Exploring Boalsburg – the Birthplace of Memorial Day

Exploring Boalsburg Pennsylvania the birthplace of Memorial Day.

The village of Boalsburg in Centre County is recognized as the birthplace of Memorial Day in the United States.

The Village of Boalsburg is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The village of Boalsburg is on the National Register of Historic Places.

And while this national holiday shines the spotlight on Boalsburg one day a year, ANY time is a good time to visit Boalsburg, with the entire village being considered a National Historic Site.

Visiting Boal mansion and Columbus Chapel in Boalsburg PA.
The Boal Mansion is the site of the original home of Boalsburg founder David Boal.

The Birthplace of Memorial Day

In October 1864, three Boalsburg women decorated the graves of two local men who had died serving the Union army in the Civil War.

Springtime blooms around the Birthplace of Memorial Day monument in Boalsburg PA.
Springtime blooms around the Birthplace of Memorial Day monument.

A monument and plaques commemorating the birth of this national tradition stands just off of Route 322 in Boalsburg.

Honors to the Fallen plaque on the monument commemorating Boalsburg as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
“Honors to the Fallen” plaque on the monument commemorating Boalsburg as the birthplace of Memorial Day.

The actual graves they decorated are near the monument as well, behind the Zion Lutheran Church in Boalsburg.

Reuben Hunter's tombstone behind the Zion Lutheran Church in Boalsburg PA.
Reuben Hunter’s tombstone behind the Zion Lutheran Church.

Emma Hunt was one of those three women, and a likeness of her father’s tombstone is incorporated into the Memorial Day monument.

Reuben Hunter's tombstone is replicated as part of the Birthplace of Memorial Day sculpture in Boalsburg PA.
Reuben Hunter’s tombstone is replicated as part of the Birthplace of Memorial Day monument in Boalsburg.

So know that when you are standing at the rear of the Zion Lutheran Church in Boalsburg, you are literally standing in the footsteps of history.

The gravesites behind the Zion Lutheran Church in Boalsburg are the site of the birthplace of Memorial Day.
The gravesites behind the Zion Lutheran Church in Boalsburg are the site of the birthplace of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day in Boalsburg

Not surprisingly, Memorial Day weekend is one of the busiest of the year in Boalsburg, with thousands of people descending upon the town to carry on the tradition of remembering those who gave their lives in service to our country.

The town square is a busy place in Boalsburg on Memorial Day weekend.
The town square is a busy place in Boalsburg on Memorial Day weekend.

Memorial Day weekend is also the unofficial start of summer, and as such numerous other “summery” events happen this weekend in Boalsburg as well.

The AACA Car Show at the PA Military Museum is a Memorial Day tradition in Centre County PA.
The AACA Car Show at the PA Military Museum is a Memorial Day tradition in Centre County.

A Day in Towne

A Day in Towne is a large craft show held throughout historic Boalsburg on Memorial Day.

Arts and crafts vendors set up along the streets of Boalsburg on Memorial Day weekend.
Arts and crafts vendors set up along the streets of Boalsburg on Memorial Day weekend.

Boalsburg Fireman’s Carnival

The 2022 Boalsburg Fireman’s Carnival happens May 23rd – 27th.

The Boalsburg Firemen's Carnival is an Memorial Day weekend tradition in Centre County PA.
The Boalsburg Fireman’s Carnival is an Memorial Day weekend tradition in Centre County.

The hours of operation are: Thursday & Friday: 6-10pm, Saturday: 5-10pm, Sunday: 2-6pm, and Monday: 10am-10pm.

Nighttime view of the Boalsburg Fireman's Carnival on Memorial Day weekend in Boalsburg PA.
Nighttime view of the Boalsburg Fireman’s Carnival on Memorial Day weekend.

Civil War Reenactments

Since Memorial Day was born out of the Civil War, it’s not surprising that Civil War reenactors take part in the activities in Boalsburg this weekend.

Civil War reenactors taking part in the Memorial Day weekend activities in Boalsburg PA.
Civil War reenactors taking part in the Memorial Day weekend activities.

The Boalsburg Memorial Day military reenactment event includes canons that are used and fired by the Battery B Third
Pennsylvania Volunteers
.

Part of a Civil War artillery reenactors display in Boalsburg on Memorial Day weekend.
Part of a Civil War artillery reenactors display in Boalsburg on Memorial Day weekend.

AACA Allegheny Mt. Region Antique Automobile Show

The grounds of the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg are host to this annual Memorial Day car show for vehicles 25 years old and older.

