How to Adopt or Install a Marker

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Adopting a marker is an
investment in civic pride.

The Keystone Marker Trust works with individuals, municipalities and organizations to install historically-accurate replacement markers and to adopt existing markers.  Let us know if you want to adopt or install a marker.  A KMT volunteer will work with you on a one-on-one basis to make it happen.  Use this form.

Installing new or replacement markers:  The KMT facilitates the installation of new markers at-cost for adopting municipalities and organizations. Additionally, entities who demonstrate a commitment to the Keystone Marker Trust Principles can apply for grant funding to cover the cost of new marker installation or existing marker restoration.

Adopting existing markers:  The KMT provides adopting organizations with marker restoration and repair guidelines and faciliates negotiations with PennDOT regarding marker adoption. Where no group exists to adopt a marker, the KMT assumes the responsibility of its care.  The KMT also makes available replacement parts for markers and maintains a list of marker repair facilities.  Additionally, we are working with our partners to develop an educational tool kit to engage the markers as important devises in tourism, community development and in teaching both state and local history and good citizenship.

Considerations for Adopting Existing Markers
The costs associated with adopting an existing marker are usually very modest.. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has encouraged its eleven Engineering Districts across the state to enter into agreements with local civic groups to adopt the markers and the Keystone Marker Trust facilitates that adoption.  Where no adopting group is available, the KMT serves as the custodian itself.  See Traffic Engineering Manual (Publication 46), March 2008 Edition, 2.10.3 Historical Markers. In the case where PennDOT removes a marker, this same regulation directs the Engineering Districts to stockpile the signs for future use. Please click here to send us an email letting us know what exisiting marker you'd like to adopt or where you'd like to place a new marker. 

It must be stated from the outset that each marker is unique, both in what it says and also in its context and location. Therefore, these guidelines should be interpreted as just that—guides. While these guidelines cannot substitute from advice from an engineering professional (and are not meant to) they can help guide the conversation. The best outcome for each marker will require an individualized consideration and should be undertaken with advice from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in its capacity as the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and your local PennDOT Engineering District. To contact the Pennsylvania SHPO, click here. Click here for a list of PennDOT Engineering District Offices and their contact information.

A. Painting and Sprucing Up
Your marker may simply need some paint and a little sprucing up. We are working to analyze paint samples from original markers to provide the most historically-accurate hues of blue and gold.  Currently, official Keystone Marker paint colors are available from Pittsburgh Paints, Automotive Division, and are PPG #12908-# 929525 Keystone Marker Blue and PPG #82291-# 929526 Keystone Marker Yellow.  We are proud to have a Pennsylvania company with PPG's history and dedication to our Commonwealth supplying our paint. The blue and gold or blue and yellow color of the markers are, of course, the colors of our Commonwealth. Alternative colors and schemes, while interesting as the Tunkhannock Creek sign shows, may jeopardize the integrity of the markers as part of a statewide program. 

In all cases, before you repaint your marker, sand it with increasingly fine grains of sand paper first; all rust must be removed before paint is applied or the rusting process will actually accellerate after painting. Be sure to sand between letters, on the rear bracing, and anywhere that water has gathered through the years.  Wipe off the marker and pole with cheese cloth to remove rust and paint dust resulting from the sanding process.  A primer is necessary to achieve a lasting finish. Be sure to have a smooth surface before applying primer.  We recommend using a rust converting and preventative primer such as Benjamin Moore Super Spec HP Rust Converter, Serial Number P82 00.   After the primer has dried, two coats of the PPG Keystone Marker Blue can be applied.  Do not apply the Blue on the areas to be painted Yellow; rather add two coats of Yellow to those areas after the Blue has dried, then touch up as necessary.  A clear coat finish will keep your marker looking shiny for years to come.

B. Replacing Poles or Moving Markers:
Keystone Markers and the "Clear Zone"--Things to Consider Before Moving Your Marker or Replacing the Historic Pole
Section 2A.19 of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) states that “Ground-mounted sign supports shall be breakaway, yielding, or shielded with a longitudinal barrier or crash cushion if within the clear zone.” The concept of clear zone is an approach to minimize the number and severity of crashes involving vehicles running off the road. Simply stated, clear zone is a traversable area that starts at the edge of the traffic lane and extends laterally a sufficient distance to allow a driver to stop or return to the road before encountering a hazard or overturning. Typical desired clear zone dimensions for local roads are 10 feet on roadways without curbs, and 1.5’ for roadways with curbs, though there are many variables involved including design speed, side slope, and ADT.

