I’ve been to many different county and city historical society museums throughout the state, and the Somerset Historical Center has to be one of the most unique. Unlike the others, the Somerset Historical Center doesn’t really focus on the county’s important events or tell the story of famous people from Somerset. Instead, it focuses on one aspect of Somerset County’s historical culture: agriculture.
To tell the story of agriculture in Somerset County, they do have to cross over a bit into some other local history, but overall, the museum is designed as more of a history of farming in western Pennsylvania than it is a history of the people and events of Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
Visits to the museum start with a brief overview of the Native Americans that used to reside in the area and how the Monongahela Indians lived and farmed in the region. From there, it’s on to a short film that provides a great overview of the history of southwestern Pennsylvania.
The museum itself is very well done, with a lot of informative signage and a great collection of historic farming equipment. Throughout the museum, there are areas labeled “How Do We Know?” that give kids a great chance to learn the how and why behind many of the items on display.
The museum showcases a large collection of antique farming equipment and tractors as well as a large Conestoga wagon. There is also a recreated general store which allows you to get a glimpse of what types of items were on display in the frontiers of Pennsylvania.
I especially enjoyed the section of the museum that discussed other jobs that farmers would do to make additional money when things on the farm were slow. One focus in this area was on the harvesting and production of maple syrup. I was surprised to learn that Somerset County still produces more maple syrup than any other region in the state, and the display of the tools necessary to make syrup should be interesting to anyone who, like me, loves maple syrup products.
Outside of the museum, there are several buildings that give you a great opportunity to experience what life was like on the frontiers of Pennsylvania. The property has a covered bridge, a 1770s farmhouse, an 1830s farmhouse which gives visitors a great chance to see how much life changed over the course of 60 years.
Given that the Somerset Historical Center is the only local museum that the county’s historical society runs, I would have really liked to have seen some information about the county’s large coal industry and read a bit about some of Somerset’s local celebrities.
However, while I would have loved to learn a bit more about the people and events that made Somerset County special, I did enjoy my time at the Somerset Historical Center. Their displays on the history of agriculture in the region are excellent and provide a great look into a part of society that I know I often take for granted.
If you’re looking to learn a bit more about the history of farming in Pennsylvania, I can’t imagine there is a better place in the state to visit.
Note: My visit to the Somerset Historical Center was hosted by the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau. However, the opinions in this article are my own and were not subject to review.
Somerset Historical Center
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 9a-5p
Cost: Adults: $6, Children: $3
Address: 10649 Somerset Pike
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