Tag Archives: Compass Inn Museum

Historic inn to host candlelight tours


Ligonier Valley Historical Society is to once again offer Harvest Candlelight Tours inside the early 1800s stagecoach inn, Compass Inn Museum. 

The candlelight tours are scheduled for three consecutive Saturdays in November: Nov. 5, Nov. 12 and Nov. 19. The tours are set to run from 3 to 7 p.m. each evening.

The Harvest Candlelight Tours are designed to give people an opportunity to enjoy the rustic charm of Compass Inn Museum during the fall season. In addition to nearly 100 candles, all three fireplaces within the museum will be lit as well.

“People love seeing the inn decorated for the holiday season and lit by candlelight,” said Malori Stevenson, innkeeper and program coordinator for the museum. She added that the Candlelight Tours have been taking place for decades.

Staff members are also planning to open the 1862 room, which is typically not open to visitors. Stevenson described the room as an indoor kitchen for the family. 

“It would have had a cookstove in addition to the fireplace,” she said.

At the end of the tour, those who attend can relax inside the 1862 room while they enjoy hot mulled cider and cookies.
This year, staff members are also adding a new element to the tours; cooking demonstrations will be offered during the tours. The demonstrators and food will change from week to week, Stevenson said.

“We wanted to try something a little different to make it a different experience than our Holiday Candlelight tours,” Stevenson said. “Cooking demonstrations seemed a perfect match for the harvest theme.”

Reservations for the Harvest Candlelight Tours are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome. Compass Inn Museum is located at 1382 Route 30 in Laughlintown, just three miles east of Ligonier. Call 724-238-4983 or visit www.compassinn.org for more information.

Group to host ‘Young Historians’ program

Our Town Correspondent

Parents whose children are interested in history might well be interested in giving them an opportunity to enroll in Ligonier Valley Historical Society’s “Young Historians” program.

Society members are offering this six-week program to students in grades six through eight. It is scheduled to take place Sept. 24, Oct. 1, Oct. 8, Oct. 15, Oct. 22 and Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to noon with the exception of Oct. 22; that session will take place during “Halloween Hauntings,” from 6 to 9 p.m.

During each session, students are to have the opportunity to explore both the Ligonier Valley Historical Society and Compass Inn Museum. They are to learn how to collect their own family stories, learn about the life as it was in the 18th and 19th centuries, participate in a treasure hunt through the archives and be taught valuable skills.

“They will have a chance to see how their own personal family history fits into the larger picture,” said Malori Stevenson, innkeeper, program coordinator and historian. “They also will have a chance to explore areas that are normally off-limits to the public and children — archives and collections — and help preserve some of these items. The whole experience will be hands-on.

“This experience is different than our school tours and summer camps. ‘Young Historians’ lets the kids do history in new and exciting ways. This is an enrichment experience. Kids will learn skills that will build on what they learn in the classroom while doing hands-on activities that make history fun. The program will also be a family experience. Kids will learn how to collect family stories and have a chance to preserve them.”

Stevenson will lead each session.

“I love showing kids that history is more than a list of facts in a textbook,” she said. “History is alive and interactive, especially the act of preserving the past. History is fun for me, and I hope to convey that to the kids.”

“Young Historians” is part of Ligonier Valley Historical Society’s “Engaging Kids with History” initiative, which gives children hands-on experience as it relates to historical topics.

The “Young Historians” program will conclude during “Halloween Hauntings,” where participants can enjoy telling spooky stories by candlelight.

There is a fee to participate in the “Young Historians” program. For more information or to enroll your children, call 724-238-4983 or email mstevenson@compassinn.org.

“Understanding the past is vital to making sense of the present and the future,” Stevenson said. “It explains why we are the way we are, and can cultivate empathy. It helps us understand the world around us. The skills learned in ‘doing’ history are transferable across the disciplines. 

“Besides, when done right, history is fun and relevant.”

