When brothers-in-law Lawrence William (Bill) Darr and Charles B. Hegan purchased Ligonier Township acreage at the bottom of Laurel Mountain in 1926 some people asked: “Why are you building houses there? No one will ever want to live in rock pile!”
Eighty-two years later there are one hundred cottages exist in the community. Most have been remodeled and added to repeatedly and over 60% have changed from summer retreats to full-time residences. People who simply fall in love with the quaint atmosphere and friendliness of the residents either remain for generations or newly discover the community, begun as Laurel Mountain Park but now known as Laurel Mountain Borough.
(to view current photos of Laurel Mountain Borough click on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lmborolmpark/ )
A walk through the borough shows distinct stylized differences among the homes. Some have manicured lawns, landscaped lots and paved driveways, while others are rustic, exhibiting seasonal wildflowers scattered profusely among laurel bushes, hemlock pines and the rocky landscape typical of mountain hillsides. These variations symbolize the evolution of this small community from a simple summer cottage community to a borough where over 75% of the homes are occupied year-round.
Laurel Mountain Borough, east of Laughlintown, nestles snugly between the Powder Mill Run Conservancy lands belonging to Carnegie Institute, Ligonier Reservoir, and Route 30. It is a small section of the land once given to George Washington by a government that couldn’t pay him for his (military) services, according to the late Rodney Sturtz, former executive director of the West Overton Museums.
Most of the lots are south of State Road and have egress within the two entrances guarded by stone pillars. However, three lots are on the north side of State Road, and several other lots have egress onto State Road or Route 30.
The borough is part of the former Laurel Mountain Farm owned by Joseph Naugle, who raised brown Swiss dairy cattle, according to Helen Bossart of Laughlintown. Ninety-six acres were willed to Nevin J. Naugle, “This became the location of a saw mill owned by my father,” she said. The sawmill site became known as Brush Farm, because of the brush created by the mill.
Bossart, as a young child, would walk from Laughlintown to the sawmill at lunchtime, where her father would be cutting logs into railroad ties to be shipped into Pittsburgh. She “has a memory of” a spring near the saw mill. “We had a tin cup there to take a drink,” Bossart said.
Nellie Williams, daughter of the Hegans, who grew up in Laughlintown but now resided in the Park until her recent death. She recalls the sawmill being at one end of the property and remembers a logging company coming in and clearing the property. “I don’t know how many trees we took out,” Williams said. “Today we’d be beheaded.”
L. W. Darr & Co. put in small narrow roads and a water line before selling lots, according to Foster. Pete Allshouse and Phil Rose agree the “lower road,” Maple Road, was built first, followed by White Oak and Walnut.
The Park roads were made from rock removed from residences. “A crew of men Darr Company hired would crush the rock with their big machinery and put it down,” he said. “They would occasionally give the kids a ride on their machine.” The crushed rock was overlaid with a finer grade of stone and covered with Ligonier dust (ground up limestone from the Ligonier quarry).
At that time the roads were beautiful,” Harwig said. “The Ligonier dust was almost white in color, and in the dogwood season it was almost like snow with the blossoms and dust.”
He noted the perpetual potholes at the entrances were welcome because they slowed traffic. “Cars eased through here with wonderful potholes to slow them down,” Kinsey said. “The Park became a short cut to route 30,” Harwig said. “The roads back then had a lot more bumps and ‘thank-you-ma’ms’ (diagonal ditches for water).”
Later, at the time Ligonier Valley Realty Co. purchased the property, L. W. Darr & Co. tried to dedicate the Park roads to public use, effectively turning their care over to the Ligonier Township highway system.
Nevin J. Naugle and his wife Ethel M. Naugle sold land to L. W. Darr et al on April 28, 1926 for $6200. The purchase included the road use and Ligonier County right of way and marked the beginning of Laurel Mountain Park. The constituent parties L. W. Darr and his wife Lena M., and Charles B. and Zura Hegan had acquired a mountainside wooded section of the Naugle farm during the depression.
