Hanna's Town kicks off holiday season with open house

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Those who attend the annual Candlelight Open House in Historic Hanna's Town next Thursday will start the holiday season with some sweet treats and old-fashioned charm.

From 4 to 8 p.m., patrons will be treated to wassail -- or beer, if they prefer -- in the tavern along with a mix of sweet and savory snacks. Or, visitors can stroll by candlelight to the museum shop, housed in a two-story log house, where gingerbread, sweets and assorted cookies baked by members of the Westmoreland County Historical Society will be served.

The open house is free and will be held at the historic site at 809 Forbes Trail Road in Greensburg.

The wares in the museum shop are billed as "almost all-American crafted." It offers creations by local artisans and items that can't be found in a mall or big-box store.

The shop is housed on the first floor of the two-story Murry-Blacom log house, which was built in the early 1800s in Murrysville and moved to Hanna's Town in the 1980s. It will be open from 4 to 8 p.m. during the open house.

It also will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. on the five subsequent Saturdays -- Nov. 16, 23 and 30 and Dec. 7 and 14.

Matthew Stern of Latrobe, who specializes in items with 18th-century designs, will stock some of his painted document boxes that look like small leather chests. Handmade wooden toys from Channel Craft in Charleroi will include Jacob's ladder block toy for $7.95.

Joan DeRose, shop manager, said history books, many about Western Pennsylvania, will be for sale.

"Many of the books aren't available at your typical bookstore," she added.

In addition to Colonial-style tinware items, the shop carries salt-glazed pottery from Williamsburg, Va.

"We're now in the process of developing two sets of note cards with images of the gardens here at Historic Hanna's Town as well as old image Christmas cards," Mrs. DeRose said.

Those who enjoy the gingerbread and and other dessert breads can take home mixes as well as sweet potato muffin mix. The shop also is selling American Heritage powdered cocoa "made with historical accuracy," Mrs. DeRose said.

In addition, private label jams, jellies, apple and pumpkin butters, and soaps and candles will be for sale.

Shop goods start at $2 for stocking stuffers up to $300 for Mr. Stern's painted boxes.

Mrs. DeRose has been manager of the museum shop for five years. To select the items sold in the shop, she and three volunteers go to an annual show in Oaks, Pa., and peruse craft catalogs. Each year, the shop inventory is overhauled in May, when Historic Hanna's Town opens for the season, and again just before the start of the Christmas season. The shop also maintains an online store at westmorelandhistory.org.

On Nov. 16, two Colonial-era teas will be served by costumed volunteers at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Klingensmith log house at the historic site. The tea will be a special blend from the museum shop flavored with cinnamon and orange and served with sweets.

On Nov. 23, the focus will be on coffee and chocolate with seatings at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The event will take place in three buildings at Hanna's Town and will provide information about how coffee was consumed in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

During the event, hors d'oeuvres and hot chocolate and coffee will be served in the tavern; salamagundi -- a salad made with meats, greens, eggs and vegetables available in season -- and bread and sweet muffins will be served in the Klingensmith House; and desserts with a 1950s theme will be served in the museum shop.

Tickets are $20 for the tea and $18 for the coffee and chocolate event. Reservations are required: 724-532-1935, ext. 212.

Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com

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