“People are often surprised to learn that I was not born and raised in Happy Valley,” Matt Maris says. Considering that the high school teacher owns and runs Local Historia, an ode to Happy Valley’s historic past, the surprise is legitimate.
When Matt came to the area to attend Lock Haven University, he fell in love with Central Pennsylvania and jumped at the chance to teach in Bellefonte. Today he and his family say that they are here to stay, and proud to be locals.
He talked to HVAB about why he’s so passionate about Happy Valley’s history, off-the-path finds that he loves, and how to explore the area in a brand new (and tasty) way. Read on!
Can you tell me about Local Historia?
Local Historia is a passion for local history, community, and preservation. Our mission is to connect people with local history through walking tours and engaging content.
Local Historia is co-owned by me and my good friend Dustin Elder. Both of us are also high school history teachers. We enjoy making history a fun learning experience through walking tours and other events. For example, at Bellefonte Under the Lights we gave tours of the recently revitalized Gamble Mill!
We’ve done a variety of tours in Bellefonte, Tyrone, and Altoona and plan to do many more in Central PA. We are always looking to create more tours and events, so don't be surprised if you see us in other towns in Happy Valley soon.
What's one super interesting or strange fact about Happy Valley that people should know?
Here is one that is usually unexpected by people: Roopsburg was a village about a mile from Bellefonte (in Benner Township). It had the oldest successful brewery in Centre County between 1826 and 1902. It has amazing 19th century beer vaults (caves dug into the hillside) for storing the barrels. Local Historia had the opportunity to give tours of it during the Central PA Tasting Trail Craft Beverage Expo. It's a good example of an amazing piece of local history and don't worry, we plan to do these tours again!
In your opinion, what makes Happy Valley so unique?
I think geography has a lot to do with it. Happy Valley has all the right things going for it throughout these inspiring ridges and valleys. The charming history, natural beauty, outdoor adventures, laid back pace, and thoughtful community members make it a wonderful place to live.
What’s one off-the-beaten path thing that you love about Happy Valley?
I would recommend visiting one of the former ironworks such as Eagle Iron Works and Curtin Village. Iron making is such an important part of the history of the area, so it's a wonderful site to visit to get an understanding of the history of the entire county and region. Eagle Iron Works is one of the most unique historic sites in Pennsylvania because it's a reconstruction of the entire iron making process. The tour experiences at sites like this will make your visit memorable and have you ready to learn more!
What’s something every visitor should see (or eat, or experience) while they are here?
To give a selfless plug, I would recommend a Local Historia walking tour or any other type of historical experience you can find. We really believe learning local history is one of the best ways to connect with a community. It will give you your bearings and really help you understand the places you're visiting. As guides, that's what we love to do, connect you with local history.
Another great way to learn about Happy Valley is to participate in History Pub or the other Education Tuesdays at Big Spring Spirits in Bellefonte. You can enjoy food and beverages while learning from local experts and interesting topics! There is so much to see and do in Happy Valley so the important thing is to get out and explore.
Also here are ways to connect with Local Historia:
Local Historia YouTube Channel:
Local Historia Column in Town & Gown: