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170-year-old tavern in Menallen to serve up the past

Mary Pickels
| Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Fayette County Historical Society Friday will hold a grand opening of its museum, to be housed in the former Abel Colley Tavern in Menallen.

Open to the public, the 3 p.m. program will showcase the restored red-brick structure at 7083 National Pike.

Last July, Warren and Virginia Dick of Smithfield donated the 170-year-old building to the historical society. Volunteers helped to restore the property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Society President Jeremy Burnworth credited volunteer Tom Buckelew and former intern Bill Zinn, along with inmates from the State Correctional Institution at Greene, who performed labor through the Community Works Program, for much of the renovation.

Community volunteers pitched in to paint walls, install moulding and restore hardwood floors.

Although some work remains, the majority of the main rooms have been restored, Burnworth said.

Photos to be displayed Friday will show the "before" and "after," he said. "You will be able to see (the volunteers') accomplishments in a short amount of time. We want to let people see the beautiful work that has been done."

Additional work will help take the structure to its next level, becoming a museum, Burnworth said.

"It's Fayette County's first-ever historical museum," he said. "It's kind of a big deal."

Friday's program will include local government officials, Dick family members and representatives from the National Road Heritage Corridor and the Sen. John Heinz History Center. The historical society is an affiliate of the history center and may benefit in the future through a display of Civil War memorabilia, Burnworth said.

In the future, the site will be used for the society's headquarters. It will be available for fundraisers and meetings.

Donations of historical artifacts pertaining to Fayette County are welcome.

"They can go way back, 50 to 250 years old," Burnworth said. "For example, think of veterans."

There has been no place in the county to display photos, uniforms, letters or furniture, he noted.

"We are afraid people will be throwing things away," he said. "We really want a situation in place, so even if family members are not interested, we can protect and archive (those items). We get lots of calls for information, requests to come to the building and look at the archives and all of the things people think we have."

Plans include a gift shop, likely to include publications and books on the region's history. In acknowledgement of the building's history, keepsake mugs will be sold on Friday.

Public visitation hours have not been set.

"The committee will help determine the direction of 'what's next,'" Burnworth said.

For more information, or to donate or volunteer, visit the society's website at www.fayettehistory.org . Anyone interested in attending Friday's opening or joining an advisory committee is asked to call 724-439-4422.

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