By Cara O'Donnell Spring 2019
Nestled along the banks of the Allegheny River and accessible by traversing across a series of hills and valleys, the tucked-away community of Foxburg in Clarion County welcomes guests to relax, enjoy the small-town way of life and truly get away from it all.
How the town came to be the quiet river community it is today is quite a story. Foxburg’s roots trace all the way back to Pennsylvania founder William Penn and the Fox family of Philadelphia, which purchased several parcels of land in western Pennsylvania along the Allegheny River. One of those land parcels is the Foxburg of today.
In the mid-1800s, the discovery of oil in western Pennsylvania led the town to grow, as it was located directly along one of the major transportation routes for oil well supplies. It was officially founded as a town in 1870 at the height of “Black Gold Fever” as additional oil refineries were built in the area and rail lines expanded, including the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. Throughout it all, the Fox family spent its summers in the bucolic town, preferring it to the bustle of Philadelphia. Although the town’s prosperity eventually declined along with the local rail industry, the Fox mansion, now known as RiverStone Farm, still stands today.
That mansion was purchased by Dr. Arthur Steffee and his wife in the late 90s, who set a goal of continuing the Fox family’s vision, restoring not only the home and grounds, but the community as well. The Steffees envisioned a resort-like community, with culture, charm and a sense of getting away from it all. The Foxburg of today realizes their vision.
At the center of it all is the Foxburg Inn – a 24-room boutique hotel that feels almost like a B&B and is located right along the water’s edge. Guests awake each morning to the sound of the river current, and the inn’s location has made it popular with local weddings and events. There’s a charming, nostalgic feel about the hotel. Rooms are spacious, with large windows to look out over the river below. Don’t expect lots of electrical outlets or areas for all your technology. You won’t need it here, and it’s not why you came. In Foxburg, it’s all about unplugging for a weekend, so embrace the nostalgic charm and leave the devices at home.
What’s more, once arriving in Foxburg, everything is within steps of each other. The town is only about a block long, with the Foxburg Inn right at the center. Park the car and just wander along Main Street. Enjoy the river view, rent a canoe or kayak for a trip out on the water or take a stroll along the water on the rail trail. There are even Segway tours to do a little more exploring.
Most diners choose the chateau-like Allegheny Grille for at least one meal. The waterfront restaurant, complete with vaulted wooden ceilings, a large patio and windows that give a panoramic view of the river, is the go-to spot in town, with classic American dishes, a full bar and plenty of opportunities for small groups to gather. Couples can enjoy a quiet evening by the windows or in front of the large fireplace for a cozy dinner.
Another option is the friendly Foxburg Pizza, which, in addition to serving traditional pizzas and sandwiches, is known in town as the home for traditional diner-style breakfasts. Located just next door to the Foxburg Inn, Foxburg Pizza provides a hearty start to the day for just a few dollars. Check out the breakfast pizza for a unique combination of the restaurant’s two specialties.
At the center of town, directly across from the inn, you can’t help but notice a large stone structure. This is Lincoln Hall, originally the western Pennsylvania headquarters of the Fox family and now the home of the Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts (ARCA), dedicated to providing a variety of arts and education programs for the region. With the public library on the first floor, upstairs provides a historic performance hall that looks almost exactly as it did more than 100 years ago. At the center of it all is the crown jewel – a 1929 Wurlitzer Theater Organ, known as the “Mighty Wurlitzer,” one of only 24 ever built in this style and size. ARCA presents several concerts throughout the year featuring nationally acclaimed organists to showcase its resident piece of history.
Next door is the Red Brick Gallery and Gift Shop, a boutique fine art gallery and gift shop that is also a part of ARCA. The charming brick building once held the business offices of the Fox family and was recently restored to its current state as an artists’ collective. The 13 member artists, whose work ranges from pottery and woodwork to watercolors, oils and more, volunteer hours in the shop in exchange for having their work displayed. The pieces here provide wonderful memories of a visit to this community.
And, of course, a romantic weekend just isn’t complete without a little chocolate and wine, and downtown Foxburg delivers. Stop by the locally owned Divani Chocolatier in the historic Foxburg Bank building. Here, owners Vab and Melissa Bawa create all-natural Belgian chocolate confections on-site, ranging from a variety of chocolate barks and caramels to truffled creams and other custom creations. The duo came to Pennsylvania in 2007 in search of the ideal location to open their dream shop selling fine European-style chocolates. They found that location in Foxburg and opened the downtown shop in 2011.
Just a few doors down, Foxburg Wine Cellars has been serving guests for 15 years. The winery sources its grapes from the Lake Erie region and makes all its more than two dozen varieties of naturally processed wine on-site. Dry wine lovers will enjoy varietals like Chardonnay or the Pennsylvania favorite Chambourcin. Sweeter palates flock to the winery’s biggest seller, Riverstone Red. After a complimentary wine tasting on-site, choose a favorite bottle to share to enjoy by the river’s edge or grab some snacks and relax at the winery’s outdoor, grape arbor covered patio.
Golfers may want to take an afternoon to head outside the charming downtown area of Foxburg to experience a bit of golfing history at the Foxburg Country Club, founded in 1887 by a descendant of the Fox family. Today, the nine-hole course, which is open to the public, is known as “the longest in-continuous-use golf course in the United States” and is known for its historic “hickory golf” events using hickory wood clubs and other tools from the past. The course’s clubhouse hosts the American Golf Hall of Fame and Museum, which houses an extensive collection of rare and valuable golf clubs and artifacts from many different eras of the game.
Tiny in size but rich in experience, Foxburg is a quaint place to truly escape for the weekend as a couple. From golfing and canoeing to local wines, fine chocolate and classical performing arts, there are memorable ways to just step back, relax and enjoy the small-town charm.
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