Driving tour in Westmoreland County provides a trip through history

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A corner cupboard from the 1780s, a 1933 Ford Model BB Roadster, an outdoor beehive oven and a bank vault that could withstand a dynamite explosion are among the highlights of Historic House Tour 2012 organized by the Westmoreland County Historical Society.

The self-guided driving tour, which will be offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, visits six sites in Latrobe, Mt. Pleasant Township and Unity.

A Toast the Tour preview party, with cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a private house tour, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the 1903 Armstrong-Fogg House in the Academy Hill neighborhood of Greensburg.

The tours began in 2007 and have been growing in popularity, said Lisa Hays, executive director of the historical society.

What differentiates them from typical house tours, she said, is the emphasis on history and the inclusion of historical exhibits.

"Westmoreland County is significant historically for a broad period," she said, "not just, for example, colonial or Civil War times. There are a variety of houses and a variety of stories to tell. [Tour] homeowners tend to be emotionally invested in the stories of their houses and enjoy having people appreciate what they already appreciate."

One of this year's stops is not a house, but a bank that has been restored for use as a professional building by Greensburg attorney Vincent Quatrini Jr., who purchased it in 1996. When it opened in 1927, Citizens National Bank of Latrobe heralded its modern aspects and invulnerability. Designed by architects Paul Bartholomew and Brandon Smith, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

"It is used for office space," Ms. Hays said, "but he has cleverly restored some of the original bank features and incorporated them into the space."

Mr. Quatrini also applied principles of "adaptive re-use" to the 7th Ward School in Greensburg, where his office is located. His efforts will be formally recognized when the society presents Mr. Quatrini with the Arthur St. Clair Preservation Award in October, Ms. Hays said.

Here are the five houses on the tour:

The Giffen House, built by some of the earliest settlers of Mt. Pleasant Township circa 1840, now the residence of Judge and Mrs. William J. Ober. Also on the property are a bank barn, a summer kitchen, a springhouse and an outdoor beehive-style oven. Bread baking will be demonstrated and samples of the peasant-style bread that would have been produced by the primitive oven will be offered.

The George House, built by John George circa 1846, a traditional Pennsylvania-style farmhouse with Italianate trim. After World War II, it housed up to a dozen returning GIs enrolled at Saint Vincent College. An in-house bakery supplied local grocers, including George DeLallo, forerunner of the national food purveyor headquartered in Jeannette. Dolores Metil, owner of the house for 45 years, will greet guests. Tour attendees may stop at the George House for tea and cookies, to participate in a scavenger hunt with prizes, and to peruse a display by the Latrobe Area Historical Society.

Sewickley Manor, a 19th century Greek Revival style, was the Pollins Farmstead, built in 1852 on land acquired by a Pollins ancestor in 1769. Owners Calvin E. and Mary Frances Pollins are the seventh consecutive Pollins generation to live in it. The 1780 corner cupboard shares the dining room with an artist-painted mural of the farmstead.

The Conrad M. Semler House, a Tudor Revival designed by architect Charles H. Sober and built in 1926 for Mr. Semler, an Ohio native who moved to Westmoreland County in the early 1900s. It is owned by Howard Bursch and Susan Bursch. A 1933 Ford will be parked in the circular driveway, which is centered by a fountain. Weather permitting, the garden, perhaps with miniature garden railroad, will be accessible.

The James T. Hughes House, designed by Mr. Bartholomew and Mr. Smith and completed in 1925-26. Mr. Hughes was burgess of Latrobe from 1909 to 1914 and engaged in specialty steel, insurance and real estate businesses. An unusual feature of the house is a card room within the first-floor hall that may be enclosed with folding glass doors. A small door in the wall opens into the kitchen, and tour guests will be offered sparkling water and hors d'oeuvres through the passage. Owners Ernie and Georgia Teppert have added a custom oak bar to the room.

New to the tour this year is a lunch option at DiSalvo's Restaurant in Latrobe, a restored 1903 Pennsylvania Railroad Station and nationally registered landmark.

Tickets for "Toast the Tour" are $50 by advance purchase from the historical society.

Tour tickets are $25 in advance or $30 on tour day and include a map of locations and a keepsake booklet with historical information.

All proceeds benefit the Westmoreland Historical Society.

For tickets and details: 724-532-1935, ext.215; www.westmorelandhistory.org; or library@westmorelandhistory.org.

Advance tour tickets also can be purchased at Latrobe Art Center, 819 Ligonier St., Latrobe, 724-537-7011. On Friday, tickets will be sold only at the tour stops.

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Mary Thomas: mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.


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