At the beginning...
Breezewood is truly a result of a crossroads of highways.
But before Breezewood existed, there was a settlement to the east of present Breezewood called Rays Hill (or Nycumtown). John Nycum had bought this piece of land in 1820, later building a small store. In 1836, he succeeded in establishing the Rays Hill Post Office and served as Postmaster for quite some time. His son Simeon built the first mill in the township, a tub mill. John started a tannery in 1836.
On the western edge of present-day Breezewood was the Maple Lawn Inn, estimated to be about 200 years old. The 22 room building was used as a stage coach stop, and still stands today. The foundation is several feet thick, and the building is 3 to 4 bricks thick.
By 1900, a small settlement of houses had formed in the valley between these two areas. A group of citizens decided on a name for the village so that a post office could be created. If it was a windy day, it would explain the name Breezewood. There were two stores, both to the west on the hill leading to the Maple Lawn Inn.
The "main street" - and nearly the only street - is US Route 30, six lanes wide for its trip through what is known locally as "the strip". Route 30 started as a pack-horse trail, then was improved to a wagon road by British General Forbes - the Forbes Road. From 1814-1821 it was part of the Chambersburg-Bedford Turnpike, a private toll road. It was named The Lincoln Highway in the 1930's as the first nation-wide project to pave a highway.
In 1940, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation's first super highway, was completed with an interchange at Breezewood, connecting with Route 30. This started making changes in what became known as "the Town of Motels". But Breezewood's real boom came after Interstate 70 was built, using the existing PA Turnpike to travel west. I-70 travelers had to enter the Turnpike to continue west, and turnpike travelers needed to exit at Breezewood if they were using I-70 East. This intersection led to another nickname - "Gateway to the South" - because I-70 led to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and on south. This intersection of three major routes has caused major motel chains, most fast food and restaurant chains, and some local businesses, to congregate in this mile-long stretch of highway in a village of approximately 100 people.
The Mt. Zion Lutheren Church (and its cemetery) is the only structure that still remains from before the Turnpike construction began. It was built in 1856, and sits at the eastern edge of the strip. The first tourist business to open was the Gateway Motel and Restaurant. This was built in 1941, just after the turnpike opening, by Merle Snyder. It was later run by his nephew, L. Frank Bittner, and now by Bittner's sons.
Return to the Bedford County Town Page
Return to Bedford County Genealogy Project
(c) Bedford County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project