History with a Purpose: Secrets of the Tavern

As promised, a blog post on Saturday's History with a Purpose: Secrets of the Tavern at the Compass Inn Museum & Ligonier Valley Historical Society!

But first, I’ve learned not to announce my birthday on a blog post unless I expect about 25 people telling me “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” to me numerous times at an event at a Westmoreland Heritage site. You all were so sweet! I just wan't expecting the acknowledgment of my day of birth, and was slightly taken aback (in a good way!). :)

Anyway, on to the post. The whole "Happy Hour at a museum" idea is always a good one. ALWAYS—even if a participant doesn't like alcohol. Why?

  • Most museums in the Laurel Highlands are family friendly, but not all people want to visit a museum with kids. Kids can be distracting--in both good and bad ways.
  • Museum Happy Hours often give adults permission to play with the stuff that they're usually "too cool" to do around kids. And we adults do it!
  • It's fun to see the museum in a different light--even if that "light" is nighttime! Especially if you love ghost stories surrounding that museum.


The Compass Inn's History with a Purpose was no exception. When I arrived at the event with my friends Sarah and Kim in tow, we were greeted at the entrance of the museum grounds with green reuseable Compass Inn shopping bags with info about the site, as well as a "passport" and three drink tickets. Yes, THREE drink tickets. The 21 events held by Carnegie Science Center and Carnegie Museum of Natural History don't offer free drink tickets—so I know I'm already getting some bang for the $22 that I spent on my History with a Purpose ticket.

And, if you bought one of the specially made History with a Purpose copper mugs for $5, you got another drink ticket AND a cool mug to drink out of! Naturally I forked over the cash. 

The drinks on tap were an IPA from Four Seasons Brewing (delicious!) and some Compass Inn grog—a special recipe for grog that results in a drink that tastes more like a limey lemonade than anything alcoholic. With such thirst-quenching options, no wonder the bar was dry by the end of the night!

13913571_10155197031438538_4578279513187749518_o (1).jpgThere was also a great selection of food! Salad, a fruit tray, butternut squash soup, roast beef sliders, fried chicken, and some other delicious stuff. There was plenty of it, which could be enjoyed at tables under two large canopy tents while enjoying live music by the Gypsy Knights.

The passport we were given at the entrance was our chance at winning a raffle. If we did four of the six activities, then we could enter it into a raffle for a lovely gift basket that included a bottle of wine, some wine glasses, a few gift certificates for the Compass Inn, and what looked to be a Four Seasons Brewing Company growler. I wasn't so sure--I also thought that one of the LVHS Board member's hats was a part of the raffle basket, and was too busy admiring it before he came up to reclaim it. I had to slink away in embarassment. 

The "passport" was ingenious. I'm the type of person who will play a nineteenth century children’s game for the heck of it, but my friend Sarah will not. So the passport was a nice icebreaker for those who just aren’t as willing as I am to play a game of graces or ninepins. The passport stations included:

  • Graces- throwing a hoop to another other with two sticks.
  • 13908877_10155197029193538_5058517797205138543_o.jpgNinepins- a bowling game with nine pins and a wooden ball.
  • Trap Ball- hitting a wooden lever, which releases a leather ball up into the air, and then whacking it towards your friends with a cricket bat type bat. (a.k.a. 18th century baseball).
  • Tilt- i.e. tug-o-war with two people on two tree stumps with one rope. The person first pulled off of their tree stump loses.
  • “Secrets of the Inn” tour—a scavenger hunt tour within the Compass Inn itself.
  • Stagecoach Races- players put $20 down to buy a miniature “stagecoach” in the race. Players then roll two dice and move their stagecoaches on squares a canvas “playing board” according to what the dice rolls indicate. The first stagecoach to amek it past the finish line wins half of the pot!

I did five of the games—only because I am naturally clumsy and Tilt seems like a really bad idea for a naturally clumsy person. 


No, I did not win at the Stagecoach Races, but it was great fun playing, and the other half of the pot for each race went towards a great cause—preservation of the Compass Inn’s historic stagecoach.

Overall, it was a nice, casual, yet festive way to enjoy the Compass Inn. I think the most remarkable aspect of the event, however, was the range of ages that were present. There was a nice mix of millenials like myself, Baby Boomers, senior citizens, and all ages in between— exactly the type of demographic you want to attract to a museum's 21 event. After the games it was just drinking and socializing it a beautiful setting. As the sky got dark we enjoyed the glow of a fire and the twinkling of lightening bugs in the summer evening—a perfect end to the event, to the day, and to my birthday.

Want to come to the next History with a Purpose? The Compass Inn plans for this to be a repeat program, so check back regularly on their website for details! We’ll also be sure to post any updates on the Westmoreland Heritage Facebook and Twitter pages.

Next blog post: 253rd Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Bushy Run on Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7.

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