ACTIVITIES OF THE INSTITUTE
1. Holds French and Indian War seminars. See the calendar of events for date & time.
2. Hosts the “End of Starvation Feast” in late winter.
3. Hosts an annual Rose Walk to showcase over 150 species of ancient, old and modern roses on the site.
4. Sponsors an annual “Colonial Fair” each year on the second weekend of September.
5. Sponsors an annual Memebrship Meeting on the second Saturday of October.
6. Sponsors an annual Christmas Open House.
7. Provides research assistance to Library patrons.
8. Publish a quarterly newsletter.
9. Conducts costumed educational tours to groups of school children, college classes, civic groups, organizational groups and others by pre-arrangement.
10. Hosts monthly, informal discussion groups - History Hippies on the second Tuesday of the month, and Sidetracks of History Book Club on third Thursday of the month.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS TO DATE
1. The Welsh Barrens Visitor Center project moved ahead in 2007, and was completed in October 2008. This two-story log building, the former “Bert Log House,” was moved to the CI grounds in 1998 from Lurgan Township, Cumberland County, where it had been scheduled for demolition. The log structure was re-assembled on a new foundation through the efforts of volunteers, and progressively over the next several years a rehabilitation of the building for use as a new visitor center got underway. With the receipt of a $75,000 grant from the PA Department of Economic and Community Development, and more than $100,000 in additional donated funds, an architect and contractor were hired in April 2007 to move the project forward. The building is now being used as a Visitor Center, with fully accessible public restrooms on the ground floor, handicapped parking, and a large multi-purpose room on both the 1st and 2nd floors. The Institute now has the capacity to handle school groups and other tour groups year round, and to initiate special lectures/programs at the Welsh Barrens.
2. An archaeological study of the 1750’s Rock Hill house and a compilation of its history has been completed. The Institute is now investigating securing the funds to do a more comprehensive “Historic Structures Report” as the basis for recommendations on future repairs/restoration of the Davis-Chambers (Rock Hill) house. In 2007 a circa 1958 kitchen was removed from the downstairs entry hall, and a furnishing scheme is being developed for the house to reflect the period ca. 1794 when Robert Chambers made substantial improvements to the property. Recent acquisitions include a tall case clock (”Grandfather’s Clock”) from Taneytown, Maryland, and the loan of a Windsor Chair and 18th century tea table.
3. The restoraton of the ca. 1806 Eliab Negley Log House was completed by volunteers in 2003. Two descriptive waysides have been installed in front to tell the story of the property and its restoration. Work is now underway to complete a furnishing scheme for the house consistent with how it looked during the Negley family’s ownership–with a focus on the period before 1830. In the fall of 2007, Dakota Bricker of Boy Scout Troop 28 (Mercersburg) supervised the restoration of the root cellar (fruits and vegetables) using lumber and bricks recycled from the Institute grounds as part of an Eagle Scout Project.
4. A German style four - square garden was completed in front of the Negley log house and is regularly maintained by volunteers.
5. A frontier era cemetery has been made accessible through the development of paths and wooden foot bridges. A recent report on the cemetery was completed by a volunteer and Boy Scout Troop 28 out of Mercersburg spent a weekend in the spring of 2008 clearing brush and resetting toppled headstones.
6. The Library has been improved with a new heating/air conditioning system, and a backlog of books and magazines cataloged and shelved. The entire collection is currently undergoing an assessment, and a Special Collections area has been established to separate several hundred rare books/pamphlets, with a special focus on the 18th and early 19th century. The library has acquired some particularly rare materials, including a complete run of the 1754, 1755, and 1756 issues of “The Gentleman’s Magazine” (published in London), which provides first hand information on such events as the Braddock Campaign and Indian Raids along the Frontier. In October of 2008 and in February of 2009 the Institute acquired a large number of books from the estate of the late Donald H. Berkebile, formerly Deputy Curator of Transportation at the Smithsonian, who was widely recognized as an authority on 18th and 19th century vehicles, especially the Conestoga Wagon.
7. Began an annual lecture series with accompanying publication in 2008. The Institute released a reprint of the 1760 “Journal Of the Captivity of Jean Lowry and her Children, Giving an Account of her being taken by the INDIANS, the 1st of April 1756, from WILLIAM McCORD’S, In Rocky-Spring Settlement in PENNSYLVANIA, With an Account of the hardships she suffered, & etc.” (Philadelphia: 1760). This reprint contains a new introduction by Dr. Walter Powell and a biographical essay by Dr. Helen Westra.