Around the world, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is known as the birthplace of Little League baseball and the home of the Little League World Series. However, there is much history in the region that is separate from youth baseball.
Those wanting to learn more about the region’s industrial history and the people that impacted the area have two great museums that they can visit. The Thomas T. Taber Museum is the official museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society and offers a great overview of history in the region.
Just behind this museum is the Peter Herdic Transportation Museum which tells the story of transportation in the region. (Sadly, the Peter Herdic Transportation Museum has permanently closed. I will leave the info about it here for posterity.)
The Thomas T. Taber Museum is the larger of the two and is located in a modern building in Williamsport’s famous Millionaires Row. The museum displays the collection of the Lycoming County Historical Society, which has existed since 1907.
While in some ways it seems a shame that the museum isn’t located in one of the area’s beautiful 19th-century homes, their modern facility allows for excellent displays.
The Taber Museum’s ground floor is home to a large art collection that features both local and international artists. One of the highlights of their collection is the John Sloan Collection. Sloan was from nearby Lock Haven (home of the Piper Aviation Museum) and was one of the founders of the Ashcan school. Sloan was known for his paintings and etchings, many of which featured New York cityscapes that he saw from his city studio.
Another highlight is the paintings of Severin Roesen. Roesen was born in modern-day Germany and eventually settled in Williamsport. His still-life paintings of flowers and fruit are still very popular and his paintings are currently hanging in the White House and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
The first floor of the museum also has an excellent display about the Native Americans in the area.
In addition to artifacts found around Lycoming County, the museum also features information on the Canfield Island Archeological Site on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Here, evidence of Native American habitation has been found dating back three millennia.
There is also an interactive archeological dig that shows visitors of all ages what an archeological site is like.
The Taber Museum also features information about life in Lycoming County from when the area was first settled by Europeans in 1769 through the mid-20th century. Called “A Walk Through History,” this section is a series of rooms that feature information and artifacts related to various aspects of life and industry.
The Taber Museum also features a large model train display. While there isn’t much local history associated with it, it’s an incredibly well-done display that is sure to excite anyone with even a passing interest in model railroads.
Located behind the Taber Museum is the Peter Herdic Transportation Museum. While these museums work together, they are separate museums with separate admission policies and hours.
The Herdic Transportation Museum opened in 2008 and is located in the former train station garage. It was named after Peter Herdic, a wealthy lumber baron and politician who once resided in Williamsport. The museum covers the history of transportation in Lycoming County, from Native Americans through the middle part of the 20th century.
Inside this small museum are a collection of vehicles and other modes of land transportation. The highlight of the indoor exhibits is the 1964 city bus that once took passengers around the streets of Williamsport. This bus has been well-restored and offers a great glimpse into mid-century public transportation in the region.
Also inside the museum is a great interactive display related to the Underground Railroad in Lycoming County. Daniel Hughes lead the Underground Railroad in the region and kept detailed notes, which was quite uncommon.
This interactive display has information on dozens of known Underground Railroad stops in the area, including information on how the buildings were used. The display is narrated by the great, great, great granddaughter of Hughes. Without a doubt, this is one of the most complete displays of information about the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania.
Outside of the museum sits a 1949 Pullman rail car. Only eight cars like this were ever built, and it is one of only two still in existence. This incredibly well-restored train car is opened from time to time for dinners put together by the museum.
In addition to the museum, those that purchase tickets to the Peter Herdic Transportation Museum also can ride on the Williamsport Trolleys. The trolleys offer museum visitors a 90-minute tour of downtown Williamsport at no additional cost.
Unfortunately, the trolleys were not running during my visit, so I can’t comment on the quality of the tour. However, the inexpensive cost of admission for a historic trolley tour and the museum seems like a great deal.
The Thomas T. Taber Museum and the Peter Herdic Transportation Museum combine to offer a great overview of the history of Williamsport and Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. For those looking to find out more about the region beyond youth baseball, these museums shouldn’t be missed.
While in the area, don’t miss a great ride on the Hiawatha Riverboat.
Note: My visit to both museums was hosted by the sites. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Thomas T. Taber Museum
Cost: Adults: $9.50, Children: $6.00
Address: 858 West Fourth Street