News and Notes

News presents briefs about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

On the Cover

This recent view of the Warren County Courthouse shows the clock tower crowned by the Statue of Justice which stands 125 feet above ground level The cornerstone for this beautiful Italian Renais­sance style building was laid on July 4, 1876 and the work completed the following year for the December term of court. The building stands on what was once the public square in Warren, on the same site as its predecessor. Although the original attached sheriff’s resi­dence and jail were recently razed to make way for new construc­tion, the main portion of the building is still in use.

This fine and imposing structure. built of pressed mellow-red brick, gray sandstone, slate and iron, is an example of the nineteenth­-century Victorian courthouse at its best. In fact, it is easy to under­ stand why some have called this the “model courthouse of the State.” Incredible as it may seem by today’s standards, the total cost for its construction was just under $100,000.


Vorspiel: Ephrata Cloister’s Musical Drama

Vorspiel, a unique summer musical drama, opens its twenty-first season on June 28 [1980] at historic Ephrata Cloister about ten miles northeast of Lancaster. Some of the earliest music composed in America is sung in this pageant which has as its setting the former German Protestant monastic settlement in Lancaster County during the Revolutionary War. Charity was a fundamental part of the sheltered, disci­plined cloister life, and it is best exemplified in the care brothers and sisters of the order gave the American wounded after the nearby Battle of Brandywine (Chadds Ford) in 1777 when the cloister was used by patriot forces as a mili­tary hospital. In this story of forbidden love, a young wounded Revolutionary War officer falls in love with his nurse, a member of the cloister sisterhood. Ephrata Clois­ter’s eighteenth century Medieval style buildings are the backdrop for the drama presented under the stars in a hill­side amphitheater.

Vorspiel – the title comes from an early cloister hymnal and means “prelude” (to a new world) – depicts the way of life in the pious and ascetic Seventh-Day Baptist settlement founded in 1732 by Conrad Beissel, a German pietist mystic. A man of considerable talent and charisma, Beissel was one of America’s first composers, and his quaint music forms the basis of the historical drama which is presented by a cast of sixteen players backed by a chorus of thirty­-two. The setting is real and the costumes are patterned after the garb worn by the cloister order. Dr. Russell Getz, who founded and directs the Ephrata Cloister Chorus, researched Beissel’s music and brought it back to Life for Vorspiel after nearly 200 years of silence.

Tours are given prior to the Vorspiel presentation each evening, and visitors walk along the site’s shaded paths, viewing selected restored crafts which once were part of the communal society’s life and existence. These include illu­minated calligraphy, spinning, weaving, basket weaving, papermaking and candlemaking. Like the society members two centuries ago, visitors bow their heads as they pass through doorways of the “straight and narrow path of virtue and humility.”

Beginning June 28 [1980], performances are presented, rain or shine, every Saturday evening through Labor Day weekend, with Sunday evening performances on July 27 [1980] and August 31 [1980]. The pre-Vorspiel tours begin at 6:30 and 8:15 P.M., the craft demonstrations are from 7:15 to 9:00 P.M. and Vorspiel begins at 9:00 P.M. Admission is $3.50 for adults and $1.25 for children six to twelve. Special group rates are available and scheduled upon request. For full infor­mation, contact: Ephrata Cloister Associates, Box 155, Ephrata 17522, or telephone (717) 733-4811.


Farm Museum Hosts Annual Events

Two events centering on Pennsylvania history and cul­ture will provide a learning vacation for visitors to the Penn­sylvania Farm Museum at Landis Valley in June [1980]. The 100-acre, indoor-outdoor museum located near Lancaster in Pennsylvania’s richest agricultural region will host its annual Craft Days weekend and, later in the month, its popular Institute of Pennsylvania Rural Life and Culture.

The 25th annual Craft Days program will be held on June 7 and 8 from 12 to 5 P.M. and feature demonstrations of over fifty different crafts including tinsmithing, basketry, quilting, pottery, stenciling, chair caning, wood turning, rug hooking and blacksmithing. Each craft is traditional to the Commonwealth and will be demonstrated by experi­enced craftspeople such as Bill Andes who is seen here working on a schnitzelbank, a wooden workbench with a hold-down. Using a draw knife or spokeshave, and often the sharp edge of a broken piece of glass to obtain a smooth finish, workmen use the bench to fashion such things as axe handles, wagon spokes and bannister rails.

“A Home in the Country” is the theme of the 24th annual Institute of Pennsylvania Rural Life and Culture to be held at the museum June 17-20 [1980]. The theme will be presented in a series of six seminars and eight work­shops. Topics to be discussed in the seminars include Penn­sylvania furniture and antiques, floor coverings, pottery, quilts and coverlets, the Victorian parlor, the social and economic aspects of everyday life and the care of antique textiles; an adjunct session will focus on help for the small museum/historical society. Craft workshops reflecting the institute’s theme will also be presented in spinning, china painting, pottery, rug hooking, cooking on the hearth, tin­smithing, wood graining and the making of bandboxes. All activities are offered as part of the $65 registration fee.

For further information on Craft Days or the Institute of Pennsylvania Rural Life and Culture, call the PHMC’s Pennsylvania Farm Museum at (717) 569-0401.


Festival Recalls Lumbering Heyday

Woodhicks and other old-time lumber camp workers, along with the public with a liking for the nostalgic, will gather on July 4 and 5 [1980] for the annual Bark Peelers Con­vention. Taking place on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum located near Galeton on U.S. Route 6, the event is a revival of the traditional celebration held on or around July 4 by area lumber camps to mark the end of another season in the woods.

The festival is comprised of birling, tobacco spitting, wood chopping, axe throwing and crosscut sawing contests as well as other events associated with lumber camp life which recall the turn-of-the-century heyday of lumbering in north central Pennsylvania. All woodsmen’s skills will be demonstrated with utmost authenticity and handcrafted period products will be available in the craftsmen’s booths. Cash prizes will be awarded to winners of the major compe­titions and, in the tobacco spitting event, the winner will also receive a brass spittoon and be crowned “Champion Spitter of Potter County.” For kids only, there will be a frog jumping contest.

Camp cooking and baking crafts will be demonstrated in the logging camp mess hall kitchen and visitors will be per­mitted to sample freshly churned butter and freshly baked bread. This year, as in years past, an eight-foot cake will be decorated to resemble a log, complete with limbs, to cele­brate the birthday of the Lumber Museum. The first cut of the cake will be made with a bow saw at 12 P.M. on July 5 [1980] and then some 1,200 pieces will be served to those attend­ing.

The Bark Peelers Convention is sponsored by the Penn­sylvania Lumber Museum Associates, an organization pro­moting the Commonwealth’s lumber industry museum, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.