World Series just another chapter in Williamsports long history

Williamsport celebrates not just the annual appearance of the Little League World Series this year, but also its own bicentennial and long and colorful history
by: submitted photo, OLD SCHOOL — The Herdic Inn is just one of many grand, historic homes featured along Williamsport's

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - From what you see of Williamsport, Pa., on television, you might expect the Little League International Complex to be situated in the midst of a bustling metropolitan area.

You might expect that Little League had created its own Fenway Park based on the huge crowds that fill TV screens regularly during the Little League World Series, and that likewise, Williamsport was sort of a down-home version of Boston, Mass.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Williamsport, located in the relatively rural central-east section of Pennsylvania is far more 'Field of Dreams' (though without the Iowa cornfield) than it is anything Fenway. Nestled between the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the base of Bald Eagle Mountain, Williamsport is surrounded by verdant hills and replete with trees - in its way, presenting a physical appearance much like northwest Oregon only with the pine trees replaced by elms and oaks.

The city itself, which celebrates its bicentennial this year, is, frankly, not close to much of anything of regional or national import save for the Little League World Series itself. It is located some three hours northwest of Philadelphia, some four hours northeast of Pittsburgh, more than two hours almost directly north of Harrisburg and three hours south of Rochester, NY.

But despite its rural nature and isolated location, Williamsport is absolutely worth the effort to see.

The town is a fascinating mix of old (in some cases very, very old) and new (or at least newer than the very, very old stuff).

Its streets feature many rows of neat brick homes, and many others adorned with Doric or ionic columns, looking in their own ways like miniature versions of the White House and the Parthenon.

Incorporated as a borough in 1806, Williamsport officially became a city in 1866. Back in the 1800s, Williamsport was known as the Lumber Capital of the World, the city's lumber mills producing 350 million board feet per day during peak production - the highest level of production of lumber in the world.

As a result, Williamsport also became home to many millionaires, and the historic area known as Millionaires Row is still prominent today, with the Historical Preservation Society striving to revive and maintain the eclectic mix of architectural design that exists among the street's collection of huge, majestic homes.

Millionaires Row, located on West Fourth Street was the crown jewel of Williamsport in its day, a time when the city was home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the country.

Several of the homes along Millionaires Row (as well as in many other locations feature the Richardsonian-Romanesque style of architecture, while others are Queen Annes, Victorians, Colonial Revivals

With a population of 29,500 (as of 1999), Williamsport features a historic downtown area that is a mix of both historic and new structures. It is also the county seat of Lycoming County, the largest in land area of all 67 counties in Pennsylvania.

The city is also home to Lycoming College, a liberal arts college, and the Pennsylvania College of Technology, an affiliate of Penn State University from nearby State College, Pa.

Surrounded by more than 300,000 acres of State Game Lands, Williamsport offers many recreational activities. Other attractions include cultural events performed at the Community Arts Center, the Little League World Series and a charming and quaint downtown district.

While Williamsport itself dates to 1806, its origins reach back another 11 years to 1795 when Michael Ross (one of two city founders, along with Peter Herdic) employed surveyors to lay out the town. As was English custom at the time, the original plot of the town included a public square set aside in the center, and it has remained to the present day.

The city, by the way, was named by Ross after his son William.