The Old Stone House is a historic inn and museum of rural life located in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.
The Stone House was built in 1822 by John Brown as a stagecoach stop and tavern to accommodate business from the newly-constructed Pittsburgh to Erie Pike, a busy highway that carried traffic northward from the forks of the Ohio River.
Travelers staying at the Stone House mingled with locals anxious for news from other parts; the house’s “tavern room” was a lively place of conversation, merriment, and hearty food. In the evening, travelers bedded down in simple (and often uncomfortable) quarters in the house’s upper rooms.
During its long history, the Stone House also served as a local post office and was used as a muster point during the Civil War. The inn was sometimes visited by highway bandits, and also was the hangout for two separate gangs of counterfeiters, one of which was led by a sinister figure whose cold demeanor earned him the nickname “Old Man North Pole.”
By the 1870s, the growth of the railroads meant the house was no longer needed as a stopping place for highway travelers. Consequently, the structure was rented as a family farmstead. Tenants still accepted occasional travelers for the night, and on Sunday, served chicken dinners to guests. The last occupants abandoned the venerable, old structure in 1918. For years, motorists along Route 8 could still see the crumbling walls jutting over the dense underbrush that covered the site.
Finally, in 1963 the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, hoping to attract visitors to the northern side of Moraine State Park, undertook the task of restoring the historic building. When the project was finished, the house was furnished with artifacts donated by local citizens. The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy turned over the restored structure to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) which operated the site as a museum for 20 years.
In the early 1980s, when the nationwide recession hit the tourist industry, the PHMC decided to sell the Stone House. Local citizens were outraged by this proposition, since their donations of money and artifacts had made the restoration possible. State Senator Tim Shaffer, working with the administration of Slippery Rock University, arranged a lease agreement with the PHMC that would allow the university to administer the site while the museum authority in Harrisburg retained ownership.
Eventually, the PHMC approached SRU with a proposal to enhance the university’s administration over the site. SRU President G. Warren Smith recognized the potential of the property for furthering the educational mission of the university, and in 1999 SRU took over ownership of the site. Today the Old Stone House museum is managed by faculty and students from the university’s History department.