Three Quaint Towns and Two Fun Fall Festivals

Beginning in mid-October, I started a series of posts about things to do and see in Butler County, PA. This is the third installment of this series. To see others in this series, click on the label “Butler County” below this post.
One of several log cabin homes in Harmony.

What could a PA town possibly have to do with the Brooklyn Bridge? You’d have to go to Saxonburg, in Butler County — about an hour north of Pittsburgh — to find out. And while you’re there, you should also take some time to explore the nearby village, Harmony, and it’s larger neighbor, Zelienople.

One of my favorite activities is to explore little towns scattered along our highways and byways. Often these towns offer up surprises, such as really cool boutiques, fun fall festivals, and historic homes and buildings. In fact, Butler County has more than its fair share of quaint towns, just brimming over with boutiques and antiques and great places to eat!

So what is Saxonburg’s mysterious connection with the Brooklyn Bridge? Saxonburg is one of Butler County’s small quaint towns, founded in 1832 by brothers F. Carl and John Roebling as a German farming colony. The two men, along with a handful of a larger group who accompanied them on journey from Germany, bought 1,582 acres of land on October 1831 from Sarah Collins.

Batch is a bakery and sandwich shop in Saxonburg.

After John A. Roebling returned to his engineering career, he became known for his innovation of wire rope, and eventually for his design of suspension bridges, including the most famous one, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. A local park offers a small-scale replica memorializing the town’s founder’s genius and engineering skill.
Addison’s Attic is a quaint boutique, whose owners make many (most?) of the items in the shop themselves.
The village offers a quiet afternoon of browsing its several boutiques along Main Street, which is lined with several idyllic stores and antique shops, including Addison’s Attic, a shop that takes throw-away items — an old bike, a broken down piece of furniture — and restores them to a new purpose. An old chest of drawers is now a coffee bar; an old bike is now a table. 
A drum circle on the lawn of Harmony Inn.

After exploring the antiques shop, go for a cup of coffee, a few doors down, at Saxonburg Coffee Co., before heading over for a bit to eat at Batch, a bakery and sandwich shop across the street. After exploring Saxonburg, we headed over to Harmony and Zelienople, to check out the Zelienople-Harmony Fall Festival.

Although both Harmony and Zelienople have annual fall festivals, Harmony’s is smaller and more intimate, with drum circles, dachshund races, a flea market, and living history displays. There are a couple of interesting boutiques. The attraction to Harmony is strong. It seems like a really nice place to live — and the people there were easy to chat with. Briefly I considered moving there. (I still might!)

The Harmonist-Ziegler Barn in Harmony.

Harmony was founded by the pietist Johann Georg Rapp and his Harmony Society in 1804. Rapp came to America from Württemberg, Germany, a year earlier in search of land for his followers that was free from the religious persecution they faced in Germany.  

In 1804, two groups of Harmonites purchased a tract of land in Butler County, formally establishing the Harmony Society in 1805. The Harmonists lived there about 10 years before selling the land and its barns to Abraham Ziegler, a Mennonite. The name of the community stuck, even though the Harmonists had all moved to Indiana Territory.

Just a few miles away, Zelienople’s portion of Fall Festival included a slightly livelier variety of crafts booths, food trucks, 5k runs, carriage rides, live music, and living history displays, making it the larger of the two festivals. 

Zelienople was named for the eldest daughter of German aristocrat Dettmar Basse, Zelie. Basse arrived in 1802 from Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and purchased a tract of 10,000 acres in Butler and Beaver counties. He proceeded to lay out a village and build his own private residence, a three-story castle, complete with towers, turrets and battlements, which was destroyed by fire in 1842. 
In modern times, Zelienople has been compared favorably with the fictional town of Mayberry because of its small-town charm. Zelienople has a bustling business district of restaurants, coffee shops, and retailers offering toys, hardware, jewelry, gifts, flowers, baked goods and much more, so even if there isn’t a fall festival going on, Zelienople offers the suburban city-weary tourist a pleasant place to hang out and explore the slower, more relaxed charm of a quaint, country town.

For other day trip destinations in and around Butler County PA, go to the Blog’s Find a Great Place to Day Trip or click on the Butler County label below.

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Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I’d love to hear what you’re doing! Email [email protected] if you’re interested in being a guest-blogger!