Western Pennsylvania's First National Historic Landmark District


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Harmony, Pa 16037


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Runs, Harmony Museum Activities Big Part of Borough's German-Time New Year's Eve

Harmony -- The Harmony Museum plays a major role as Harmony celebrates New Year’s Eve on Dec. 31 with a family-friendly Silvester celebration that’s become a community tradition -- observing its historic German roots by welcoming the new year at 6 p.m. (EST), midnight in Germany.

Harmony, one of the region’s most important history sites, was founded in 1804 by German Lutheran Separatists whose Harmony Society became one of 19th century America’s most successful communal groups. The area’s recorded history began with a Delaware Indian village visited by young Virginia Maj. George Washington during his 1753 mission to demand French withdrawal from the Ohio Country, leading to the French & Indian War; its first shot was fired at him by a "French Indian" nearby.

Organized by the borough, Harmony Museum and Harmony Business Association, new-year’s arrival party is called Silvester in the tradition of German New Year's Eve celebrations, commonly called Silvester after the feast commemorating the Dec. 31, 335, death of Pope Silvester I (also spelled Sylvester).

Harmony’s activities throughout the afternoon of Dec. 31 include:

2-5 p.m., Harmony Museum: Tours ($1); continuous showings of "Dinner for One" (a short comedy film in English but recorded in Germany) that’s become a wildly popular part of Germany’s New Year’s Eve (free); Bleigiessen, the German tradition of examining melted lead shapes for clues as to what the New Year may bring ($1); beginning at 3:30, a pork and sauerkraut dinner in the museum’s Stewart Hall ($12). Proceeds benefit museum operations.

3 & 3:45 p.m.: A 5-K Run and 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk, with proceeds benefiting Harmony’s parks. Sponsored by Media Frogg Marketing & Communications with additional support of Tom Mahler, Armstrong Cable, Billco Motors, Butler Health System, Harmony Warehouse, MoJo Running & Multisport, The Murray Agency and Up-N-Running, more than 500 participants are expected. Register with forms available at Harmony’s shops or online at www.harmony-pa.us.

Throughout the afternoon: Entertainment, beverages and snacks, plus year-end sales at Harmony’s numerous specialty shops.

6 p.m.: A countdown triggers the Sign Innovation ball drop to midnight (in Germany), followed by fireworks and the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" to conclude Harmony’s Silvester.

But that’s not quite all. At noon on New Year’s Day there's the second annual Connoquenessing Creek Polar Plunge at the Jackson Street canoe launch park. Registration is also available by mail or online; those not wishing to plunge themselves can sponsor plungers for $20 each. Proceeds of this event also benefit Harmony parks as well as Harmony Volunteer Fire Co.

Harmony is in southwestern Butler County at I-79 exits 87-88, just east of Zelienople on Pa. 68 about 30 miles north of downtown Pittsburgh and 30 miles south of I-80.

Historic Harmony Installs Incumbents for New Terms

Harmony -- Officers and two additional members of Historic Harmony's 10-member board of directors, all incumbents, were installed for new terms that begin Jan. 1 during the organization's membership Christmas dinner and quarterly business meeting Tuesday evening (Dec. 11). The nonprofit historical society and preservation advocate operates the eight-property Harmony Museum.

Reelected for two-year terms were President and Chief Executive John Ruch, Zelienople; Vice President Cathryn Rape, Harmony; Recording Secretary Joan M. Szakelyhidi, Harmony; and Treasurer Joseph White, Harmony. Beginning new three-year non-officer director terms are Gwen Lutz, Jackson Township, and Linda Powlus, Harmony.

Harmony, western Pennsylvania's first National Historic Landmark District, is among the region's most significant historic sites. George Washington visited an Indian village here in 1753 during his mission to demand French withdrawal from the region, leading to the French and Indian War. A "French Indian" fired the war’s first shot at him nearby. Harmony was founded a half-century later as the first home of the Harmony Society of pacifist German Lutheran Separatists. It gained international fame as one of 19th century America’s most successful communal groups. The Harmonists left in 1815, selling their 9,000 acres to Harmony's Mennonite "second founder" Abraham Ziegler.

This and many other aspects of a rich area history are interpreted by the Harmony Museum.

