Overton in the News
Overton News 2006
Tragedy a part of region's holiday history
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Sunday, December 17, 2006
Dec. 19 also is noted in area history as the birth date of coal-coke-steel magnate Henry Clay Frick, 157 years ago. He was born in a two-room spring house on the property of his maternal grandfather, Abraham Overholt, in 1849 at West Overton. The buildings there are maintained as a historical attraction, one mile north of Scottdale along Route 819 in southern Westmoreland County.
Frick began his business career at a young age as a bookkeeper in his grandfather's Broadford [Broad Ford] distillery. When still young, however, he realized the potential importance of coal in the growing production of steel. He organized H.C. Frick Coke Co. in 1871 and bought coal lands in southern Westmoreland and northern Fayette counties, soon to become the "coke capital" of the nation.
By the age of 30, Frick was a millionaire. In 1889, Andrew Carnegie took Frick into his Carnegie Steel firm, and both were involved in the infamous Homestead steel strike. In 1901, Frick was a key man in the formation of United States Steel Corp.
A famous collector of art in his later years, Frick died Dec. 2, 1919, at his New York City residence.
The Clauses are coming to the library
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, December 14, 2006
Tour the Overholt Mansion at West Overton Museums, Route 819, this holiday season from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. For ticket information, call 724-887-7910.
[Karen's Note: I believe writers are seriously mistaken when they suggest that the Abraham Overholt Homestead House was a "mansion."]
Home Tour this Sunday
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The Mt. Pleasant annual home tour will take place Sunday from 2 to 8 p.m. There will be 10 sites this year, with seven private homes opening their doors. The three other sites include West Overton Museums, R&R Station Restaurant and Inn and the Visitation Church. Event once again is sponsored by the Mt. Pleasant Historical Society, with all proceeds going to the organization. Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased at the historical society office, located in the In-Town shops, the R&R Station, In-Bloom Floral, Coke's Barber Shop, Herbalicious, the tax office and Patty's Place. Several sites will also offer refreshments. This is a self-paced and self-guided tour.
Dinner theater being held at West Overton
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, November 30, 2006
"It's a Dickens of a Christmas," a murder-mystery dinner theater, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Distillery Room of West Overton Museums, Route 819, between Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant. Doors open 6 p.m. both nights. Tickets are $30; $25 for members. For more information, call 724-887-7910.
Police looking for alleged rapist
Daily Courier, Saturday, November 11, 2006
= West Overton will hold a Christmas light-up tour 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 8 and 15, and 1 to 4 p.m Dec. 9 to 16. The last day will be Dec. 17, from 2 to 8 p.m. Cost is $5.
Scottdale firemen selling hoagies
By Patricia Walker, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Thursday, October 5, 2006
The annual membership meeting of West Overton Museums will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday in the distillery room. For more information, call 724-887-7910. Also, an antique appraisal will be held at the same location from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday by John Mickinak. Call above listed-number for more information.
Putting a value on your treasures
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Tuesday, October 3, 2006
You've been told your set of china is very valuable. Or maybe you think that great vase you bought at a yard sale is worth a lot of money. How will you ever be certain?
Take any and all of your items in question to the West Overton Museums' monthly antique appraisals, held the second Tuesday of each month in the Distillery Building. Appraiser John Mickinak, of Mickinak's Auction Gallery & Antique Service Inc. in Greensburg, will use his 30 years of experience in the field to inspect each item and place what he feels is a fair value on each.
"I'll take a look at everything brought in," Mickinak said, "and I can tell you what I know."
The monthly appraisal is proving to be popular. Many area residents brought in items for inspection during the first event.
"We were amazed at the turnout for the first one," said Barbara Perlstein, executive director of West Overton Museums.
The guidelines for the appraisals are fairly open. Items can be brought in physically or photographed if too large or cumbersome.
"There really aren't many restrictions to the appraisals," Perlstein said. "He can either see the object or see a photo of the object."
Mickinak's field of expertise encompasses many areas, including glassware, metals, books and paper items, dolls, furniture, rugs, war memorabilia, art, and some jewelry.
"I'll do costume jewelry, even good costume jewelry is fine," Mickinak said. "But I won't do fine jewelry, because I won't appraise the stones."
Mickinak has years of experience with estate appraisals and is asked to value a great deal of artwork. He will give his honest opinion of every item brought to him, even if it is not what the customer expects or thought the item was worth.
"That is something that I want to address," Mickinak said. "People can be very unhappy with what I think and can get angry with what I have to say, but whether they are happy or not, I tell them the true value. It may not be what they expected to hear, but it wouldn't be fair if I wasn't a realist. It would be a great disservice to them if I were to tell them that everything they bring in is worth $100,000. That may be what they want to hear, but it simply wouldn't be correct."
Appraisals start at 7 p.m. and extend throughout the evening. It is recommended to call ahead to set up an appointment, but walk-ins are welcome. Those who do not have an appointment may have to wait a bit, but it will be an educational experience. Mickinak appraises items, then explains to the crowd the worth of the antique and exactly how he placed that value on it.
The fee for items appraised is $15 for the first three items, and $6 for each additional item, up to five.
Proceeds from the appraisals are set aside for the general funding of the West Overton Museums, located on Route 819 between Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant. For more information or to set up an appointment, call 724-887-7910.
Make A Difference Day set for Oct. 28
October 19, 2006 ∑ Patricia Walker ∑ Daily Courier
Haunted tours will be held beginning 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Oct. 27 and 28 at the Other Worldly Weekends at West Overton Museums, Route 819, Scottdale. Haunted tours begin at the summer kitchen and end with ghost stories and refreshments in the distillery. Cost is $10 for adults, and $6 for children under age 12. Call 724-887-7910 for details.
