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Enjoy guided tours, exhibitions, and our Educational Distillery. Check our Hours and Admission to plan your visit!
Learn about the history of the Overholt family homestead, as well as significant nearby outbuildings.
One of the highlights of West Overton Village is the Overholt Homestead built in 1838. This beautiful, Federal-style mansion never left the family’s hands before becoming a museum in 1928.
Built under the leadership of Abraham Overholt, the homestead was a sign of the family’s prosperity. By 1838, Abraham had expanded the capacity of the distillery and gristmill. He and his wife, Maria, lived in the homestead while the village flourished throughout the mid-19th century. Abraham could quite literally oversee village activities from his desk at his master bedroom window, including the construction of the 5.5 story building containing a new distillery and gristmill in 1859.
In 1922, Helen Clay Frick acquired the homestead to create a museum. The homestead had been passed down from Abraham and Maria to their great nephew Aaron S. Overholt in 1874, and then to Aaron’s son, Ralph Overholt. Helen carried on the family tradition of caring for the home, this time with the intention of opening it to the public.
Helen made several changes to interpret the homestead to her taste. In one of the bedrooms, she added a non-functional reproduction of a baroque fireplace from a German home on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, to pay homage to her family’s Mennonite ancestry. In the parlor, she commissioned New York City artist June Platt to paint scenes of 18th century Westmoreland County military history. These murals were painted in New York and then installed like wallpaper in the parlor. Paintings of early American historical figures such as Arthur St. Clair and Albert Gallatin were installed in the master bedroom. The homestead opened as a museum in 1928.
The Overholt Homestead was built in the Federal architecture style, which was popular in the late 18th to mid 19th century. It is characterized by a symmetrical, rectangular exterior with understated details. The homestead is a red brick structure standing three stories tall, two rooms deep with a center hallway. Modern visitors enter what was historically the back of the house, encountering the lower level made of exposed stone and built into the hillside. The original stone staircase with an ornamental iron bannister leads to a full facade porch and entrance to the main floor.
The lower level of the house contains a small kitchen, dining room, and sitting room. The main floor has the master bedroom, bedrooms for children, and parlor, in which Helen Clay Frick installed murals depicting scenes of Westmoreland County’s 18th century military history. The rooms and hallway display artifacts that either belonged to the family or are appropriate to the time period, as well as portraits of family members and notable figures from early American history. Additional bedrooms on the top level were for children and guests.
Today, the Overholt Homestead is a central part of guided tours at West Overton Village, a symbol of the Overholt family’s success and influence.
The springhouse is one of the earliest surviving buildings at West Overton Village. It was built sometime between 1803 and 1810, just after Henry Overholt acquired the property in 1803. The springhouse is a one-story, two room stone building with a single fireplace. It was built over three springs and diverted water through clay pipes, providing access to fresh water and cold storage.
Family tradition holds that the springhouse was the birthplace of Henry Clay Frick in 1849. John and Elizabeth Frick and their family lived in the springhouse until 1852 before moving to Pleasant Unity.
The springhouse is a stop on the guided tour.
Abraham built the summer kitchen in 1838, around the same time as the homestead. The summer kitchen kept heat and fire out of the main home and was used year-round. The stone hearth was used for cooking over an open fire, with a metal crane allowing cast iron pots to hang. The dome-shaped beehive oven used heat from the surrounding bricks to bake breads, pies, and meats over an extended time.
The summer kitchen is a stop on the guided tour and is open during select events for cooking demonstrations.