The Park would evolve into a unique self-contained summer cottage community that would center about a community building, swimming pool and tennis courts.
Soon, a third partner, Harry Lohr, a non-relative, joined the company. “It was a land transaction,” Dick Hegan of ?????? said. “Lohr donated another parcel of land near Ligonier they were going to develop, the Sweeny plan, for a partnership in the company.”
The L. W. Darr & Co. owned a lumberyard and a hardware store. Lohr owned the ___________ Bank and Ligonier Valley Realty Company. The group built an office and dug into a real estate project that included selling lots and company-constructed cottages.
On April 17 1931, another land transaction occurred. The L. W. Darr & Company transferred all its unsold Park properties to Ligonier Realty Company, at which Lohr was president, for the sum of $1.
A final land transaction occurred on September 11. 1946, when Ligonier Valley Realty Company sold Laurel Mountain Park, Inc., acreage that included a pool, tennis courts, community shelter as well as title to the streets involved for $2500.
(For a list of previous landowners, see end of this post.)
The entire Park property, originally purchased by L. W. Darr & Co., became generally known as Laurel Mountain Park.
Dick Hegan of __________??? recalls L. W. Darr & Co. built a few cottages and rented them out to Pittsburghers for the summer. “That’s how the Park started, more or less as a vacation area.”
According to Williams, her father built the first cottages and sold them. “Then people bought the lot property and built their own (cottages),” she said. The vast majority of buyers were “basically a group of professional people, physicians, dentists and other professionals” from Pittsburgh who spent the summer here, Foster said. Williams referred to the urban folks wanting to escape the city as “cityites.”
The first houses were built in 1926, according to Foster. “On the sharp knuckle on Maple is a little brown cottage that was one of five original cottages and it’s still basically original.”
Rose said the Allshouse family rented one of these cottages their first year in the Park. Allshouse reminisced about the only water spigot, a freestanding pipe with a brace, about fifty feet from the stone pillars on Maple Road.
“The next year we built the eighth cottage on the corner of Waterford (State) and Walnut Roads,” Allshouse said.
Elaine Koenig is now owner of that cottage. It’s a largely un-remodeled structure that provides an example of the simplicity and sparseness used in cottage construction. “It has no foundation,” she said. “It is small and claustrophobic, with its two small bedrooms.”
The original cottages typically had three small rooms, a bath, and front and back porches, according to Rose. Stairs went up from the back to two bedrooms and a loft, or balcony, overlooking the living room. Most had fireplaces totally enclosed by the house, noted Harwig. The stone fireplaces in the Park were all built by a Ligonier stone mason family, the Weimers, according to Rose.
Through the years people have moved to Laurel Mountain Borough for a variety of reasons. Harwig remembers people coming and “talking real estate with Mr. Lohr.” at his small office. Lohr built the cottage that consisted of just the living room in the remodeled home on the corner of Walnut and Hemlock Roads, next to the recreational facilities, now owned by Kinsey. “It was the first cottage built in the Park,” she said.
Foster has had the longest association with the Park than anyone else. Born June 17, 1926, his Park history spans seventy-seven years and two homes.
“In 1920 our parents built a summer home in Rector,” James Foster related. “My aunt and uncle visited them, and liked it out here. This place was starting, and in 1926 a cousin on my mother’s side bought the third of the first five houses built.”
“We had a summer home (10 White Oak) from 1930-1941,” Foster said. “There was no good way to keep a house open in winter. Very few (cottages) were set up to use in the winter. They didn’t have gas, so they were strictly summer residences. They (his parents) paid a person to fire our coal furnace during winter, one of only a couple people who did so.”
His family became the first full-time residents in the private section of the Park, he said. “My parents built a full-time home where my father expected to retire in 1941,” Foster said. “We moved in one week before Pearl Harbor. I was 14.”