If your marker is located in what PennDOT has defined as the “clear zone” along a highway and is not protected by guide rails or bridge abutments, or as a minimum, non-mountable curbs in urban areas, PennDOT may encourage you to relocate it or replace its historic pole with a break away variety. While we hope to have a breakaway version of the historic pole available soon that will address PennDOT's concerns without requiring the markers to be moved, in many cases those concerns should be looked at more critically; replacing the pole or moving the marker may be an unnecessary expense if it will not measurably affect the safety of the clear zone in which the marker is found. The relocation of a historic marker or the replacement of the historic pole should be undertaken only as last resorts. Some principles to guide your decisionmaking:

  • Moving a marker just out of the clear zone but as close to its original location as possible is infinitely preferable to discarding the historic pole in favor of a breakaway variety.
  • If a suitable location outside the clear zone is not located immediately adjacent to the original location, a guard rail can be installed in front of the marker and, again, the historic pole can be retained.
  • Before agreeing to moving a marker or, worse, replacing the historic pole, work with PennDOT to critically assess the clear zone. Things to consider in your consultation with PennDOT:
    1. Look to see if there are other non-breakaway items in the clear zone—such as trees, telephone poles, other signs. If there are other non-breakaway elements near the marker, it makes little sense to degrade the marker by moving it or replacing its pole when it does not measurably increase the safety of the area.
    2. Consider the clear zone requirements. Most markers are not located on super highways nor on highspeed sections of suburban roads. Instead, they are at the historical boundaries of towns and villages where speed limits are likely to be reduced. The need for breakaway capacity is reduced when traffic speed is lower.
    3. Also consider the number of times the marker has been hit by traffic. If your marker is still standing, it is likely it has not been hit once in its fifty or more years of existence. It is unlikely, then, that the marker is a target so probably an unnecessary expense and degradation to move it or replace the pole.
Looking close at the sign you'll see the next town noted at the top is Lancaster, 8 miles. However, heading south on 222 at this point, you are headed away from Lancaster! This odd fact is a result of the marker having been moved from its original location from the south to the north end of town. (Photo: Erich Armpriester)
The Zieglersville marker remains in its historical location with its original pole because moving it would not measurably improve the safety of the clear zone.
If installing guardrail is not an option and PennDOT requires you to relocate the marker, you should re-use the historic pole and move it to a point outside the clear zone as close to its original location as possible. There should be no need to use a breakaway pole if the marker is being moved from the clear zone of the highway. Sanatoga's western marker was moved just a few feet outside the clear zone but retained its original pole.

If More Significant Repairs Are Necessary


It is always a preferable solution to repair a broken marker than to replace it. Contrary to popular belief, missing pieces of markers can be fabricated, broken pieces re-attached, and cracks repaired. However, working with old, brittle cast iron can be very tricky and the work should be entrusted to skilled craftsmen. Thankfully, Pennsylvania still has some fine cast iron craftspeople. We maintain a list of capable repair facilities, which can be found here.

The western Robesonia marker at left shows the severity of damage that can be addressed successfully. Sanatoga’s eastern marker, at top right, was cracked.  A series of straps on the back of the marker repaired it without any evidence visible on the front of the sign.  A corner of the Loysville marker, bottom left, was missing and had to be re-fabricated and re-attached.  The repair is nearly invisible. The marker at the east end of Robesonia, bottom right, has been brazed or weld repaired on the backside. The weld/braze seam runs down the left side of the sign as you look at it from the rear.  This repair is nearly invisible from the front side. Photos by Erich Armpriester.

If Your Marker is Missing
We are very pleased to be able to offer historically-accurate replica keystone markers and poles that conform to current PennDOT standards. Given the tremendous number of Pennsylvania places that have lost their markers to time and the number that have contacted us inquiring about a marker—even those that historically did not have a marker—we anticipate the interest in the replica markers to be great. You should know that all work relating to the markers is done in Pennsylvania by Pennsylvania industries and craftspeople.

PennDOT requires that all new marker installations be on breakaway poles. We have been working to re-design the historic poles associated with the Keystone Markers to meet this standard.

Click here to read more information about ordering marker parts, including signs and poles.

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Examples of cluttered signage
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The Eagle’s Mere markers would be contributing elements for the town’s status as a National Historic Site. Photo by Fred Yenerall.

Other Issues to Consider With Your Marker

  • Cluttering Signage
    Having a brand new sign jammed in next to a marker cheapens the integrity of the historical marker, as the photos of the lovingly restored Intercourse and Roaring Branch markers show. There is no reason the modern signs had to be located this closely. We recommend no modern signs be placed within 20 feet of the historic markers. Preserving the integrity of the monumental marker with the landscape is key.
  • Historical Markers and Historic District Designations
    The keystone markers are core character defining features of all the areas where they are found. Accordingly, if your town is applying for status as historic district at the local or national levels (that is, as a locally-designated historic district or as a National Register of Historic Places district), you should be certain to include your markers as contributing features.

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© 2010 Keystone Marker Trust (unless otherwise indicated)