Overton in the News
Overton News 2002
West Overton Museums celebration to feature
one-horse sleigh display
Rodney Sturtz, of Scottdale, executive director of West Overton Museums, describes the Christmas celebration there as "something different." Sturtz is referring to the annual Christmas Celebration at West Overton Museums Friday and Saturday. The festivities for both days will include a 5 p.m. social hour, 6 p.m. dinner and 7 p.m. concert. Tickets are $25 per person for museum members and $30 for nonmembers. . . . In previous years, the Overholt Homestead was decorated for Christmas. This year, Sturtz said the Distillery Theater is being decorated with vintage exhibits, including an 1890s one-horse open sleigh.
Prittstown woman's work featured in national
A local quilter has one of her creations selected to be a part of a traveling national quilt show. Fay Pritts' "Bear Country" is one of the 18 quilts picked to be a part of the show, sponsored by the national Quilter's Society. The quilts all feature an old-fashioned pattern known as "bear's paw." The quilts will be on display Tuesday-Nov. 3 at West Overton Museums, located along Route 819 near Scottdale. Pritts, of Prittstown, and her husband, Merl, are owners of Custom Quilts and are nationally known for their work in quilting.
Scottdale fire ruled arson
SCOTTDALE - Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshall Leslie "Buzzy" Myers told Scottdale Borough Police that a fire which heavily damaged the old H.C. Frick Coke Co. headquarters on South Broadway was arson. According to Scottdale patrolman Dennis Elcock, there were several points of origin discovered to the fire which occurred early Thursday morning. "We're continuing with our investigation and conducting interviews," said Elcock. "We have some information but nothing concrete yet." Although there have been other fires in the borough, this is the first arson case in some time, Elcock added.
Heritage Play takes to the skies
SCOTTDALE - For its silver anniversary, the Heritage Play takes to the skies. The West Overton Museums' 25th annual Heritage Play, "J. D. Hill and His Dreams of Flight," celebrates the area's aviation history. The play is set in significant periods in the life of James Dewitt Hill, known as "The Bird Boy of Scottdale." Hill, who learned to fly in 1909, worked as a flight instructor and was a member of the U.S. Airmail Service before his historic attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 that cost him his life. . . . Rodney Sturtz, executive director of West Overton Museums, wrote the script and choral arrangements for the play.
Frick Hospital marks 100 years of helping ill
It began with a need to provide health care to area coal miners, farmers and their families. It was the dream of a Mt. Pleasant pharmacist and several physicians to build a hospital.
This year, Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant will kick off its 100th anniversary celebration.
. . . The original hospital, then known as Mt. Pleasant Memorial, had 25 beds, Toohey said.
. . . Through the dedication and hard work of Dr. F. L. Marsh; his son, Dr. William Marsh; daughter-in-law, Dr. Mary Montgomery Marsh; and the ladies of the Red Cross Society, The hospital opened its doors on Jan. 21, 1904. Benefactors such as Jacob Justice and Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick, who grew up in West Overton, donated their time, money and good will to help get the hospital up and running.
"Justice was a pharmacist in the 1910-1920s who was very concerned about the area's coal miners," said Rod Sturtz, executive director of West Overton Museums in Scottdale. "He started a fund that would pay for medicines for indigents, especially for the hard working miners who didn't seem to make enough money to pay for medicines. that fund still exists."
Christian Overholt, the brother of Abraham Overholt who built West Overton, constructed a store known as the Mt. Pleasant Emporium and a large brick mansion on top of Main street in Mt. Pleasant. Eventually, the house was sold to J. Lippencott. In 1903, a $12,000 state grant appropriated by Gov. Samuel Pennypacker was used to purchase the mansion for use as a hospital.
Coal and Coke Trail making plans for property
SCOTTDALE - The Coal and Coke Trail Chapter is making final preparations before the second assessment that will enable the chapter to make offers on properties needed for the trail.
Chapter Vice President Bob Keeler said the assessment, negotiations and purchases much take place in the next few weeks for the chapter to make its October deadline to apply for a Keystone Grant for construction funding.
. . . Rod Sturtz, executive director of the West Overton Museums, reported there may be complications involved in creating a spur from the Coal and Coke Trail to the museums.
