For my latest town tour, I headed south of Harrisburg to Three Mile Island.
Technically I was visiting Middletown, but at one point I got turned around and went further south than I thought and ended up next to the giant steam stacks of the infamous nuclear plant down the river.
I studied Three Mile Island in political science class in college, so it was pretty cool to actually see the enormous structure.
After driving by the plant, I turned around and stopped off in my intended destination: Middletown.
The first things I noticed were the old buildings and a few Victorian-styled manors. Founded in 1755, Middletown is the oldest community in Dauphin County.
I drove around a bit before hitting the library, mainly because I knew next-to-nothing about the town. I figured a community center-type place like the library would be a good start.
I was right, as the librarian at the desk was a great resource in helping me on my tour. She has worked in Middletown for 15 years and considers it a second home. She recommended the Brownstone Café and Elks Theater and she suggested I return in June for a big craft fair.
The library—like many of the downtown buildings—was very old and weathered but full of books and computers and comfortable furniture.
I left the library and wandered to the Brownstone Café, which I expected would be something like Starbucks, but it was more like a diner or family restaurant set in what looks like an old bank in a historic brown building.
Across the way from Brownstone is the Elks Theatre, another historic staple to the town. Built in 1911, the Elks Theatre originally boasted a stage for live performances. Although it always showed movies, the stage was removed in 1940 when the theater became solely for film. Recently the owners began a campaign to convert Elks into a digital theater.
Around the corner from the theater is a street with a variety of shops, including a flower store and antique shop. Bear’s Emporium caught my eye. The two-part store features an eclectic selection of random items and jewelry from various vendors in the front and the Turquoise Bear Trading Post, a Native American trading post in the rear. This place was awesome!
The post had anything and everything sold and traded by Native Americans. Jewelry, moccasins, decoration, weapons, pipes, instruments and more were displayed throughout the store while tribal music played lightly in the background. I’m a huge fan of Native American culture, so this place was one of my highlights of my town tours thus far. It’s small but has a wide selection of items.
I left the store and wandered down Union Street before heading back to my car and on to the Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad.
Originally part of the Reading Railroad, the M&H has been independently owned since 1976 and serving tourists since1986. The train offers a 75-minute round-trip scenic ride through the summer and fall. It wasn’t opened when I came to town, but it’ll be open Saturdays and Sundays in October.
On my way out of town, I noticed a sign for a place called “Let’s Pretend” near the M&H. It had a colorful logo and looked like a daycare, but I realized it was a “center for family entertainment.”
I went in and met one of the owners who showed me around. Let’s Pretend is a place where kids and parents can go play in various scenes with different props. One room is a schoolhouse complete with chalkboard and desks. Another is a stage with different costumes. One was a stereotypical house with a kitchen stocked with groceries that can be “bought” at a grocery store in another area.
I dug deeper and found out even more about the innovative new place, and I will have a full recap and review next week on centralpennparent.com. For now, just know that it was a fun little place that I probably would’ve loved as a kid, as would any other kid with an imagination.
Kurt Bopp is assistant editor/web for Central Penn Parent, and Native American history was one of his favorite topics in history class in school