Rain fails to dampen memories of bidders during Ligonier Beach auction

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Oct. 23—Although steady rain fell Saturday morning as Hempfield native Jason Anthony piled box after box of stainless steel cookware and serving trays into the bed of his pickup truck at the now-defunct Ligonier Beach swimming pool and restaurant complex.

Still, he managed a smile.

Anthony, 51, smiled recalling the "hours and hours of quality time" and fun he experienced during summers of his youth at the recreation landmark off Route 30 in Ligonier Township.

"I came here a lot when I was growing up — and I mean a lot," Anthony said. "I had a lot of fun here."

Anthony and his wife, Krystene, who reside in Central City, Somerset County, joined a few dozen other memorabilia and treasure seekers at a public auction.

The township held the auction as it prepares to demolish two structures on the property and take the next step toward revitalizing the site, township Supervisor John Beaufort said.

The bidders found a mixed bag

The rain and lack of potential keepsakes available from the pool didn't deter the Anthonys' participation in the bidding.

"I was hoping to buy memorabilia, but there really wasn't as much as I had hoped," Jason said.

However, the Anthonys are in the process of opening a restaurant, Hank's Diner, along Route 30 in Reels Corner, Somerset County. There were boxes and boxes of dishes, glasses, stainless steel pots and pans, serving trays, coffee pots and other cookware being auctioned by Unity auctioneer Mark Ferry.

"We had a complete change of plans," Krystene said. "We decided to buy pots, pans, serving trays we can use in our restaurant instead. We bought a lot of cookware that was really inexpensive."

Saint Vincent College senior Toni DeBastiani, 21, of Lewes, Del., was searching to buy some remembrances of the landmark at her mother's request.

"My mother, Bobbie, grew up in Swissvale and told me she spent a lot of weekends here growing up," DeBastiani said. "She called and asked me to come up to see if I could get her something to remember it,"

It was a learning experience too, she said.

"I've never participated in an auction before," she laughed.

One hour into the auction at 10 a.m., DeBastiani had bought some cookie cutters and some plastic "Ligonier Beach" drink chips that had the landmark's name emblazoned them.

Julie Donovan, a volunteer with the nonprofit Friends of Ligonier Beach, which has worked with the township on plans for redeveloping the recreational site, was volunteering at a food concession during the auction. She did briefly get away to bid on one item of memorabilia dating from the pool-restaurant's heyday: a post card photograph that was discovered in the restaurant's attic.

Although the post card likely sold for a penny or two when it was produced decades ago, Donovan, obtained the vintage post card with a winning bid of $20.

"I was thrilled to get it," Donovan said.

In addition to the cookware, there were framed prints, beer advertising, tables, chairs, a deli meat cutter, old life-saving float devices and an a backboard used during pool emergencies. Some 800 square feet of knotty pine paneling that lined the walls of the restaurant for decades also was auctioned off.

Beaufort, who used to hitchhike as a teenager in the 1960s from his home in Waterford to the pool on many weekends, said the township plans to seek bids soon to demolish the old pool house and restaurant buildings.

"We hope we have it done before the end of the year," he said.

"This is just the next step in the process," Beaufort said. "It's been a process completely open to the public since the start."

He emphasized supervisors have been impressed with the public support shown by volunteers who turned out over summer during three volunteer clean-up days where weeds were pulled, brush removed and layers of paint were scraped from the pool.

Featuring a 1.3 million-gallon swimming pool, Ligonier Beach operated from 1925 through 2017.

The township purchased the property in 2019 for $230,000. The site did not open the previous summer season, in part because of flood damage to the pool pump and the restaurant's furnace.

It's next use undecided

Beaufort said supervisors have accepted a conceptual plan for the site, submitted by the Friends group, but nothing is finalized.

"We're looking at something we could do with that property to help the businesses and bring more people in, an attraction for the township," he said.

The conceptual plan includes repurposing of the pool.

Beaufort said all money raised from the auction will assist with the project. Funding the township previously received for the site includes $250,000 from the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation and two state grants totaling $178,500.

Other proposals for the site include a pier that could be used for fishing on Loyalhanna Creek, a connection to the Ligonier Valley hiking and biking trail, a pollinator garden, a permeable parking area, a new restaurant/special event building and a new bathhouse/ecosystem education center.

Beaufort said the township plans to retain three pavilions on the property, along with a historic stone bathhouse along the highway. Also remaining are a stone arch and the basement level of the pool filtration building.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, ppeirce@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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