[Karen's Note: You will see that the article below really goes too far to identify West Overton and the Overholt Family with Halloween. I have objected to this association by telephone and in writing for the past several years. This time, with the article below, I was actually offended, and felt it necessary to make a phone call to the editor of the newspaper. Also, I spoke with Barbara Perlstein, the new executive director of West Overton Museums, and she assured me that what actually occurred was quite different than what was described in the article. She said the presentations were repectful and historical in nature, but also expressed sympathy with my personal outrage that the death of Abraham Overholt was being highlighted as a Halloween gag.
I told the editor of The Daily Courier that I understood completely that the goal of the writer and the newspaper must have been to bring in visitors, that their purpose was to raise community awareness, etc. However, I made myself very clear about my disapproval that the memory of the Overholts of West Overton -- who were faithful Mennonites -- were being insulted in this way. The editor suggested I write a "letter to the editor" to voice my concerns, but I decided against it. I just hope that this situation will not be repeated in October 2007.
Instead of this awful identification with Halloween, I am sure that the Extended Overholt Family would find it preferable that a Harvest-themed event were held at West Overton in early October. The Overholts were first and foremost farmers -- excellent and successful farmers -- and that should be celebrated by the folks at West Overton Museums, and would be (in my opinion) a welcomed change in the whole tenor of the month of October and naturally pave the way to a Thanksgiving feast in November!]
A ghoulishly good time
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Get ready for some ghostly sights and things that go bump in the night, as specters and ghouls await visitors to the fourth annual "Other Worldly Weekends." The event is being held Oct. 20, 21, 27 and 28 at the West Overton Village, near Scottdale.
"This should be great fun," said Barb Perlstein, West Overton;s executive director. "Anything that is this fun to prepare for has to be fun to attend."
Those attending the tours will be participants in Abraham Overholt's "funeral." They will be privy to fun and period clothing, dialogue and materials. Many genuine period pieces, such as the jack-in-the-box and other burial preparation materials used in the preparation of Overholt's "body" will be demonstrated by the undertaker, portrayed by a mortician from Somerset. He will show how bodies were prepared for burial years ago, many practices now thought ghoulish.
"Everyone will gather in the summer kitchen and will be served ginger snaps and apple cider," said Mary Ann Mogus, board president. "They'll wait until a group forms, then they will take the tour."
The tour, conducted by lantern-bearing guides, will proceed to the butcher shop area next to the summer kitchen. The group then will be taken past the spring house, which will be decorated in period mourning, and on to the main house. Once inside the main house, groups will be taken to the second floor of the home and greeted by the "undertaker," who will show in grisly detail the preparation methods used on the body of Overholt.
The guides, all of whom are volunteers, will take the groups to the backyard of the house where they will be greeted by the grave digger, whose tales of horror are sure to scare even the toughest of visitors.
From there, the groups will be led to the stock barn, decorated in haunted theme, then on to the big barn that will contain the "haunted maze."
A stop at the blacksmith shop follows. The group tour will end at the distillery, the site of a Halloween party, complete with scary stories.
"There will be at least three authors from the Ligonier Valley Writers contest who will be reading their stories," Mogus said.
She said there is a total of six short stories available and will be read on an on-demand basis.
"Last year, people wanted to stay to hear them all," Mogus said.
The stories are original works of horror submitted to the contest.
Visitors will have a chance to shop for gifts in the "Little Gift Shop of Horrors."
"We invite the public to come in costume if they like," Perlstein said.
"Come everyone and we'll have some fun," Mogus said.
All costumes and characters have been provided for by Vintage Costumes.
The tours will begin at 6:30 every evening and continue until 10 p.m. Tours will depart from the summer kitchen about every 15 minutes and will last 20 to 30 minutes.
Cost for the lantern tours is $10 for those 12 and older; $5 for children 7 to 11 years old; and those 6 and younger will be admitted for free. Group arrangements may be made by calling 724-887-7910. The West Overton Village is on Route 819 between Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant.
R&R Station transformed into Haunted Hotel
By Marilyn Forbes, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Wednesday, October 18, 2006
= If you love a good scare, head out of town a few miles and visit the fourth annual Other Worldly Weekends to be held at the West Overton Village. The guided lantern tours will leave the summer kitchen approximately every 15 minutes between the hours of 6:30 and 10 p.m. this Friday and Saturday and Oct. 27 and 28. Tours will take visitors all throughout the West Overton grounds, visit the special haunted maze and finish at the Halloween party at the distillery. Featured will be readings by some of the winners of the Ligonier Valley Writers writing contest, who will be reading their original winning stories of horror. The cost for the tour is $10 for adults, $4 for children ages 7 to 11 and children under age 6 will be admitted for free. For information, call the museums at 724-547-7910.
Cemetery tour being sponsored by West Overton Museums
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, August 31, 2006
West Overton Museums is sponsoring a bus tour Sept. 30 to Allegheny Cemetery for a Clayton tour and Church Brew Works. Book a seat by calling 724-887-7910 to book a seat by Sept. 6.
Come to West Overton Museums, Route 819, Sept. 7 to 10 to view the work of Laurel Mountain Rug Hookers. You also can watch a demonstration of how rugs are made. For more information, call 724-887-7910. Also, starting Sept. 7 through Oct. 1, there will be a coverlet exhibit at West Overton Museums.
Museum's grant to restore coke ovens
By Rachel R. Basinger, The Daily Courier, Friday, August 25, 2006
West Overton Museums received a $10,000 grant from the Rivers of Steel Heritage Foundation to have coke ovens on the Scottdale property restored.
"At one time there were over 100 coke ovens here, and some still exist," museum Director Barbara Perlstein said. "The money we received from Rivers of Steel will go toward a $12,500 study to see if there's a possibility that two could be restored for an exhibit and educational purposes."
