2017 Society Summary

It is time once again for us to ring in a new year, and what a year it has been for the Indiana County Historical Society. We have done so much this past year and we take this time to reflect on what we have accomplished. We held a number of programs and workshops that we hope to continue in 2018, so be on the lookout for dates of those events. This year was a year of fundraisers and cooperation with many different organizations in the area.

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The Historical Society once again worked with the Indiana Art Association, sponsoring the Open Arts Show, that is exhibited at the Society from November to early January. We have also worked closely with IUP to bring interns to our Museum. Internships help students learn about how a museum operates and it also enables the Society to use young talent to expand our outreach. Thanks to the Evergreen Garden Club, the Silas Clark House is always beautifully decorated for the Christmas season. Along with decorating the Clark House at Christmas time the club also creates and maintains the garden at the point of South Sixth Street and Wayne Avenue during the Spring/Summer season.

This past year also bring with it new partnerships, including one with the Young Professional Organization (YPO). The YPO is a subgroup of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce comprised of individuals from 18-40 years old with the purpose of promoting networking between local businesses. This past October they sponsored the Haunted School Spirits program that brought approximately 75 people into the museum, along with funds paid by attendees. Also, this past September/October the Society worked with the Paranormal Society of IUP who investigated the Museum, Clark House and grounds for possible spirit entities that may still be roaming the buildings. The activities ended with a reveal of the investigations.

In addition to these big events, the Society also works with the Rainbow Diamond Glass Club, the Horace Mann Elementary School, and showcasing exhibits at the annual Air Show at the Jimmy Stewart Airport. Further, Board members and volunteers have given presentations at the Indiana Free Library and the Blairsville Historical Society. It is important for organizations to work together to expand our horizons; if you know of an organization that would like to work with the Historical Society please contact us at ichistoricalsociety@gmail.com or by phone at 724-463-9600.

A few closing notes about our 2018; we have many fun programs, events, and fundraisers planned so stay tuned to our various social media accounts, or consider becoming a member to learn about member exclusive events. Also, we have the following closings for 2018: March 30-31; July 3-4; November 20-24; and December 22-31.

We want to wish all our readers, followers, and members a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year. We hope to see you at the museum in 2018, either to visit the museum, attend one of our programs, fundraisers, or other events, or to volunteer. We will be closed until January 2, 2018 to give all our staff and volunteers a much-needed vacation.

The Holiday Inn at McIntyre

Indiana County got a great Christmas present in 1950.  On December 23rd, Sam and Ann Serrianni opened the Holiday Inn between McIntyre and Coal Run, two years before the hotel chain of the same name debuted.  Those two coal patch towns may have been tiny, but their new restaurant and bar soon gained a giant reputation as a hot dance spot and as home to the county’s first (and best) pizza.  Longtime Indiana DJ, Jerry Boucher, and future County Commissioner, Bernie Smith, spun their first platters at Holiday Inn record hops.  In the early 1950s, some of the last Big Bands played there, featuring everything from polka to rock.  Over the years, the Inn packed ’em in on Saturday nights.

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It was not the Serriannis’ first try – they had operated a diner named for boxing and wrestling champ Primo Carnerea after the war – but it was the Holiday Inn, inspired by a 1942 movie of that name, that was destined to become their life.  Sam built the cinderblock structure himself, and he and Ann raised their “crew of four” in rooms behind and beneath it in the decades that followed.  Son John remembers childhood years spent in Holiday Inn’s kitchen learning the trade beside siblings Valerie, Marlea, and Samuel Junior.

“Yeah, I was the only one of us who never married, so when the others left home, I stayed on as the bartender until my early thirties.  My parents were introverts – never joined the Chamber of Commerce and all that – so it just made sense for them to hire family.”

As popular as the Inn would become, not everyone was receptive at first.  Second-generation pizza lover Antoinette Fontana laughs, “When we were kids, some people called it ‘dago food’.  But by the time I was thirty, pizza was everywhere and pasta was gourmet!”  With those early attitudes in mind, the family anglicized their name to Serrian, and in a 1953 ad went as far as to stress that they were “both natives of Indiana County.”  But the old family name is well remembered locally, and daughter Valerie’s pizzeria, built on the same property as the now-closed Holiday Inn, is even called Serrianni’s in honor of her parents.

By the early 1990s, Sam was thinking about selling the business.  Tastes and the times had changed, and since he was in his 70s, retirement seemed like a good idea.  But it was fire, not a buyer, who would settle the matter.  In the early morning hours of Christmas 1996, the McIntyre landmark was gutted by an apparent act of arson.  Holiday Inn had served its last customer almost exactly forty-six years after its first one.

If you are ever driving through Young Township on County Road 3031, keep an eye out for a long white cinderblock building between McIntyre and Coal Run, right next to Serrianni’s Pizzeria.  Shuttered now and quiet, it stands like a monument to the ones who built it.

Holiday Inn, Sam and Ann:  Gone But Not Forgotten.

A Victorian Christmas

Christmas is a festive time of year, here in Indiana we have It’s a Wonderful Life Christmas celebration which kicked off last month on November 17 with a parade, and there are festivities happening all month long.  Coming up on December 8, 2017 at 6:00 is the Historical Society’s Annual Christmas Open House, which the Clark House has been beautifully decorated by the Evergreen Garden Club. Refreshments will be served in the Clark House and at 7:00pm and 7:30pm there will be music played by two local groups in the Armory. This is a great chance to get into the holiday spirit.

The Clark House was built in 1869-1870, and that started a thought: What would have Christmas been like for the Clark family as they lived in the house? Technology was not advanced like it is today, there was not electric Christmas lights nor was there instant Christmas carols over the internet. A Victorian Era Christmas would have been much different than we experience it today.  One of the staple decorations in most people’s homes this time of year is the Christmas tree, although many of us have artificial trees, in the late 1800s these trees would have been real trees filling the home with the evergreen smell. Not only were the trees real, but they were elaborated decorated , this included fruit, garland, pine cones, and candles.

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Clark House Christmas 2016

Many people pride themselves with their Christmas decorating, from elaborate outside light displays and unique indoor decorating; however in the Victorian Era, decorating was much more simple. People of all economic groups decorated for Christmas, but those decorations were limited to garland and foliage. This would include the trimmings of pine trees and mistletoe.

And finally what is Christmas without Santa…the jolly old elf from Clemment Moore’s poem “The Night Before Christmas.”  Santa has been a popular figure of Christmas, having different means for people all over the world; most countries and cultures have there own version of Santa. The Dutch have St. Nick, England Father Christmas, and the Germans have Kris Kringle.

The Historical Society has in its collection many vintage toys from bygone years along with beautiful displays featuring the history of Christmas in Indiana County. Be sure to stop by the museum, visit the Clark House and be transported back to a simpler time. We would like to thank the Evergreen Garden Club for their decorating of the Clark House, and for all the volunteers and staff members that make our Christmas Open House possible.  We hope to see you December 8, 2017 at 6:00 pm, and we wish everyone a joyous holiday season.