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West Overton Museums to mark 86th anniversary

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Linda Harkcom | For The Independent-Observer
Jessica Kadie-Barclay, West Overton Village and Museum's Manager Director, with paintings of Abraham and Maria Overholt . This Saturday the museum is inviting the community to celebrate the founding of the museum which encompasses the couple's homestead, distillery and village.

West Overton Village and Museums will celebrate its 86th anniversary Saturday during its annual Founder's Day celebration.

Jessica Kadie-Barclay, West Overton managing director, said the event celebrates the founding of the museum by Helen Clay Frick, the daughter of Henry Clay Frick and the great-granddaughter of Abraham Overholt.

“It marks a really important time in the museum's birth and if Helen Clay Frick had not taken the steps she did, we would have lost the historical gem that West Overton is and the role it played and continues to play in our community,” said Stephanie Koller, West Overton registrar.

In 1922, Helen Clay Frick purchased the Abraham Overholt Homestead and six adjacent buildings, including the spring house where her father was born, and 12.7 acres of land. Later, she purchased the mill/distillery property across the road from the homestead from Israel Rosenbloom.

“Once she bought the property, she began collecting items for the property and she commissioned the mural painting we have in the parlor that centered around historical events in Western Pennsylvania,” Kadie-Barclay said. “The artist was Jane Platt of New York and it was commissioned for $7,000 in 1928. Today, that would be about $80,000.”

On June 16, 1928, the historical house known as the homestead, celebrated its public grand opening for tours and the distillery was opened as a museum in 1930.

In the 1980s, four of the village houses were purchased. West Overton now owns all of the 18 buildings that were part of the original village. Over the past couple of years a complete renovation of the museum was completed which focuses on the Overholt industries of whiskey distillation, grist milling and coal and coke operations.

Today, West Overton Village is listed on the National Register as an historic district and is one of just two pre-Civil War villages still in existence.

Kadie-Barclay said visitors to the village and museums on Founder's Day will receive a free gift and be treated to cake and punch.

There also will be scavenger hunts for adults and children.

“This will be our first scavenger hunt. We are always trying to find ways to make the museum fun, more interesting and appealing to the community,” Kadie-Barclay said.

She said the staff plans to utilize the entire site for the scavenger hunt, but if there is inclement weather the hunt will be held indoors.

Hours of operation are Friday through Sunday, noon–5 p.m., or by appointment. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and $5 for students.

Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer.