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Laurel Highland's Historical Village

About Us
LHHV Current Projects
Pennsylvania Country
Pictures Tell the story
Notable Historical Properties
Ethnic Help Links
Ethnic Connection
Children's Destination
Online Applications
Upcoming Events
Penn's Wood's Homeschooling
LHHV Forest Hiking Trail
Contact Us
Our Business Plan / Grant Information
Vending & Support Letters



Welcome to our web site!

On our web site, we'll introduce you to our DREAM!  

Laurel Highlands Historical Village

172 Allbaugh Park Road

Johnstown, PA 15909

(814) 322-1825 -





"Be proud of who you are. Be proud of your heritage, “because that gives you the muscle”. This statement was made by President Abraham Lincoln. Our Home, Our Struggle, sums up the spirit of those living in the Laurel Highlands, and America. The laurel highlands have a long heritage of pride and "muscle," evident throughout the ongoing building of our village.


Long used as a passage for Native Americans traveling between the east Coast and the Ohio Valley, the Laurel Highland’s area continued to be of vital importance after European settlement, becoming an economic and cultural crossroads. As a base point for a growing American immigration, the Laurel Highlands area has welcomed countless immigrants to begin a new life in America. In the 19th century, workers arrived to build coal mines, steel mills, the Allegheny Railroad, and farming.   Many stayed to live and work in the neighborhoods.

Laurel Highlands Historical Village staff and neighborhood partners have joined forces to build this ongoing effort, in an effort to tell the story, of how our forefathers started what we today call America.  Gathering in meetings large and small, residents and staff are working together, to build the only one of its kind in America. A Historical Village & Children’s Enrichment Camp which will support the many ethnic groups which built the communities we live in today. 

It is our belief that engaging and stimulating entertainment, education and/or productive employment in a Pre American atmosphere will help to promote a stronger interest in and commitment to attitudes of honor, and personal integrity.


For guests, the visual appeal and quality of presentation, personal immersion and vividness of the experience will be over whelming and unparalleled. For artisans and history aficionados, the site will excel by providing a central location and first-rate facilities for the practice of skills and the exchange of professional and creative information.

The hands on nature of the educational curriculum will make courses and seminars unrivalled in quality and personal impact, greatly increasing interest, involvement and long term retention. For those who are resident staff, the quality of life and working conditions will be second to none.

Programs will complement the exhibition, using art, theater, music, and even food, along with lectures, panel discussions, and tours to introduce many different facets of the village it’s past and present. Founder and community activist, Ronald J. Shawley created the Village logo. We welcome you our fellow Americans, to help in our efforts as we continue to build a community, in which we will preserve our various ethnic backgrounds, and provide our children with an avenue for additional educational support.

Ronald J. Shawley

Ronald J. Shawley, President & Founding Member




                                       WHO WE ARE


The Laurel Highland’s Historical Village is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2003 for the purpose of promoting an appreciation and understanding of the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of the Highland’s region.  Historically, it has served as the home of many immigrants who arrived in the 19th century to work in the coalmines, steel mills, on the railroad, and as farmers.  The underlying rationale for the Village is that the more residents, and particularly the youth understand their unique, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic heritage and how it has contributed to building strong communities is their commitment is to working together to preserve the area’s diversity and strengthening the communities which have emerged over the past century.


                          MISSION STATEMENT


Our mission is to provide a forum to inspire, motivate and teach young people about their rich historic, cultural and ethnic inheritance through storytelling, handicrafts and skills demonstrations and seminars, period architecture, landscape character, garments, tools and lifestyles.  We intend to provide a powerful and vivid experience that is both entertaining and educational, and engenders in our children and youth interest in the many and varied ethnicities which shaped our nation.  


As a historical venue, the Laurel Highland's Historical Village seeks to create an ethnic-centered heritage village reflecting life in earlier times that is accessible to the public. We plan to showcase the contributions, skills and talent of the many ethnic groups that came together to develop an industrial region that was second to none.