Residents invited to visit militia encampment

Our Town Correspondent

Ligonier Valley Historical Society’s Compass Inn Museum is hosting a Living History Weekend that will give visitors to the authentically restored, early 1800s stagecoach inn an opportunity to better understand what life was like for the men who were part of a Revolutionary War militia.

“Militia and the Frontier: Living History Weekend” is to take place Aug. 20-21.

Independent Battalion Westmoreland County Pennsylvania, also known as John Proctor’s Militia, will camp on the grounds of Compass Inn Museum over the weekend. Based out of Westmoreland County, the militia will arrive — and stay — in costume.

“The encampment will give visitors a chance to experience what life was like for the militia unit, understand the different skills needed to survive, interact with the men and witness drill demonstrations,” said Malori Stevenson, program coordinator of the museum. “The period this unit represents — the second half of the 18th century — is the environment in which our inn was built.”

In addition to seeing the militia camp, visitors can also enjoy blacksmithing and cooking demonstrations, which will take place inside the blacksmith forge and cookhouse. Guided tours of Compass Inn Museum, as well as the restored Conestoga Wagon, will also be offered.

Visitors are encouraged to allot two hours for their visit in order to take full advantage of the tours and demonstrations, plus a museum store that features handcrafted art made by local artisans.

All the activities that are part of Living History Weekend are free with paid admission to Compass Inn Museum.

Compass Inn Museum is located along Route 30 in Laughlintown, 3 miles east of Ligonier. For more information, call 724-238-4983 or visit www.compassinn.org online.

Stevenson said she hopes that individuals and families will take advantage of the opportunity to learn what life was like for a militia.

“This weekend is different from our other living history weekends because it is an encampment and not just a series of demonstrations,” Stevenson said. 

“It gives a different perspective on how some people lived. Because the time period portrayed (late 1700s) is a little earlier, visitors can see how big of a difference there is from then to when our site was a stagecoach stop. A lot can change in 50 years.”

‘Save Our Statecoach’ campaign launched

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. 

Museum to host Living History Weekend


Our Town Correspondent

Members of the Ligonier Valley Historical Society and Compass Inn Museum are once again hosting Living History Weekend, which presents an opportunity to “experience history in new ways and to interact with demonstrators and re-enactors,” said Malori Stevenson, innkeeper and program coordinator.

“The weekend helps people see history as the story of people just like them,” Stevenson said.

This year, events are scheduled to take place July 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and July 17 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Storyteller Joanna Demarest and musician Donna Weems are scheduled to entertain visitors with stories and songs.

Stevenson said she’s excited to share Weems’ and Demarest’s talents with visitors.

“We are excited to offer something a little different for this Living History Weekend,” Stevenson said. “Music and storytelling have always been an important part of our culture. That aspect of history paired with the different trades and daily life gives a more complete picture of history.”

Demarest has been telling stories to children and adults for more than 20 years. She’s a regular at Depreciation Lands Museum in Allison Park, where she serves as an historical character interpreter. Demarest is passionate about telling the stories of what life was like for women who lived on frontiers in the late 1700s.

“People of all ages enjoy a good story,” Stevenson said. “It’s another way to learn history in a family-friendly, easy-to-understand format.”

Weems, meanwhile, enjoys singing traditional, Appalachian and classical music. She has sung with Trillium, The Troubadours and a variety of other choral groups. Previous appearances include Washington’s Tavern, Prickett’s Fort and Early American Fall Festival.

“A lot of the music we know today has its roots in the 18th and 19th century,” Stevenson said. “It allows people to make a direct connection between their lives and history.”

Visitors will also be introduced to a tinsmith, blacksmith, spinners and weavers. The spinners and weavers are to be on site July 17 only.

“These opportunities for interaction help people relate to history by showing them the human side of history,” Stevenson said.

Games and crafts round out the list of things to do. Children will be able to make a stagecoach ticket and their own quilt squares. They will also be able to play traditional 19th-century games.

