When planning a trip to Pennsylvania, travelers usually make a list of must-see attractions like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, the Flight 93 National Memorial, or Gettysburg National Military Park. Day outings to Philadelphia or Pittsburgh are common, as well as rides through Amish country.
But have you heard of Friendship Hill?
It’s a National Historic Site just north of Morgantown, W. Va. Let’s look at this lesser-known location and discover why people visit this historic homestead.
Where Is Friendship Hill?
Located in Point Marion, Pa., Friendship Hill National Historic Site is the former home of Albert Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The Gallatin House serves as the Visitor Center for the park. Purchased in 1786, the property called “Friendship Hill” was named in honor of three of Gallatin’s friends.
Friendship Hill National Historic Site is easily accessible from Pittsburgh by driving south on US 51 to Uniontown, then south on US 119 to Point Marion. From PA 166 North in Point Marion, the park entrance is about 3 miles on the left. It’s less than 30 minutes from Morgantown, West Virginia.
Who Was Albert Gallatin?
In the mid-1790s, Gallatin was elected to represent Pennsylvania in the US government. When Thomas Jefferson became President in 1800, he chose Gallatin to serve as his Secretary of the Treasury. Two of Gallatin’s most important objectives were reducing the national debt and taxes.
When he left office in 1814, he succeeded in reducing the country’s debt from $80 million to $45 million. He did that even with the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the establishment of the National Road from 1811 to 1818.
What Was the Whiskey Rebellion?
In the spring of 1791, the federal government passed a law known as the whiskey tax. This didn’t go over well with poor farmers in western Pennsylvania who converted their surplus grain into whiskey. Gallatin worked with other local men to write a document. It explained how “the law was dangerous to liberty and particularly oppressive to the people of the western counties of Pennsylvania.”
Tax collectors in the area were tarred and feathered. Violence continued for a few years until Congress modified the law to put cases into local courts. However, instead of relieving the situation, Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and President George Washington charged dozens of western farmers. They summoned them to federal court before the new law took effect.
Gallatin was a negotiator between the federal commissioners and the western farmers. He tried to bring about a peaceful solution, but neither side budged. Eventually, Gallatin encouraged the western farmers to submit and either pay the tax or cease distilling.
In 1794, Gallatin was elected to the United States House of Representatives without knowing he was on the ballot. That was the start of his decades-long career in government.
Pro Tip: While exploring Pennsylvania make sure to use our Ultimate Poconos Camping Guide.
Things to Do at Friendship Hill National Historic Site
When you visit Friendship Hill National Historic Site, you won’t have to pay a fee or battle crowds. It won’t take days to explore the area like some National Park sites. But it’s worth a day trip to visit the old homestead of Albert Gallatin.
Hike the Friendship Hill Loop Trail
More than 10 miles of walking trails are within the boundaries of Friendship Hill. The paths take hikers through woods, meadows, and on the bluffs overlooking the Monongahela River. The Friendship Hill Loop Trail helps guests explore what life was like in the 18th Century as old roads, building foundations, abandoned river gauges, and water towers remain on the property.
Hikers are likely to see squirrels, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks, and numerous waterfalls.
Tour the Gallatin House
Inside the Gallatin House, visitors can explore portions of the house. Not all areas are open to the public. The rooms have exhibits and furnishings that showcase the era in which Gallatin lived there. There is no fee, and the tour is self-guided.
Attend the Annual FestiFall
The annual FestiFall celebrates the life of Albert Gallatin. The Friendship Hill Association, a citizen group dedicated to preserving Friendship Hill and teaching others about the life and accomplishments of Gallatin, puts on the free event. Since its inception in 1982, FestiFall has held demonstrations of historic trades, crafts, historic toys, live period music, and 18th Century foods. It’s fun for the whole family!
Pro Tip: Want to visit a less friendly spot in Pennsylvania? Don’t say we didn’t warn you, but the Seven Gates of Hell in Pennsylvania is a Terrifying Destination.
Is Visiting Friendship Hill Worth It?
Friendship Hill may not be one of the most well-known National Park sites. You may have never heard of Albert Gallatin. But there’s a reason for this land’s preservation. Gallatin’s contribution to American history is worth honoring and celebrating.
If you’re unfamiliar with Friendship Hill or Albert Gallatin, plan a day trip to Point Marion, Pa. Explore the land and learn about the history.
Have you ever visited Friendship Hill? Tell us about your visit in the comments!
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