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History at home in Harmony

Cathy Chis talks to Delsa White about her historic home during the Historic Home and Garden Tour in Harmony on Saturday. Chris’ home had been the home of Frederick Rapp, adopted son of Harmonist founder George Rapp.

HARMONY — Harmony’s homeowners showed hospitality to strangers and friends alike during the Harmony Historic House and Garden tour Saturday.

Board members of Historic Harmony and local restorers opened their doors to dozens of people and shared stories from the community’s humble beginnings.

Susan Webb, historic homeowner and organizer of the tour, said the five homes and gardens reflect the rich past of the Harmonists, a religious group that started the settlement in 1805.

“I hope people take away an appreciation of this area, not just Harmony, but Southwest Pennsylvania,” she said, “The ingenuity, artistry, the difficult work on the frontier setting the Harmonists experienced.”

The home of Frederick Rapp, adopted son of Harmonist founder George Rapp, was featured during the Historic Home and Garden Tour in Harmony Saturday. 06/2022

People walked around town in groups, guided by brochures from the Historical Society, asking questions and listening intently to homeowners.

Webb and her husband, Richard, guided visitors through the first story of their brick house, which was built in 1810. The site served as the home and office of Harmonist Johann Christophe Muller, the society’s physician and musician.

“Important people in the society had brick homes,” Susan Webb said.

The fact rings true for the 1811 home of Delsa and Joe White. The site originally belonged to Frederick Rapp, the adopted son of Harmonists leader George Rapp.

“We think it was the last major structure built by the Harmonists,” Joe said. “There were 819 folks in Harmony then. Most lived in log cabins.”

Delsa said she enjoyed showing people around her home and answering questions.

Cathy Chis talks to Delsa White about her historic home during the Historic Home and Garden Tour in Harmony Saturday.

“It’s interacting with the people, enjoying their curiosity. You’re reaching out a little, and they’re reaching out a little,” she said.

Andrew Orient welcomed people into his backyard with cookies, stories and photos of his 1805 log home.

“The main house is 1805, built by Harmonists, and brick was added in the 1830s by Mennonites,” he said. “It’s the only one in Harmony that has log and German brick architecture.”

Orient said he has heard good things from the tourists about the day and the homes.

“They love the idea of this. They think it’s a lot of work, and they love that someone is trying to save (these sites),” he said.

Steve Schmitmeyer, of Middlesex Township, said he was impressed by the craftsmanship of the old homes.

“We used to have an old house. My takeaway is just how well-built these old homes are.”

He said some of the furniture left by the Harmonists was just as intriguing.

“I think it’s wonderful people are working to preserve this history, which is so important,” he said.

Susan Webb and her husband, Richard, opened their home, the Müller House in historic Harmony during the Harmony Museum House and Garden Tour on Saturday. Harold Aughton/Special to the Eagle
The Müller House in historic Harmony, owned by Richard and Susan Webb, was one of the homes featured during the Harmony Museum House and Garden Tour on Saturday. The chair is part of the Webb's 1820 Mennonite collection. Harold Aughton/Special to the Eagle
Susan Webb and her husband, Richard, opened their home, the Müller House in historic Harmony during the Harmony Museum House and Garden Tour on Saturday. Harold Aughton/Special to the Eagle