Unique log home highlights Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival
July 3, 2014 12:00 AM
Redwood Log House owned by Jamie Allen of Tarpon Springs, Fla.
By Mary Thomas / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In the 1930s California lumberjack Jim Allen took shelter from a storm in the trunk cavity of a giant redwood. Impressed by how protective it was, he purchased a section of a felled tree from a lumber company and carved out a three-room home that he lived in for seven years.
Allen's Original Redwood Log House, now owned by granddaughter Jamie Allen, will be on view at the Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival east of Greensburg from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today through Sunday.
The free festival, which in its 40th year is projected to draw 150,000 visitors, spreads across 8 acres in leafy Twin Lakes Park. It offers entertainment on four stages, ranging from The Marcels of "Blue Moon" fame to the Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, a 160-vendor Artist Market, strolling performers, 40 food and snack booths, a juried art exhibition, sports figures Roy Face and Dick Hoak, and a heritage trail with craft demonstrations, authors and historical societies' displays.
New this year are "Yarnstorming" of the Island Stage by Mental Health of Westmoreland County members, a talk by author Stan Gordon who's investigated mysterious Pennsylvania phenomena for four decades and a presentation by art professionals on how to begin an art collection. The children's area will offer multiple arts disciplines in a "Festival Firsts" area.
The free festival is supported by a variety of public and private sponsors and by individuals dropping change into festival donation boxes. "If every visitor dropped a dollar in one of the donation boxes, we'd have well over $100,000 to spend on new and exciting programming," said festival Executive Director Adam Shaffer.
Mr. Shaffer was a young child when he walked through the Redwood Log House at the former Harrold Fair in Hempfield decades ago, but he remembers it well. He was surprised to learn it was still touring and arranged to bring it back to Western Pennsylvania for new generations to see, he said.
The redwood was 14 feet in diameter at the stump cut, 267 feet high and estimated to be 1,900 years old when it was felled. The log house section is 33-feet long by 8-feet wide by 9-feet, 4-inches at the higher end; the cut was 98 feet above the ground and still below the tree's first limb.
Two men worked nearly a year to excavate the log and complete the living quarters that comprise a living room, kitchen and bedroom. More than 11,000 board feet of lumber, about 50 tons worth and enough to have built a five-room home, was removed but could not be saved. The work was done with hand tools such as chisels and adzes.
The walls are 6 to 8 inches thick. "Because it was all hand carved and not machine made the only way you could tell [thickness] was to follow the grain in the wood," Ms. Allen wrote in an email, "And you had to be a mighty fine woodworker to be able to do that on a 33-foot-long piece of redwood."
The interior walls were sanded and rubbed down by hand, then finished with a clear varnish to accentuate the grain. There is no running water, but power was installed in the early 1940s and the 1945 Sanitary Refrigerator is still functioning.
The house weighs 36,000 pounds, and the 1939 reliance trailer it rides upon adds another 10,000 pounds. The truck that pulls it gets about four miles to the gallon and averages 56 miles per hour. "If you're going down a hill you might get lucky and go 62," Ms. Allen wrote. "But if you're going up the hill you're looking at between 30 and 40 depending on the grade." During the summer season the log home travels between 6,000 and 9,000 miles.
It has attracted millions of visitors over decades of touring festivals, fairs and expositions, and resides in Tarpon Springs, Fla., when not on the road. The log house has been in every state except Alaska and Hawaii and has visited most Canadian provinces. It was at two World's Fairs, New York in 1964 and Spokane in 1974. Her father began touring the log house before Ms. Allen was born, and before that her grandfather showed it.
"In that time they had city squares or town squares and would set up there for the local people to see it, because back in the day people didn't travel like they do nowadays."
It's evident that while touring is time consuming and expensive, Ms. Allen enjoys sharing her family heritage with others. "I'm proud to have a piece of American history that is God grown, American made and family owned." And she's looking forward to greeting visitors at the festival.
Festival buses and wheelchair accessible vans will run from Saint Vincent College and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. They operate from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily with the last bus to the festival leaving at 7 p.m. Round trip fare is $2, children under 10 ride free. Limited fee parking is available on privately owned grounds near the festival. Information and directions: www.artsandheritage.com.
Events will be held on four stages: Island Stage (IS), Laurel Stage (LS), Hillside Stage (HS) and Children's Stage (CS).
1 a.m.: A red, white and blue opening ceremony with the national anthem and the Commonwealth Ancients Fifes & Drums. IS
11:30 a.m.: RedHot Ramblers, Pittsburgh-based New Orleans jazz. IS
Noon: Cathi Rhodes channels the late Patsy Cline in this tribute show. HS
Noon: Food Awards. LS
1 p.m.: Carnegie Science Center "Rockin' Robots." CS
2 p.m.: Penn-Trafford Community Band. IS
2 p.m.: Bluegrass duo Broke, Stranded and Ugly. LS
2 p.m.: Conversation with Curt & Chris of Pittsburgh Dad. HS
3 p.m.: Laurel Valley Academy of Dance. CS
3:30 p.m.: Folkloric Latin music group Noel Quintana. HS
3:30 p.m.: Mean Mary, banjo. LS
4 p.m.: The Marcels of "Blue Moon" fame in their first festival performance since 2011. IS
5 p.m.: "King of the Cigar Box Guitar" Shane Speal. HS
5 p.m.: KleZlectic, traditional Klezmer. LS
5 p.m.: "Rockin' Robots." CS
6 p.m.: Scott, Rob & Greg of the Clarks, three of the guys who rocked the festival in 1995, return. IS.
