Nicholson, PA, like many rural towns across the United States, has seen an exodus of businesses and residents over the last several decades. Incorporated by a charter granted on August 23, 1875, Nicholson is a borough in Pennsylvania’s rural Wyoming County and Endless Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. According to U.S. Census data, Nicholson had a population of 767 in 2010, while, on the other hand, there were more than 1,000 residents in Nicholson in 1940. For Wyoming County, the number of residents has seen a small increase trend since 1940 (according to U.S. Census data).

In terms of businesses, agriculture and transportation were the driving industries in Nicholson around the turn of the 20th Century. At that time, Nicholson had five creameries, a cheese factory, feed mill, knife factory, furniture manufacturer, tannery, grocery stores, and several hotels and restaurants. Nicholson even had passenger and freight railroad service (New York City to Scranton to Buffalo), as well as trolley service (Scranton to Montrose, with Nicholson in the middle).

Nicholson certainly has changed since that time. The days of local manufacturing and local milk processing and delivery are long gone. Unless small rural towns adapt, move beyond the traditional types of businesses, and focus on the future by celebrating our past, we’ll continue to be left behind. While local organizations may take the lead on certain aspects to enhance the local community; traditionally, local government has taken the lead, paved the way, and provided long-term vision and guidance for successful communities. For Nicholson, establishing a long-term vision surrounding Nicholson’s agriculture and transportation past is crucial. Nicholson can celebrate its past to preserve its future.

A National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 99,600 visitors to Steamtown, located in Scranton, spent $5,403,500 in nearby communities, supporting 86 jobs in the area with a total impact $7,432,400 to the local economy in 2016. Nicholson can capitalize on this synergy and be the catalyst to attract more tourists to Nicholson, the Byway, and the area north of Scranton. Steamtown, located about 21 miles south of Nicholson, is the NPS’ only railroading park created to preserve the history of steam railroading in America and charged with telling the importance of steam, coal, and steel to America’s Industrial Revolution. Railroads, like the DL&W, opened small rural communities like Nicholson to the rest of the world and fueled our nation’s economy. The Viaduct Valley Way Scenic Byway is about 37 miles of mostly Routes 92 and 171 in Wyoming and Susquehanna Counties. From the breathtaking views of Fall Foliage to the imposing grandeur of the Tunkhannock (Creek) Viaduct in Nicholson and the Starrucca (Creek) Viaduct in Lanesboro, there is plenty to see and do along this Route of the Famous Viaducts.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Preservation Pennsylvania report, The Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation Activities in Pennsylvania, expresses the importance of heritage tourism: “It is estimated that heritage tourism…accounts for 32 million visitors and $1.0 billion in visitor spending each year, which, when combined with direct expenditures associated with the ongoing operations of such destinations, results in an industry that has a total annual economic impact of $2.9 billion, supporting 37,000 jobs and generating $90 million in state tax revenues.”

Nicholson has an opportunity to lead by example and be a role model for other small rural towns. By working together through heritage tourism to preserve its past, Nicholson can be revitalized and instill community pride at the same time. The vision for Nicholson, PA is simple:

Revitalize Nicholson and the Endless Mountains region by collaborating with stakeholders to build upon and promote heritage tourism.