US Route 6
National Geographic Magazine labeled US Route 6 as “one
of America’s most scenic drives”. The scenery
near the Smethport section of the highway is majestic in its beauty.
The highway bobs up and down through the foothills of the Allegheny
Mountains, lending breathless views across wide valleys, and distant
Small, family owned farms nestled along the road give the motorist
a glimpse of rural America that is long removed from the urban landscape.
Sunsets touch the endless horizon ahead as the highway travels the
Allegheny Plateau for a short way before dropping down into the next
valley 2,000 feet below.
While the scenic value of Route 6 is quickly recognized as a special
treasure, the historic highway is much more than scenery. It is the
back bone of quaint little towns along its path. Smethport is one
of those towns.
It’s the town’s gateway. Early town pioneers arrived
through this path when it was the old East-West Road to build a town
out of the primeval forest. In generations to follow, new babies
entered town for the first time through the same portal to become
new valued members of the community. High school graduates exit the
same portal to go away to college, build a life, and return home
to Smethport for a visit with family, a vacation, or a football game
and brilliant autumn foliage during Smethport Area High School’s
Annual Homecoming. Many use that same highway that they left by to
return to Smethport to retire, or to build a new business.
Organ music can be heard in community churches built beside this
highway. Weddings, baptisms, church services, and community meetings
become part of the movement across the road leading through the heart
of the town. Teens gather at the Catholic Church on Wednesday evenings
during summer for “Teen Hang-Out Night”. Their laughter
and vitality can be heard above the roar of tractor trailers shipping
freight all across America.
People gather on the sidewalks along its route in the friendly business
district for special occasions. World War II veterans
line its sides during commemorative services for Memorial Day, or
a troop support march for the hometown boys in Iraq. They march in
festival parades along with the high school band, Brownies, Boy Scouts,
firemen, kids drill teams, and local descendents of the Civil War “Bucktail” Regiment
that formed in Smethport and gained fame on the battlefields of Pennsylvania,
Maryland and Virginia..
Residents of the town walk along the highway for recreation, often
stopping to visit each other, or wave their hand as a friend drives
by and toots a hello. Tourists are often seen setting on the benches
along its way to rest a spell between shopping at quant little shops,
or to reflect on the wonders of small-town America.
Route 6 is an historic road. When it was the newly built East-West
Road in the early 1800’s, mostly forest lined its sides. Later,
as the towns along its route began to grow, small homes and log cabins
became landmarks. Today, there are farms, factories, and mansions
that give testimony to the “Gilded Era” of wealth that
came with industry in the late 19th century.
With industry came the heavy sleds carried logs to the saw mills,
which were soon replaced by the automobile, bringing even more prosperity
to the little towns along its course. Town’s folk still shop
in the business district along its avenue, just as they did 100 years
ago. They still gather there for special events, like a street dance
during Smethport’s Summerfest in 2005, just as they did for
the 4th of July Parade in 1895.
The road, also known as The Grand Army of the Republic Highway in
honor of Civil War Veterans, is much, much more than just a highway.
It is the social, civil, historic thread that sews the people of
Smethport together into a strong, friendly community rich in history,
tradition, and hope for a bright future.
It is the road that brings a “Timeless Home” to Smethport.