History at home in Harmony
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.”
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.
“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.