Friendship Hill FestiFall Slated for This Weekend

Article excerpt

Other than being the name of a school district and high school, few western Pennsylvanians may recognize and identify the name Albert Gallatin.

One of the without question lesser-known monuments that sits in front of the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, noted retired Albert Gallatin High School physics teacher John Gruskowski, is that of Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury from 1801-14.

This weekend, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, a celebration of the life and times of Albert Gallatin is being held at Friendship Hill National Historic Site, replete with historic crafts, foods, music and other entertainment, said Kitty Seifert, Park Ranger and front-line interpreter at school programs and coordinator of the volunteer program at Friendship Hill. The site is three miles north of Point Marion.

Since 1982, the Friendship Hill National Historic Site website notes, the FestiFall celebration, which offers free admission, has been held, illustrating how people lived during Gallatin's lifetime from 1761-1849. Gallatin owned the Friendship Hill property from 1786 to 1832, with the site recognized as having been his country estate. Born in Switzerland, Gallatin initially settled in Boston after immigrating to the United States.

Among the activities offered at FestiFall is something for every member of the family, the website continues, including demonstrations of historic trades and crafts, such as candle making, flower garlands, head garlands, braiding rugs, and cornhusk dolls. Period music has been provided by the Albert Gallatin High School Fife and Drum Corps, and FestiFall-goers will enjoy period foodstuffs, including the ever-popular bean soup, made, incidentally, in outdoor kettles; beef sandwiches; and cornbread, added Albert Gallatin, who will mingle among the crowd.

Who? Yes, Albert Gallatin...almost.

For more than a decade, Gruskowski said, he has been informally portraying Gallatin at FestiFall.

Referring to himself as an ordinary citizen interested in both American history and local history, Gruskowski says he loves the Friendship Hill Historical site, but added, "it is not known enough. The more I discovered at Friendship Hill the more interested I became, and I started to read more and study the life and career of Albert Gallatin, including his role in local history. Friendship Hill spurred my interest in Albert Gallatin and I continually read about him. Being more interested in the historical site, I pay more attention to everything associated with Friendship Hill and Gallatin."

But, Gruskowski emphasized, "In no way do I consider myself an expert on Albert Gallatin, but I am interested that Gallatin's story gets out."

Dressed in period clothing as he portrays Gallatin, Gruskowski relates the story about Gallatin's involvement with the 1804-06 Lewis and Clark expedition that opened territory west of the Mississippi River for settlement. …