Gibson House is putting Connellsville’s history on display
Located on a hill that looks out over the Youghiogheny River in Connellsville, the Gibson House is a quiet reminder of the splendor of architecture of an era long gone.
Owned by the Connellsville Area Historical Society, renovation work has been ongoing for several years. The society is striving to bring the stone house, circa 1870, back to its original state.
“It had sustained two fires before we purchased it, so there was a lot of work to be done,” said historical society President Karen Hechler. “The fire had gone through the roof and there was a tremendous hole. We patched it to get through that first winter.”
The society acquired the house in 2002. It has tried to keep all updates to the structure as close to period as possible while adding some modern conveniences to make the future home a more comfortable setting.
“We have a new heating system and new plumbing,” Hechler said. “A new front door, new chimneys and a new roof.”
The house has a handicapped accessible restroom, new lighting, new windows and air conditioning that was needed to keep the records, files and photographs at a cool temperature for preservation purposes.
Funding for the renovations has been made possible through grants and private donations.
The house is in an area of the city once known as Gibsonville.
“This house was built as a home and we believe that the iron master lived here,” Hechler said. “This was an iron melting furnace community and the people, the workers, lived in the area that is now the football field.”
Historical society member Harry Porter has been instrumental in the remodeling and renovations. He said he spent many hours researching the house and the architecture to assure authenticity in design as much as possible.
“I have studied this house from stem to stern and nothing was done half way,” Porter said. “We had real mechanics do all the work and Art Graham did the woodwork and the staircase and he did a great job.”
Porter said there is wood trim and door trim that has to be completed and once that is done, the house may be close to being ready to be opened to the public.
“It’s a one of kind house,” Porter said. “The work is coming to end soon I hope.”
The group had students from the Connellsville Area Career and Technical Center come in to do work on projects and other volunteers have helped to bring the old house back to its glory.
The upstairs rooms will serve as research areas for local history buffs and there will be a room dedicated to local military.
Hechler said over the years this historical society has been fortunate to have collected a vast array of documents, photographs and other memorabilia from the city and the surrounding area.
“For such a small historical society we have a really, really impressive collection,” Hechler said, “We are looking forward to when people will be able to come and use our materials. Once we get the building finished, people will be able to come and do genealogical research or look things up if they like.”
Hechler hopes to be able to provide internet access to visitors to make the research easier.
“This is all for Connellsville, for the community,” Hechler said of the house and the efforts to restore it and offer it as a historic research site. “We have received so much support and we look forward to the day that our doors are open.”
The house is slated to be completed in late spring.
Marilyn Forbes is a Trib Total Media contributing writer.