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Road Trip! Destination: Milford, Pike County

| Saturday, July 26, 2014, 8:56 p.m.

Modeled after the streets of Philadelphia, Milford was one of the first “planned” communities. It was laid out after the Revolutionary War by riding Circuit Court Judge John Biddis. Milford has received accolades from numerous travel magazines, including being dubbed “the prettiest county seat in America” by The Atlantic. Tourists have described the one-stoplight town as something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Its many notable visitors include Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie and Robert Frost. Located 75 miles from New York City and 125 miles from the City of Brotherly Love, Milford has maintained its habit of luring even the most stubborn city dwellers out into the country for a good old-fashion breath of fresh air.

The Columns Museum

Hearing stories of our nation's most poignant moments is one way to appreciate history. Seeing the bloodstained flag upon which Abraham Lincoln lay mortally wounded is quite another.

“I've had people break down in tears when they see it,” says Lori Strelecki, museum director. Recently authenticated by Joseph E. Garrera, president of the Lincoln Group of New York, the 36-star American flag on display is an eerie reminder of the devastation felt by a nation more than 150 years ago.

According to Garrera's research, as Lincoln lay on the floor of Ford's Theatre with a mortal gunshot wound, stage manager and occasional actor Thomas Gourlay “pulled the large flag which had been draped over the balustrade and placed it partially under Lincoln's head.” After the president had been moved to the Petersen House across the street, Gourlay took the flag and kept it, eventually passing it along to his daughter, Jeannie Gourlay. Eventually, the family donated it to the Pike County Historical Society, where various forensic tests and additional research confirmed that it was, in fact, “The Bloody Lincoln Flag.”

Additional exhibits on display throughout the 1904 Neoclassical mansion include military memorabilia, vintage clothing and photograph collections. “We're a repository for local history,” Strelecki says.

The Columns Museum is at 608 Broad St.

Details: 570-296-8126 or www.pikehistorical.org

Grey Towers National Historic Site

It only seems fitting that the former home of the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service would now be the site of conservation education. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the sprawling, 43-room manse of Gifford Pinchot was built in 1886 by his parents, James and Mary, and includes 19 bedrooms.

“The reason the home was built with so many rooms is because they were going to use Grey Towers as a place where they could invite guests to spend a week or two to talk about challenges facing the nation,” Melody Remillard, visitors services information specialist, says. “One of the main concerns was the deforestation of the land. They would invite influential and celebrated people — writers, actors, politicians, ambassadors — who could help bring about a change.”

Overlooking the Delaware River, the 102-acre property of forested lands and manicured gardens includes dozens of outbuildings, including the outdoor dining area — The Finger Bowl. The spot is a raised pool where guests of the twice-elected governor of Pennsylvania would be seated around the stone structure and be served food via a series of floating bowls. Grey Towers remained in the family until the early 1960s, when it was donated to the Forest Service.

“The Pinchots were great advocates for the adoption of forestry in the (United States) at a time when people were just indiscriminately cutting the trees to provide a nation with wood. Unfortunately, back then, they would harvest the wood (and) take every tree without any thought for the future,” Remillard says.

Visitors can also take advantage of the following Fee Free Days: Aug. 11, Happy Birthday Gifford Pinchot, and Sept. 27, National Public Lands Day.

Grey Towers National Historic Site is at 122 Old Owego Turnpike.

Details: 570-296-9630 or www.greytowers.org

The Upper Mill

Step inside and get a taste of what it was like to earn $2 for a 12-hour day of work back in the late 1800s. Originally one of nine water-powered mills operating in Milford at the turn of the 19th century, the Upper Mill enables contemporary visitors to appreciate exactly how falling water was able to produce enough power to grind grain.

Built in 1882 to replace the original structure that burned down, the property was vacated by the last miller in the 1950s and the water wheel sat mostly idle until a few years ago, when co-owner Bob Hartman and his partners decided to purchase the space and renovate it.

These days, guests will find boutiques, art galleries and the WaterWheel Bakery and Bar, which specializes in authentic Vietnamese cuisine, at their disposal within the four buildings that occupy the property. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the site's three-story-high, functioning waterwheel tends to make a lasting impression.

“Generally, people are quite awestruck. It seems children get quite a kick out of it,” Hartman says.

Self-guided tours are open year round during regular business hours, however, the water wheel is in operation only from May to October.

The Upper Mill is at 150 Water St. Details: 570-409-4646 or www.theuppermilltour.com

Black Bear Film Festival

Catering to those with an insatiable appetite for independent films, the 15th annual Black Bear Film Festival will roll into town from Oct. 17 to 19.

The three-day long event also celebrates Milford's storied cinema past: This small town has seen legends Zane Grey, D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish and John Barrymore walking its streets over the years.

“It's a charming festival located in the heart of a charming town held in a charming, historic, 103-year-old theater,” founding president Jerry Beaver says.

This year's crop of 14 films won't be announced until tickets go on sale around Sept. 20, but don't wait too long to snag some because they usually go pretty quickly. Although the crowd includes quite a number of repeat attendees, newbies shouldn't feel the least bit intimidated about joining the fun.

“People come from all over — it's got to the point now where there are people who have been coming for many years and make it their destination vacation trip,” Beaver says.

Black Bear Film Festival is held in the Historic Milford Theatre, 114 E. Catharine St.

Details: 570-409-0909 or www.blackbearfilm.com

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Once touted as a “Wonder of the World,” the 70,000 acre park includes the Milford Beach and the Milford fluviarchy, a series of waterfalls that includes the tallest in Pennsylvania, the Raymondskill Falls.

Only 4 feet shorter than the famous Niagara, the falls are divided into upper and lower steps, with viewing platforms that can be found near the head of the falls and in between the divide.

Spend the day hiking through the Cliff Park Trails while developing an appreciation for the rocky terrain that often was used as stand-ins for the wild, wild, west in numerous talkie and silent films. Among the famous cliff-walkers: Tom Mix and silent-film stars Walter Miller and Mary Pickford.

To access Raymondskill Falls, take Milford Road (SR2001) to Raymondskill Road to the falls.

Details: www.discoverpikepa.com, www.nps.gov/dewa

Kate Benz is a features writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at kbenz@tribweb.com, 412-380-8515 or via Twitter @KateBenzTRIB.

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