The Laurel Highlands is home to many historic sites and monumental events, some of them being the first in the state, country or world! Learn about some of the important firsts that happened in the region, and be sure to check out their corresponding properties.
Home of the Banana Split
In 1904, a pharmacist named Dr. David Strickler invented the classic banana split at his drug store soda fountain on Ligonier Street in Latrobe. He started selling the tasty treats for 10 cents (a normal sundae was 5 cents) at his store and it was quickly embraced by Saint Vincent College, and eventually the rest of the world!
First Whitewater Rafting Outfitter East of the Mississippi
More than 50 years ago, Lance and Lee Martin decided that the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle needed to see more boats and visitors. So, they started the first whitewater rafting outfitter on the East Coast, Wilderness Voyageurs. Today, the outfitter is still family-run and offers not only whitewater rafting trips but also fly fishing, rock climbing, bike tours and more.
First Airmail Pickup
In 1939, the world's first airmail pickup occurred at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe. A container of mail suspended between two poles was snatched up by a bright red Stinson Reliant plane. Fun fact: Golf legend Arnold Palmer watched this event, and the airport now bears his name.
First Big Mac
That's right! The two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun was created in the Laurel Highlands by Jim Delligatti, the owner of the Uniontown McDonald's outlet. He believed his menu needed something more interesting, so he came up with the sandwich that we know today as the Big Mac. The Big Mac was placed on the national menu in 1968.
The Nation's First Coast-to-Coast Highway
Lincoln Highway, created in 1913, was the first transcontinental highway in the United States. Today, it stretches from Times Square to San Fransisco and weaves through Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands. In the early 1900s, most roads with the exception of city streets were unsuitable for cars to drive on, so the Lincoln Highway was a monumental path of travel for tourists and travelers.
First and Oldest Monastery in the United States
The Saint Vincent Archabbey, established in 1846 by Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, is the first and oldest monastery in the United States. With more than 150 monks within the community, it is one of the largest monasteries in the world.
George Washington's First and Only Surrender
Fort Necessity National Battlefield is the site of George Washington’s first military engagement and only surrender as well as the beginning of the French and Indian War, which would lead to the American Revolution.
First Paid Professional Football Player
John Brallier is known as the country's first openly paid professional football player. In 1895, he was paid $10 by the Latrobe Athletic Association to play a game against the Jeanette Athletic Association.
Pennsylvania's Oldest Professional Stock Theater
Mountain Playhouse hosts a range of Broadway-quality shows from musicals to classic dramas. What makes this theater unique? It is housed in a restored 1805 gristmill and was the first professional stock theater in Pennsylvania, and is now one of only 12 remaining in the United States.
First County Seat West of the Alleghenies
Hanna's Town, founded in 1773 by Robert Hanna, was a refuge for people seeking justice in the colonial frontier of Pennsylvania. Hanna's Town was not only the first Seat of Westmoreland County, but was also the first English courts west of the Alleghenies.