He did a stint in the military between college years, and after graduation, he worked away from the area. “I was basically back here in 1966,” he said. “I lived in my parents home before moving into my current home.”
Although the Fosters were the first full-time residents of the private Park area, another family lived full-time on Park property previously, agree Phil Rose and Pete Allshouse.
“There is a log cabin on State Road where the Gaws lived,” Allshouse noted. “It is in the Park plot but not on the private roads. After the stock market crash (1929) they put in a furnace and lived here full-time.”
The parents of former cottage-owner Allshouse rented one of the original cottages for a year. In the late 1920s they built the eighth cottage in the Park on the corner of Waterford (State) and Walnut Roads.
Stephen Harwig’s mother had heard about Laurel Mountain Park from Holyoke College classmates who lived in Laughlintown. The swimming pool was one attraction that convinced them to build a cottage in 1930. The family has since used the cottage as a summer retreat.
Daneen Kinsey has been exposed to the Park environment since her 1937 birth. Her initial summer visits to her grandmother’s Walnut Road home grew into full-time residency when she purchased her late grandmother’s home in 1961. She has lived here full-time ever since.
“My grandmother, Gertrude Gaddis, bought it on February 1, 1932,” Kinsey said. “She told me they rented on the lower (Maple) road for a year, and they liked it so much my grandfather talked Lohr into selling him the office. Later my grandparents built a little (cottage) next door.”
Rose, whose family arrived in the Park in 1934, considers his family “Johnny come latelys.” “It was pretty well built up (by then),” he said. “There were not many places built after I came.”
“By the beginning of World War II the Park was pretty developed,” Foster said. “Only about five houses have been built since then.”
“My dad bought a cottage,” Tom Butler, a former resident said. “We were Pittsburghers. My mother wanted a place in the mountains. I think it was in 1947 or therein.”
Craig Miller’s family moved to the Park part-time in 1949. They rented the Laurel Mountain Park owned cottage beside the recreation area until they built their home in 1956. They moved into the Park full time in the mid-70s.
Glenwood and the late Dorothy Scott were house hunting when they visited friends in the Park. They saw a cottage they liked, but unfortunately it was sold to the late Rev. Dr. Dixon Rollit. He was, however, selling another Park house. The Scott family had bought Rolliit’s home in the early 70s.
DEEDS DEMONSTRATE LAND TRANSFERENCE
Deeds show that on May 27, 1843, Joseph Naugle obtained 283 acres of land from Jacob D. Matthiott and Noah and Mary Mendell for $1,443.31.
On March 8, 1881, Judson Naugle purchased land from Joseph Naugle Sr.’s estate at a public sale for $6100.
On December 27, 1906, Judson Naugle obtained an additional 163 acres of property from George and Margaret Allen for $2550. On April 25, 1916, he conveyed this property along with the property he purchased from Joseph Naugle Sr.’s estate to Frank J. Lanahan for $30,750. On April 26, 1916 Lanahan conveyed it to the Union Trust Company for the same price.
On August 18, 1918, Judson Naugle obtained a 60 acres parcel from Union Trust Company for $800. This purchase included the front entrance to the future Laurel Mountain Park.
On November 6, 1920, Nevin J. Naugle purchased land from Joseph Naugle Jr., alias Judson and Emma Naugle for $5500. This deed refers to the use of the road and the Ligonier Water Company right of way.
To continue reading Laurel Mountain Borough’s history, click on: Visit the Beanery Online Literary Magazine for more reading: WHAT IF YOU HAVE A BUG IN YOUR EAR…? & THINKING OF NOTHING and WHY NECKTIES? written by Joe. Check out the stories on the Smart car (THE SMART CAR: IS IT SAFE ON AMERICAN ROADS? and THE SMART CAR ) and SHENAN BIRTHS HER KITTEN SON & (ADELGES TSUGAE INFESTS EASTERN HEMLOCK TREES).