Our Village will be created on a tract of land, and will be complete with replicas of buildings, gardens and trails as well as domestic and work-related features common to the Laurel Highlands region pre-industrial revolution. LHHV’s focus will be on areas such as glass blowing, textiles, agronomy, blacksmithing, music, food, arts and crafts, with emphasis on teaching the skill in the context of various era lifestyles.





We are a community born from the principles that every person can make a difference and that every moment matters. We further affirm that education is fun, learning should be something one is passionate about and knowledge should be presented in a manner that personally engages and stimulates the desire to learn all one can. In addition, we believe that we have a duty to preserve our world and its history, and, most importantly, its culture and ethnic diversity.  We coordinate groups of children to help them discover and enhance their ethnic origins and personnel potentials. 







            Much like how other historical venues such as Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts and Williamsburg in Virginia have evolved into major tourist attractions, the Laurel Highland Historical Village seeks to recreate – in Western Pennsylvania - an ethnic-centered heritage village which will reflect what life was like in the early years of the highland’s region, while, most importantly, showcasing the contributions of the many ethnic groups responsible for the progress of the region.  The Village – created on acquired land – will be complete with authentic buildings, gardens, and other economic and work-related features common to the Laurel Highland’s area during the pre-industrial and the industrial period, such as glass blowing, blacksmithing, coal mining and steel-making.




            While the Village will serve as an educational and cultural venue for all age groups, primary consideration will be given to meeting the educational enrichment needs of children and youth.  A key program of the Village will be, for example, an Enrichment Day Camp for Children designed to provide opportunities for personal growth and the development of self-esteem, for self-discovery of their heritage, the opportunity to engage in discussions with ethnic leaders from the community, and for building friendship and relationships across ethnic groups.  We envision the Village becoming an important and much needed extracurricular environment that will help to foster learning and success.  To help implement the educational component of the Village, the organization plans to utilize, as tutors, discussion facilitators, and instructional leaders, students from area higher educational institutions such as University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  Finally, the Enrichment Day Camp will fill an important need for today’s children to experience life outside the city and to engage directly with the natural environment; an opportunity increasingly disappearing as a result of urban sprawl.


                   WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT


            When the Village is fully developed, it will include space for shops, merchants and artisans who will provide – not only opportunities for purchases of ethnic foods, local crafts, and theme-based merchandise - but also provide an additional educational opportunity for visitors to learn about the early life and commerce of the Highland’s region and how it has shaped an important region in the history of the U.S.  We believe that this component, as well as the other features such as an actual “working” farm and the Village’s open air environment, will position the Village to become a major tourist destination for much of the eastern seaboard of the United States, and thereby adding a new dimension to the local region’s economy; much the same way other “theme” parks have done in other regions of the U.S.   Finally, all will provide jobs and add to the workforce development of our community.


 Hinckston Resovoir Project

Conceptual Summary

All of these elements combine to create a unique entertainment and educational experience for people of all ages. The Laurel Highland’s Historical Village projections and marketing strategies, as well as funding

criteria and requirements, are included in a detailed Business Plan available upon request.   Our goal is attainable due to the vast amount of dollars being allocated to non profit organizations with such dreams and

vision. It’s also going to be home for thousands of children throughout the year, as they seek additional support in after school needs.



  1. Bike Trail:  Even though it’s not part of the said property, a biking trial which will not only provide family members with an enjoyable view, but offer the city of Johnstown to expand it’s heritage project. The bike trail runs from the current Johnstown Heritage site, running north along the old Hinkston Run Road (Honan Ave Community Hiking and Biking Trail) , reaching the water fall at Water Fall Road. The trail then splits in two parts, one part staying on the western side of the dam, and rounding out on Benshoff Hill Road, then circling around the Dam. The other trail will head east crossing the dam then heading north along the shore line of the dam itself. The trail will then end up on 271, where by the trail will turn south towards Johnstown, reaching the other end of Hinkston Run Road, where by cyclist will turn right on to this road which will return them to the Dam. On the back side f dam we have a connection rail named the Eagle Trail, due to nesting Eagles here.

