Skip to main content

The Church of the Turnpike - St. John the Baptist Catholic Church - New Baltimore, PA

St. John The Baptist Catholic Church and Retreat Center
Along the 36 miles that are between the Somerset and Bedford interchanges on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, there is not much to break the monotony of this segment.  Yes, there is the Allegheny Tunnel and a full service rest area that motorists can use to countdown the miles along this 30 minute drive between the two interchanges.  However, it is at milepost 129 that maybe one of the most unique features of the Pennsylvania Turnpike appears.  In the town of New Baltimore, a rare town the original Turnpike actually runs through, steps from both sides of the Turnpike can carry motorists, if they desire to stop, to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.  "The Church of the Turnpike" has become a travelers' tradition since the 1950s.

A vintage PA Turnpike Postcard showing St. John's Church.  (Image courtesy Doug Weasner)
New Baltimore and the church's importance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike System has slowly decreased over the toll road's 75 plus years in existence.  A service plaza once existed nearby.  It has been years since Greyhound Bus Lines picked up or dropped off passengers at the church.  The town of nearly 200 residents is without direct access to the turnpike.  However, the church, cut off from the town by the turnpike, still attracts curious passers by like myself along a busy ribbon of concrete and asphalt.

The quiet village of New Baltimore
St. John's Cemetery
In 2007, it was announced that the connection between St. John's and the Turnpike is coming to an end.  A highway improvement project that widened the Turnpike and updated it to modern standards was to result in the staircases on both sides of the the highway being removed.  Because there is no formal requirement for access to the church from the Turnpike to exist and Interstate highway safety standards, the stairs were not to be replaced.  The project began in 2009 and was completed in 2011.  However, reports as late as May 2014 say that the eastbound stairs are still there.   (Editor's Note: Though my family has driven past St. John's numerous times since 2012  - we do so late at night and cannot tell if the westbound stairs are still in place.)

There are plans to widen the turnpike through here to six lanes beginning in 2021.  When this occurs, it is most likely that the stairs and all access to the church will be removed.

Stairway from the eastbound lanes of the PA Turnpike leading to St. John's Church (Bee Family - 2001)
 
Mass listings for St. John's Church along the Eastbound lanes of the Turnpike (Bee Family - 2001)


Site Navigation:
Sources & Links:
  • The Bee Family
  • Joe Klunk
  • Doug Weasner

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Sierran Death Highway, Blackrock Road

Back in 2016 I was pursuing dangerousroads.org looking for a interesting paved road akin to Kaiser Pass Road and Mineral King Road both which I had done earlier in the year.  I found what I was looking for in Blackrock Road located in rural eastern Fresno County at the confluence of the Kings River with it's North Fork.


Suffice to say that if I was looking roadways on dangerousroads.org it probably lends suggestion that Blackroad is somewhat on the hazardous side, it is.  Blackrock Road is an approximately 26-27 mile long one-lane road located in Sierra National Forest.  Blackrock Road is partially paved running from the Bailey Bridge at the Kings River north to the Wishon Reservoir roughly following the west bank of the North Fork Kings River.  Every documentation I've seen shows the road is really spelled "Blackrock" as opposed to "Black Rock" like the nearby Pacific Gas & Electricity Reservoir.

My goal on Blackrock Road was simple; I wanted to see al…

Ghost Town Tuesday; Mannfield, FL and the stairway to Hell

Back in 2015 I went searching the Lecanto Sand Hills for the original Citrus County Seat known as Mannfield.  Unlike Centrailia in Hernando County and Fivay in Pasco County I did find something worth seeing.



Mannfield is located in the Lecanto Sand Hill section of Withlacoochee State Forest somewhat east of the intersection of Citrus County Route 491 and Mansfield Road.

Mannfield was named after Austin Mann and founded in Hernando County in 1884 before Citrus County Split away.  In 1887 Citrus County was split from northern Hernando County while Pasco County was spun off to the south.  Mannfield was selected as the new Citrus County seat due to it being near the county geographic center.  Reportedly Mannfield had as many as 250 people when it was the County Seat.  The town included various businesses one might include at the time, even a sawmill which was common for the area.  In 1891 Citrus County voted to move it's seat to Inverness which set the stage for the decline of Mannfi…

Route 66 Wednesdays; The Twin Arrow Trade Post and Padre Canyon

Back in 2015 I revisited some of my favorite derelict haunts along former segments of US Route 66 between Flagstaff and Winslow.  The first stop was east of Winona at the Twin Arrows Trade Post.   The ruins of the Twin Arrow Trade Post is located immediately east of Padre Canyon off of I-40/US 180 exit 219.






The Twin Arrows Trade Post was originally started in the late 1940s as the Canyon Padre Trading Post.  Apparently business at the Canyon Padre Trading Post didn't start taking off until the two 25 foot arrows pictured above were put in and the name was changed to the Twin Arrows Trade Post in 1954.  I'm to understand the name change to Twin Arrows was partially inspired by close proximity to the Navajo Nation in addition to the booming business at the nearby Two Guns Trade Post to the east at Canyon Diablo.  The Twin Arrows Trade Post shuttered for good in the 1990s and has been sitting on the south side of I-40/US 180 ever since.  To the north of I-40/US 180 the Twin Arrow…