by Karen Fetter
Ligonier, Pennsylvania, located at the intersection of Routes 30 & 711 in Westmoreland County, is a quaint town with a great history and beautiful scenery. It has a turn-of-the-century atmosphere that is welcoming to both its residents and visitors. The center of town features the Diamond” with a bandstand that has come to be the symbol of Ligonier.
Whether you are visiting Ligonier for business or pleasure, the atmosphere will make you want to return. The store-lined streets and beautifully decorated sidewalks are an alternative to shopping centers and malls. The wooded scenery is enjoyable in all four seasons and has been a constant attraction for many years. There is so much to see and do. There is history, shopping, and scenic views. From schools to churches and from restaurants to outdoor activities, Ligonier has everything to offer. Its a step away from the city that gives people a chance to slow down and appreciate what is important to them.
Historic Ligonier Valley is the home of Fort Ligonier, Linn Run State Park, Idlewild Park and Soak Zone, and the Compass Inn. Not to mention the library, theater, art museum, and YMCA located in the heart of the town. In addition, special events are sprinkled throughout the year attracting visitors to the historic town, especially its well-known Fort Ligonier Days. Ligonier is also the location for the main office of the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, a non-profit tourist promotion agency.
The town of Ligonier began in 1817 by John Ramsey. The location was perfect for a stagecoach stop. Passengers could obtain food and supplies in local stores and farmers could trade their produce for supplies. The town at that time was only about four blocks around the diamond. The town grew slowly and became an incorporated borough in 1834, and thrived as a shopping center for the farmers of the area.
Fort Ligonier represents a key engagement of the French and Indian War that was fought on October 12, 1758 at this location. The Fort has two periods: the first, being the construction the original fort in 1758; and the second, the revival of interest in the fort in the twentieth century and its reconstruction in the 1960s through the year 2000.
About 1,200 French soldiers and only a few hundred Indians attacked the British at Fort Ligonier. The French and Indians experienced a heavy loss and fled. The British troops, under Gen. Forbes and Col. Washington, pressed on after the Ligonier victory. The French retired northward. Therefore, Ligonier is called “the Key to the West in 1758.” The victory at Ligonier was the turning point for the British. They went on to establish Fort Pitt and create Pittsburgh, making mid-America English instead of French.
Fort Ligonier is a full-scale, on-site reconstruction of the 1758-1766 original. Activities include reenactments, battles, encampments, folk crafts and archeological digs. Reenactments and tours also take place during Fort Ligonier Days in October.
Compass Inn Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is an authentically restored stagecoach stop. Located just three miles east of town, the structure was built in 1799 in Laughlintown by Phillip Freeman. Robert and Rachel Armor purchased the inn in 1814 and named it the Compass Inn.” The Inn was used as a stagecoach stop from 1820 until 1862. Afterwards the Armors closed the Inn to guests but continued to live there for seven generations until 1966 when it was sold to the Ligonier Valley Historical Society who restored it to its 1820 condition.
The Historical Society sponsors Living History Weekends, presents lectures covering people, places and events from the past to the present, maintains a records and documents room and a small local history library, and hosts popular social events such as the holiday “Festival of Lights” & “Tastes of the Town” showcasing culinary delights of local eateries.
Idlewild and Soak Zone
Named as the third oldest park in the country, Idlewild Park, is a scenic familyoriented amusement park that offers rides, swimming, entertainment, childrens activities, and history. Built in 1878 by William Darlington, the area started out as a picnic area that surrounded a train station for travelers to and from Pittsburgh. The park has continued to expand to include several new areas. Idlewild Park and Soak Zone operates between May and September.
Linn Run State Park
Linn Run State Park
Linn Run State Park is located in the heart of the Laurel Mountains. It offers picnicking, fishing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, cabin renting, hunting, and hiking. The land ranges from 1,300 feet to 2,800 feet above sea level and covers over 612 acres. The park also includes a small but scenic waterfall called Adams Falls.
The Ligonier Valley Library is located right in the center of town around the diamond. It originally opened in 1945 with only 200 books. Now the collection has grown to over 55,000 items. A new childrens wing was added in 2001 to accommodate the growing supply. Also, all files are currently automated making searches for patrons much easier. The facility is active with the community and offers a wide array of activities such as a pre-school story hour, a mystery book club, and a genealogy forum.
