Historic Bellefonte is both the county seat of Centre County and the “Victorian Jewel” of Pennsylvania!
Located 12 miles northeast of State College and Penn State, it is considered one of the best preserved historic towns in the United States.
Due to the wealth created by several nearby iron furnaces, Bellefonte became the most influential town between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg in the 1800s.
No less than 5 Pennsylvania governors called Bellefonte home for at least part of their lives during this time period.
Today those same streets would look remarkably familiar to a visitor from the 1800s, even as the restaurants and businesses inside the buildings have changed over time.
What follow is a list of some of the best things to see and do in Bellefonte, including shops, museums, parks, historic sites, and special events.
The Centre County Courthouse
One of the most-picturesque and most-recognized buildings in Bellefonte is the Centre County Courthouse, built in 1805, with several subsequent renovations/additions.
Long the subject of postcard artists, it features a Greek Revival style entry porch and eight 26 foot-high columns.
The Centre County Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
The Curtin Residence
Built primarily of limestone in 1868, this was once the home of Andrew Curtin, Governor of Pennsylvania from 1861-1867.
The building is now the home of the Bellefonte Elks, who purchased the home in 1906 for $10,000.
You’ll find even more references to Andrew Curtin as you walk around Bellefonte, including this historical marker on South Allegheny Street, just a few blocks from the Curtin House.
And of course the Andrew Curtin statue in front of the courthouse stands watch over his beloved hometown.
Many of Andrew Curtin’s career accomplishments are detailed on a plaque at the base of the statue.
The Brockerhoff Hotel
The Brockerhoff Hotel was originally competed in 1865 by Henry Brockerhoff, then updated in the 1890s by Robert Cole in a Gothic Revival style.
The Bellefonte Art Museum
The Bellefonte Art Museum is housed in what is known as the Linn House, the former home of several prominent judges and Pennsylvania Governor James Beaver.
The museum exhibits and sells artwork by both local and nationally-recognized artists, and has several areas for young artists to create their own masterpieces as well.
One particularly interesting exhibit deals with the Linn House’s connection to the Underground Railroad.
Secret rooms in the upstairs portion of the Linn House were once used to hide enslaved blacks seeking safe passage to the Northeast and Canada – today art installations in those rooms pay tribute to both those who escaped and those who helped them.
The Plaza Centre Antique Gallery is a massive antique store/flea market housed in a historic former theatre in downtown Bellefonte.
Originally called the Richelieu Theatre, it was built in 1925, then sold in 1934 and renamed the Plaza Theatre.
The theatre was designed by Anna Wagner Keichline, the first woman to become a registered architect in Pennsylvania.
Today, Plaza Centre includes not only the former Plaza Theatre building, but the adjacent building as well, for a total of 6 floors and more than 100 vendors!
Talleyrand Park covers 3.5 acres along the banks of Spring Creek, close to the shops and restaurants in the downtown Bellefonte historic district.
The various buildings, bridges, and monuments at Talleyrand Park reflect the character of Bellefonte’s Victorian heritage and celebrate some of its notable former citizens.
The Bellefonte Governors Memorial at the park honors the seven state governors (including 5 PA governors) who at one time lived in Bellefonte.
The Barnard Sculpture Garden honors Bellefonte native and accomplished sculptor George Barnard, and includes this bust of Abraham Lincoln, cast from the original plaster head sculpted by Barnard in 1917.
Talleyrand Park is a popular destination for those who walk for exercise, as well as those who just walk to see the sights of Bellefonte.
The Pennsylvania Match Factory
The historic Pennsylvania Match Factory is located on the southwestern edge of Talleyrand Park.
For 47 years this factory was one of America’s leading wooden match producers.
Today the Match Factory has been repurposed into several commercial spaces, including a distillery.
The American Philatelic Center
The American Philatelic Center is another tenant of the former Pennsylvania Match Factory building.
Part museum and part research library, the American Philatelic Center is a superb resource for those involved in or interested in stamp collecting.
Admission to both the exhibits and library are free; only members of the American Philatelic Society can check books out of the library.
Other Points of Interest in Bellefonte
The Bellefonte Waterfront District features a scenic walking path along Spring Creek.
The Mills Brothers historical marker on High Street honors the Bellefonte connection to the first African-American vocal group to overcome racial barriers and gain a mass audience.
The Manse Building was constructed in 1881 and has been at different times a bank, a private residence, and law offices.
The Time Vault on the Diamond in Bellefonte is a time capsule scheduled to be opened in 2076.
The Bellefonte Cruise is a professionally-judged car show that has been a popular Father’s Day weekend event in historic Bellefonte since 1988.
So there you have it – some of the best things to see and do in historic Bellefonte, PA!
This is by no means a complete list of things to see and do in Bellefonte – something of that nature would require either a rather large book or an EXTREMELY long blog post!
But hopefully this list inspires you enough to plan your own trip to Bellefonte, the “Victorian Jewel of Pennsylvania!”
Centre Furnace Mansion is a magnificently restored Victorian-style home near State College that has ties not only to the early iron industry in Centre County, but is also the birthplace of Penn State!
The Columbus Chapel in Boalsburg contains the largest and most important collection of Christopher Columbus artifacts and memorabilia on the North American continent!
The village of Boalsburg in Centre County is recognized as the birthplace of Memorial Day in the United States.
29 Must-See Attractions in Centre County is your guide to even more great things to see and do near Bellefonte, including state parks, museums, and historic sites.
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