West Overton Museums agreed to allow Beldon Blake Corp. to use its right of way for pipelines for natural gas, and in return, Beldon Blake would resotre the right of way in a manner, which, in effect, would construct the spur of the trail to the museums.
Sturtz reported Beldon Blake recently stated it intends to install pipeline so that it crosses the roadway between the museum and where the trail would cross Dexter Road, contrary to a perferred route for the spur.
Keeler said Sturtz should still be able to plan the spur from the museums' right of way to a paved road or alleyway that could be designated as a bike route.
Keeler plans to meet with Sturtz to review maps of the museums' right of way and the surrounding area.
Decade of 1900-10 ranks as most eventful
period for area
What has been the most eventful decade in the more than 250 years of southwestern Pennsylvania history?
Our nomination is the first 10 years of the 1900s, from 1900 to 1910.
The development of public utilities in the late 1800s set the stage for advances in mining and industry, transportation, education and in any number of ways.
. . . Numerous serious fires, many with loss of life, also marked the decade. One was the 1905 blaze at the Overholt distillery near Connellsville, with a $4 million loss in whiskey alone.
West Overton Museums celebrates art of
SCOTTDALE - Pictures created with the impressionist's perception, the realist's attention to detail or even a cartoonist's whimsy are on display at the distillery building in West Overton.
The pictures aren't painted on canvas, however; they're sewn into quilts, with stitches as enviable as any master's brush stroke and colors as brilliant as any artist's palette, creating a gallery for those who love the art of quilting.
Laverne Love of West Overton Museums says this year's quilt show with 80 judged entries is one of the museums' most competitive, and is one the largest quilt shows in the Pittsburgh area.
Five Star Trail coming
SCOTTDALE - The Five star Trail and the Coal & Coke Trail Chapters of the Regional Trail Corp. held a press conference Tuesday at West Overton Museums to announce the extension of the Five Star Recreation Trail from Youngwood to Scottdale.
. . . The Coal & Coke Trail Chapter has plans to join with the Jacobs Creek Recreation Trail near Scottdale and continue its trail for five miles to Mount Pleasant. This project is still in the property acquisition phase, and plans to apply for construction grants this fall.
. . . Rodney Sturtz, executive director of West Overton Museums and president of the Laurel Highlands Chamber of Commerce, said a spur connecting the museums to the Coal & Coke Trail along Overholt Drive and Dexter Road is feasible. He added that an Allegheny Power Co. access road behind the museums could join to the proposed Five Star Trail expansion, forming a loop.
Lifelong musicians, young and older, join
SCOTTDALE - Area instrumentalists with a desire to be life-long musicians have a local place to play, thanks to the Scottdale Band. One of the band's founders, Rhonda Allison, says the group formed to give Fay-West area musicians a chance to perform in a concert band closer to home.
She and co-founders Maureen and Warren Shire [sic] of Connellsville were members of the Delmont Band in 1981 when they decided to start a group closer to home.
The idea grew as area musicians discovered the opportunity, increasing the band's roster to nearly 40 members and attracting instrumentalists from as far away as Uniontown, Delmont, Monongahela and Somerset.
The band members gather for practicies each Tuesday night at the distillery theater at West Overton Museums.
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Two new exhibits highlight season
There are two new exhibits at West Overton Museums this year - a weaving exhibit featuring Overholt coverlets and an aviation exhibit dedicated to World War II and Korean War aviation.
The weaving exhibit showcases a part of the Overholt family history. The Overholts, who lived and worked in West Overton, were weavers by trade for generations prior to the founding of the distillery.
The company "Overholt and McGiffen" produced more than 700 coverlets during the early to mid-1800s that were sold throughout the region and beyond.
Many coverlets, still bearing vibrant colors from natural dyes woven into intricate patterns, are included in the display.
Kathie Plack, along with Sandy Spencer, Bonnie Sanford, Donna George and Becky Edwards approached the museum about the preservation of the coverlets to ensure they could be enjoyed for many years to come.
The women, who are all members of the Washington Spinners and Weaver's Guild and have studied textiles, have helped other museums preserve their woven pieces.
Plack says the coverlets were hung in a display at West Overton in past years, which could hasten the disintegration of the cotton warp in the coverlets.
She says after the coverlets were carefully vacuumed through a screen, they were folded and placed on a new display that totally supports them. The new display not only showcases the beautiful textiles, but also protects them.