The Valley Players of Ligonier is a local theater that offers weekly movie showings and live performances of a variety of musicals and plays. It is also available for rental. It is located at 210 West Main Street in the heart of town.
The Ligonier Valley YMCA has offered services for over 20 years to the community. In addition to child care facilities and special events, there are a number of programs available such as swimming, golf, gymnastics, martial arts, cheerleading, soccer, first aid, and health and fitness.
Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
This branch located in the Ligonier Valley is housed in an authentic log cabin design that reflects the historic community. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens that are maintained by a volunteer auxiliary. In addition to art shows, exhibits, and childrens programs, the Walter Carlyle Shaw Paperweight Collection is on permanent display.
Chamber of Commerce
Located in Town Hall on East Main Street, the Ligonier Chamber of Commerce is one of the most active associations within Ligonier. It is a voluntary association of concerned business and professional people and other community-spirited citizens who work together to help Ligonier thrive as a community.
It organizes promotions such as sidewalk sales, the shopping directory, and the shopping map. Also, it organizes and manages many programs such as Fort Ligonier Days, summer band concerts on the diamond, summer jobs for students, Clean Up Week, the Corn Roast, Santa’s Arrival, and Christmas Lighting for the diamond. The Ligonier Chamber of Commerce also acts as a “legislative watchdog,” working closely with the Town Council and township officials to improve the quality of life in the entire Ligonier Valley.
Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau
This is the official tourist promotion agency for Westmoreland, Somerset, and Fayette Counties. Its main office is located in Town Hall in Ligonier. It guides visitors to lodging, recreation, and events in the area. This organization works closely with local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce to promote the Ligonier Valley.
For current dates on all activities, please visit Ligonier’s Website Event Page
The Ligonier Country Market
The Ligonier Country Market is open every Saturday morning from 7:00 am until noon. Everything is sold from fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers to candles, quilts, and jewelry. The market is located near the intersection of Route 30 and West Main Street on the west end of town. The Country Market ends for the season September 24th!
Fort Ligonier Days
Fort Ligonier Days, is a 3-day festival that commemorates the Battle of Fort Ligonier that was fought on October 12, 1758. Fort Ligonier displays a living history encampment showing frontier life, military tactics, drills, cannon firing, ceremonies, Highlanders, redcoats, French troops, frontier men and women, Indians and music from 1758. Also, a re-enactment of the Battle of Fort Ligonier is on display at 2 & 4 pm Saturday and Sunday.
The Fort is not the only form of entertainment at Fort Ligonier Days. A community parade marches down Main Street and around the diamond at 11:00 AM on Saturday. It features many bands, floats, antique cars, Indian and Colonial units, clowns, horses, and Shrine units. There is also free outdoor entertainment such as Civil War era music, Big Band music, South American folk music, bagpipes and drums, footstompin’ bluegrass, and Gospel. There is also an old-fashioned band concert on the diamond Sunday evening.
There is plenty of food available throughout the festival. Dozens of community food booths line the diamond and other locations throughout town. Sit-down meals are available at several local churches.
Approximately 150 craft booths in 3 locations are linked by shuttle bus service. Talented artisans display and sell their wares including pewter figures, wicker and wood, dolls, dried flowers, paintings & prints, stained glass, jewelry, leather, baskets, pottery, and blacksmithing.
Guests are advised to follow the signs to designated parking areas around town. No parking is allowed in town or along Route 30 during the event. All official parking areas are handicap accessible. Parking is $5.00 per car in officially designated lots. Free shuttles are available to main festival sites all day.
Antiques on the Diamond
Over 30 vendors come to Ligonier to sell various arts and crafts. Booths line the diamond area and local merchants offer sidewalk sales.
Ligonier Ice Fest
Blocks of ice are sculpted into amazing images representative of businesses and clubs through the Ligonier Valley. Kettle corn and music is also provided. The outdoor fundraiser benefits the Chamber of Commerce.
Fall is one of the best times of year to experience Ligonier. Shortly after Ligonier Days is Halloween and Ligonier celebrates this holiday with a scarecrow contest. Local clubs, organizations and businesses elaborately decorate scarecrows that are placed on display around the diamond. Voting is completed and a winner is awarded a prize.
Summer Band Concerts
Sunday evenings are a perfect time to sit back and relax, especially while enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the diamond. Every Sunday evening through the summer months is a live band concert open to the public. Bring your lawn chair and relax as you experience different musical sounds.