Museum officials would also hope to incorporate such an exhibit with a proposed recreational trail that might soon run through the area.
"Right now the ovens are overgrown and they're difficult to find," Perlstein said. "In the summer you can walk right over them and not know it."
Christine Davis Consultants, of Verona, have taken over the archaeological study and have already started the first phase of restoration.
"They aren't digging right now, but they are doing penetrating studies with GPR (ground penetrating radar), which gives them an idea of what's underground without disturbing anything," Perlstein said. "They're trying to get images through remote sensor devices to see exactly how the ovens are laid out and where they are located."
Future phases will include archaeological excavation to determine how much it will cost to renovate the coke ovens. Perlstein said that phase should take place some time next year.
"They will be coming back in November to look for the location of the original mine shaft as well," she said. "If we can find it, we may consider constructing a replica of the original on the site."
Mary Ann Mogus, president of the museum's board of directors, said [s]he hopes to renovate the coke ovens so those using the recreational trail can walk up and explore them.
"I don't think restoring them will be too costly because they're in pretty good shape, from what I hear," she said. "We're not planning to turn the area into a museum. We just want to stabilize some coke ovens and put a walking trail up to them.
"We're hoping if this does happen that it will increase the number of events we can plan each year as well as the number of visitors we get."
Perlstein said the project is important for two reasons.
"(Henry Clay) Frick was a noted industrialist, and we have some of the earliest coke ovens in the nation sitting here at West Overton," she said. "It's important to tell the story that, in fact, the coal and coke industry had a deep and strong tie to our area."
[Karen's Note: I hope they properly identify these coke ovens as belonging to Overholts, not to H. C. Frick. I have found this salient fact muddied in the past, and often referred to as Frick coke ovens.]
Southmoreland board meets tonight
By Patricia Walker, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Thursday, August 17, 2006
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, the second annual tomato tasting event will be held at West Overton Museums. Call 724-887-7910.
Briefs: Museum offers taste of heirloom tomatoes
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Homegrown vintage tomatoes will be highlighted at West Overton Museums in Scottdale, Westmoreland County, during a tasting from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, sponsored by the West Overton Garden Club. Proceeds benefit the museums in West Overton Village, under the auspices of the Westmoreland-Fayette Historical Society.
Freshly roasted garlic, specialty breads and a variety of dipping oils also will be served; tickets are $5 each.
New director brings vision to West Overton
By Marilyn Forbes, The Daily Courier, Monday, August 14, 2006
West Overton Village and Museums in East Huntingdon Township is a historic village, and thousands visit each year.
For decades now, those filling the shoes of the executive director position have tried to enhance the site -- looking at plans to renovate the facility and make it once again into an operating village.
New Executive Director Barbara G. Perlstein plans to continue on a path to achieve that goal.
"When I first came here to interview, I was just overwhelmed with the history of this place and how unique it was," Perlstein said.
Perlstein took over as executive director July 5. "She's well experienced and educated and she'll be a wonderful asset," said Mary Ann Mogus, president of the West Overton board.
Mogus said that Perlstein's list of achievements and educational background will serve as a sound basis for progress.
Perlstein lists among her achievements receiving the Pennsylvania Archaeology Council Award for preservation of a historic native American site, funding and producing two PBS documentaries, an award from the USDA Allegheny National Forest Service for Collaborative Stewardship and Public Education on a nationally designated wild and scenic river and a recognition from the state Legislature for living history programs.
Perlstein attended the Conservatory of Music at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and earned a bachelor of arts in art history from Seton Hill College in Greensburg, and a master's degree in administration and planning from the University of Pittsburgh
Perlstein completed a summer program at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
Perlstein says her visions for West Overton are broad. She hopes to see a complete transformation of the tiny village. But she is realistic knowing that much funding and labor are needed to reach this goal.
"My idealistic vision is to see the properties totally restored, but we have to go about it in a very structured and slow manner."
Perlstein is studying the restoration of the Christian Overholt property, one of the larger homes in the village that has sat empty for many years. She is considering moving the office and information areas to the Overholt property.
But the vision does not stop there.
"I want to see this become a place that people come to and have events at and to see people become more involved in," Perlstein said. "I'd like to see the storefronts all manned to make it look more like there's life here and to have something going on in the village at all times. I'd like to see it be fun but also historic."
Perlstein plans to research the possibility of bringing farm animals back to the village, restoring the historic heritage gardens, adding more shade trees and benches, and restoring the coke ovens on the property.
She would like to use the Internet to feature the historic site more, such as listing gift shop items and upcoming events.
"There are a lot of small things that we can do that will really add to the place -- build little walkways and add trees and plants, so the visitors can visualize how it was and see the heart of it," she said.
Perlstein hopes visitors will take advantage of what is available at the site -- such as the genealogical library and research.
"We really need to get the message out to the public of what a unique and wonderful place that this really is," Perlstein said. "I love history, and it's hard not to get excited about this place. I'm enchanted with it here, truly enchanted, and I can't wait to see what we can do."
Scottdale firemen hold summer music fest
By Patricia Walker, The Daily Courier, Thursday, July 20, 2006
Celebrate the history of West Overton Village in Scottdale with free tours of the homestead and demonstrations by artisans, musicians and Civil War re-enactors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Helen Clay Frick founded the Historical House 78 years ago. Admission to the house, artisans and re-enacting demonstrations are free. Admission to the museum is $7 for adults, $4 for seniors; students and museum members are admitted free.
Two events in one
By Marilyn Forbes, The Daily Courier, Thursday, July 20, 2006
Those who visit West Overton Museums this weekend will get the chance to travel back in time.
