Historic Laughlintown store restoration underway
A forgotten chapter in the long history of the Zider's General Store building on Route 30 in Laughlintown has come to an end. Vacant for more than 10 years because of the owner's incarceration, the building was purchased June 25 by the Progress Fund of Greensburg.
“This is what we do,” said David A. Kahley, president and CEO of the organization. “We look at a place of opportunity and try to take steps to improve it and save it.”
The organization works to create jobs and improve communities across southwestern and northern Pennsylvania. It focuses on helping small businesses in the tourism industry.
Kahley said the nonprofit group plans to bring the building back to a usable condition and pass it on to the Laughlintown business community.
“The community wanted it done but did not know how to do it,” said Kahley. “That building was not cared for and needed the special attention of an organization like ours to get it going.”
The store was built in the mid-1800s of wood planks two rows thick, which were tilted straight-up two-stories high and then covered on the outside with wood siding. Kahley said the building is a rare and important surviving example of a unique type of early construction.
Renovation plans includes new heating, plumbing and electrical systems and a parking lot.
“This large amount of work was hard for a small business owner to take on,” he said. “Once it is fixed up, we hope to see a new business going in there. We hope people will be knocking on our door.”
Kahley said he passed by the building often while traveling along Route 30.
“How could you not see it? It stuck out like a sore thumb in Laughlintown for quite a while,” he said. “That corner has three vibrant activities going with the (The Original Pie Shoppe) bakery, the (Compass Inn) museum and the inn (Ligonier Country Inn).”
He said he could tell by looking at the empty building, it was a part of history that was forgotten.
“It was a country store with wood siding. It was historic from a construction view with unique architecture,” he said. “There are wood floors and wood walls to the ceiling on two floors. It will be great for a business office or retail space.”
Kahley envisions it being occupied by a shop similar to those in Ligonier.
“It is more suited for crafts, arts or even a cheese shop,” he said.
“It is going to be an asset to Laughlintown. It will definitely improve the corner,” said Tina Yandrick, director of operations for the Ligonier Valley Historical Society.
Yandrick said several Laughlintown merchants are working together to bring people out to Laughlintown.
“People do not realize what all is out here. Another business in Laughlintown will definitely be an asset,” she said. “In addition to the Compass Inn Museum, we have antiques, the conservancy gift shop, an inn and a bakery. This could be another draw to bring people into Laughlintown.”
Kahley said the organization is funded by 39 programs or agencies.
“We are a lender to small business in tourism industry and we think there is opportunity in Laughlintown,” he said. “People come in with new ideas all the time and they go into places like this one. As a nonprofit, we came in to fix it up.”
The Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor provided background information about the history of the property located along the historic highway to the Progress Fund.
“This is just another Lincoln Highway resource that is going to be saved,” said Olga Herbert, executive director. “When you add another restored building, it helps the area to become more of a destination in the Laurel Highlands. A concentration of just a couple of stores becomes a tourist attraction in itself.”
Other local examples of projects completed by the group include the Ligonier Country Inn, Kentuck Knob and the Duncan House, both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Inn at Mountain View, Chef Dato's Table and Mountain View Playhouse.
Kahley hope to have a tenant by next spring. He is already encouraged by the local interest in building.
“I was standing with the guy removing some junk at the building, and within 10 minutes three people stopped to ask what we were doing,” Kahley said.“Everybody smiled and wished us luck.”
Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.