Making Meadowcroft

Follow the site’s journey from campsite to historic landmark.​

Senator John Heinz History Center

Blacksmith Demonstration (2012)Original Source: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village is home to three re-created historic villages alongside the Meadowcroft Rockshelter archaeological site. Founded in 1959, it has since grown into a top tourist attraction in Washington County, Pa.​

Camp Meadowcroft Entrance (July 28, 1959)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

It all started with Camp Meadowcroft. Founded by brothers Albert and Delvin Miller in 1959, the campsite included a campfire circle, softball diamond, Adirondack shelters, and more. ​

Throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s, boy and girl scouts, church groups, and schools would tour the site and camp overnight.​

Scouts at Camp Meadowcroft (c. 1960)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Boy Scout Troop 71 cooking at the camping spot on the Village Green.​

Adirondack Shelters at Meadowcroft (c. 1960)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Adirondack shelters were used for overnight stays and picnicking at Camp Meadowcroft.​

Miller House (August 1968)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

The Miller brothers spent much of the 1960s adding historic structures to the site, including the Miller log house, a blacksmith shop, a one-room schoolhouse, and a museum to document rural life in the region. Camp Meadowcroft became Meadowcroft Village.​

Albert Miller with Schoolchildren (May 1969)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

As Meadowcroft expanded so did the educational opportunities it presented. Even before the museum’s official opening, school children, historical societies, and college groups would visit Albert for programs on history and nature.

Honorary Incorporation Party (Oct. 20, 1968)Original Source: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

An honorary incorporation dinner was held on Oct. 20, 1968 for the dedicated volunteers and guests that worked so hard to make Meadowcroft Village a reality. ​

Miller House Relocation (1964)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

As the community heard of the Millers’ efforts, locals began offering Meadowcroft their family heirlooms, histories, and even buildings to bolster the Meadowcroft artifact and archival collections.​

As the museum developed on top of the hill, it would be what was found below that would make Meadowcroft a name known ‘round the world.​

Rockshelter Pre-Excavation (1973)Original Source: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

Meadowcroft sits atop a roughly 72-foot sandstone cliff—an area historically known as “The Cliffs.” It was along this cliff face, under a large overhang, that Albert came across a groundhog burrow on Nov. 12, 1955. ​

He found some artifacts excavated by the groundhog and decided to enlarge the hole for further investigation. He unearthed pieces of burnt bone, flint flakes, freshwater mussel shells, and an intact flint knife, all of which validated Albert’s long-held theory that native people once used the rockshelter as a campsite.​

Albert Miller Notes (Nov. 12, 1955)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

Albert Miller wrote of his discovery on Nov. 12, 1955.

Albert Miller and Dr. James Adovasio, c. 1990, Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center
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Albert kept quiet about his findings while he sought a professional archaeologist to conduct a proper excavation. The search lasted 18 years.​

In the spring of 1973, new University of Pittsburgh faculty member, Dr. James Adovasio, was searching for a site to conduct an archaeological field school. After hearing about Meadowcroft, Adovasio visited the site and requested permission to excavate that summer.​

Miller Point (1976)Original Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

On July 31, 1976, the Miller Point was discovered by Joe Yedlowski during the archaeological excavation of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. This discovery would contribute to one of the biggest controversies in North American archaeology - the idea that the continent was inhabited well before the 11,500 years previously believed.​

Visitor Center Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony (June 20, 1987)Original Source: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

The 1980s saw major developments as a Visitor Center was built and the Miller Museum replaced Camp Meadowcroft’s Adirondack shelters to make room for its growing collection. The museum building was constructed in stages throughout the 1980s.​

In this photo, Albert Miller, Delvin Miller, and Meadowcroft Foundation board member Jack Piatt cut the ribbon on the new visitor center.​

Press Conference at Miller Schoolhouse (July 23, 1993)Original Source: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

By the early 1990s, the aging Miller brothers saw that they needed outside help to keep their dream alive. To ensure their legacy would last beyond their years, the Meadowcroft Foundation entered into a joint operating agreement with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania in 1993, and shortly thereafter took on the name Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Museum of Rural Life. The official merger took place in 2000.​

In this photo, representatives of the Meadowcroft Foundation and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania gathered for a press conference in the historic Miller School to announce the joint operating agreement in July 1993.​

Meadowcroft Rockshelter Exterior at Dusk (2008) by Ed MasseryOriginal Source: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

In 2005, the Meadowcroft Rockshelter was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Construction of Rockshelter Enclosure (2007)Original Source: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

In 2007, a new enclosure was constructed to make the archaeological site more accessible to visitors.

Meadowcroft Rockshelter Interior (2008) by Ed MasseryOriginal Source: Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village

Today, thousands of visitors from across the country and around the world visit Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village each season to learn more about the peopling of North America.​

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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