The historical site -- located off Route 819 between Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale -- will host its annual Founders Day and Olde Overholt Days.
The Founders Day celebration has been held at the West Overton Village for decades. It was established by Helen Clay Frick, daughter of 19th century industrialist Henry Clay Frick.
"She started it in memory of her father, who was born in the springhouse here," West Overton education consultant Donna Dillon said. True to her wishes, weekend events at the museums will be free.
"It's an informal event," Dillon said.
In addition to the historical interest of the village itself, members of the Civil War re-enactors "Hampton's Battery" will be giving demonstrations. The group will be representing both Northern and Southern forces from that era. Other educational programs will be presented throughout the weekend.
For musical entertainment, a dulcimer group will perform Saturday and a harpist will be on hand Sunday.
Period cooking demonstrations will be held in the summer kitchen and ginger snaps will be given out as samples of the German Mennonite culture that began and cultivated the village and farms of the area.
Food vendors will also be on the grounds during the weekend event. The gift shop in the main museum will be open.
Founders Day and Olde Overholt Days are only two of the many events that will be held at the village this year.
"Next year our list of events has almost doubled -- if not tripled," Dillon said. "We are creating many opportunities for the public to come out and see the site."
Dillon hopes for a positive response for the upcoming weekend.
"We hope to see a high turnout from the community and see community support. It will be a great time for a family outing," said Dillon.
Founders Day will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Authors tea to premiere West Overton shop
By Marilyn Forbes, THE DAILY COURIER, Wednesday, June 7, 2006
In a dual effort to introduce the new gift shop area and showcase the talents of area authors and artists, West Overton Museums will be holding an authors tea and book signing from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Works by several area authors will be available in the gift shop and a few writers will be on hand to meet the public and sign copies of their books.
"We want to showcase the books of local talent," interim director Mary Ann Mogus said, "and also bring in other things from artists in the area."
The gift shop, now tripled in size, will be the site for the book signing.
"There is a lot of wonderful art and art literature in the area," Mogus said, "and we wanted to showcase it and get people interested."
The tea and book signing will feature individual works of local authors Matt Miller, Paul Brittian, Cassandra Vivian, Barbara Miller, and Mogus.
The event is being held in conjunction with the Ligonier Valley Writers, and they will be offering the mystery anthology book "Sleuths and Serpents."
The book is a compilation of several works by authors Marge Burke, Linda Ciletti, Rebecca Dunn, Judith Gallagher, Ed Kelemen, Craig Schlechter, Ron J. Shafer and J.E. Wynn, and will be sold as a fundraiser for the writing group.
The gift shop will also feature many other items. Prints by Scottdale native Sharon Yoder are available, as well as crafts and cards.
"We have 16 crafters working on consignment," Mogus said, "and when we get the additional shelving that we need, we will also have works from a potter that contacted us and also items of punched tinware."
Most of the new gift items in the museum will keep the historical theme of the shop.
"We have mostly Americana items," Mogus said, "all of which are made regionally by local artists."
The introduction tea is being held on a weekend that also features the annual quilt show, and those paying the $7 fee for the museum entrance for the tea will also be able view the 60 entries in the quilt contest.
There will also be a few of the winning quilts in the competition, such as Eileen Billey's "Sunbonnet Sue, All Dressed Up," which took the "Best of Show" award and Edith Shaver's "Most Beautiful Baskets" that was the "Judge's Choice."
"We're delighted with the quilt show and with the gift shop expansion," Mogus said. "We really need to fill the museum with nice things."
July 4th celebration planned at gazebo
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, June 29, 2006
= Scottdale welcomes Barbara Perlstein as West Overton Museum's executive director. She will start in her new position next month.
Farmers Market program under way
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, June 22, 2006
A free grant workshop will be held at West Overton Museums in Scottdale from 7 to 9:15 p.m. June 29. This workshop, sponsored by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area (www.riversofsteel.com), will focus on grants of interest to historical societies, folk and traditional artists, cultural, arts and heritage organizations, festival committees, and traditional and performing arts groups. Grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Pennsylvania Heritage Parks Program, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Carnegie Library's Foundation Center will be discussed. For more information and to register, call 724-887-7910 or e-mail: email@example.com.
Looking for a new place to shop? West Overton Museum has a gift shop. Come and browse. For more information, call 724-887-7910.
Imagination and design come alive on quilts
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Thursday, June 1, 2006
The West Overton Museums' 23rd annual quilt show will be held starting Saturday and will continue through July 2.
This year's show features 60 quilts.
"The quilts this year are just lovely," quilt show judge Mary Joyce said. "Many of the designs are wonderful and the work is just exquisite."
Joyce, of Greensburg, taught quilting and other fabric work at Indiana University and Westmoreland County Community College. She has been a quilt judge for numerous shows over the years. This is not her first year as judge at West Overton. In fact, she is a past winner at the show -- taking home a Best in Show award.
"I check the borders and the binding and the uniformity of the stitching," said Joyce. She critiques each individual quilt -- giving each entrant a few suggestions and ideas. "I make a few comments on each. I like to encourage them."
Joyce likes to quilts to be hung and displayed when judging. This allows her to see the overall lines and appearance of the quilts and also how well they hang.
The quilts are separated into two sections -- machine quilted and hand quilted. These are then broken into four groups -- large quilts, small quilts, other techniques and collaborative.
Joyce enjoys the judging process. She allows ample time to study each entry.
"I like to see them hung so I can take everything into consideration on them and I like to take my time with each one."
The annual quilt show has proven to be the best attended and most popular event in the museums' history, generating necessary funding for the museums and its village.
"This is our largest fundraiser," Mary Ann Mogus, interim director, said. "People really love to see the show."
