The Compass Inn Museum in Laughlintown celebrates its 50th anniversary
The 18th century Laughlintown Inn originally provided respite and lodging for travelers and herdsmen for 63 years.
In its present form, as a restored museum, it has been welcoming tourists for 50 years.
The Ligonier Valley Historical Society, which runs the museum, celebrated this modern milestone at its recent annual dinner. The festivities will continue with a Régence ball, scheduled for July 16.
Details of the dance will be available soon, according to Theresa Gay Rohall, the company’s executive director.
“We’re going to have a ball on a summer night, on a dance floor,” she said, noting that the event will feature the type of country dancing familiar to fans of Jane Austen novels or the Bridgerton TV series.
Accompaniment will be provided by The Wayward Companions of Pittsburgh, specializing in 18th century music for the tavern and parlor. Brett Walker will serve as dance master.
In keeping with the inn’s role in the area’s transportation history, Rohall said, the company is in the process of acquiring a horse-drawn delivery wagon. The company already owns other historic vehicles, including a Conestoga wagon and an 1830s-style Concord stagecoach.
The inn opened in 1799, two years after Laughlintown was founded, in a log building built by the first landowner Philip Freeman. After several changes of ownership, Robert and Rachel Armor took over the business in 1814 and named it Compass Inn, after an inn they previously operated in their home town of Compassville, Chester County.
They expanded the building to serve the growing traffic on the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh Turnpike, which was completed in 1817 and roughly followed the modern Route 30 corridor.
“Five generations of Armor have lived on the property,” Rohall said. For a time, part of the inn was used as a general store and post office.
The property, which had been converted into apartments, was granted in 1966 to the fledgling historical society, thanks to a donation from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
“The society was looking for permanent housing and space for its archives when this opportunity arose,” Rohall said. “When they realized what they had, they raised additional funds from the community to turn it into a museum,” which opened in 1972.
With the help of an architect, the society restored the inn to resemble its 1830s heyday and rebuilt several outbuildings, including a kitchen, blacksmith shop, and barn.
Over the years, the company purchased two adjacent lots. “It now gives us the full footprint of the original Compass Inn along Route 30,” Rohall said. “It’s a big problem for us.”
The society’s museum was not the first to open to the public on the property. Charlie Armor exhibits his collection of antiquities from 1894.
“He was the first historian here,” Rohall said. “When he died, many of those items went to the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society, but some may have been brought back here.”
This includes spinning wheels. Robert and Rachel Armor’s marriage license and Robert’s top hat and desk are also on display at the museum.
The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At the society’s annual meeting, State Representative Leslie Rossi (R-Unity) presented a House proclamation recognizing the museum’s 50th anniversary.
The company named new board members Michael Doucette, Diane Harshberger, Angela Moffat and Eric Wallis and honored two outgoing members for their six years of service – Jim O’Connor and George Conte, who served as chairman for three year.
Visit www.compassinn.org for more information on the historical society and the museum.