House tours show historic places, current design

| Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

From a carefully preserved historic farmstead to a modern house with an award-winning kitchen, some of Westmoreland County's most interesting homes are featured in two upcoming house tours hosted by the Westmoreland County Historical Society and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.

The Westmoreland County Historical Society's annual Historic House Tour takes place Saturday and features five houses and one historic bank building. “There's a lot that will be of interest to people,” says tour committee chairman Clinton Piper. “History matters, and we're trying to highlight that.” A large part of the county's history is rooted in its agricultural tradition, and few farms in the county are as well preserved as the Pollins family homestead in Unity Township. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Sewickley Manor is a working farm that has been in the family for seven generations.

The red-brick Greek Revival farmhouse remains nearly unchanged from its original 1852 design except for a sunroom added in 1999 by current residents Calvin and Mary Pollins. The sunroom's floor-to-ceiling windows allow a panoramic view of the farm and the Chestnut Ridge.

“You can sit and look out and see the whole view and the whole farm from this one room,” Mary Pollins says. “There's nowhere else in the house where you can do that.”

The rest of the house maintains the original pine floors, understated dentil moldings and original windows, all carefully restored to preserve the home's original appearance. “Nothing much ever changed in this house,” Pollins says. “That's the beauty of it.”

Family heirlooms abound, including numerous vintage photographs, a walnut corner cupboard and a set of china that was originally brought to the farm in a covered wagon. The entire property, which includes the house, barn and 18 outbuildings, will be open for the tour.

Special attractions at the other five tour sites will include samples of bread baked in a beehive oven, a scavenger hunt with prizes, hors d'oeuvres and a peek into the original vault at the Citizens Bank building in Latrobe.

Kitchens and food are the focus of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art's annual “Art in the Kitchen” Tasting Tour to be held Oct. 6. At each house, only the kitchen will be open to visitors, who will be treated to samples of food prepared from recipes in the museum's “Art in the Kitchen” cookbook.

Sue and Ken White's kitchen was remodeled in 2011 with a step-saving floor plan, granite countertops and a cheery color scheme featuring white cabinets, a muted yellow-and-beige tile backsplash and vibrant persimmon walls.

“I really like country French,” Sue White says, “and I wanted to get that feeling incorporated into the kitchen.”

The kitchen, designed by Amy Speranza of Interior Advisors, was featured recently in Housetrends magazine as the winner of the 2012 Pittsburgh Kitchen Design Contest.

One of the room's unique features is the pair of tall glass-fronted curio cabinets flanking the paneled refrigerator. The glass shelves hold Sue White's colorful ceramics collection. The room is further personalized with her original artwork and several ceramic chickens.

The “Art in the Kitchen” tour includes three other houses plus Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont, which will re-create a 1950s kitchen set onstage. At the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, chef Sergio Maragni will give two cooking demonstrations on the day of the tour.

Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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