All of the events will take place at Compass Inn Museum, an early 1800s stagecoach inn on the original Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Turnpike. The museum is designed to give visitors an opportunity to appreciate the functioning of the inn, not to mention the stagecoach experience, through guided tours of the inn and its outbuildings by costumed docents.

Activities are free with paid admission.

Compass Inn Museum is located along Route 30 in Laughlintown, 3 miles east of Ligonier. For more information, call 724-238-4983 or visit www.compassinn.org online.

“We encourage visitors who have been here before to return for a different experience,” Stevenson said.

Compass Inn Museum showcasing ‘Unmentionables’

Our Town Correspondent

Ligonier Valley Historical Society’s “Unmentionables in the Valley: An Intimate Display” exhibit will give viewers an opportunity to undress history by learning about what women used to wear centuries before retailers such as Victoria’s Secret came to be.

The exhibit, located inside Ligonier Valley Historical Society’s Compass Inn Museum in Laughlintown, opened to the public June 14 and will remain on display through Oct. 16.

Theresa Gay Rohall, Ligonier Valley Historical Society executive director, said that the exhibit spans two rooms inside Compass Inn Museum, an early 1800s stagecoach inn on the original Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Turnpike.

“Those two rooms in the museum hadn’t really been used for public display, so we thought that we would like to open those up,” Rohall said. “We just wanted to do something different and unique that would allow people to appreciate the past even more, and we thought that undergarments would be appealing.”

Back in the day, women donned corded petticoats, chemises, drawers, hoops and corsets. These garments were not only functional, but also useful in shaping women’s bodies in order to best correspond with their outer layers.

“In order to accomplish their different looks, women’s undergarments were the foundation to their outfits,” Rohall said. “The 19th century was a rapidly changing time for women’s clothing —waistlines were up, and then waistlines were down. Sleeves were poofy, and then sleeves were tight. I think that this exhibit will allow people to see a different perspective in terms of what women had to wear underneath their clothing in order to look just as they did.”
Rohall said that women typically “squeezed their bodies into the garments.”

“You were expected to have a certain look, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that what you looked like was what you were allowed to be,” she said.

The garments on display as part of this exhibit will give 21st-century onlookers an opportunity to appreciate social mores and shifting perspectives of the female body. “Unmentionables” will feature items from thee different time periods: the Regency Era of 1790 to 1820, the Romantic Era of 1820 to 1860 and the Victorian Era of 1850 to 1869.

“Since Compass Inn was in operation as a resting place for travelers from 1799 through 1862, we think it is fitting that we feature undergarments from all three eras,” Rohall said.

The fee for viewing the exhibit will be included in the regular tour of Compass Inn Museum, which is located in Laughlintown, 3 miles east of Ligonier along Route 30. The museum’s hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

For more information about Ligonier Valley Historical Society, Compass Inn Museum or the “Unmentionables in the Valley: An Intimate Display” exhibit, call 724-238-6818 or visit www.compassinn.org.

“If you haven’t been to the museum in a while, this just adds another dimension to your tour,” Rohall said. “(This exhibit) gives an interesting perspective on how society changed during the 19th century, and how fashion was strongly influenced by its social and economic context.”

Children to have the chance to learn from blacksmiths

Our Town Correspondent

Children’s Living History Weekend, scheduled this year for June 18-19 and brought to fruition by Ligonier Valley Historical Society, gives children an opportunity to learn about what day-to-day life was like centuries ago.

In addition to being able to tour Compass Inn Museum, children can participate in hands-on activities that organizers hope will foster in them an appreciation for history.

“Children’s Living History Weekend is a great opportunity for children to learn how people lived, worked and traveled in the 1800s,” said Theresa Gay Rohall, Ligonier Valley Historical Society executive director.

Once again this year, Compass Inn Museum is to host the Pittsburgh Area Artists-Blacksmith Association. The blacksmiths on June 18 are to present “Hammer In,” which introduces children to more than a dozen blacksmiths involved with the association. Children can interact with the blacksmiths and watch them practice their craft.