The quilts will be displayed in the distillery building. Also on display are a few antique sewing machines.
Quilt show winners will be announced Friday at a private reception.
The show will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 to 4 Sundays.
Fee is $7 per person. In addition to the regular quilt show, the Rural Mountain Rug Hookers will be holding demonstrations on the second floor of the museum June 15 to 17.
The museums are located on Route 819, between Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale. For information, call 724-887-7910.
Southmoreland school picnic set for May 22
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, May 4, 2006
[other items, including]
You have until May 12 to enter your favorite quilt in the West Overton Museum's 2006 Quilter's Competition to be held June 3 through July 2. The show features professional judging and prizes in eight quilt categories: pieced, applique, collaborative and other techniques (hand stitched and machine stitched). Monetary prizes awarded for best of show, first, second and third place, people's choice and best embellished item. Deadline for entries is May 12. Quilts will go on full display in the museum's distillery building for the duration of the show. For more information or a 2006 rules and entry brochure for the show, call 724-887-7910 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.
Senior Games in full swing
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, May 3, 2006
[other items, including]
= The West Overton Garden Club will be holding its second annual heirloom plant sale from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. May 13 at the West Overton Village gardens. Many varieties of heirloom vegetables and hardy perennials will be available. Refreshments will also be available. Strawberry shortcake will be available. The gift shop will also be open at that time and vendors will be on the scene. All proceeds from the event will benefit the West Overton Museums.
One French soldier's 'cross'
Tribune-Review, Sunday, May 28, 2006
If by chance this Memorial Day weekend you drive within sight of the Jumonville Cross atop a Fayette County ridge, it will be of interest that 252 years ago today, the event that triggered its ultimate construction occurred.
The shots that echoed around those Chestnut Ridge hills on that eventful day in 1754 are a far cry from those that will resound as salutes are fired in honor of deceased veterans this weekend.
In late May 1754, a French military detail led by Ensign de Jumonville left Fort Duquesne at the Point and found Maj. George Washington's encampment in the Great Meadows area in what became eastern Fayette County.
Jumonville's troops lurked in the area on a reconnaissance mission for a couple of days before Washington decided, with an Indian group, to attack the French. Early on the morning of May 28, Washington's unit found Jumonville's detail and opened fire. Ten of Jumonville's troops (including their leader) were killed and 21 taken prisoner, while the English loss was one killed and one wounded.
The French afterward claimed that Jumonville was on a mission to Washington and termed his death an assassination. But Jumonville also had instructions not to deliver his communication until he was able to send back word on the strength and location of Washington's British force to the French military headquarters.
The 60-foot steel cross was erected in 1950 on Dunbar's Knob, replacing an earlier wooden one. Three states can be seen from its site, and Jumonville's grave is in a glen in the area. A Civil War orphan's home was there from 1875 until 1880, and in recent years the locale has been a camp and training center of the United Methodist Church.
Most of the news headlines from distillery operations during legal times came from major fires that plagued area whiskey makers, most notably in the early 1880s.
An explosion of a copper still caused a blaze at the Rostraver Township Ginsonton mills on Dec. 11, 1882, killing one worker. Just six months later, an accident there caused another fire on June 2, 1883, with several injured and 70,000 barrels of whiskey lost. [Gibsonton mills?]
The frame Dillinger distillery in East Huntingdon Township was destroyed by flames in 1881 and rebuilt at Ruffsdale the next year. In 1882, the Fry & Mathias facility at Manor burned and was replaced by a larger one.
The Overholt distillery at Broadford [Broad Ford] also experienced at least two major fires, the first in 1884 destroying a warehouse with a loss of 77,000 barrels of whiskey.
A quite spectacular blaze on Nov. 19, 1905, caused a loss of 28,000 barrels of the product and a huge loss for the times of $1.25 million. One news account lyricized, "barrels of liquor flowed in torrents from burning walls."
A fire put the Youghiogheny distillery at Sutersville out of business in 1918. The Vandergrift distillery at Vestaburg in eastern Washington County was leveled by flames on June 2, 1925.
One of the gun factories that supplied weapons in the infant days of the nation was established at New Geneva in Fayette County in the late 1790s. Shortly afterward, a national armory was established at Harper's Ferry, W.Va. (then Virginia). The government competition was too much for private industry, and the Fayette installation went out of business. One can speculate how the course of history might have been different had the arsenal been at New Geneva instead of Harper's Ferry.
Take Mother to vintage fashion show, tea
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, May 11, 2006
Celebrate early with your mother by attending a vintage fashion show and tea for Mother's Day from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the distillery room, West Overton Museums. The annual heirloom plant sale of vegetable plants and hardy perennials by the West Overton Garden Club will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. along with crafters in the big barn with products relating to gardens and garden topics. Refreshments will also be available, including homemade strawberry shortcake. Tea will be served with a salad, fruit cup, stuffed croissants, cheesecake and dessert cakes. Reservations are preferred. Cost of $25 per person includes the luncheon-tea, the fashion show and the display of apparel from the museum collection. For reservations or for more information, call 724-887-7910 during regular museum hours.
Celebrate Mother's Day with flowers and fashions
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Mother's Day is coming Sunday and what better way to celebrate the occasion than with a day filled with unique heirloom plants, a high tea and vintage fashion show.
On Saturday, the West Overton Village Museums, Alverton [Alverton?], is having is annual vintage fashion show -- along with an heirloom plants sale.
West Overton Garden Club is sponsoring the plant sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the West Overton Gardens.
Crafters and vendors will be in the barn garden-related products available.
At 2:30 p.m., the tea and fashion show will be held at the distillery building. The tea will feature a salad and fruit cup, stuffed croissant, cheesecake and dessert cake.