2. Wildlife Trail:  We have built hiking trail on both sides of Hinckston Dam keeping the trail rustic and simple.  Children can view native wildlife and also  learn about plants, wildlife, and the whole eco system. We have already reached out to Penn State University, and they are more than willing to provide support, in the means of education.  Along the trail we  have break stops which  includes outdoor signs explaining that certain area, or certain habitat. A detailed report to follow:

The LHHV Forest

The LHHV  Experimental Forest, located 10  miles north of Johnstown, in Middle Taylor township, offers quiet refuge to all who seek the natural enchantment of a forest experience. Tucked away in the heart of the Hinckston Run Dam , the Forest is bordered on its Western ridge boundaries by the Hinckston Dam and the Hinckston Dam  Wildlife Management Area.


The LHHV Forest is a 320-acre tract consisting of approximately 220 acres of mature bottomland hardwood with the remainder being southern pine and mixed pine/hardwood forest. Part of the Forest, is administered by the LHHV through its Wildlife Habitat and Penn’s Wood’s  Laboratory in Penn State university.

Since its adoption into the Awareness of  Forest Protection System, will be the primary objective of this experimental forest to aide and study wildlife and forest management research. The site will also be used as an outdoor classroom in the study of forest ecosystems for students majoring in forestry, wildlife management, forest recreation, and environmental science and much more.

The Forest's innovative interpretive trail system represents the commitment of the volunteers to meet the changing needs and perspectives of society. Unique in its concept and design, it features the first major trail in this region designed and constructed for universal accessibility. Two separate loops, spanning a distance of 2.8 miles, take visitors into some of the most dynamic and scenic areas of the Forest.

 Sleepy Hollow is a cool, clear, spring-fed perennial stream which serves as the centerpiece for this loop. Traversing gentle slopes along the banks of the creek, this barrier-free, 0.8-mile-long surfaced trail provides universal access to a mature mixed forest where pines and hardwoods still stand stalwart against the rush of modern time. 

The rich, moist soils along the creek support diverse vegetation dominated by hardwoods. The large, old trees in this area offer the visitor a soothing environment for exercise as well as opportunities for quiet reflection and relaxation. Since these trees also provide cover and food, which support many species of birds and mammals, wildlife viewing (especially birding) is an inherent part of the unobtrusive visitor's experience.


Management Loop

As environmental issues become increasingly a part of public awareness and concern, the LHHV Volunteers is taking the initiative to provide and promote conservation education. Experiential learning opportunities offered in a living outdoor classroom are geared toward fostering respect for our forest resources and appreciation of sound management principles.  The Management Loop will be dedicated to the demonstration of the best management practices for both timber and wildlife. Winding 2.0 miles through five different units of the Forest, this loop will provide visitors a chance to view an array of forest management practices at various stages of process. Not just a path through the Forest, the trail is like a corridor through time. Integrated into the management objectives for each different area, it will permit visitors to witness firsthand the forest's response to various treatments across the years. Visitors may also observe wildlife while learning about a variety of forest habitats.


General Information

Approximately one half of the more than 300 species of birds which are common to western Pennsylvania are found in the various habitat types on the Forest. More than 80 species of butterflies add color and quiet beauty, while the anticipation of catching a glimpse of one of the roughly 30 indigenous mammals makes each visit exciting for wildlife lovers.

The changing climate of our region permits a few short months of which to  use  the trail and invites visitors to appreciate the special beauty each season brings. The trail will be open to the public daily during daylight hours for wheelchair and foot traffic only. Binoculars and cameras can enhance lasting memories. Visitors must  bring their own water and Insect repellent is advised from May through September.  Shaded picnic tables will be provided. Accessible restrooms will be provided. Pets must be kept on a leash. Firearms are prohibited. The LHHV Loop has a moderate difficulty rating, while the Management Loop offers a more challenging and strenuous walk. Interpretive materials are available for self-paced, self-guided tours, or special arrangements can be made for conducted group activities.


3. Amphitheater:  The Kochcha’ Aabiniili’ (“outdoor seating”) Amphitheater is the place where our culture lives day to day among our people and our guests.

