Community Guide: Harmony Borough
Jun 30, 2015 09:44PM
By Jennifer Monahan
Perhaps it is not surprising that a community founded by a Harmonist weaver more than 200 years ago is known today for its thriving cultural scene, which blends an eclectic mix of artists and musicians with an appreciation for the town’s unique history. With an area covering less than a square mile and a population of approximately 900 people, Harmony offers an amazing assortment of cultural experiences for visitors and residents alike.
Originally the site of a Delaware (Lenni Lenape) Indian village, the land was settled by German pietist Johann Georg Rapp and his followers in 1804. The community was home to the Harmony Society for 10 years before Rapp sold the property to Mennonite Abraham Ziegler. Mennonite farmers were soon joined by people of other faiths. Though the town’s early history is rife with economic struggle, by the early 20th century, Harmony was known as a vacation getaway for downtown Pittsburgh residents in search of blue skies and green valleys.
Arts and Culture
Today Harmony is experiencing a cultural renaissance. The borough is renowned for its festivals, concerts, art gallery, historic museum and quaint shops. In addition to the delicious fare and local craft brews at the storied—and reputedly haunted—Harmony Inn, visitors should be sure to check out The Center of Harmony. Center co-founder Josh Meeder assembled a group of businesses in the former Odd Fellows Hall and Opera House, which he also renovated. Center of Harmony tenants include Wunderbar Coffee & Crepes, where they boast “an Argentinean couple serves Italian coffee and French crepes prepared by a Scottish-blooded chef in a historic German town,” Darn Yarn Needles & Thread, Pearlette handmade jewelry, Posana at the Healing House (licensed massage therapist and esthetician), Revive Chiropractic, C. Border Photography, Just Pam Custom Equestrian Apparel, and Les Cadeaux (art and gifts). The Center’s mission focuses on promoting health, wellness, social causes, community development and the arts.
An important factor in the town’s renewal, according to Meeder, is the collaborative approach of the Harmony Business Association, the Borough, and Historic Harmony. Bottlebrush Gallery is another cultural anchor. The art gallery hosts concerts throughout the summer, bringing in amazing live music featuring nationally known, acoustic singer-songwriters. Bottlebrush owner MJ McCurdy explains, “Harmony’s recent development was spurred by an influx of like-minded businesses into the community. These new businesses brought their love of arts and culture, marrying it to a respect for the town’s history and the existing business community, creating an environment with room for everyone.”
Bottlebrush showcases local artists, from within 50 miles of Harmony, and hosts both group and private shows featuring emerging artists from Slippery Rock University and Seneca Valley High School. The gallery functions as a community center for the arts, offering visitors an opportunity to experience different types of art from the 85 artists showing in Bottlebrush. The spectrum includes everything from fine arts and ceramics to wood carving.
The Harmony Museum is another must-see. In addition to its Harmony Weaver’s Cabin, which holds classes in spinning and weaving, the museum offers guided tours and, by reservation, walking tours of the National Historic Landmark District and access to other historic sites.
Bottlebrush Gallery will offer its annual week of kids’ art classes July 6 – 9, featuring hand-built pottery, jewelry, painting, aboriginal art and more. Harmony Park’s annual free concert series will kick off on July 2 and continue with live music throughout July and August. On July 17, the Carpenter Ants will play at Bottlebrush Gallery as part of the Harmony Wine Tasting Walking Tour (see below).
For more information, visit www.visitbutlercounty.com and www.harmony-pa.us.
Harmony Wine Tasting Tour Will Benefit Zelienople Library
Great wine, live music, and a chance to explore Historic Harmony will combine to make a memorable evening on Friday, July 17. The Foreman Design Group Wine Tasting Walking Tour kicks off at 5:30 p.m. in the Center of Harmony Opera Hall.
Participants will sample wines from Baldarelli Winery, Courtyard Cellars, Fractured Grape and Mazza Vineyards, as well as beer samples from Full Pint and North Country Brewery. Specialty chocolate from The Speckled Hen will also be available.
Bottlebrush Gallery, the last stop on the tour, has donated a concert with The Carpenter Ants from West Virginia. The fundraiser’s $20 ticket entitles participants to a wine glass, a lanyard and map, and access to each stop on the tour, including Storhaus Bakery, the Center of Harmony, the Exchange, Wunderbar Coffee House, Harmony Emporium, Darn Yarn Needles & Thread, the Harmony Museum and more.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit the Zelienople Area Public Library, and will support the purchase of books, DVDs, eBooks and audiobooks, as well as library programming for children, teens and adults.
Tickets are available at the Zelienople library and through Harmony merchants. For more information, contact the Zelienople Area Public Library at 724-452-9330 or check out the library’s Facebook page.
Harmony Museum Joins Blue Star Program
The Harmony Museum has joined the Blue Star Museums collaboration of the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums to offer free admission through Labor Day to military active duty, National Guard and Reserves personnel and their families. The program, supported by MetLife Foundation through Blue Star Families, offers service families an opportunity to learn about American cultural heritage as well as their new communities after a military relocation. Free admission is available to active duty Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard personnel, National Guard and Reserve members, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, NOAA Commissioned Corps, and up to five family members.