Depreciation Lands Museum hosting cool historical event in Hampton

Deborah Deasy
| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

As a Colonial-style magician, Al Hastings, 36, of Shaler, uses simple props.

He makes a piece of rope seem to come alive, like a snake.

“I have an egg that will appear ... and land on people's noses,” said Hastings, who also makes money appear to vanish.

“I pack small and play big.”

Hastings will perform as Albert Noble, an itinerant, early American illusionist at 1:15 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. July 14 at the Depreciation Lands Museum in Hampton.

He plans to recreate tricks used by magicians in early American, traveling circuses.

“Back then, magicians had very simple things ... not complex props like they do today,” Hastings said. “All my props are made of paper, metal or wood. Back then they didn't have any plastic, or colorful, fancy things.”

Hastings' performances will highlight an ice cream social from 1 to 4 p.m. July 14 at the museum, which educates visitors about frontier life in Western Pennsylvania during the late 1700s.

Ice cream socials recall the more recent Victorian era — the late 1800s — in American history.

“When socials were popular was at the real height of etiquette, when you weren't supposed to speak to someone you hadn't been introduced too, and hadn't been approved by your mother, said Karen Parsons of Richland, volunteer coordinator for the Depreciation Lands Museum.

“Socials were an opportunity to gather and talk to anyone,” she said.

To help people circulate, the upcoming ice cream social in Hampton will include demonstrations of shawl weaving, bread baking, blacksmithing and the use of 18th century firearms.

The Depreciation Lands Museum borrows its name from the 720,000 acres of Western Pennsylvania that Pennsylvania set aside in 1783 for distribution to Revolutionary War soldiers as compensation — in lieu of depreciated dollars — for their war service.

The museum's shady grounds include the Pine Creek Covenanter Church, built in 1837, and the church's adjacent cemetery.

There's a rebuilt log house, originally constructed in 1803; an herb garden; a replica one-room schoolhouse, circa 1885; a working blacksmith's shop; a wagon house with a Conestoga wagon; plus an 18th century-style tavern and store with Colonial-style merchandise.

All the buildings on the property will be open during the event, with cooking, pottery, and other demonstrations.

Robbie Seibert of West Deer, the museum's program director, will make walnut ink and maple syrup.

Wini Labrecque, vice president of the Butler Spinners and Weavers Guild, will weave a shawl for silent auction with yarn spun — on site — from raw fleece.

“She will be weaving a shawl of brown, tan and dark gray Shetland wool in a twill pattern. The dark gray will be from one of our sheep, a ewe named Midnight,” said Parsons, who owns Midnight.

“The finished shawl will be 22 inches wide and 70 inches long, plus fringe.”

Ed Tutino of Shaler will bake bread in the museum's beehive bake oven.

Parsons and Jennifer DoVale of Pine will perform classical music and Colonial dance music.

Parsons will play a penny whistle and baroque flute. DoVale will play the viola.

Magician Hastings, also a registered nurse, worked in the intensive care units of multiple Pittsburgh area hospitals before he became a full-time, self-employed entertainer.

Hastings' wife, Michelle, also is a registered nurse who works in the intensive care unit at Allegheny General Hospital.

A self-taught illusionist, Hastings said he learned his first magic tricks in Boys Life magazines.

Hours are 1 to 4 p.m. July 14 for the ice cream social at the Depreciation Lands Museum, 4743 South Pioneer Road, Hampton.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for ages 2 to 11; free younger children.

For information, call 412-486-0563 or visit the museum's online site at

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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