Traveling through northern Pennsylvania along Rt. 6, you come to a lot of cool small towns. One of my favorites is Kane, PA, where you can enjoy unique cocktails, take in impressive art, and even visit a museum dedicated to the man who saved the Lobo (or Buffalo) Wolf.
The Wolf Man
So let’s start with that, because at first, Kane seems like a pretty random place to take a crash course in conservation. Back in the 1920s, before the endangered species movement was even underway, Kane resident Dr. E.H. McCleery saved the last of the Western United States wolves from becoming extinct.
The government had decided to exterminate the species, and was paying hunters to kill every wolf they could find. McCleery, who was later deemed the Wolf Man of Kane as well as the father of the American endangered species movement, appealed to the U.S. Biological Survey to send him some of the few wolves that were left, which he had shipped to the town by rail. He then established a sanctuary of sorts (basically in his backyard) for the adult wolf and four pups he received, and later purchased more than 20 live wolves to keep the species going. The animals lived in Kane until 1962, when they were moved to Washington State when McCleery was no longer able to take care of them. Today, the descendants of those wolves live in Montana at the McCleery Buffalo Wolf Foundation.
Art & Architecture
One of the things that is really neat about the exhibit on McCleery is that it is located in the same historic 1871 railroad station, the Kane Depot, where the wolves were originally shipped. Today that space is home to the Kane Historic Preservation Society as well as Artworks in the Depot, an artist-run cooperative. Stop in and you’ll probably get the chance to talk to one of more of the artists in town who display their work at this beautifully restored building which was saved from destruction in 1993, as well as see what was the “tallest” depot in the Pennsylvania railroad system when it was built, located 2,000 feet above sea level. When I visited with artist Dennis Driscoll, he not only shared stories of the history of the town, but had me laughing at descriptions of the wolves’ arrival—I guess not many train employees were prepared to offload the snarling, cooped-up cargo.
Another architectural marvel is the historic Thomas L. Kane Memorial Chapel, finished in 1878. Located right across the intersection in front of the railroad station at 30 Chestnut Street, the small, stone Gothic Revival chapel is the oldest church in Kane, and still features the original stained glass windows and black cherry ceiling. The town’s founder, Thomas L. Kane, is interred outside between the two front entrances.
Speaking of Kane, you can stay in the house that his widow built in 1896, which has now been turned into a bed and breakfast known as Kane Manor. This impressive Georgian Colonial Revival mansion, which is a national historic landmark, sits on top of the Allegheny Plateau and offers amazing views of the Allegheny National Forest as well as roughly five miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails.
While there is history everywhere you look, one of the more modern additions to the town, and a definite must-stop is CJ spirits, the first distillery to open in northwestern Pennsylvania. The signature product of their Wilds line (named after this region of the Allegheny National Forest) is leek vodka, made from wild ramps—they are the only producers of leek vodka in the world. Now in its fifth year, the distillery, which also features locally inspired menu items, has become a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Where else can you have a handmade cocktail featuring Graveyard Sam’s white whiskey, served by the owner who is also the town’s funeral director? The distillery’s offering are true grain to glass—92 percent of the grains they use come from within four miles of their location and they also use local spring water to create their impressive cocktails.
While it’s off the beaten path, Kane is definitely worth the detour. To learn more, visit their web site.
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