.lhhc.org or call 724-879-4241.

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Travel Lincoln Highway road trips Flight 93 National Memorial Pennsylvania highways Mister Ed's Elephant Museum
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