If you’ve walked the streets of quaint Zelienople lately, you may have noticed a change to one of the prevalent buildings. The Passavant House on South Main Street has cleared two hollow black walnut trees and built a pavilion. How is this news? Let’s back up hundreds of years…
Baron Dettmar Basse immigrated to the US from Frankfurt, Germany in the early 1800’s. He purchased 10,000 acres and built a village. His eldest daughter, Fredericka, was nicknamed Zelie, a common name at that time. The Baron turned over the village to the management of her fiancé Phillipp Passavant, after they married and came to America to live. Baron Basse sold half his property to a priest of the Harmonists order, and Harmony was borne.
The Passavant House remained in the family until the mid 1950’s, when Zelie and Phillip’s granddaughter Emma passed away. In 1975, according to the website, the house was made available to the Zelienople Historical Society, where it serves as a museum, library, and society headquarters.
As Zelienople developed to Borough incorporation, railroad expansion, and now the creep of Pittsburgh towards this small town, Passavant House and the Historical Center strive to connect to the community.
If you sit and read some of the journals from Zelie, you will note that she loved her garden. They raised vegetables for their own table, and grew roses. When the two black walnut trees were cut down, it was decided to renew the history of the garden in that space.
Sue Casker, Board Trustee, said the Society wanted to put a gazebo in what will be a garden. They commissioned a gardening plan in 2012, which will continue to develop around the gazebo in spring of 2017. The centerpiece of the back yard – the pavilion – went in first as the cornerstone and the plan for it was aided by Foreman Architects Engineers’ (FAE) Terry Thompson. “He saw our vision and wanted to help because of his love of Zelienople. He provided the rendering, as well as offering suggestions to really improve the overall experience for guests. Instead of separating those in wheelchairs with a big sign on a handicap ramp, he suggested we slope the entire area so everyone can access the gazebo easily.”
FAE is part of the Foreman Group of companies, who calls Zelienople home.