Chances are if you are from Butler County, Pennsylvania you have heard of or have been to The Old Stone House museum just outside of Slippery Rock. The house has been a popular site for local families and schools to tour since it was reconstructed in the 1960s. The site has an interesting history that most people know parts of. But there is a large portion of even Butler County residents that don’t know the full story of how the Old Stone House came to be.
The story of the Old Stone House starts in 1822 when it was built as a stage coach stop along a newly built route from Erie to Pittsburgh. Travelers generally only stopped only for quick meals or to spend the night before leaving early the next morning. But eventually as railroads became more widely used in the 1860s and 1870s, the house became less and less popular. Shortly after the turn of the century the house was ultimately abandoned and fell into ruin.
After laying in ruins for several decades, the house was given another chance in the 1960s by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. According to a newspaper article from 1963, the Conservancy wanted to develop the house as a “living museum” that could be a focal point of the northern side of Moraine State Park.
So, the Conservancy set out to rebuild to historic site. Butler County citizens organized a committee to show their support of the house and raised $100,000 for the reconstruction. Additional support for the project came from Mrs. Alan M. Scaife and her family, prominent Pittsburgh philanthropists. An additional $25,000 came from Mrs. C. Scaife May. Planning and much of the funding for the reconstruction took place in the early months of 1963. Finally, on August 11, 1963, the Western PA Conservancy broke ground on the Old Stone House restoration. The contract for the rebuild was given to C. T. Dumbaugh, a construction firm in Butler.
Once rebuilt, the house was turned over to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). The PHMC supplied some of the furnishings of the house but many of the pieces and artifacts found inside the house were donated by local residents. It is estimated that in the first year of the Stone House being open, 32,000 visitors from 42 states and 16 countries came to the site.
Initially, the plan for the reconstruction of the house included the house itself, a blacksmith shop, barns, carriage shed, chicken roost, and other facilities. But because of restraints on funding, only the house and the spring house were built.
The PHMC ran the Old Stone House until the national recession hit in the 1980s. The house was closed down and the Commission considered selling the house. But they were faced with public outrage because of the donations locals had put into revitalizing the house. In late January of 1983 the house was placed “within the inventory and authority” of Slippery Rock University. This meant that the University would run the house while The Historical Commission retained ownership of the house. Eventually, The PHMC came to Slippery Rock with a proposal of increasing the school’s control over the site, and in 1999 Slippery Rock University took over ownership of the Old Stone House.