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

California State Route 152

Circumstance had me out in the Monterey Peninsula again this week.  Generally I try to take a route like California State Route 198 or ever County Route J1 to get across the Diablo Range but time had me in a slight bind.  That being the case I took the popular way across the Diablos on California State Route 152 via Pacheco Pass.  152 is one of infamy given it is really the primary route for truckers to get from I-5 west in San Joaquin Valley to US 101 in Salinas Valley.  After zig-zagging some accidents on/off California State Route 99 near Madera in the rural outskirts of the County bearing the same name I began my westbound trek on 152.




CA 152 is called the William Whitehurst Highway, at least it is west from CA 99.  The entire route of CA 152 in San Joaquin is an expressway aside from a small portion in the city of Los Banos.



The first junction on CA 152 is with CA 233 which is a small 4 mile highway that travels northeast to CA 99.






Next westbound CA 152 encounters the junction w…

The National Road - Ohio - Muskingum and Licking Counties

As it travels from Zanesville towards Columbus, US 40 goes through numerous small towns, changes from two to four lanes and back numerous times, but most importantly the old road keeps its rural charm.  Between Zanesville and Gratiot, there are four former alignments of the old road that can be found: just west of Zanesville, Mt. Sterling, Hopewell and Gratiot.  Most stretches are very short and can be easily recognized with names as "Old US 40", "Old National Road" or some combination of the two.

Zanesville:
Just west of US 40's interchange with Interstate 70 (Exit 152) runs an old alignment.

Mt. Sterling:
Another old alignment goes through this small Muskingum County village.
Hopewell:
Today, US 40 passes south of the community of Hopewell.  The old two lane road is known as Hopewell National Road.
Gratiot:
Old US 40 is known as Main Street in this tiny village of 200 or so residents.  The old highway at times seems forgotten through here.
Just west of Gratiot, US 40 …

Throwback Thursday - October 12, 2017

In this week's edition of Throwback Thursday, we travel back to December 2003 to the southern end of Interstate 99 in Bedford, Pennsylvania, where we can see button copy guide signage for US 30 and US 220 (US 220 runs concurrent with I-99 through this part of the Keystone State). Since I-99 was relatively new at the time, it feels like it was an afterthought.