6:30 p.m.: African storyteller Temujin. HS
6:30 p.m.: Dixon's Violin, digital violinist who has played Burning Man and given two TED talks. LS
7 p.m.: Dewayne Hill, magic. CS
11 a.m.: Flow Band, Pittsburgh reggae. IS
11 a.m.: Author and phenomenon investigator Stan Gordon speaks on "A History of UFO sightings, bigfoot and strange creature encounters from Westmoreland County and surrounding areas." HS
11 a.m.: Ohkom Farms teaching children to be responsible pet owners. CS
11:30 a.m.: Denise Baldwin, pop/rock covers. LS
12:30 p.m.: Mean Mary. HS
12:30 p.m.: Jay Smar, interactive program includes singing, performing on mandolin and fiddle, clog-dancing and coal mining stories. CS
1 p.m.: Hamilton Ave., acoustic classic rock band. IS
1 p.m.: Black Horse, the classic country. LS
1:30 p.m.: Stories enacted by Stage Right! CS
2 p.m.: Jemeena, belly dance. HS
2:30 p.m.: Jay Smar. CS
3 p.m.: Jessica Saenz, pop song covers and original music. LS
3:30 p.m.: Neon Swing X-perience, vintage American genres swing, rockabilly, hot jazz, horn rock, and blues. IS
3:30 p.m.: Steel Clover, Celtic. CS
4 p.m.: Singer-songwriter Joy Ike. HS
4 p.m.: Temujin. LS
4:30-5:30 p.m.: Jay Smar, CS
5:30 p.m.: Shane Speal. LS
6 p.m.: The Hillbilly Way, a new country band made up of several members of the defunct Povertyneck Hillbillies. IS
6 p.m.: Dewayne Hill. CS
6:30-8 p.m.: Wisaal, Mediterranean fusion music from Michigan. HS
7 p.m.: BalloonRideFantasy, fantasy rock. LS
7 p.m.: Steel Clover. CS
11 a.m.: Augsburg German Band. IS
11 a.m.: Shane Speal. HS
11 a.m.: Ohkom Farms. CS
11 a.m.: Readings by Poetry & Short Story award recipients. LS
Noon: Temujin. CS
Noon-1 p.m.: Former Steeler coach and Jeannette Jayhawk Dick Hoak will sign autographs at the Festival Store.
12:30 p.m.: Covers by 5-member Crush. HS
12:30 p.m.: Mean Mary. LS
1 p.m.: Westmoreland County Community College Jazz Band. IS
1 p.m.: Youth Poetry and Short Story and Art Contests Award Ceremony. CS
2 p.m.: Mac Martin & the Dixie Travelers, 50-plus-year bluegrass band. HS
2 p.m.: Adler & Barath, blues classics with harmonica. LS
2:30 p.m.: Laurel Ballet. CS
3:30 p.m.: Almost Sinatra, John Noble croons. IS
3:30 p.m.: Stories enacted by Stage Right! CS
4-6:30 p.m.: Old Time Fiddlers' Contest, since 1979 fiddlers have competed for cash prizes in three age divisions. HS
4 p.m.: Cathi Rhodes & Diane Paul encourage singing along with oldies from the '40s, '50s and '60s. LS
4:30 p.m.: Steel Cover. CS
5 p.m.: Stage Right Sensations perform. IS
5:30 p.m.: "Starting an Art Collection," discussion with art professionals followed by a tour of the Westmoreland Art Nationals juried art exhibit. LS
6 p.m.: Nashville-based Eagles tribute band 7 Bridges. IS
6 p.m.: Dewayne Hill. CS
7 p.m.: Jim Haner, banjo. HS
7 p.m.: Steel Clover. CS
11 a.m.: Grkmania, Slovenian-style polka. IS
11 a.m.: Acoustic Showcase. HS
11 a.m.: Dewayne Hill. CS
11:30 a.m.: Shane Speal. LS
12:30 p.m.: Stories enacted by Stage Right! CS
1 p.m.: Jeannette band East Coast Turnaround play "Trucker Rock." IS
1 p.m.: Philippine American Performing Arts of Greater Pittsburgh. LS
1 p.m.: Pittsburgh Steel Man ties balloons in the Family Fun Zone.
1:30 p.m.: Steel Clover. CS
2:30-3:30 p.m.: Former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Roy Face will talk about baseball and woodworking on the Laurel Stage, followed by autograph signing at the Festival Store.
2:30 p.m.: Temujin. CS
3:30 p.m.: Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra. IS
4 p.m.: Mon Valley Cloggers, traditional dance. CS
4:30 p.m.: J. McCall, rock, folk, funk and Christian. LS
5:30 p.m.: Agape League, youth choir performs selections from a superhero-themed musical. CS
6 p.m.: Lovebettie, the "Pioneers of Swagger Rock." IS
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