"The Overholts produced a tremendous number of coverlets," says Plack. "To have this many in one place is good, and to have them in the future is better."
West Overton Museums' tour guide Tawnia Shallenberger says the exhibit includes a loom that was original to the homestead and books of patterns the Overholts used to create their woven designs.
The exhibits also include other tools weavers used in the 1800s, and a video titled "Weaving at West Overton" produced by the Multimedia Class at Southmoreland Senior High School.
A mural, created by the museums' executive director Rodney Sturtz, homeschool students Carrie and Kelly Clawson, and Scottdale artist Sharon Yoder, completes the exhibit.
West Overton Museums archivist Mary Ann Mogus says the aviation exhibit "Dreams of Flight II" presents World War II and Korean War aircraft and aviation.
The exhibit complements "Dreams of Flight," dedicated to World War I, the U.S. Air Mail Service and local aviators, which premiered last year.
Models from the collection of William Ritter that create a time line of aircraft from the beginning of World War II to the introduction of the B17 near the end of the war are on display. Mogus adds that collectors will be interested to know the models are also for sale.
Models of jets that were introduced at the end of World War II and during the Korean War are also displayed in the exhibit.
A diorama of a Bell X-1, the first jet, loaded into a bomber is included in the display.
Glen Smeltzer loaned the museum two items from his collection: a tail piece of a Stinson SR-10C aircraft and a photograph his father took of the first airmail pick up at the Pittsburgh-Greensburg Airport.
Robert Taylor prints on loan from the collection of Dr. John Wessner cover the wall of the exhibit. The prints are a special addition to the exhibit since many are signed by pilots and bombers who flew on the planes.
Uniforms of the World War II U.S. Air Corps and the Korean War U.S. Air Force are on display from the museum's collection.
The exhibit also includes information on how local aviation companies evolved and joined with other firms to help creat United Airlines.
Both new exhibits are located on the first floor of the distillery building and are just two examples of many exhibits celebrating local history on display at the museums.
West Overton Museums' hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Call the museums at 724-887-7910 for more information.
Fort Allen didicates new blacksmith shop
WEST OVERTON - The Fort Allen Antique Farm Equipment Association is kicking off its 2002 season with the dedication of its new blacksmith shop and a "Hammer-In" at 9 a.m. on Saturday at the association's show grounds at 911 Porter Ave., Scottdale, (on Route 819 adjacent to the West Overton Museums).
Fort Allen member Jim Weaver says the event is designed to introduce area blacksmiths and the public to the new facility.
The new blacksmith shop is the first of a series of new buildings planned for 50-acre show grounds to house the association's collection of early agricultural and rural equipment and machinery.
West Overton Appraisal Day: Ordinary to the
SCOTTDALE - Saturday's Appraisal Day at West Overton Museums' distillery theater gave owners of items ranging from the out-of-the-ordinary to the extraordinary a chance to see how much they're worth.
Appraisers Jeff Rouse of Tri-Maple Studios in New Alexandria and Marlin Lasher of Salem Traders in Export were on hand to examine a wide array of local treasurers [sic], and provide some informatin about their histories, as well as estimate values.
Rouse, who restored the "Markle Flag" for the museum last year, holds degrees in fine art, painting and art history, but gained most of his knowledge of antiques from reading, travel, visiting museums and historical societies, and simply listening as others shared their knowledge of specific types of items.
Airborne West Overton exhibit flies high
Bill Ritter of Murrysville has been building model airplanes for 50 years, which is almost as far back as the ones go in a new exhibit at the West Overton Museum near Scottdale .
Ritter's 20 models are part of an exhibit, "Dreams of Flight II: From World War II to Korea" that opens Wednesday. It includes other models, photographs, art prints and memorabilia from an airline, famous local piolots and the Women Army Service Pilots (WASPs).
"I've always been interested in the history of aviation," said Dr. Mary Ann Mogus, who retired from teaching physics at East Stroudsburg University and serves as the volunteer archivist at the museum. Last year she put together "Dreams of Flight I" that looked at early aviation from 1918 to 1930.
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Entire area would benefit from 'Little
Entrepreneurs have an opportunity to reap the rewards of a tourism and recreation industry that continues to grow throughout the Fay-West area. But as the industry grows, so too does competition for the attention of tourists.
