Plans move forward to renovate McConnaughey farmhouse
By Jewels Phraner
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013, 6:58 p.m.
A century ago, life on the McConnaughey Farm in Ligonier Township was self sustaining.
The 126-year-old farmhouse was built by John Callendar McConnaughey with bricks fashioned from clay in the meadow on the 123-acre property.
The large family grew their own vegetables, grain and hay. Cattle, sheep, pigs and chicken were raised for milk, eggs and meat. Even the coal that heated the kitchen stove came from a private mine on the property, off Old Lincoln Highway West in Ligonier Township.
“I think they were pretty self sufficient,” said Charlie Stough, a Darlington native who spent much of his childhood visiting his grandparents' farm.
“They really didn't have to buy much at local stores,” he said.
The Loyalhanna Watershed Association will embody that same self-reliant spirit when they begin renovating the brick farmhouse and wooden barn to be used as the group's new headquarters.
Ligonier Township supervisors have approved the association's plans to restore the farm to its original glory.
The association will convert the historic structures into usable space, but leave the rest of the property undeveloped.
Some of the land will be leased to local farmers. The rest will be seeded with natural grasses and plants to return the land to a natural wetland habitat.
Two floors of the farmhouse will be used for office space and a conference room, plans show.
The barn will be used for seminars and workshops and will be available for use by other environmental groups, association executive director Susan Huba said.
The $1.5 million project will include “green initiatives,” including minimally altering its footprint, reusing existing structures, using natural and recycled construction materials and making energy-efficient improvements to the buildings, Huba said.
Ed McConnaughey, who as a child lived on the farm with parents Josiah Edwin and Anna Catherine McConnaughey, said he's happy the association plans to keep the farmhouse and barn standing.
After his family moved to town in 1947, he said he still spent much of his time at the farm.
“I enjoyed working there. I brought hay down over the hill for the horses, and shoveled snow and helped panel the living room. Everyone would come in and help keep the farm running,” he said. “My uncle came in from Wilkinsburg every weekend.”
Stough, who is McConnaughey's cousin, said he, too, is in favor of the project.
“I think it's a great idea to preserve the farm and farmland. It sure beats having 40 houses out there, and (the farm) really adds to the beauty and charm of Ligonier,” Stough said.
In October, the township zoning hearing board approved the property, located in a residential district, for civic use.
The association came before the supervisors last week to seek approval of an alternative parking plan and permission to use limited lighting at the facility.
The township ordinance requires a specific level of lighting on parking lots, footpaths and entrances.
The association's plan for LED-type lighting would not meet that requirement, said project architect Timothy Fyock of Benchmark Engineering.
“We want to keep it like a farm. It will be maintained like a farm,” Fyock said.
The alternative parking will be used for a few annual events at the Ligonier Country Market lot off Springer Road. That property is also owned by the association.
Supervisors unanimously approved the plan. More than 20 people in support of the project attended the public hearing for the occupancy permit.
The association is now housed in the former township municipal building on Andi Lane, just west of Ligonier. The former municipal building will be torn down, Huba said.
Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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