Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Rachel Carson Homestead - A Work in Progress

Julia is very interested in local history. Our part of the world is rich with pioneer living, coal, oil, and steel stories. We've visited the Drake Oil Well Museum, the Frick house, and Old Economy Village (that's a weird one). We toured the Hartwood Acres mansion and spent a lot of time at the Depreciation Lands museum. Each place has given a unique peek into the lives of the people that lived in our area during different eras.

For a long time, we knew that Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring) was born in Springdale, PA. Springdale is a small town about twenty minutes from our house. It's in another school district, but the town plays host each summer to a sports day camp that's one of the best things Julia's ever done. As part of the camp, the kids visit the Rachel Carson Homestead. Julia has toured the homestead several times without us.

The Rachel Carson Homestead, Springdale, PA
We also have the Rachel Carson Trail, a 38.2 mile hiking trail that winds its way all around our community. In June, they have the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge which is a single day when a whole lot of people run or walk 34-miles of the trail. This is called doing "the Rachel" and I've set a lofty goal of never doing it. I once hiked about six miles of the trail with a friend. My quads ached for two months straight. I'm too weak for "the Rachel."

With all this Rachel Carson-age all around, I really thought she'd done something here.


She was born, attended college at what is now Chatham University, and moved to Maryland. This makes sense as she wrote about the ocean, something we can't see from Pittsburgh. Also, it was the advice of nearly all my college professors that you'd need to leave Pittsburgh to ever "be anything."


We visited the Rachel Carson Homestead yesterday for the first time as a family. Since we've already studied Rachel Carson quite a bit, there wasn't any new information given during our 60-minute docent led tour. It is interesting to imagine her childhood home as it must have been when she took to the outdoors to learn about wildlife with her mother. It was a humble beginning for a woman that would undertake to educate the whole world about the dangers of pesticides and nuclear proliferation.

The house was purchased by a school teacher in the 1930s and the Carson family took everything with them when they moved. Consequently, the farmhouse has only one artifact that was owned by Rachel Carson. The charity that now owns the house is working to fill it with period appropriate furniture.

One interesting feature we enjoyed was a short nature trail behind the house. It was a gloomy morning with a huge storm looming, but we took a quick lap on the loop where weatherproof signs highlight Rachel's writings and accomplishments.

This trail photo turned out a bit blurry in the low light before Saturday morning's storm.

The Rachel Carson Homestead is open on Saturdays during the summer and by appointment. The Rachel Carson Council has plans to restore the homestead by re-building its porch and returning the spring house pump to working order. I look forward to seeing what they do with the place in the future.