The 320-person tiered performance area will hosts a variety of communal activities: lectures, plays, storytelling, crafts like bow-making, cultural ceremonies and many of our outdoor tours begin here in this central meeting place.

The amphitheater will also hosts the Native American Nation Dance Troupe and the Intertribal Dance Troupe and star stories at night, living history performances, and concerts from Native American musicians. Also showing an intrest musical groups from various ethinc communities, ie Tammies, Nationial Polish Dancers and area High School Bands and Choirs.

This amphitheatre will be located near  the dam , and offers a spectacular view of the lake. It is designed for interpretive talks, and will support popular  recreation events.


 This project is a comprehensive design masterplan and ecological rehabilitation plan for an 300 acre renewable forest tract. The client, Laurel Highlands Historical village INC, seeks to recreate this site – called LHHV Forest – as a regional showcase for ecological rehabilitation and environmental education. This includes passive protection of wetlands, and accelerated succession of forest regeneration and habitat enhancements, site access enhancements, as well as educational signage and program development.

We visited the site on various occasions, during which we mapped topography, measured slopes and site layout, evaluated existing vegetation, conducted a site features inventory, studied aesthetics and viewsheds, and took numerous photographs. We conducted a public survey of visitors’ impressions and use patterns following a preliminary design presentation and public meeting. Additionally, we suggest a framework for an effective educational program and catalog important public access improvements. All of this information is integrated into a “50-year vision of LHHV Forest.



Loss of Native Biodiversity

Prior to European arrival, southwestern Pennsylvania’s abundant waters, forests, and wild game had supported native peoples at least for the past 12,000 years. This region was largely occupied by the Monongahela, Shawnee, Seneca, Delaware, and Susquehannock cultures

(Alberts, 1980). However, as European settlement intensified, particularly with the discovery of abundant coal seams in the mid 18th century, the region’s land use patterns began to rapidly change (LCCRCP, 2002). Western Pennsylvania was literally and figuratively at the

headwaters of an industrial revolution and no existing legislation would ensure a responsible process of development; consequently, the composition of western Pennsylvania’s indigenous people, plants, and wildlife was irrevocably altered. Reports by the Western

Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) in 1994, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) in 2005, urge that preservation and restoration of native biodiversity is critical to the repair of

ecosystems throughout the state and region (WPC, 2004, PGC, 2005). Given the elevated visibility which will occur as implementation of the LHHV Forest master plan proceeds, a concerted ecological rehabilitation program would raise public awareness of, and appreciation for, the endangerment and value of regional native biodiversity.


Management of Invasive Species

The removal of invasive species at LHHV will certainly be one of the most important precursors to long-term ecosystem rehabilitation. The management of invasives must be individually tailored both by species and by the type of plant community they impact.

lists the most common and most troublesome invasives.


Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) can be identified in its first year by its large basal rosette of fern-like foliage, and in its second year by the emergence of a large white-flowered umbel. According to The Nature Conservancy (1989), poison hemlock is a low management

priority primarily because it is easily controlled if hand pulled prior to flowering. Due to its toxicity to grazing animals, it is mostly a high concern in pastures. This plant occurs at WPCA in scattered

locations and removal should be focused on second year plants, when the fruiting stalk becomes conspicuous but before it is mature. We do not recommend using herbicide on this plant, because hand pulling is cheaper and more appropriate in the wet meadows where it is

most common.

Canada thistle (Circium arvense) is a noxious weed across most of the United States, including Pennsylvania. It is prolific and persistent, reproduces both vegetatively and sexually, and is extremely difficult to kill. This species occurs at WPCA around the upland pool area,

where it appears to be only recently established. It is a very high management priority, because controlling these plants before they begin to produce seed is critical to management success. The seeds are wind-dispersed; therefore this plant could easily and rapidly spread across the

wetlands on site, after which it would be virtually impossible to eradicate. We recommend the application of herbicides as detailed in Beck (2006). Additionally, the isolated area of lawn

within the filled pool, because it is densely colonized, might benefit by mid-summer sterilization with a heavy grade black plastic tarp following soil saturation during a hot spell.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a high management priority because it is difficult to remove and has the potential to become more pervasive, especially beneath the upland wooded areas. In areas of sufficient fuel, it can be reduced by prescribed burns; however, the

current infestation is mostly within a matrix of non-native grasses, which remain somewhat green through the winter and probably will not effectively burn. Extensive hand-pulling by largevolunteer groups is likely the best method of control for WPCA, but the use of herbicide should