Tourism-related ventures must be unique and compelling.
The West Overton museums certainly are unique, and have long been a symbol of potential in terms of making a major impact on tourism in the region.
The boyhood home of Henry Clay Frick, West Overton is a collection of mid-19th century buildings that are filled with Southwestern Pennsylvania heritage and historical significance.
Because of a lack of funding, the museum's buildings haven't been a major attraction for tourists visiting the region. They've been in need of renovation and more effective marketing in order to broaden their mass appeal. That may soon change thanks to a $52,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Museum and Historic Commission. The grant, which requires matching funds, will be used to renovate two buildings and begin work on a third.
Rodney Sturtz, museum executive director, says he envisions West Overton being a smaller scale version of Williamsburg, the village in Virginia that has maintained its Colonial-era appearance and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Sturtz and other museum supporters envision a time when the museum's buildings provide a broad glimpse of what life was like in this area more than 150 years ago. Moreover, they aim to make several of the buildings home to businesses like those that were in existence at that time. One building is already home to a quilt shop, Kate and Becca's Quilt Patch Etc., which opened a little over a year ago in the village's former general store and post office. Sturtz says five other businesses - a bookstore, an Amish furniture store, two antique-craft-gift shops and a store specializing in jams, jellies and honey - are considering making the village home. One building has already been set aside for a restaurant.
Museum officials are offering incentives for businesses locating in the village, such as rent forgiveness in exchange for renovation work done on buildings. In addition, the museum can make funding through agencies like the Progress Fund more accessible.
West Overton, like much of the Fay-West area, represents untapped potential in the tourism market. Compared to the rest of the state and much of the country, Southwestern Pennsylvania has lagged behind in terms of marketing and development of tourist destinations.
That has begun to change. The amount of tourism-generated dollars coming in to Fayette and Westmoreland counties has increased over recent years. West Overton stands to be part of that trend. A "Little Williamsburg," as Sturtz put it, in West Overton? It certainly can happen, and when it does, the entire area will benefit.
Laurel Highlands Chamber proposes cooperation
key to promoting 119 Corridor
SCOTTDALE - The newly formed Marketing and Development Committee of the Laurel Highlands Chamber of Commerce on Monday explored promoting the region from a cooperative perspective rahter than through individual municipalities.
Rodney Sturtz, LHCC president and marketing and development committee chairman, is building the committee from outside the chamber's membership to draw on the experience and ideas of community representatives.
Sturtz explained that the LHCC is exploring the idea of cooperatively promoting the "119 Corridor" that extends from New Stanton to Connellsville.
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West Overton gets grant to renovate buildings
SCOTTDALE - West Overton Museums has made a major stride toward its goal of creating a working village near the museum with the recent receipt of a $52,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Museum and Historic Commission.
The museum's executive director, Rodney Sturtz, says that the grant required matching funds, which in total will enable the museum to completely renovate two buildings and possibly begin a third in the West Overton village.
"West Overton is attempting to build a 'small Williamsburg.' Can you imagine the economic and tourism impact to have a small Williamsburg in our area? It will benefit everybody," says Sturtz.
The village was the boyhood home of Henry Clay Frick and is representative of many facets of local history. The seven buildings in the village were constructed between 1838 and 1845.
In addition to restoring some of the buildings themselves, West Overton Museums also offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to renovate buildings for their businesses.
Restorations must be performed according to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic Preservation and with approval of the West Overton Board of Directors.
The museum offers a plan of "rent forgiveness" to those who spend personal funds for building restoration.
The museum will work with the tenant to create a suitable business site, including restoring roofs and installing heating units.
All the buildings have exterior and interior brick walls and, in some cases, vintage windows.
The museum also plans to provide all parking, sidewalks, landscaping, outdoor maintenance, and a water and sewer tap.
Kate and Becca's Quilt Patch Etc. is currently open for business in the village's former general store and post office.
Owners Kate Hepler and Rebecca Flack considered the site for over a year before committing to the project in 2000. The chose the site so their business would be included in the proposed village, as well as for its location close to the highway, with free parking for its customers.
Flack says they began renovations in November 2000, and the Quilt Patch opened in West Overton on March 5, 2001. She says guidelines for restoration were relatively easy to follow. They maintained the building's original structure and added elements such as pegboards and shelves, which can be easily removed and do not harm the architectural elements of the building.
