Smethport is the County Seat of McKean County, which is located in Northwestern Pennsylvania bordering New York State. The town is home to 1,700 friendly residents.
From a primitive beginning when the first cabin was built in 1811, the town grew quickly, and became the thriving Borough of Smethport by 1853. A town wide Sesquicentennial Celebration and the construction of a bronze bell during the summer of 2003 returned Smethport to its historical roots and served as the spring board for further development of its unique heritage. During 2004 the borough was honored when it was designated Pennsylvania’s First Route 6 Heritage Community. This heritage is reflected in the displays at the McKean County Historical Society’s Old Jail Museum located behind the Courthouse. The society offers many genealogical records, photographic archives, periodic lectures, and public demonstrations, as well.
The town is composed of a mixture of blue collar and white collar folks who blend together as friends and fellow town’s people. Tourists coming to Smethport often comment on how friendly the people are that live there. They also remark on how safe the town is, compared to the urban centers that they came from.
The Smethport Mansion District is one of Smethport’s paramount attractions. The district is one of the best maintained historic architectural areas across Pennsylvania’s section of U.S. Route 6. Most of these are prime examples of Victorian style architecture, such as Queen Anne, Stick, and Italianate. Other historic Greek Revival style homes so popular during the early 19 th century are well maintained as well. These are some of the earliest homes built in Smethport, and were built by the town’s pioneers. Tourists can view these masterpieces from a by-gone era through walking tours that are offered periodically during special events, or by a casual walk along Smethport’s friendly sidewalks.
Hamlin Lake Park is centered in the valley a few blocks below Smethport’s Business District. The lake was once filled with thousands of hemlock logs that were waiting to be sawn at the large sawmill located there. Now, the lake is filled with trout and offers excellent fishing for the visiting angler. Picnic areas and other sports facilities are also located in the park, which serves as the picturesque host for special summer celebrations held annually.
The community has two famous industries that typify the town’s entrepreneurial spirit. One of the world most popular toys is produced in Smethport, the magnetic game “Wooly Willy”. A second industry, the Backus Company, is famous for the invention of the world’s first automatic bowling pin setter. The original company now includes Chef Specialties Products, which are the market leader of pepper mills in the foodservice industry in the US.
Lindgren’s Variety Store is only a couple of blocks west of the Christmas Store. The old style “five and dime store” is one of the few left along the Route 6 corridor.
The Route 6 Diner is just up the street. The diner is built in the favorite 1930’s style that looked like a railroad dining car. The diner features home cooked cuisine, friendly people, and a 1950’s atmosphere complete with music from the era.
The 100 year old McKean County Fair held each August is another of Smethport’s famous attractions. The fair is noted as one of the best fairs for its size in Pennsylvania.
While the community pays great reverence to its historical heritage, it is also a modern town with strong social, professional and business institutions, organizations, and services. These include fine schools, churches, two health clinics, and a highly trained volunteer fire department. The Smethport Area Chamber of Commerce is active in promoting the historical, social, and economic features of the Smethport Area, and sponsors a variety of events throughout the year.
While Smethport’s attractions and quaint architecture are interesting treasures that give the town a unique flavor, it is the friendly people of Smethport that truly make the town special.
The hometown spirit runs deep in Smethport. People revere traditional American values, like faith, community, family, education, outdoor sports, and work. They honor veterans at Memorial Day services, like the civil war “Bucktail” regiment that formed in Smethport in 1861, and they marched together in 2003 to show support for the hometown boys at war in Iraq. They line the sidewalks in autumn as the Smethport Area High School queen candidates ride down Main Street, the school band leading the way. They appreciate its senior citizens, like the Elderberries Kitchen Band. The town’s children are equally revered, and its teens are included in special town events, as well. Residents still celebrate the Christmas holiday with traditional outdoor lighting, and welcome Santa at a special parade and breakfast just for the children.
Mixed in with town pride, there is also a Huckleberry Finn spirit of adventure, and innocence. That spirit is balanced with a Norman Rockwell style of “countrified realism.” In Rockwell’s autobiography he wrote, “I showed the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” In doing so, Rockwell adhered to old values that captured America’s “collective imagination.” His illustrations became nuances of “ordinary people in everyday life.” He painted the essence of the American people, “mythical, idealistic, and innocent.” His images that he painted decades ago are actual slices of real life in the Smethport of today.
The Smethport Area Chamber of Commerce extends a warm invitation for you to visit our wonderful community to experience its heritage, Victorian charm, and most of all, its friendly people.