Life can bring a lot of changes, both good and bad. Through it all we just keep on truckin’, looking for those moments that bring sun and light into our lives. (Philosophical start for a travel article, no? Well, I’ve been traveling a lot for business lately and the drive gives me time to think.)
On to something very pleasant. I had to go to Penn State Altoona for work and dear Husband joined me because he was invited to give an Earth Day talk to the students. As has happened a lot lately, it seems, the major chain hotels in town were full. I considered the Grand Hotel (so long ago it was a Sheraton, and then a Ramada—presently under renovations) but I also knew of the Iron Corbel Bed and Breakfast in nearby Hollidaysburg, and since I’m doing this book it was the right choice. I had never stayed at the Iron Corbel so, I thought, this would be my chance. As sometimes happens with these businesses, though, it has changed owners and name. I booked two nights at what is now the Allegheny Street Bed and Breakfast.
When I was a child and we visited my grandparents in Altoona, the name “Hollidaysburg” sounded like a fun place to me but it was never a destination, just somewhere to pass through on the way to the Meadows in Duncansville for frozen custard. For this article, of course I read up on the history. According to the National Register of Historic Places, “Hollidaysburg evolved from a tavern stop along the Huntingdon, Cambria, Indiana Turnpike. Completion of the Main Line of the PA Canal in 1832 and the Allegheny Portage Railroad two years later set off a burst of development that lasted through the early 20th century.” By 1892 the town was well enough developed to get this comment in a Blair County history: “Hollidaysburg is a pretty and healthful town, with well shaded streets, and would make a very desirable summer resort.” Over 100 years later it’s still very pretty and a nice place to walk around to look at old homes.
And that’s where the Allegheny Street Bed and Breakfast comes in. Innkeepers Richard and Jyoti (he’s from Pennsylvania, she’s from India) welcomed us into their home, a large yellow Second Empire–style house built in the mid-1850s and at one point owned by the prominent McLanahan family. We stayed in a front room on the second floor (see the Dorothy Day room on the website), spacious, quiet, and comfortable. (I peeked into the other rooms—also very large!) I can see why businesspeople often stay there—it would be a good place to get some work done or unwind. The large public rooms on the first floor would be perfect for family reunions or other group gatherings.
Reviewers have raved about the breakfasts and with good reason. We came downstairs to a beautifully set table and at each place a bowl of fresh fruit--blackberries, strawberries, blueberries on a nest of honeydew—quite welcome considering how spring just refuses to arrive. French-pressed coffee for me on the side. This was followed by bowls of heavenly steel-cut oatmeal. You might not think of oatmeal as ever being “heavenly” but this was made with milk and just a little brown sugar, cooked long and slow (we know this from talking to Jyoti), and it was truly the best I’ve ever had (in fact, I had it the next morning as well!). On the side was a small platter of meats and cheeses. Cold cereals and yogurts were also available. After our oatmeal, Richard was ready to make us eggs but we were already quite happily full.
My second morning I had a long talk with Jyoti about—among other things—the history of the house, Hong Kong (where they had lived for many years), and the beautiful little town of Hollidaysburg where they have now settled. As I was leaving, she packed a container of fresh fruit for my trip home (loved it!). Jyoti and Richard are the perfect sort of innkeepers; they give just the right amount of attention for a guest. And they make sure you never leave hungry!
Above: Photo of dining room after my breakfast