Learning Local History at Beaver County’s Vicary Mansion
I’ve been to many historical society museums in Pennsylvania, but none have been quite like the Captain William Vicary Mansion in Beaver County. That’s because, instead of providing a simple historical museum focusing on the highlights of the county’s history, the mansion serves as a place for hands-on education into the area’s history. That’s not to say that there aren’t exhibits, but that isn’t the primary focus of the mansion.
Located along the banks of the Ohio River in Freedom, Pennsylvania, the Vicary Mansion was built in the 1820s by Captain William Vicary, a naval officer during the War of 1812. The home was almost torn down in the 1960s to make way for Route 65, but a grassroots campaign saved the historic home. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, the home is one of the most architecturally significant homes in the region. To take advantage of this, the Vicary Mansion features a variety of cutaways in the wall, floor, and ceiling to showcase the historical importance and beauty of the home’s architecture.
While the focus on the Vicary Mansion isn’t on artifacts, there are several displays that are worthwhile for those wanting to learn more about the history of Beaver County. One particularly interesting one is a diorama of Logstown. This large Native American settlement along the banks of the Ohio River played an important role in the negotiations that led up to the French and Indian War. A 21-year-old George Washington, on his first mission to western Pennsylvania, spent several days here. While Logstown may no longer exist, I was quite interested to learn of its history and see what it looked like.
Other interesting displays around the home include the archeology room, which showcases items found around the home during archeological digs, the home’s collection of antique organs and pianos, and the ledger that belonged to the home’s builder, Captain Vicary.
Despite the good quality displays and architectural information, the primary focus of the Vicary Mansion is educational programs. Programs range from quilting groups to historical fashion shows. Of all their programs, though, the one they focus the most on is their Windows Through History program.
Windows Through History is an award winning program for 7-14-year-old girls that focuses on different time periods of history in western Pennsylvania. During this hands-on living history program, participants create period-appropriate crafts and food, while learning about the time period’s clothing and etiquette.
Windows Through History is held one Saturday each month from September through April, and each month features a different time period and theme ranging from the 18th-20th centuries. Participation is open to both local residents and visitors from outside the area and is a great opportunity for younger girls to learn about unique aspects of Pennsylvania’s history.
The Vicary Mansion might not make everyone’s must-see list when visiting Beaver County, Pennsylvania. However, their unique architectural elements and fascinating programs for children make this a very worthwhile stop for many.
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Note: My visit to the Vicary Mansion was hosted by the Beaver County Recreation and Tourism Bureau. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Hours: Monday-Friday: 10am-2pm
Cost: Program costs vary
Address: 1235 3rd Avenue