Reinventing  This would best be done when the basal rosettes are still green, and other native species have gone dormant. They will then be highly visible. Finally, planting native plants in areas of infestation should also help slow its spread. Long-term management often needs to be repeated up to ten years until the seed bank is exhausted.

Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is an extremely high management priority at LHHV. It has the potential to halt desirable forest succession by excessively shading native tree seedlings, and generally crowds the forest understory. Because the seeds are bird dispersed, LHHV could act as a source from which the species can spread to other high-quality uninfested natural areas. The plant is somewhat abundant at LHHV and should be treated by cutting the plants near the base and treating the fresh-cut stems with herbicide.

Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is another high management priority at LHHV. It is present in upland areas of both sun and shade, where it aggressively over-runs large areas of ground (especially along the top and east side of the levee). Where sufficient fuel is present, regular prescribed burning will effectively control this species, but fall herbicide treatment at the base of cut stems is also recommended.

Teasel (Dipsacus sp.) is a relatively low management priority at LHHV, although infestations are currently quite pervasive. Where sufficient fuel is available, prescribed burning can help reduce the population, but in the short term might encourage the germination of seeds that are not killed in the fire. Because the plant is biennial, it can be somewhat easily

controlled in small natural areas by cutting the second year stems immediately prior to flowering. The plants will not reflower, but will die. The plants are highly prolific, so this will probably be necessary across years until the seed bank is exhausted. If the plants are cut after flowering, it is important to remove the cut material because immature seeds have proven viable. For more information, see Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (2004).

Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) is a noxious weed across many states, including Pennsylvania. For this reason it is a high management priority. Stems should be cut and herbicide treated during the dormant season and where sufficient fuel is available, can be further controlled by prescribed burns.


Education is also important for informing the public about the rehabilitation process. As these efforts begin, the current state of LHHV will change and neighbors and frequent visitors

might become concerned if they are not adequately informed about the reasons for these changes. A successful prairie restoration program in Chicago, for example, was halted after 19 years of work because the public began to feel left out of the process, as though restorationists

were purposefully hiding their efforts. In reality, information had been provided throughout the entire process, which included tours, slide shows, wildflower identification classes, newspaper

articles about the restoration programs, signs postings, and flyer distribution (Ross, 1997). Fortunately for the Chicago restoration efforts, the proper public informational steps had been followed. The important lesson learned from this would-be controversy, however, is to simply

involve the public from the outset not only by providing information, but by including them in decision making and especially, providing opportunities to participate in restoration activities.

It is also important that stakeholders see the innate value of rehabilitation efforts. The Society for Ecological Restoration recommends fostering the public’s support by helping them realize how restoration efforts can benefit them personally. Such benefits could include, for

example, a destination for ecotourism that will support local business or environmental educational opportunities for local schools. If the value is clear, the community will be more likely to support these efforts (Society for Ecological Restoration, 2005). The benefits of rehabilitating LHHV are many and can be effectively revealed in a new educational program.



Our History

Laurel Highlands Historical Village is a non-profit organization founded in 2003 that continues to grow in numbers and size, quickly becoming the only village of its type in North America.   Laurel Highlands Historical Village is committed to building a full supporting ethnic village, incorporating every country during the sixteenth century that is second to none! This far-reaching dream of our organization is a joint dream of every American who has a past either in America itself or abroad. Many who work with the village are here because they love their ethnic background and it’s their desire to preserve it.

Feel free to join us at our monthly meeting, held the second Tuesday of each month at 7 PM.  The location is Park Place Building, Suite 400, located in downtown Johnstown on Gazebo Place.

Ethnic Preservation & Education Is Our Main Focus Of Concern.

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