The widow’s walk was a small room that was built on the roofs of some houses in this region. There are a few houses standing in the town of Hollidaysburg, near the home of this website's author in the present-day county of Blair, that still have these little rooms on their roofs. Now most people would probably not think to call the small, often rectangular, structures ‘rooms’, but at the time they were constructed, that is indeed what they were considered to be.
Originally, the name for the small room on the roof was the Captain’s Room. The structure was found only on houses near ocean harbors at first, but then they became popular elsewhere, even showing up in our "landlocked' mountainous region. The reason it was called the Captain’s Room was because it was built for sea captains to use to gaze out over the ocean for incoming ships. It also served as a place from which a seafarer’s wife could watch for her husband’s return over the ocean. The room took on the name of widow’s walk in reference to the fact that many of the seafarer’s wives became widows due to the risks of going to sea. The widow’s walk was generally not very large. It was intended merely to provide a place to look out over the sea or countryside, and therefore did not need to be large.
In our Mother-Bedford region, this small room was probably built on the roofs of houses simply because it had become fashionable and would afford a nice ‘bird’s eye view’ of the surrounding town or countryside. The widow’s walk, being rather small, is often confused with a simple cupola.
In the diagram below, the widow's walk is indicated in red.