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Floating food in a governor's mansion

Plus, the TV shows faking Philadelphia.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

June 1, 2024

Inside this edition: Daytripping, Pride planner, posture era, fake Philly, brain drain, and name this soccer team. Thanks for checking in.

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A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
What is the name of Pennsylvania's mascot for America’s 250th birthday celebration in 2026?
A. G.I. Gettysburg 
B. Keystone Kid
C. Barbara Bear
D. Commonwealth Crusader 
(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)
Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.
» One month worth planning: June is Pride Month. Events are happening in PhillyEriePittsburghState College, and across the midstate. Chappell Roan joins Pittsburgh Pride on the North Shore Sunday.
» One item worth eyeing: A $185 posture-correcting sports bra that Berks County native Taylor Swift used during Eras Tour prep is now on sale. Beth Linker mentioned it in a Q&A with us on her "posture panic" book.
» One show worth watching: Lots of TV shows are set in Philly, but not all of them are filmed locally. HBO's Mare of Easttown was, and so is its sequel, which filmed in Phoenixville this week.
» One closure worth knowing: The world’s first pizza museum, Pizza Brain, is closing. The Philly museum/restaurant expects to shut down by Sunday, June 9, but maybe not forever. A new location is possible.
» One name worth choosing: Professional women’s soccer is coming to Pittsburgh but the team needs a name. Entries can be submitted here now through June 21. The five best will be put to a vote


Spotlight PA will soon launch a new weekly newsletter focused on caregiving and caregivers across Pennsylvania. Every Tuesday, "How We Care" will feature original reporting and perspectives on how we care for one another at all stages of life, the huge economic and policy questions ahead, and how it's affecting the lives of millions of people across the state. You can sign up for How We Care here.
🤔 NEXT QUESTION: Are you on top of the news? Prove it with the latest edition of the Great PA News Quiz: Shapiro’s RV road trip, pronatalist politics, and ‘monopoly’ money.
The top stories published by Spotlight PA this week.
» Donors stoke state AG race after costly primaries
» A life vs. death debate for PA's opioid millions
» Secret talks on Penn State's $700M stadium overhaul
» GOP questions PA House remote voting rule
» Some fear dirty side of Biden clean energy push
» Why a new mail-ballot dating rule lawsuit could succeed
An ornate stone building.
The east terrace of Milford's Grey Towers mansion. (Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)

The “birthplace of the American conservation movement” is a gilded-era, chateau-style mansion tucked high atop the Poconos, and it’s worth visiting this summer.

For the first in an occasional daytripper series, we’re profiling Grey Towers in Pike County, the only national historic site overseen by the U.S. Forest Service. 

It’s available for self-guided tours year-round and boasts lush gardens, expansive mountain views, opulent interiors, and a table made for floating food. Here’s a primer. 

What to know

Grey Towers was built in 1886 by wallpaper magnate James Pinchot, who made part of his fortune in land speculation and timber sales. 

Pinchot spent $19,000 on construction costs (more than half a million dollars today) and an additional $24,000 on furnishings. He also helped establish a rare Yale University outpost in tiny Milford.

In 1914, Pinchot’s son and daughter-in-law made Grey Towers a summer home. 

Gifford Pinchot was a noted conservationist by then, having served as the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service under President Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1922, he was elected Pennsylvania’s 28th (and later 30th) governor after a failed bid for the U.S. Senate. The Roosevelt-style progressive Republican saw Pennsylvania through the worst of the Great Depression, promoted state parks, and oversaw the elimination of a deficit worth roughly half a billion dollars today. Other parts of his legacy are less rosy.

Grey Towers was donated to the Forest Service in 1963, two decades after his death. 

Milford Presents, a local tourism group, says Grey Towers was "a virtual boarding house" for the who’s who of the American conservation movement, and a place where related ideas were endlessly exchanged. To this day, natural resource groups are invited to use the property's conference center for meetings and workshops.

A circular table with a middle made of water.
The "finger bowl" or "floating" table. (Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
What to see

The 102-acre property has pristine gardens and peaceful walking trails, while the mansion features 44 rooms and artifacts spanning the 7th through 20th centuries. 

Gifford and Cornelia Pinchot added a moat around a side house. There was also a pool (it’s since been filled in) and an outdoor dining area with a table made of water, pictured above.

We’ll let the Forest Service explain:

Cornelia's most unique contribution to the landscape is the Finger Bowl, the popular outdoor dining table designed by William Lawrence Bottomley and constructed between 1932 and 1935. The Finger Bowl is a raised pool surrounded by a flat ledge of sufficient width to accommodate a place setting. Chairs were pulled up to the pool and food was passed in wooden bowls floated on the water. Wisteria covers an oval, domed, and wooden arbor above it. 

Where to go

Grey Towers is located at 151 Grey Towers Drive, Milford, PA 18337.

It’s a roughly 2.5 hour drive from Philadelphia, an hour from Scranton, three hours from State College, 5.5 hours from Pittsburgh, and nearly 6 hours from Erie.

Explore your public transit options here.

When to go

You can explore the grounds with self-guided tours and hikes year-round.

According to the Grey Towers Heritage Association, guided mansion tours happen Thursday through Monday at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3 p.m. May 24 to Halloween.

The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 12 to 17, and free for kids under 12.

Send us more daytripping ideas here.

Colin Deppen, newsletter editor
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A quote from a Pennsylvanian that we found interesting this week.
"I well knew that my dramatic talents would avail me but little in this country."
Lorenzo Da Ponte, a librettist for some of Mozart's finest operas, on leaving Europe for the U.S., where he spent seven years in Sunbury
Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
A catalpa tree at the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in Berks County, via Don N. Send us your photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
a large tree laid out in green grass with two trunks
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

Pennsylvania's mascot for America’s 250th birthday celebration in 2026 is named "Keystone Kid," so the correct answer is "B."

Keystone Kid was designed by a college student from Lancaster and received its name from a second grader in Montgomery County who won a naming contest, per The Inquirer. 

Thanks for reading. We'll see you back here next week.

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