Registration Open for Harmony's New Year's Eve-Day Runs-Plunge

Harmony --  Registrations are being accepted for the 3 p.m. 5-K race and 3:45 p.m. 1-Mile fun run, borough parks fundraisers held during Harmony’s 6th Silvester New Year’s Eve celebration on Monday, Dec. 31.

The historic community and thousands of visitors gather annually for afternoon-long Silvester activities that conclude with a ball drop and fireworks to welcome the new year at 6 p.m. -- midnight in Germany.

The runs begin and end in the center of Harmony’s National Historic Landmark District and are sponsored by Media Frogg Marketing & Communications, with additional support from Tom Mahler, Armstrong Cable, Billco Motors, Butler Health System, Harmony Warehouse, MoJo Running & Multisport, The Murray Agency and Up-N-Running.

Registration is also open for the Connoquenessing Creek Polar Plunge, a noontime New Year’s Day fundraiser at Harmony’s canoe launch park at the west end of Jackson Street.

Runs and Plunge registrations can be completed online at www.active.com. Mail-in registration forms are available at several Harmony shops and at www.harmony-pa.us
Entry fees are $20 for the 5-K and $7 for the 1-Mile until Saturday, Dec. 15, then rise to $25 and $10, respectively. Proceeds benefit Harmony’s parks.

For those brave enough to jump into the creek on Jan. 1, Polar Plunge registration is $18 online or $20 by mail through Dec. 20, then $23 online until Dec. 28 and $25 at the event. Sponsoring someone else to plunge while you stay dry and warm is $20. Proceeds benefit Harmony parks and the Harmony Volunteer Fire Company.

The family-fun Silvester begins at 2 p.m., organized by the borough, Harmony Museum and local businesses. In addition to the races, activities include tours, a German dinner, the German tradition of guessing what the new year might bring from the shapes of melted bits of lead, and a short comedic film (in English) that’s become a popular part of New Year’s Eve in Germany, all at the Harmony Museum; entertainment and refreshments in the town square; and year-end sales by Harmony’s numerous specialty shops. Silvester concludes with a countdown to the arrival of 2013 at 6 p.m. and a fireworks show.

Harmony initiated its Silvester at the end of 2007 to commemorate its German roots. The town was founded in 1804 by Germans who organized as the Harmony Society, one of 19th century America’s most successful communal groups. In Germany, New Year's Eve is known widely as Silvester, a tradition that originated as feasts commemorating the death of Pope Sylvester on the final day of 335 AD.

Historic Harmony Seeks 2013 Heritage Award Nominations

Harmony -- Historic Harmony, the area historical society and preservation advocate that operates the eight-property Harmony Museum, accepts nominations through Dec. 31 for Heritage Awards to be presented at its Harmoniefest dinner on Feb. 16.

The only recognition program of its kind in Butler County offers awards for preservation, restoration or renovation, and for encouraging appreciation of local history. The organization has presented 104 Heritage Awards since establishing the program in 1991.

Site nominations should describe why it is worthy of recognition. include its location, and provide the owner's name, address and telephone number. Local history nominations should explain why an individual or organization is worthy of recognition, as well as the nominee's address and phone number. Nomination must be in writing; those submitting them must include their name, address and phone number.

Award nominations can be mailed to Heritage Awards, Historic Harmony, P.O. Box 524, Harmony PA 16037, or e-mailed to hmuseum@zoominternet.net.  Historic Harmony's board of directors evaluates nominations and chooses award recipients.

Honorees in February 2012 were Melanie & Justin Hart, Zelienople, preservation of a 19th century barn they relocating it from Jackson Township in Butler County to Marion Township, Beaver County; Kasey Stewart, Harmony, facade restoration of his ca. 1880 house; and Ryan & Marlene Wise, Jackson Township, facade restoration of their house, a ca. 1810 inn. A commendation was presented to Jared & Erin Stewart, Harmony, for facade renovation and design sensitivity of an addition to their ca. 1845 house.

Harmony Museum Expands Christmas Model Railroad Display

Harmony -- The Harmony Museum has expanded its Christmas season model railroad display. The antique Yobp-Eckstein log village and O gauge railroad is joined by an HO gauge layout that, while new, includes buildings with a bit of history.

Also new: a "hands-on" wood push train for preschoolers on a tiny kids-level table.

