I’m not going to lie. When I heard that the tiny town of Eldred, Pennsylvania, had a World War II museum, I really wasn’t expecting much. I figured that it would probably have a few keepsakes from local soldiers and maybe even a few souvenirs brought back from Germany and Japan. However, even before I entered the museum, I knew that I was going to be pleasantly surprised.
When you drive up to the Eldred World War II Museum, the first thing you notice is the large 3-D mural on the outside. Featuring a tank exploding from the walls of the museum, the mural is certainly eye-catching and no doubt draws in its share of visitors by itself.
Moving inside, I was quite surprised at the large size of the museum. Featuring half a dozen large rooms filled with thousands of items related to the entire war, this is not your typical small town museum.
During the war, Eldred was the site of a large munitions factory that operated from 1941 until mid-1945 and employed over 1,500 people, most of whom were women. The museum, that has been open since 1996, tells the story of not just the local involvement in the war, but the entire war itself. Focusing on the personal side of the war instead of the units, the museum has a much more personal and in-depth feel than many other war museums.
However, that doesn’t mean that the museum doesn’t tell the story of the war. Far from it. In fact, I would say that the narration of the war is one of the most complete I have seen in any museum. Everything is covered from the different campaigns, including the rarely covered Eastern Front, to America’s civil defense, and the women who worked in the many factories.
There is even a new section that focuses on the Holocaust, though admission is restricted to ensure young eyes don’t see too much.
One especially impressive section focuses on the exploits of Mitchell Paige, a soldier born in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Paige earned a Medal of Honor for his exploits on Guadalcanal where he single-handedly caused the retreat of hundreds of attacking Japanese soldiers. The museum focuses an entire section to Paige and is fortunate enough to have many of his personal effects, including his Medal of Honor.
Throughout the museum, there is a fantastic collection of keepsakes and souvenirs donated by both locals and those who live outside the area. The museum’s collection features hundreds of military uniforms from the war and souvenirs brought back from Germany and Japan. One macabre highlight was a photo album from a local German woman that features a picture of herself as a small child being hugged by Adolf Hitler.
For anyone interested in researching the war, the Eldred World War II Museum has a collection of over 10,000 books related to the war, and the museum has written down interviews with more than 4,000 veterans.
I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I was with the quality and detail of the Eldred World War II Museum. Despite being a privately owned museum in a small town, it is one of the state’s most interesting history museums. Anyone with an interest in military history should put a visit high on their list of things to see and do in McKean County, Pennsylvania.
Note: Special thanks to the Allegheny National Forest Visitors Bureau for hosting my visit to the Eldred World War II Museum.
Eldred World War II Museum
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-4pm
Open Saturdays 10am-4pm (December-February)
Cost: Free, Donations are accepted
Address: 201 Main Street
14 thoughts on “The Surprisingly Amazing Eldred World War II Museum”
Great museum….. of course, I am prejudiced, as I am a native of Eldred!
I love when one stumbles on a museum such as this with low expectations and ends up being greatly impressed. I’m a Pennsylvanian, but my find was a little countryside WW I museum outside of Ypres that really presented a “you are there” experience of trench warfare.
Hi Suzanne F. next time I am headed south on I-81 , I plan on stopping in Eldred , PA to see the WW ll Museum there. I think you can see it from the interstate right. anyways I wanted to ask you about Ypres and that WW l museum. is it too in PA. ?
Eldred isn’t along I-81. It’s several hours west of there.
You have done a wonderful job of pointing out things I never knew existed. Found some new places to go to this summer. Thanks
Thanks, Denise! Enjoy your summer travels.
Am planning a trip to see Museum.
Will be taking my first trip to PA in July with my wife who is from PA. Will be visiting the muesum at that time.
I stumbled on this museum while touring the area with my wife’s grandfather, who lived nearby in Shinglehouse. He was telling me stories of the munitions plant, and wanted to show me where it was located. As we traveled through Eldred, he happened to mention the museum. As you have stated, this museum was a surprise! Well documented & extremely interesting. They had many artifacts from the munitions plant. Well worth the visit!!!
Loved this one as well!!! AND if you can get the curator/owner gentleman of the museum to give you the tour around the place, he can add in much more detail than is on display signs and mainly the historical story behind nearly every artifact on display. He knows where it came from, who donated the item or where it was purchased and also how the artifact was used during its wartime era. We highly recommend this as a must stop on any visitor trip to north central PA.
Down the road a bit from Eldred, towards Port Alleghany, there’s a small sign (well, I hope it’s still there, it’s been a few years) that marks the location of a “powder company”. There’s a reason munitions were being made so far from the transportation hubs during world war II- and it wasn’t just because the remoteness of the area protected the citizenry, should all those munitions go BOOM! The whole general area (The Bradford Sands Deposit) is where oil was first commercially developed in the world- nearby Bradford has the oldest continually operating refinery in the world- since it was 1st. Old-time oil drilling (wildcatting) involved drilling a hole until oil was found, then dropping a six ft. long “torpedo” down the hole, filled with several GALLONS of liquid nitroglycerin. The resultant explosion blew out a chamber at the bottom of the hole where oil could collect and be pumped out. So you had a remote area where there were a fairly large number of people with prior experience in making/handling high explosives. And their dangers. To this day, if you can find the “Powder Company” sign, and you study the trees thereabouts, it is possible to discern an area where the trees are noticeably shorter. Seems there came a day (back during the oil rush period) when said power company powdered– and went BOOM!!! with sufficient force to completely destroy the trees in a circle well over a mile in circumference – so the newer growth remains shorter than the old grow- and, at the center of the depression, where the trees are the shortest- is where the original manufacturing building once stood. (As told to me by my father, a native of Olean).
This is really a great museum & I would highly recommend a visit to see it. I went there a couple years ago on one of my vacation days & it is well worth seeing. The few fellows there on that day were very helpful & friendly. Great place to see & very nice exhibits!!
Touring the Alleghenies my husband and I happened upon this museum. What a gem! I don’t think I have ever been to such a incredible museum It not only tells the story of WWII but makes it very personal with fascinating stories of local people. It should be a must stop for anyone researching or interested in the history of WWII