BY KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent
The Ligonier Valley Historical Society has launched a “Save Our Stagecoach” campaign in order to restore its 1830s stagecoach housed at Compass Inn Museum in Laughlintown.
The stagecoach, which was donated to the Ligonier Valley Historical Society in 1980 by a prominent philanthropist, has seen its better days.
“The years of being on public display have taken a toll on this vintage vehicle,” said Theresa Gay Rohall, Ligonier Valley Historical Society Executive Director. “In 2022, Compass Inn Museum will celebrate 50 years of operation and we want the stagecoach to be restored for that significant milestone.”
The stagecoach is located inside the barn on Compass Inn Museum grounds; tourists who visit the museum have an opportunity to view it as part of the regular admission tour. A restored inn, authentically reconstructed cookhouse and a blacksmith shop are also part of tour/property.
The fundraising campaign to help raise funds for the stagecoach’s restoration is titled “History with a Purpose,” and the first fundraising event as part of the campaign will be “Secrets of the Tavern,” scheduled for July 30 at the Museum from 6 to 10 p.m.
“Secrets of the Tavern” is being marketed as a “healthy mix of philanthropy and fun.” During the event, attendees will have an opportunity to become participants in that they’ll be invited to journey back in time and enjoy Compass Inn Museum as visitors would have in the heyday of stagecoach travel.
From 1799 to 1862, Compass Inn served as a stopping place for drovers and stagecoach travelers on the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Turnpike (currently US Route 30). The original Inn is constructed of logs with a stone wing added in 1820 and is furnished with an extensive collection of period pieces.
“While George Washington never stayed at Compass Inn, other noteworthy folks such as Henry Clay, William Henry Harrison, Andrew Jackson, and President elect Zachary Tyler came through here,” said Innkeeper Malori Stevenson.
Like other inns of its time, Compass Inn functioned as a social hub where community members gathered to spread news, place bets, tell secrets and enjoy libations.
The upcoming “Secrets of the Tavern” event features beer from Four Season Brewing Company, as well as rustic fare. Innkeeper Robert Armor and his wife Rachel are to lead the celebration, including a series of puzzles and challenges plus live music by Gypsy Knight, a bonfire, prizes, stagecoach selfies and the opportunity to bet on stagecoach races.
“It is a great way to give back to the community by helping the Historical Society raise funds for their ‘Save our Stagecoach’ project . . . keeping history alive in our community,” said Michael Reese, one of the Visionaries of The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County. The Visionaries are future philanthropic leaders with the desire to make a lasting impact on Westmoreland County.
Each year, the Visionaries host a competition that awards local non-profits money to complete a project or idea. During the fourth-annual V-Grant Pitch Party, through a popular vote, Ligonier Valley Historical Society/Compass Inn Museum won the grand prize, totaling nearly $3,000, for their “History with a Purpose” submission.
In addition to “Secrets of the Tavern,” staff members at Ligonier Valley Historical Society plan to host other “History with a Purpose” events that will engage audiences and allow them to learn more about life as it was in the 19th century. Topics/ideas on deck include a 19th century political rally, stagecoach robberies, and tales of the cemeteries, just to name a few.
Tickets for “Secrets of the Tavern” can be purchased via Eventbrite by searching for “Compass Inn Museum” at www.eventbrite.com.
“We are excited about this project, we challenge the community to join us for this fun event and help us move our project forward,” Rohall said.
Compass Inn Museum is located along Route 30 in Laughlintown, three miles east of Ligonier. Museum hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 724-238-4983 or visit www.compassinn.org online.
This event is supported through the grant provided by the Visionaries of The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, as well as monies provided by Loyalhanna Wealth Advisors of Janney Montgomery Scott LLC and Ligonier Giant Eagle.