The displays are viewed during regular guided museum tours, 1-4 p.m. daily except Mondays and holidays. They share space in the museum’s ca. 1810 Wagner House annex with an exhibit about area railroads. What began in 1877 as the Pittsburgh, New Castle & Lake Erie, founded by Harmony banker Austin Pearce and Pittsburgh’s James Negley, was eventually absorbed into the Baltimore & Ohio system; today’s tracks are owned by CSX Transportation but used by the Buffalo & Pittsburgh. Also, the Pittsburgh, Harmony, Butler & New Castle, an electric interurban passenger and freight service, operated from 1908 until 1931.

The snowy Yobp-Eckstein village comprises an 0-gauge Civil War era train and early 20th century street car, both 1950s Lionel toys, as well as handmade log structures -- five houses plus a Pennsylvania forebay barn with sandstone foundation, a church and grist mill. It includes a community Christmas tree and nativity scene. Townspeople go about their business on foot and in hand-carved sleighs and wagons, livestock roams the barnyard while a cow is milked, and deer hide on a wooded hillside. Look for a skunk and fox, and discover other visual jokes as well.

The late William Yobp crafted the buildings, sleighs and wagons during the 1930s as a Christmas village display in his family’s New Kensington living room. In the 1950s Yobp’s son-in-law, the late Ronald Eckstein, made them part of a 5-by-8-foot Christmas railroad platform at his home near Renfrew. Its tracks carry "The General" of Civil War Great Locomotive Chase fame pulling Western & Atlantic Railroad cars and a trolley. In 2006, Eckstein and his family donated the platform to Historic Harmony, the nonprofit historical society and preservation advocate that operates the eight-property museum.

For 2012, Historic Harmony member John Royer of Adams Township built a 4-by-6-foot HO platform representing small-town America in the second half of the 19th century. Two track loops are traveled by period trains donated by another Historic Harmony member: a Baltimore & Ohio passenger-freight combination of mostly Bachmann rolling stock, and, from the 1970s, Union Pacific passenger cars by Bachmann, pulled by a Tyco Southern Railway engine.

This layout’s buildings -- houses, commercial structures, and passenger and freight stations -- were assembled by volunteers for a 2006-2007 layout that was part of an exhibit at Old Economy Village, Ambridge, involving the communal Harmony Society’s ownership of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie and other area railroads. That display later went to Ohio Valley Lines Model Railroad Club in Ambridge, which donated the 10 buildings in Royer’s Harmony Museum display.

Harmony was founded in 1804 as the first home of the Harmony Society of German Lutheran Separatists from the Stuttgart area. One of 19th century America’s most successful communal groups, by 1824 the entrepreneurial Harmonists had also founded New Harmony, Ind., and Economy, Pa., now Ambridge.

O gauge trains were introduced in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century with vehicle sizes that were eventually standardized at a scale of 1:48; track rails are 1.25 inches (32 mm) apart. HO gauge was introduced in the early 1920s, also in Germany, and is half the scale of O gauge at 1:87 with rails 0.65 inch (16.5 mm) apart. HO trains and track are more realistic in appearance, and HO has been the more popular model railroading scale since the 1950s.

Harmony is at I-79 exits 87-88 in Butler County, 10 miles north of Pennsylvania Turnpike Exit 28 and 30 miles south of I-80. Its recorded history began in 1753 with George Washington's visit to a Delaware Indian village here during his mission seeking -- unsuccessfully -- French withdrawal from the region. This led to the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754. The Harmony Society arrived to settle Harmony a half-century later, seeking religious freedom in America. When these German immigrants relocated to Indiana Territory, area resettlement was led by Mennonites whose influence lasted through the 19th century. Harmony Museum exhibits interpret this and much more rich area history.

Christmas "Giving Tree" Benefits Harmony Museum

Harmony -- The Harmony Museum’s annual Giving Tree, a live evergreen in the museum garden, is trimmed each Christmas through tax-deductible donations by individuals, families and businesses.

Each specified $10 contribution places an ornament bearing the donor's name on the Giving Tree. Proceeds support museum activities.

The museum is operated by Historic Harmony, a nonprofit historical society and preservation advocate. Its main building, on the town diamond at the center of Harmony’s National Historic Landmark District, was built as a warehouse, wine cellar and granary by the communal Harmony Society of German Lutheran Separatists who founded the town in 1804.

Donations should be sent to Giving Tree, Historic Harmony, P.O. Box 524, Harmony, PA 16037.

Contact: Kathy Luek, Administrator, 724-452-7341



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