While dessert is being served, West Overton Museums Interim Director Mary Ann Mogus will begin the fashion presentation.
"I will begin with a talk about the changes in clothing and clothing preservation. I'll discuss their preservation and conservation, but many times with vintage clothing, preservation is all that you can do," said Mogus.
Many items from the museums' achieves [sic - archives] will be brought out for display. The items will not be modeled, however, due to their frail state.
"We have here over 1,000 items of apparel and most have never been displayed. They're not easy to display, but we are going to bring out some of the more interesting pieces."
Some of these pieces include Barbara Overholt's wedding gown, a brown walking suit from a century ago, a two-piece red walking suit from the 1880s, and a black mourning gown, complete with metal sequins.
The fashion show, with apparel supplied by Foster-Tweeds, will feature clothing items and outfits dating from the turn of the 19th century through the early 1940s and 1950s, all modeled by area teens.
The antique clothing displays and vintage fashion show will enable those attending to see how fashions have evolved over the decades. The aging of fabrics, and the effect that time plays on dyed items will be discussed.
"Preservation of clothing is important, but no matter how careful you are, clothing doesn't last forever," Mogus said.
"We have thought of the idea for awhile, and we liked the idea of the fashion show," Mogus said. "We really wanted to do it. We'd like to show people what we have here in the museums that hasn't been displayed for many years."
Cost for the tea and fashion show is $25. Admittance to the plant sale is free.
West Overton Village Museums are along Route 819, between Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant.
Deadline for reservations for the tea is today. Call 724-887-7910.
Scouts plan day of activities
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, May 10, 2006
= Treat mom and yourself as well to a nice weekend of plants, lunch and vintage fashions, as West Overton Museums has a full day planned Saturday, starting with its second annual heirloom plant sale. The sale will feature many different varieties of heirloom veggies and flowers for those who want something a little different for their gardens. There will also be several crafters on hand who will be selling garden-related items and other fun things. Then, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., a vintage fashion show and tea will be held in the distillery. The show will feature fashions from the mid-1800s through the early 1950s and will also feature a presentation on the changes of fashion and the preservation and care of such fashions. Tickets for the tea and show are $25 per person and reservations are requested. The plant show is free. For information, call 724-887-7910.
Annual Hammer-In and Plow Days planned
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Thursday, April 27, 2006
For a glimpse back in time, visit the Fort Allen Antique Farm Equipment Association's fourth annual Fort Allen Blacksmith Hammer-in and Plow Days Friday through Sunday at the associations 50-acre farm, located between Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant, on Route 819, adjacent to the West Overton Village.
With the motto of education, restoration and preservation, the Fort Allen Antique Farm Association's goal is to share with the public its love and appreciation of antique farm machinery. Members hope to showcase some of the machines they have painstakingly restored and put back into working operation, and the Plow Days are the perfect venue to introduce to the public the techniques and intricacy used to harvest and build like many ancestors did.
The weekend will kick off at 6 p.m. Friday with a dead weight pull. Saturday morning will start with a special dedication tree planting, which will take place by the blacksmith shop. The association lost one of its members, Mike Avera, who passed away in December, and a tree will be planted in his memory.
"John was very instrumental in the organization," member Suzanne Fisher said. "He was a really nice man and is sadly missed by all of us."
Following the tree dedication, the day will be filled with blacksmithing, plowing and demonstrations, such as authentic shingle-making and cutting at the saw mill. A transfer sled pull is scheduled for 6 p.m.
On Sunday, a garden tractor pull will be held at noon.
A full kitchen, located on the property, will be open early for breakfast Saturday and Sunday. Lunch will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Throughout the weekend, the fields surrounding the 11 buildings will be plowed, using horse- and mule-drawn equipment, giving the public a flavor of times gone by.
Carpenter's Battery, a confederate Civil War re-enactment group from Ligonier, will on hand the entire weekend, setting up camp and holding living history demonstrations. Local blacksmiths from the Fort Allen Association and the Pittsburgh Area Artistic Blacksmith Association will demonstrate hammering-in all three days as well.
"We try to carry on blacksmithing in the traditional style," member Dick Fisher said. "We demonstrate whatever we know to whoever wants to know it."
A special sale of items forged at the blacksmith shop will be offered at an auction at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Also at the event this year will be a display in the barn by the Olde Potbelly Gang, a group of local vintage toy and antique car model collectors who will have several tables showcasing their collections for the public to enjoy.
A roving bagpiper will add music to the weekend, and a new addition this year, timed farm equipment competitions will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday.
"We hope everyone from the area comes and has a great time and enjoys the events," member Mark Woods said. "There will be events and blacksmithing all weekend."
Fisher hopes visitors will enjoy their time spent at the Hammer-in and Plow Days and take the time to watch the blacksmiths in action.
"Where else can you get dirty, make noise and play with fire?" Fisher laughed.
The free event is held rain or shine. Entrance to the tractor pulls is $5 a person.
First day of trout season is Saturday
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier, Thursday, April 13, 2006
Quilters, enter your favorite quilt in West Overton Museum's 2006 quilter's competition. For more details, call 724-887-7910.
Living history: Students get a glimpse into a soldier's life
By Rachel R. Basinger, Daily Courier, Monday, April 10, 2006
With their jackets pulled tightly around their bodies, eighth-grade students at Southmoreland Junior High School learned about life during the Civil War life while on their first field trip to West Overton Museums on Saturday during the annual Civil War Living History event.
Tim Scott, junior high principal, said the day was part of a three-year partnership with West Overton to add life to the students' curriculum on the Civil War.
"This is just one of the activities the students take part in to learn more about the Civil War," Scott said. "There are other things that go on throughout the year. We get everyone involved in the subject, from the home economics department to the art department."
