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The Road Taken: A Journey In Time Down Pennsylvania Route 45    by Joan Morse Gordon order for
Road Taken
by Joan Morse Gordon
Order:  USA  Can
Local History Company, 2001 (2001)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Joan Morris Gordon, author of The Road Taken, was told once by a 'wise geographer' that Route 45 goes from nowhere to nowhere, that it begins and ends with a whimper. That statement perversely appealed to her and she has minutely detailed the history of the road from its ramble up and down natural 'bumps' in the topography created 250 million years ago by tectonic plate movement.

Through history, it evolved from a primitive path to the not-so-busy road it is today. Of course, William Penn played a part in the development of all of Pennsylvania, including this central portion. John Brinckerhoff Jackson in A Sense of Place ... A Sense of Time said, 'Roads no longer lead to places; they are places. The road offered a journey into the unknown that could end up allowing us to discover who we were and where we belonged.' With that in mind, Gordon explored Route 45 - not as a means to get from one place to another, but as though it were the 'place' of which Jackson spoke.

From Amish wagons to limestone caves, tiny villages or buildings fallen to ruins, from farmland to small towns, Route 45 takes its traveler back into a past as diverse as the whole United States. Locally it's known as '100 miles of history'. The founders of the area came to the country, not only for religious freedom, but also in search of personal freedom, and to make their own way in the world. Gordon recounts the stories of some of the people responsible for the history of this 100-mile stretch, such as Aaron Levy for whom Aaronsburg was named - a canny man who left his mark.

This grand wealth of history is fascinating reading. It made me want to climb in the car, retrace the route the author took, meet the people she met, see the places she saw, and taste the foods she tasted.

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