Late in August this summer Keith and I found ourselves in Westmoreland County, on a rare working Saturday, with a couple hours of down time. Between my meeting with a consultant in the morning and Keith’s event to celebrate the National Register listing of the Concord School in the evening, we needed a plan: something better than hanging out at the closest mall or park for a few hours.
We headed toward Concord School in Loyalhanna Township, avoiding the turnpike, from Somerset up Route 601 to the Lincoln Highway and through the Ligonier Valley. It was a beautiful late summer day, warm, sunny, and only a little bit humid, which gave the hills and trees a sharpness and clarity usually reserved for the fall in Pennsylvania.
Around lunch time we began looking for a snack and in Laughlintown came upon the Pie Shoppe. There was a car show in the parking lot, with Mustangs from all eras clean and polished, parked in rows along the side. Pie sounded pretty good. It is pie, after all! So we pulled in to get ourselves a slice. Apparently, the Pie Shoppe is locally famous, and sells pie at all the regional fairs. We can vouch for the lemon meringue and banana cream. Yum! The Mustangs in the parking lot were also pretty cool – even the new ones. Like historic houses, vintage cars have that little extra appeal. About the time we were ready to head out, we noticed the old log and stone house kitty-corner across the street. The Compass Inn Museum was open so we decided to check it out.
The Compass Inn is a 1799 stagecoach stop, from when the Lincoln Highway was the Philadelphia -Pittsburgh Turnpike and much of western Pennsylvania was still a wilderness. Owned and operated by the Ligonier Valley Historical Society, the inn, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, served guests between 1799 and 1862. The log inn and 1820 stone addition are original, while several outbuildings, including a cookhouse, blacksmith shop, and barn, have been reconstructed. The Historical Society conducted archaeological testing to confirm the location of the outbuildings and some of the artifacts recovered from the excavations are on exhibit in various parts of the main house.
The main entrance to the museum is around the back of the house, where we found a discrete white addition housing a museum store. After paying for our tours, Keith and I followed the tour guide through the house and each outbuilding. Our guide told us about Philip Freeman, who built the log section of the inn, as well as the Armor family who added the stone section and operated the inn throughout the Turnpike era (circa 1820-1862). Much of the furniture and household goods, as well as a wide variety of other period goods, are from the Armor family period. Especially interesting were the blacksmith’s shop, with its full working furnace and bellows, and the barn, housing an authentic stagecoach and Conestoga wagon.
Between the pie and the museum tour, Keith and I spent a little over two and a half hours in Laughlintown. By then it was late afternoon and time to head on to our evening event. We greatly enjoyed our brief visit and encourage you to check it out if you are in the area. In our opinion, there is nothing better than history, with a slice of pie!