Inside the Quilt Patch, the building's original interior brick walls and fireplace are featured alongside the modern components of the shop.
Lynn Kendrish, who recently gave a presentation to the Scottdale Area Chamber of Commerce, says that in addition to Kate and Becca's Quilt Patch, the village also has a blacksmith.
"We're looking for businesses that are 'somewhat period'," says Kendrish.
Sturtz says five businesses - a bookstore, an Amish furniture store, two antique-craft-gift shops and a jams, jellies and honey shop, are currently considering locating in the village.
Kendrish adds that one building has been set aside for a restaurant.
Sturtz says in a few years, the museum's annual attendance could double to 20,000, providing an increased customer base for new businesses.
"The doors of opportunity are wide open," says Sturtz.
West Overton Museums can help a new business for the village seek financing through the "Progress Fund," a non-profit corporation devoted to assisting small businesses in the travel and tourism industry.
Sturtz says it is often difficult for this type of business to acquire a traditonal loan. He says the Progress Fund gives entrepreneurs in the tourism industry an option for financing a new business.
Wilderness Voyageurs Outfitters Inc. in Dawson, for example, became the first commercial whitewater company east of the Mississippi with the help of the Progress Fund. The fund helped them renovate the historic Cochran Bank Building in Dawson and purchase equipment for their business.
Kate and Becca's Quilt Patch Etc. also received grants from the Progress Fund.
Ron Aldom, director of the Laurel Highlands Chamber of Commerce, says the impact of a working village at West Overton, specifically to the boroughs of Scottdale and Mount Pleasant, will be immeasurable.
"I love the vision," says Aldom. "I'm 100 percent in favor of it."
Aldom says the timing of the project is in sync with the current trend in the United States toward historical tourism.
Aldom adds that the proposed Coal and Coke Bike Trail may connect to the museum, allowing those visiting the area to use the trail the opportunity to ride to the village.
With all that is proposed at West Overton, Aldom stresses there is much to be explored at the museum now.
"This is part of who we are. It's our roots. It's an undiscovered treasure. The local area hasn't even discovered it," he says, encouraging Fay-West residents to "come down, come see, explore it and learn."
For more information on opening a business in West Overton Village or to make an appointment to inspect one of the buildings, call the West Overton office at 887-7910.
Property survey begins for trail
SCOTTDALE - A survey, which the Coal and Coke Chapter of the Regional Trail Corporation (RTC) needed to acquire property for the trail, has begun.
Chapter members said, too, that once the survey is complete, the chapter can get a second assessment and then make offers to purchase the property.
Coal and Coke Trail organizes for a busy year
SCOTTDALE - A survey, which the Coal and Coke Chapter of the Regional Trail Corporation (RTC), needed to acquire property for the trail, has begun.
[same article as the one above]
Anna Mae (Keller) Musgrove obit
Anna Mae (Keller) Musgrove, 101, formerly of Scottdale, passed away Friday afternoon, March 1, 2002, in the Caring Hands Mature Living Center, Acme. Anna was born Oct. 29, 1900 . . . Anna was a retired curator with the H.C. Frick Memorial Museum at West Overton, where she worked for 13 years. She was one of the original organizers of the museum, established by Helen Clay Frick as a memorial to her father. Anna lectured extensively on this area's history . . . Anna was a guide and lecturer to thousands of students and adults who visited the museum over the years.
Found at Trib Digital Warehouse
West Overton 'Parlor Talks' begin
SCOTTDALE - State Sen. Allen Kukovich will be the first featured speaker at this year's "Parlor Talks" lecture series at the West Overton Museums.
Kukovich will speak on the topic "Tourism and Smart Growth Initiative" at the museum's distillery theater at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13. He has been working to coordinate "smart growth" in communities, including relieving congested roadways and stressed businesses, concerns shared by tourist sites such as the West Overton Museums.
Kukovich also brings to the event his experience serving on the Westmoreland County Heritage Executive Committee, which promotes the appreciation and study of regional history.
At the conclusion of Kukovich's presentation, a question and answer session will be held.
Winter Parlor Talks at the West Overton Museums are a long-standing tradition, says the museums' executive director Rodney Sturtz. First designed only for museum members, the talks were soon opened to the public so everyone could benefit from them.