Local Housing Trends: Port Matilda & Bald Eagle Valley

The scenic Bald Eagle Valley stretches from Port Matilda to Blanchard in Centre County, and is one of the most affordable -- yet easily accessible -- areas to live locally.

Since the completion of Interstate 99 over a decade ago, the borough of Port Matilda (pop. 606) has become even easier to reach, and offers a quaint village feel with more affordable hosing prices than in the immediate State College area. With conveniences like a pizza shop, post office, tavern, convenience store and community park, you have all the basics – and if there’s something you need, it’s a quick jaunt into town.

The borough itself is located in the Bald Eagle Area School District, but some Port Matilda addresses may be located in the Philipsburg, Tyrone or State College school districts.

Laid out in 1850, it was named after the town founder’s daughter, Matilda. While there’s no actual port in the borough, many theorize the town was named with hopes that the Pennsylvania Canal would one day reach the settlement.

Modest homes in the borough make great places for first-time or budget buyers, but more extravagant homes exist in the surrounding countryside. Additionally, developments like Orchard Creek and Orchard Manor are only a short five-minute drive over Bald Eagle ridge, and offer newer homes in the State College Area School District.

Continuing down the valley a few miles lie the villages of Julian (pop. 152) and Unionville (pop. 291). These rural communities offer quiet living in relative proximity to Penn State. For lovers of history, the homes in Unionville may be especially appealing, with many of them located in the Unionville Historic District. These homes were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 for their high quality of preservation since before World War I. Unionville is the home of Herman Fisher, founder of Fisher Price toys.

Even farther down the valley lies Wingate, home of the Bald Eagle Area School District. This is another small village, but with a few amenities like a gas station and restaurants.

Next up comes Milesburg (pop. 1,123), possibly the most prominent town in Bald Eagle Valley. Located just minutes from the county seat of Bellefonte, it was laid out in 1793 and incorporated as a borough in 1843. Named after Samuel Miles, who co-owned the local Centre Furnace Iron Works alongside other notable residents of his day, the town was positioned at the junction of Spring and Bald Eagle creeks. This spot was ideal for the Milesburg Ironworks, which forged pig iron into a marketable and transportable product.

The borough has seen many notable events in its past: the first post office in the territory of Centre County was established here in 1797; the Erie Turnpike from Milesburg over the Alleghenies was completed in 1822; the Bald Eagle Canal was opened here in 1847; and the Bald Eagle Valley Railroad arrived in 1864.

While remnants of its bustling past are still visible, the borough’s days as a transportation hub are over, leaving behind a quaint community with affordable homes, great access to outdoor activities, and a convenient location just off Interstate 80.

Historic homes – like the 1860 Iddings-Baldridge House (the only borough building on the National Register of Historic Places) – are located close to the center of town. Newer yet still-affordable homes can be found in nearby Confer Development and Breon Court.

Milesburg benefits from its proximity to the county seat -- take, for example, the proposed Bellefonte-Milesburg rail trail. The trail is still under study, but its impact on the community cannot be understated. The proposed 2.5-mile multi-use trail would connect the borough to downtown Bellefonte, opening up new recreational opportunities and commuting options.

Further down the valley lies Mt. Eagle (now known as the home of Curtin Village at Eagle Ironworks Historical Site) and the crown jewel of Centre County’s state parks, Bald Eagle State Park.

Nearly surrounded by the popular park is the Borough of Howard (pop. 720). While this quiet town may be farther from State College and Bellefonte than its up-valley brethren, it makes up for it with great access to the outdoors.

Activities especially popular at the adjacent state park include boating and swimming. The park has a 1,200-foot-long sand and turf beach that features a children’s playground, snack bar, changing rooms, restrooms and parking. At nearly eight miles long with 23 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty of lake for boaters to explore as well. Five boat launches and a marina provide many options for docking and storage. And, if you don’t have your own boat, you can always rent one from the park.

Howard is a great place to call home, but don’t rule out the final village in the valley before the county line.

Strolling down main street in Blanchard (pop. 740), you may question what century you’re in. This quiet village, like many in the Bald Eagle Valley, offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Here in Blanchard, you’ll also be close to the conveniences of neighboring Clinton County, meaning the likes of Walmart and grocery stores are just over 10 minutes away.

Also worth mentioning are two great communities just beyond the county line: Beech Creek in Clinton County and Tyrone in Blair.

Beech Creek (pop. 701) is within 30 minutes of some parts of State College, and offers very affordable housing, much of it in Keystone Central School District. The borough has two convenience stores, bars, a small market and more. It’s a short drive from here to Lock Haven University.

Tyrone (pop. 5,477) is also about 30 minutes from State College, and offers restaurants, grocery stores, a hospital and more. It’s just over 20 minutes from Tyrone to Altoona, a major population center with an abundance of shopping options and amenities. It’s also home to Penn State branch campus Penn State Altoona.

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