Ever heard of Protestant Broad Top City? No, it’s not a religious denomination—it’s actually a tiny town tucked away in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. You’re in for a charming discovery if you head off the beaten path to this little slice of history. Originally built as a coal mining town in the mid-1800s, Broad Top City today is like stepping into a time capsule. The population still hovers around 100, and the pace of life remains unhurried. You won’t find a single traffic light or chain store here. Instead, you’ll stumble upon a one-room schoolhouse, an old train depot, and other vestiges of the past. The surrounding countryside offers opportunities for hiking, fishing, and camping under starry skies free of light pollution. If you’re looking to unwind from the stresses of modern life, Broad Top City is the perfect rustic retreat. Lose yourself for a weekend in this little town that time forgot.
An Overview of Protestant Broad Top City, PA
Protestant Broad Top City, Pennsylvania is a charming historic coal mining town tucked away in Huntingdon County. Established in 1855, this small town of just over 200 residents is like taking a step back in time.
Broad Top City was once a booming coal mining hub, with immigrants from Wales, England, Ireland and Germany arriving by the droves to work in the mines. The town featured schools, churches, hotels, and a railway to transport coal. Remnants of this prosperous era still remain, like the company store and miner’s houses.
Today, Broad Top City is a quiet, picturesque town surrounded by forests and mountains. Some highlights include:
- The Historic Broad Top Township Coal Miner’s Park – Featuring miner’s cabins, a museum, and vintage mining equipment on display.
- The East Broad Top Railroad – A scenic narrow-gage heritage railroad running from Rockhill Furnace to Broad Top City. Ride in vintage railcars through beautiful countryside.
- St. Luke’s Church – A historic Episcopal church built in 1873 that still holds services today.
- Hiking and Biking Trails – Miles of trails to explore, including the Thousand Steps Trail and Shindle Iron Road Trail.
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle, Broad Top City offers a perfect rural mountain getaway. Spend a weekend exploring the historic sites, riding the rails, enjoying outdoor recreation, and dining at laid-back local eateries. This hidden gem is well worth discovering.
Top Attractions and Activities in Protestant Broad Top City
As a charming small town, Protestant Broad Top City has plenty to offer visitors. Here are some of the top attractions and activities to experience:
Scenic Railroad Excursions
Take a ride on an authentic steam train along the same track that transported coal in the 1800s. The Broad Top Mountain Railroad runs scenic excursions through the picturesque countryside in vintage railcars. It’s a relaxing way to take in the fall foliage and glimpse old mining towns.
Fuel up at the Broad Top Coffee Shop & Bakery, which serves homemade sweets, soups, and sandwiches. For a heartier meal, head to the Broad Top Inn. Open since 1855, they dish up classic American fare and daily specials with a side of history. Or grab a six-pack and some snacks at the Broad Top Market to enjoy a picnic in the park.
Get outside and explore the natural surroundings. Go hiking, biking or bird watching in Warrior’s Path State Park. Cast a line in the Juniata River, a popular spot for smallmouth bass fishing. In winter, go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing on the many trails.
Learn about the local history at the broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum. See artifacts from the mining era like equipment, documents, and photographs. Also check out the Mowry-Trostle House, an 1800s brick farmhouse, and the Defiance Church, built in the early 1800s.
With stunning scenery, tasty food, outdoor adventure, and a glimpse into the past, Protestant Broad Top City has charm to spare. Take time to discover all this little town has to offer.
The History and Culture of Protestant Broad Top City
The history and culture of Protestant Broad Top City is deeply rooted in its rise and fall as a coal mining town. In the mid-1800s, the discovery of coal in Broad Top Township led to a boom in the local economy and population. The town was formally established in 1870, centered around the mining industry.
At its peak, Protestant Broad Top City was home to around 2,500 residents, most of whom worked for the railroad or in the coal mines. The town had all the amenities of the era, including hotels, stores, churches, and saloons. The most prominent landmarks were the miners’ houses—simple row homes to shelter the influx of workers.
Sadly, the town declined rapidly in the early 20th century as the local coal mines closed down. By 1920, the population had dwindled to just 200 residents. Most of the original buildings were demolished, leaving only a few remnants of its prosperous past.