“’Hammer In’ is fun for both kids and their parents,” said Malori Stevenson, Ligonier Valley Historical Society’s innkeeper and program coordinator.

“The blacksmiths come out to the site and set up portable forges around the site and work for the day. Visitors are able to interact with the blacksmiths and ask questions. We have had as many as 32 blacksmiths show up in the past. Last year, we had 19 blacksmiths working.”

This is the fourth year that “Hammer In” has been offered as part of Children’s Living History Weekend.
Stevenson said that working with association is beneficial for everyone.

“(‘Hammer In’) provides PAABA a place to hold a ‘hands-on’ event where blacksmiths can share their skills with each other while providing a welcome atmosphere for community to learn about their art,” Stevenson said. “Benefits are spread threefold; (this opportunity) allows PAABA to share with the community and each other, Compass Inn receives trinkets to sell at the store and the community gets to watch an art form that is resurgent in the area.”
Rohall added that children seem to appreciate watching a piece of metal turn into a work of art.

“Being able to watch a piece of metal being molded and hammered is exciting for the kids,” Rohall said. “I think blacksmithing is a lasting, important art because what these blacksmiths make is very durable, and what they make today is more artistic than it was in yesteryears, when everything they were making had to be functional. Today’s blacksmiths have more freedom to be artistic and creative.”

In addition to “Hammer In,” Todd “Ghost in the Head” Johnson, who portrays an Eastern woodland Indian, is to participate in the weekend activities. He is to answer questions about what it was like to be an Indian living in the 1800s.

“We are excited to have ‘Ghost’ join us for the weekend,” Stevenson said. “His programs are fun and engaging and a wonderful opportunity for children to experience history.”

Living History Weekend and “Hammer In” activities are free with paid admission to Compass Inn Museum, an early 1800s stagecoach inn on the original Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Turnpike. Offering guided tours of the inn, outbuildings and stagecoach by costumed docents, the museum gives visitors a look into the functioning of the inn and the stagecoach experience.

Children’s Living History Weekend activities will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 18 and 1 to 5 p.m. June 19. Please note that “Hammer In” will take place Saturday only.

Compass Inn Museum is located along Route 30 in Laughlintown, 3 miles east of Ligonier. For more information, call 724-238-4983 or visit www.compassinn.org.

Inn to host history programs for kids

Our Town Correspondent

Ligonier Valley Historical Society, in conjunction with Compass Inn Museum, is offering a number of educational programs for children and teenagers throughout the spring and summer months.

“These programs give students a chance to interact with history on their own terms, and provide a fun, hands-on experience that you can only get at a historic site,” said Malori Stevenson, program coordinator.

The first program, titled “Our Town, Local History Research,” is scheduled to take place Tuesdays mornings, March 29 through April 26, from 9 to 11 a.m.

Designed for home-school students in grades eight through 12, “Our Town, Local History Research,” will introduce students to historical research methods. Led by a trained public historian and teacher, the class will allow students to engage with the Ligonier Valley Historical Society’s archival and material collections, as well as Ligonier Library’s Pennsylvania Room.

“Stagecoach Adventurers,” which is suitable for children in grades four through six, will take place July 18-22 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Participants will have the opportunity to explore the 19th century during this hands-on day camp. Throughout the week, they will apprentice under a tinsmith and blacksmith, cook a complete meal in the cookhouse, learn 19th-century games, music and dance, and build their own stagecoach.

On Saturdays in June and August, children in grades eight through 12 can participate in “Young Historians: Engaging Kids with History.” This program is to run from 10 a.m. to noon and teach participants how to run a historic site; topics discussed will include preservation, collections care and interpretation. Students will meet with re-enactors and interpreters, as well as have access to Ligonier Valley Historical Society’s archives and the collections in the Compass Inn Museum.

Preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5 will also be able to get in on the fun with “Little Explorers: Daily Adventures.” 

