Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rhoneymeade Revisited - 25 Years Later

Sculpture at Rhoneymeade Credit Bill Rockwell

    It was at Rhoneymeade that I first learned the word conservation easement.. Dr. Richard Morgan, a retired Penn State molecular biologist at the time, had just completed the legal agreement to protect from development his 151-acre farm tucked away off Route 45 in Potter Township, Centre County, and I arrived just as he began planning to turn seven acres of the site into a sculpture garden. That was 25 years ago.
At that time, I was impressed with his plans to allow the public to stroll the grounds free of charge and enjoy the sculptures by regional artists, himself included, that were carefully placed at strategic places. It was to be a marriage of art and nature, nature being some of the oldest trees in Centre County mixed with flowering bushes, annuals and perennials and embellished with gazebos and cozy botanical niches fitted with small ponds and benches.
Dr. Morgan’s enthusiasm was inspirational and even though his concept was in its elemental stage, I fell in love with the place. This past June, I braved a severe thunderstorm to make a return visit. Happily, by the time I reached Altoona, the skies had cleared. Following Route 45 through a beautiful valley that reminded me of Bucks County of years ago, I eventually veered off the main road onto an even more bucolic area. A few miles down Rimmey Road, I saw the sign announcing that I’d arrived at my destination - now officially titled the Rhoneymeade Arboretum and Sculpture Garden.
I immediately recognized the mood and general features of the place, but there were new additions too. A lovely wood and glass artist’s studio, recently built with remnants of an old barn, now served as the visitors welcome center, where the works of local artists are displayed and rotated on a monthly basis.
There to greet me, James Lesher, manager, and John Andrews, a board member of the non-profit, explained that Dr. Morgan now resided in a retirement home but still owned the property. Lesher, it seems, is even fonder of Rhoneymeade than I am. He started volunteering 25 years ago and is now caring for the grounds in Dr. Morgan’s absence with evident concern and enthusiasm.
Starting out on a tour, I asked about the name Rhoneymeade. It seems it’s a German rendition of Rhone’s meadow, a reference to the Rhone family, whose patriarch, Michael Rhone began clearing the land on his farm in the Penns Valley of central Pennsylvania in 1794.
It was Michael’s grandson, Leonard, who completed the family’s lovely brick farmhouse in 1853. Still sturdy and standing tall, the first floor of the house now serves as an art gallery showcasing some of the paintings Dr. Morgan collected over the years. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the house is open to the public as part of the Rhoneymeade experience.
Japanese Style Lantern Photo Credit Bill Rockwell
    After walking along a lawn lined with fruit and impressively large deciduous trees, we arrived at the first sculpture - a massive Japanese-style lantern that sits atop  an overlook whose vista includes Mt. Nittany and the Tussey Ridge.

    Twenty-five other sculptures are scattered over the arboretum, each identified on annotated guides available at the welcome center. Some of the more significant trees are also identified both with labels and on an annotated tree walk guide.
    In shaded areas, plants like wood poppy and hostas add even more color and interest while plants like the unusual Canada lily, whose flowers dangle upside down from long stems, seem to relish soaking up the sun in more open areas.
    In the 25 years since my first visit, development has taken place in the area surrounding Rhoneymeade. Thanks to the preservation efforts of Dr. Morgan and his conservation easement, Rhoneymeade is still a tranquil enclave, a slice of natural beauty kissed by man made works, resting gracefully an aesthetic symbiotic marriage.
    Rhoneymeade Arboretum and Sculpture Garden, located on Rimmey Road off Route 45 in Potter Township between Boalsburg and Old Fort in Centre County, is open Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. April through October. Admission is free, although donations are accepted. For more information, visit website

Canada Lily at Rhoneymeade Photo Credit: Bill Rockwell

The Berkey Creamery
    With the Penn State campus nearby, I couldn’t pass up a chance to drop into the Creamery, now celebrating its 150th anniversary. Located in the Food Science Building, the Berkey Creamery is noted for its ice cream, over 90 flavors of which about 24 are dipped on any one day.
    According to assistant manager, Jim Brown, the most popular flavors are vanilla followed by chocolate, including Death By Chocolate. "About 70% of our milk comes from the campus dairy barn’s 225-cow herd," Brown said. "The rest comes from local dairy farmers."
    To celebrate this year’s anniversary, a new ice cream flavor "birthday cake" beat out the runner up "strawberry cheesecake with graham crackers" as the newly introduced taste favorite. Birthday Cake will be released on July 8 in time for the Arts Festival on Alumni Weekend (July 8 - 12).
    According to Brown, the Creamery serves 750,000 cones each year, using 5 million pounds of raw milk annually. The ice cream is also available in bowls, pints, half gallons and three gallon tubs. With the aid of 50,000 pounds of dry ice per week, the Creamery ships product all over the United States, Fed Ex 2-Day Air. Those living in Pittsburgh will find Creamery ice cream served at Klavon’s in the Strip District.
    Nearby and within walking distance, the Arboretum at Penn State  sits on a 370-acre parcel of land. When fully developed, it will include nearly 30-acres of gardens and more than 340 acres of restored woodlands and environmentally-sensitive landscape. Already, the arboretum is worthy a visit to see is developed Oasis, Rose and Fragrance and Pollinator’s Gardens.

Whiskers at the Nittany Lion Inn
Whiskers at the Nittany Lion Inn Photo Credit: Bill Rockwell
    Located right on campus, Whiskers at the Nittany Lion Inn serves lunch and dinner in a casual, pub-style setting as well as outdoors on the garden patio. Dinner includes both vegan and vegetarian selections as well as inventive dishes using lamb, duck, pork, beef, seafood and chicken.
    My dinner companion and I both loved our beef satay appetizer, tender strips of beef on skewers served with a peanut and Sriracha sauce. Our spinach salad was unique in that it was topped by a fried egg done medium, and my duck entree was as good as any I ever had.
    Creamery ice cream, including Peachy Paterno, is available for dessert, but my waitress suggested a slice of a special Highlander Grogg Chocolate Opera Cake with coffee-chocolate syrup and chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache icing created for Culinary Week by the in-house pastry chef.  I’m so glad she did. 200 Park Avenue in State College. Phone 814-865-8500.

The Keller House B & B
    Located in picturesque Centre Hall, not far from Rhoneymeade, the Keller House Bed and Breakfast is a cozy retreat near one of the town’s main crossroads. Five rooms are available for overnight stays, and the innkeepers have furnished each one with antiques, air conditioners, and, in some cases, fireplaces. A full breakfast is served each morning in the dining room and an outdoor patio overlooks a garden, small pond and cascading waterfall. 109 W. Church Street in Centre Hall. Phone 888-554-2588 or
    The last full Thursday to Thursday in August, the Grange Fair in Centre Hall attracts tens of thousands of people to one of the few remaining tenting fairs in the United States. Almost a thousand Army-style tents are laid in rows throughout the grounds which becomes a mini-city with food, games, rides, music and exhibits. Incidentally, the fair has a Rhoneymeade connection. It was founded by Leonard Rhone, one of Rhone’s descendants, in 1874.

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