THE OLD STONE HOUSE Part 1: SLIPPERY ROCK, PA.
Recently my husband Monte and I found ourselves passing the Old Stone House at the intersection of Routes 8, 173, 528 in Pennsylvania. On previous trips to Slippery Rock the historic site was closed. This time the parking lot was almost full. Since I wanted to take some photos of historic sites in Butler County (for a contest) we stopped.
Monte waited in the car while I walked to the former inn’s entrance. I saw a group of persons gathered around a table in the window by the porch end—obviously, I arrived during a meeting.
A young man left the meeting to greet me. Yes, I could walk through and take pictures.
A man was cooking over an open fire in the fireplace.
Upstairs I joined a tour group. I continued taking photos as he described a framed picture made from human hair, probably gathered at funerals or from other places.
He pointed out a framed picture of a dog without a leg, and said that owning pictures was for the wealthy, and sometimes persons purchased pictures, no matter what the subject, just to mimic the rich. He also said there was a brief time of prejudice against Germans, during which German guests had to sleep outside. There was a mid-1800s map in the third room.
On the outside upstairs patio I turned my camera on the scene below. The docent—a Slippery Rock University history student—said the Old Stone House activity for this day was building an old fashioned outdoor oven.
“Would you like to set a brick?” I was asked.
I said I would, but would return as I turned to go get Monte.
We each placed a brick in the oven and were told to imbibe in some fresh soup. Monte was given a peanut butter sandwich (made for the vegetarians in the crowd) and I ate a ham sandwich. The onion soup was delicious.
I’m not certain any of my photos are competition-worthy, but we had an interesting experience at the Old Stone House. And if, in the future we are at an activity where they use the oven we can have extra pleasure in knowing we contributed to the project.
All this activity encouraged me to look up the history of the Old Stone House.
The Venango Path, a well-known Indian trail used extensively during the French and Indian War., stretched from the forks of the Ohio northward to Lake Erie. Northern Butler County, at the time, was “the boonies—” there were no permanent European settlers in the area until 1796.
In 1822 John K. Brown constructed a sandstone house as a stagecoach stop and tavern at a site half way between the newly-constructed Pittsburgh and the Erie Pike. Brown expected to capitalize on the route’s increasingly busy commercial traffic moving between those points, a trip that took about 36 hours.
The boarding house had a kitchen, parlor and dining room on the first floor. There was one large sleeping room, partitioned by curtains, on the second floor.
The tavern room was a lively place filled with merriment, a place where travelers mingled and conversed with locals anxious for news from other parts. Hearty food was available. In the evening, travelers bedded down in the simple (and often uncomfortable) upper rooms. By our standards the tavern/inn was kind of unsavory, the men chewing tobacco and spitting it on the floor. It didn’t matter what guests slept in, but they had to remove their boots.
Shortly after the inn opened (according to tradition) the Marquis de Lafayette visited the Stone House while traveling from Pittsburgh to Erie. Two separate counterfeiter gangs hung out at the inn. One wasled by a sinister figure whose cold demeanor earned him the nickname “Old Man North Pole.” Other guests included the “Stone House Gang,” “Indian Sam Mohawk,” stagecoach drivers and grain runners.
The inn was sometimes visited by highway bandits.
The Stone House also served as a local post office and was used as a muster point during the Civil War.
NOTE: Watch for part 2, which updates the stone house to today.