Antiques on the Road, Somerset, PA

Somerset, Pa Courthouse
Somerset, Pa Courthouse

A town better known today for the Flight 93 Memorial, a stop in Somerset, just one hour outside of Pittsburgh showed what the town had to offer in the realm of antiques and collectibles.

The first stop was Cottage Pine Antiques at Georgian Place. With reservations about exiting the turnpike in order to check out the antiques, a look inside the door revealed this was more than the piles of stuff often found along highways and in tourist destinations. Inside the door were a number of clocks, lanterns, and of particular local interest, brass miner’s tags. In another corner, we found a large table covered with neatly organized and plastic-sheathed postcards, vintage advertisements, cabinet cards and other paper products. Two sets of reasonably-priced glass furniture cups made the stop fruitful.

The second stop was Somerset Galleries and Showcase. A large chandelier and some furniture in the window gave somewhat of a misleading impression as this store was filled mostly with glass products. Some unusual examples of pressed glass were interspersed with more common glassware. An older couple stood in the back chatting it up with the woman behind the desk. Somerset gave the impression of being a quintessential small-town America kind of place and the conversation painted that kind of Norman Rockwell picture. It was overheard that an elderly gentleman, obviously anxious to leave the chit-chat of the women, had been in the Memorial Day parade a few weeks before and had even fit into his uniform. Moreover, the proprietor had warned us about a dog sleeping on a sofa in the adjacent room. Soon a loud “woof” confirmed this fact. (Flash?)

The third and final stop was outside of town in an old church in the village of Lavansville, just as the gentleman at Cottage Pine Antiques had described. A woman named Connie welcomed us to Bryner’s Antiques as we entered this once sacred cavity now filled with the ticking of clocks. Open 29 years, much time had passed since the days when the building was used for prayer. Not far in, a wooded music box in a glass case caught my attention. Once I had completed my way up and down each aisle, Connie asked if I liked music boxes. I indicated that I regularly noticed them but had never bought one. She wound one up and began to play a song with a rich melodic sound. The second box was much larger than the first and used a disc instead of a cylinder. This larger box had an even deeper, more resonant sound. The discs, it turns out, can still be manufactured to order. A new disc played “Music Box Dancer” written in the 1970s on this 1908 device. Part of the way into the song accompaniment began, taking the low registers like thorough bass. This is a feature, not all music boxes have. A second set of combs makes hearing this part possible.

There was also an Edison cylinder player with a small horn that caught my eye. After hearing the music boxes I asked how Edison sounded. “After that, you may be disappointed,” she said. Yet she wound up and it started abruptly. While in terms of sound, it was just scratchy noise compared to the clean fairytale-wise symphonic music boxes, I immediately felt I was hearing the past. The music, discerned with efforts out of background noise, sounded both warm and authentic. In the age when a song can be digitally patched up and assembled thousands of times, the actual voice and melody, devoid of any post-processing, to me are more humane.

Bryner's Antiques in Somerset, Pa
Bryner’s Antiques in Somerset, Pa

From there we moved on to a Victrola with a wooden case that used a similar technology as the Edison to reproduce music from a more familiar vinyl record disc. But the technology had improved from that 1905 patented model in that the previous player can only play either 2 or 4 minutes of sound. (The famous Johannes Brahms recording by Thomas Edison contains only one sentence of the composer while he rushed to squeeze a piano piece into the limited recording time.

On the way out, we noticed two ceramic Ansonia clocks. One was reddish pink while the other was deep blue. A tall wooden New Haven clock had both the days of the week and the year on a lower dial. Out of curiosity, I asked whether the clock could accommodate for a leap year. Connie said, “I don’t know how but I think this one DOES!”

There are other shops to be explored in Somerset. A local antiquing map shows at least nine shops around. One called the Cat’s Attic wasn’t open. It was however the handsome courthouse seen many times from the Pennsylvania Turnpike over the years that begot the decision to finally exit the roadway and have a look around. A walk around the block and it was back in the car and headed for Brooklyn.

Download a list of the Antique Shops in Somerset

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