Scott said that the day at West Overton gets a lot of student participation.
"The great thing about this day is that it's 100 percent related to learning," he said. "I can't think of a better way for the students to get a sense of what life was like then. It's a very high interest activity, and we don't have to take them to Gettysburg to learn about the Civil War. We can bring them right here, just about 2 miles from the school."
Students were given demonstrations on how a cannon was fired, what kind of food soldiers ate and how it was cooked, what kind of clothing was popular during the Civil War era and what a blacksmith did. They even learned about period music and had a talk with Mary Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln's wife.
Bob Simmons, of Bear Rocks, is the resident blacksmith at West Overton. He came out Saturday to teach the students about the role of a blacksmith during the Civil War era.
"I try to get across how important a blacksmith was to everyone back then," Simmons said. "Most assume that a blacksmith's main job was to shoe horses, but really, most blacksmiths didn't. Their main job was to do things like repair farm machinery, make household items from pots and pans to silverware and turn plow shares into swords or swords into plowshares -- whatever was needed at any given time."
Lisa McDowell was busy cooking vegetable soup, strong coffee and even a cherry pie over an outside fire -- using cast iron kettles and a Dutch oven.
"I like to tell students things they might not have known before," she said. "Both canned milk and canned vegetables were available back then. A can of evaporated milk that costs us 50 cents today, cost $1 back then."
She added that the common misconception that the food was bland is untrue.
"They used chives and paprika, and they even used some spices that we don't really use too much today," McDowell said.
Students Leisha Driscoll and Katy Barkovtch enjoyed themselves. Both said the cannon firing was the best part of the day.
"It's a little cold, but this whole day was a good idea," Driscoll said. "It's easier to learn when you actually get to see a visual."
Mary Ann Mogus, West Overton's interim director, said the museums received calls from other schools this year who were hoping to participate in the event. However, with the recent departure of the director, the museum was unable to oblige.
Next year, officials are hoping to accommodate any other schools that might be interested.
"We do ask for $4 per student so that we can pay the expenses of the re-enactors," she said.
Lenten lunches continue holiday tradition
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier, Wednesday, March 15, 2006
= The West Overton Museums will continue its season of parlor talks this weekend with a lecture titled "Domestic Servitude" with Pam St. John to be held at 2 p.m. Sunday in the distillery. Lecture will be presented by St John, who is the current director of education art at Frick Art and Historical Center. The event is free. Reservations are requested, but walk-ins are welcome.
Museum's director moving on
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier ,Thursday, February 2, 2006
It is sad to announce West Overton Museum's current executive director, Grant Gerlich, will be leaving his position to accompany his wife, Bella, to Georgia College and State University. You both will be missed. A big thanks goes to Mary Ann Mogus, who will be acting director until one is appointed.
Parlor Talk series continues
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier , Thursday, February 16, 2006
Another in the series of Parlor Talk will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at West Overton Museum. Janis Dofner will speak on "Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area." For more information, call 724-887-7910.
By Kurt Shaw, Tribune-Review, Sunday, January 29, 2006
The new exhibition "Possessions, Personalities and the Pursuit of Refinement," which opened Saturday at The Frick Art & Historical Center in Point Breeze, will be a sight to behold.
That's true not only for those who consider themselves lovers of art, but also for those who hold an interest in all things Victorian or antique, including clothing, furniture, toys and books.
That's because this unprecedented exhibition pulls together more than 200 objects from the more than 5,000-piece collection of The Frick Art & Historical Center, the fascinating complex of museums and historical buildings located on over five acres of lawns and gardens in Point Breeze that was once home to industrialist Henry Clay Frick and his family.
Most of those objects are on display in the Frick Art Museum for the very first time -- many were in storage or on display in Clayton, the Frick family's Victorian mansion on the grounds of the center that was restored and opened year-round as a house museum in 1990.
The idea behind the exhibition, says Frick registrar Sarah Hall, is to link The Frick Art & Historical Center's permanent collection to the life and interests of Henry Clay Frick's family, especially in regard to the pursuit of self-improvement, something that characterized the Victorian era.
Hall says that by reuniting the diverse elements of the collection, it illustrates the relationships between the family's attitudes, their possessions and their aspirations.
"We think of (the exhibition) as the beginning of really doing a deeper investigation into our source material and completing the family story itself."
To further that investigation, as well as expand on the visitors' understanding of the Frick family, objects on loan from organizations such as The Frick Art Reference Library in New York City, West Overton Museums in Scottdale, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History also are included to illustrate how the family's interests influenced and were influenced by the broader cultural and social life of the time.
"It's a huge concept, and we're merely scratching the surface here, but we've tried to create groups of objects, groups of possessions, that reflect upon personalities, that reflect upon the times that the Fricks were living in, but also this notion of refinement."
One of the earliest groupings includes some fascinating pieces of furniture. One exceptional piece is a circa-1774 writing table by 18th-century French cabinetmaker Martin Carlin. Made of oak and tulipwood, the ornate table that sports green leather inlay on the top, as well as pull-out leafs, features several Sevres porcelain tiles that surround the sides.
It originally came from Eagle Rock, the 104-room brick neoclassical-style house that once sat on 25 acres in Prides Crossing, Mass., and served as the family's summer estate until 1969 when Helen Frick had it demolished. Other items on display that once adorned Eagle Rock include several British paintings on permanent display in the museum as well as a few bronzes.
Another unusual piece of furniture on display is a mid-19th-century black lacquer etagere. Used by Mr. Frick as a dressing table in his bachelor days, it represents one of his earliest purchases.