The AACA car show at the PA Military Museum is a Memorial Day tradition in Boalsburg PA.
The AACA car show at the PA Military Museum is a Memorial Day tradition in Boalsburg.

Vehicle field registration costs $10; spectators are admitted free of charge.

A Ford Mustang on display at the Memorial Day car show in Boalsburg PA.
A Ford Mustang on display at the Memorial Day car show.

The Pennsylvania Military Museum

The Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg honors the service of Pennsylvanians in all branches of the military, from colonial times to the present day.

The Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, PA.
The Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg.

The 18,000 square-foot museum houses an impressive collection of weapons, uniforms, vehicles, and photographs of Pennsylvania’s citizen-soldiers answering the call of duty in all of America’s major armed conflicts.

Cannons and mortars at the Pennsylvania Military Museum.
Cannons and mortars exhibit.

The museum is complemented by a 67-acre park that is home to additional vehicles, artillery pieces, and more than 30 monuments and memorials.

Battle of the Bulge Monument at the Pennsylvania Military Museum.
Battle of the Bulge Monument.

The Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion

The Columbus Chapel in Boalsburg contains the largest and most important collection of Christopher Columbus artifacts and memorabilia on the North American continent!

Facing the altar inside the Columbus Chapel in Boalsburg Pennsylvania.
Inside the Columbus Chapel in Boalsburg.

Located on the grounds of the Boal Mansion, the story of just how these relics associated with the world’s most famous explorer ended up residing in Boalsburg is a fascinating chapter in Pennsylvania history.

A bust of Columbus from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893.
A bust of Columbus from the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.

The Boal Mansion has been in the Boal family for over 200 years, although it started out as a simple stone cabin in 1809.

Exterior of the Boal Mansion in Boalsburg Pennsylvania.
Exterior of the Boal Mansion.

David Boal, who built that original stone cabin, was a Scottish-Irish pioneer who founded the village of Boalsburg around a tavern and trading post he built here as well.

The dining room in the Boal Mansion.
The dining room in the Boal Mansion.

The grounds of the Boal Mansion typically play host to medieval reenactors over Memorial Day weekend.

Medieval reenactors doing battle n the grounds of the Boal Mansion on Memorial Day weekend.
Medieval reenactors doing battle n the grounds of the Boal Mansion on Memorial Day weekend.

There are also craft and food vendors, as well as activities such as face painting for the kids.

Face painting at the Boal Mansion on Memorial Day weekend in Boalsburg PA.
Face painting at the Boal Mansion on Memorial Day weekend in Boalsburg.

Final Thoughts

Historic Boalsburg is a beautiful place to visit any time of year, but even more so on Memorial Day weekend, in the birthplace of Memorial Day itself.

The Birthplace of Memorial Day plaque on the monument in Boalsburg PA.
The Birthplace of Memorial Day plaque.

Decoration Day, as it was originally known, offers a chance for the remembrance of those who served our country and paid the ultimate price for our freedoms.

Birthplace of Memorial Day monument in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania..
Birthplace of Memorial Day monument.

That history and those memories are alive and well in Boalsburg.

Air Force memorabilia at the Pennsylvania Military Museum.
Air Force memorabilia at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg.

And sites like the Columbus Chapel and Boal Mansion, as well as the Pennsylvania Military Museum, make Boalsburg an inviting place for history lovers to visit any time of year!

The ballroom in the Boal Mansion.
The ballroom in the Boal Mansion.

Nearby Attractions

Centre Furnace Mansion in State College served as the home for a series of “iron masters” in the late 1700s through the mid 1800s, and is also the birthplace of Penn State University.

Touring Centre Furnace Mansion in State College Pennsylvania.
Centre Furnace Mansion in State College, Pennsylvania.

The Arboretum at Penn State is a peaceful oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of Penn State’s main campus in State College.

Springtime blooms near the Greenhouse at the Penn State Arboretum.
Springtime blooms near the Greenhouse at the Penn State Arboretum.

The Penn State All-Sports Museum at Beaver Stadium honors the history, heritage, and accomplishments of Penn State athletes and Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics.

Penn State football memorabilia on display at the Penn State All-Sports Museum.
Penn State football memorabilia at the All-Sports Museum at Beaver Stadium.

Hiking Mount Nittany is a rite of passage for Penn Staters and a favored activity of visitors to the State College area.

Beaver Stadium as viewed from the MIke Lynch Overlook.
Beaver Stadium as viewed from the Mike Lynch Overlook on Mount Nittany.

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Rusty Glessner is a professional photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.