From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Thursday in April, preschoolers will explore the Compass Inn Museum and learn about everyday life at a stagecoach inn. Staff members will engage the preschoolers in appropriate developmental activities and imaginative play, plus offer several hands-on activities such as cooking and planting a garden. 

Each session will offer story time, a movement activity and one creative project.

“We are thrilled to be offering these new and innovative programs that engage kids with history,” said Theresa Gay Rohall, executive director. “Through these programs, we hope to develop relationships with the next generation of history enthusiasts.”

For more information about the programs or to register, call 724-238-4983 or email mstevenson@compassinn.org.

Ligonier group to bring in oral historian

Our Town Correspondent

The Ligonier Valley Historical Society, in conjunction with Compass Inn Museum, will host “Your Story, Our History,” a workshop that discusses how to collect family stories.
The workshop, scheduled to take place March 5 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Compass Inn Museum, will bring to town Eliza Newland, a trained oral historian. 

Newland is to teach participants not only the importance of collecting stories, but also how to acquire low- to no-cost equipment that can be used to preserve them. She also intends to discuss how to interview a subject.

“Collecting oral histories is something anyone can do, once you know how,” Newland said. “The best part about leading this workshop is it gives individuals, families and organizations a way to capture and preserve what is theirs in the first place, but so often lost.”

Newland currently serves as collections and program manager at Royce J. and Caroline B. Watts Museum in Morgantown, West Virginia. She is an alumna of Suzanne Snider’s Oral History Summer School located in Hudson, New York.

Malori Stevenson, innkeeper and program coordinator at Ligonier Valley Historical Society and Compass Inn Museum, said that she and her staff members are looking forward to giving people this opportunity.

“We are excited to be able to host this workshop,” Stevenson said. “Every family has stories, and people are always asking me the best way to preserve them. We are a community historical society, so it’s important we give the community the chance to participate in what we do.”

Stevenson added that Newland’s passion for collecting and preserving stories is undeniable.

“I’ve attended Eliza’s workshops before, and she does a wonderful job,” she said. “Not only does she teach you the basics of collecting stories, but also leads fun, interactive activities that help you understand and overcome the challenges of saving these stories.”

A fee is required to attend the workshop, which is suitable for all ages. Those who attend are welcome and encouraged to bring a cellphone, tablet or other smart device to help practice interviewing techniques.

Pre-registration is encouraged, as space is limited. Walk-ins will be accepted if space allows.
For more information or to register, contact Stevenson by calling 724-238-4983 or emailing mstevenson@compassinn.org.

‘Halloween Hauntings’ offered in Ligonier


The Ligonier Valley Historical Society is helping to offer an evening of haunted entertainment at Compass Inn Museum Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 from 6 to 9 p.m.

“Halloween Hauntings” is an annual event that allows participants to tour the buildings and grounds by candlelight. Costumed guides will tell ghost stories, including stories about the various inhabitants and travelers who stayed at Compass Inn during their journeys.

“We’ll have fires lit in the inn, as well as a bonfire with snacks and refreshments outside,” said Malori Stevenson, innkeeper and program coordinator at Compass Inn Museum. “It will definitely be spooky, especially once the sun goes down.”

Theresa Gay Rohall, executive director of Compass Inn Museum, said that there are plenty of legends and stories to share — and they will be complemented by the creaky floors and many old items scattered throughout the inn.

“We’ve been offering this for well over 10 years,” said Rohall said. “People are very interested in Halloween activities nowadays, so it is a popular event.”
The last haunted tour leaves at 8:30 p.m. Participants are encouraged to dress in warm clothing.

There is a nominal fee to participate. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are required for groups of 10 or more.

Compass Inn Museum is located at 1386 Route 381 East in Laughlintown, just 3 miles east of Ligonier. For more information, call 724-238-6818 or visit www.compassinn.org.

“This will be another way for families and friends to get together during Halloween and enjoy what our community has to offer,” Rohall said.