Not far away hangs another early purchase. It's a double portrait Frick commissioned local artist A. Bryan Wall to paint of Frick's bride, Adelaide, and her sister Martha in 1882, a year after they were married. On an opposite wall, several original drawings by premiere French realist painter Jean Francois Millet lining the walls give evidence to one of Frick's earliest ambitions, says Hall, to become "a world-class Millet collector."
Frick's love of art and friendship and patronage toward artists is perhaps best displayed in a small grouping related to a dinner party held in Paris on July 3, 1899, at the Palace Hotel. On menus and dinner cards are small drawings by several artists in attendance, one of which was Th»obald Chartran.
"They were great friends," Hall says of Frick and the artist who drew a portrait on the back of a menu of his patron eating a canary. "Chartran is one artist who he had a really longstanding relationship with. We have a number of Chartrans in the collection, and Frick is credited for introducing Chartran to Pittsburgh society."
It's worth noting here that oil portraits by Chartran of Frick, Mrs. Frick and their daughter Helen all hang in Clayton.
Hall says that for the Fricks, the notion of refinement stretched beyond developing taste. "They were not just interested in refinement in terms of aesthetic tastes and art collecting, but also refinement in the way that they educated the children," she says.
Well-to-do Victorian parents took the education and moral upbringing of their children seriously. Unlike many other children of the time, the Frick children, Helen and Childs Frick, also enjoyed finely made, imported toys as well as a house of their own in which to play.
In 1897, the Fricks commissioned Alden and Harlow to design a children's Playhouse -- converted to a visitors center and museum shop in 1990 -- where a selection of toys that were cherished by Helen and Childs Frick are on display. These items include a cap gun, a toy sewing machine and several bowling balls and pins that were used in the bowling alley that was once there.
In the Frick Art Museum, visitors will find even more toys on display such as a doll once cherished by Helen and several pieces from a 98-piece magic set Childs used to play with.
The exhibition also contains objects that relate to the Frick children's respective adulthoods as well. Helen, of course, went on to establish The Frick Art Museum in 1970 as well as lay the groundwork for the center as it is today. And Childs had a successful career as a naturalist and curator of mammalogy at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
One of the most poignant objects in the exhibition is a scrapbook on loan from The Frick Art Reference Library, which documents Helen's travels in Italy in the mid-1920s and her love of Italian art, a passion which manifested itself in the works displayed in the Italian Gallery of the permanent collection of the Frick Art & Historical Center.
Childs, on the other hand, had a passion for science. Among other pursuits, the work he conducted in his 1911 expedition to Africa collecting specimens for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History resulted in the museum's initial core holdings of African mammals, many of which are still on view today. Illustrating this aspect of his life are boyhood playthings and books from the Frick's permanent collection and specimens on loan from Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
By exploring the family's life, interests and cultural ambitions, "Possessions, Personalities and the Pursuit of Refinement" provides not only a larger view into the values of the Victorian era, but also an intimate look into the lives of one very important local family.
"We're trying to tell a broader Frick story than what we tell in Clayton," Hall says of the exhibition. And it most certainly does.
Kurt Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Landfill taking Christmas trees
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier ,Thursday, January 26, 2006
It is again time to listen to a Parlor Talk scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday in the distillery theater at West Overton Museum. If you wish to attend, call 724-887-7910.
Enjoy a hearty breakfast prior to big game
By Marilyn Forbes, ,Wednesday, January 25, 2006
= West Overton will once again offer its annual Parlor Talk series at the village throughout the winter months. The first in the series for 2006 will be "Dear Wife," which is a dramatic performance based on letters written by Gen. Alexander Hayes. The lecture will be held at 1 p.m Sunday. Music for the afternoon will be provided by the period band, "The Home Front." This event is open to everyone and there is no admission fee. For information, contact the museums at 724-887-7910.
Woman dies in crash along Rt. 819
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Monday, January 23, 2006
An 88-year-old woman was killed in an auto accident Saturday afternoon after the car she was driving strayed from a road and ran into a building, the Westmoreland County coroner's office said.
Emma Vicchy, of 1015 Kline St, Scottsdale, died shortly before noon. Investigators said the car went off the road, hit a pole, and eventually hit a building owned by the West Overton Museums, along Route 819 in East Huntingdon.
State police don't know why Ms. Vicchy lost control of the car.
East Huntingdon woman killed in crash
Daily Courier, Monday, January 23, 2006
State police are unsure what caused a Scottdale woman to become involved in a fatal single-vehicle crash Saturday at West Overton Museum.
Emma Vicchy died after her vehicle veered off Route 819, sideswiped a utility pole and continued into the museum grounds without braking, police said.
The vehicle crashed through a sign for the museum and eventually hit a building. No one else was involved in the collision, police said.
Vicchy died at 11:31 p.m. at the scene, police said, but she officially was pronounced dead later in the emergency room at Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant.
Everson firemen plan hoagie sale
By Patricia Walker, Daily Courier ,Thursday, January 19, 2006
Collectors of toys, the Olde Potbelly Gang wants to hear from you. This group of people enjoy their hobby and the sharing of it with others. They were out in full force at the West Overton Toy and Train show held in December. They meet bimonthly at Brian Corcoran's Vintage Costumes. The next meeting will be held Feb. 18. For more information, call 724-887-8255.
Special Olympics make for special event
By Marilyn Forbes, Daily Courier ,Wednesday, January 18, 2006
West Overton will once again offer its annual Parlor Talk
series of lectures at the Village throughout the winter
months. The first in the series for 2006 will be
"Dear Wife," a dramatic performance based on
letters written by Gen. Alexander Hayes. Lecture will be
held at 1 p.m. Jan. 29. Music for the afternoon will also
be provided by the period band, The Home Front. Event is
open to everyone. There is not an admission fee. For
information, call 724-887-7910.