However, in recent decades, interest in the area’s history has led to preservation efforts. The Broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum opened in 1983 to document the region’s coal mining heritage. Several of the miners’ houses have been restored to provide a glimpse into what life was like for the early residents. An annual festival, Coal Days, celebrates the town’s cultural legacy with live music, food, and family activities.
Though small, Protestant Broad Top City has a story that echoes that of many early industrial boomtowns. Its rise and fall shaped the lives of generations, and memories of that era live on in the museum, historic sites, and annual traditions that keep its history alive. The region’s coal mining roots remain an indelible part of its identity and spirit.
Where to Stay and Dine in Protestant Broad Top City
Where to Stay
The Broad Top Hotel is a restored 19th-century building in the heart of town with antique-filled rooms and suites. It’s a perfect place to stay to feel immersed in the area’s history. Alternatively, for a more rustic getaway, rent one of the historic coal miners’ houses that have been converted into vacation rentals. These homes, like the Sowers Rowhouse and the Shoups Rowhouse, provide a glimpse into how the coal miners and their families lived during the town’s heyday.
Where to Dine
Start your day at the Broad Top Coffee Co. The café sources coffee beans from roasters across Pennsylvania and serves up homemade pastries, quiches, and sandwiches. For lunch, head to the Broad Top Area Coal Miner’s Museum, which has a café featuring classic comfort fare like meatloaf, baked chicken, and potpie.
In the evening, go to the Albright Mansion for an upscale yet relaxed dining experience. The menu focuses on locally-sourced ingredients and changes seasonally. You might find dishes like mushroom risotto, herb-crusted rack of lamb, or pan-seared duck breast. Or for a more casual dinner, stop by the Broad Top Tavern, located in a building from the 1860s. They serve pub fare, craft beers, and cocktails in a historic setting.
On summer weekends, visit the Broad Top City Farmers Market which features goods from local farmers, artisans, and small businesses. You’ll find fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and crafts. It’s the perfect place to pick up ingredients for a picnic in Memorial Park, located in the center of town.
With historic lodging, farm-to-table fare, and a charming small-town vibe, Protestant Broad Top City is a delightful place to stay and dine. Spending a relaxing weekend exploring all it has to offer will leave you enchanted with this hidden gem.
Planning Your Trip to Protestant Broad Top City, PA
Planning a trip to Protestant Broad Top City is easy with some advance preparation. Here are a few tips to get you started:
There are a few charming bed and breakfasts in town that offer a cozy place to stay. Book at least a month in advance if traveling in the busy summer season. Camping is also available at nearby state parks if you prefer to rough it.
Protestant Broad Top City is about a 2 hour drive from Pittsburgh, PA and Harrisburg, PA. The closest major airport is in Altoona, PA, about 45 minutes away. You’ll want to rent a car to explore the area at your own pace.
What to See
Don’t miss the Broad Top Area Coal Miners Museum to learn about the region’s coal mining history. Also check out the East Broad Top Railroad, a historic narrow-gage railroad that offers scenic rail tours from May through October. Beautiful Fuller Lake is perfect for swimming, fishing, and boating in the summer. In the fall, the changing leaves are stunning.
What to Eat
There are a few casual restaurants in town featuring classic diner fare, pizza, and barbeque. Be sure to try the locally made jam, honey, and whoopie pies. Farmers markets offer fresh produce, meats, and dairy from local farms.
With stunning natural scenery, historic attractions, and small-town charm, Protestant Broad Top City is a delightful place to escape from it all. With the proper planning, you’ll be able to fully experience all this special place has to offer. Have a great trip!
So there you have it, a glimpse into the delightful little town of Protestant Broad Top City in Pennsylvania. With its historic coal mining roots, charming Victorian architecture, and location in a picturesque valley, it’s no wonder this place has remained largely unchanged for over a century. Next time you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, consider taking a trip back in time to experience the simple pleasures of yesteryear in this hidden gem of a town. Lose yourself strolling the quiet streets, strike up a conversation with one of the friendly locals, enjoy a homemade meal at one of the diners or taverns. You’ll return home refreshed and rejuvenated, with memories of a slower pace of life to sustain you until your next visit. Discover the charm of Protestant Broad Top City for yourself.