If the timeworn walls of the Dressler Center could talk, they might spin an intriguing bicentennial yarn. This charming Early American house, located on the corner of Tayman and Harrison Avenues, was instrumental in the shaping of Somerset County history.
In friendly conversation, these old walls might expose the spirited reputation the house enjoyed back in 1832 when Sheriff Joseph Imhoff built it on land originally owned by early settler, Captain Peter Ankney. They also might confirm or deny the rumor that it was a part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War and would divulge which previous owner was bold enough to hide slaves in the cellar passageways.
The real story may never be told, and space doesn't allow for adventurous speculation. However, if we conversed with these art‐adorned walls today, they would reveal how an idea conceived at a kitchen table in 1975 eventually made this house a home for the first non‐profit, fully‐staffed rural arts organization in Pennsylvania.
The idea was the beginning of a dream destined to grow because a group of culturally‐minded people believed the community of Somerset wanted, needed and would support an art center to promote and encourage the arts. After several meetings ‐ and after obtaining legal counsel ‐ this group incorporated under the name of Laurel Arts, Inc. and was seeking a home.
Enter Dorothy Dressler, a widow who had previously expressed interest in offering her home as a center for the arts as a memorial tribute to her husband Philip d'huc Dressler. Mr. Dressler was the son of Conrad Dressler, English sculptor and inventor of the tunnel kiln. The gift of the house was in accordance with Philip Dressler's wishes that their home be used as a permanent center for the arts, and was contingent on the ability of Laurel Arts to maintain the property.
Rising to the occasion, the founders organized a community fund drive to raise $150,000: $40,000 to convert the existing building into a Pennsylvania‐compliant public facility; $30,000 for two years of general operations, and $80,000 for endowments for future operations.
Laurel Arts Inc. had found its home within the walls of The Dressler Center. The organization was established as an "umbrella" to link the arts and Somerset County by cataloging activities of other arts organizations, and by sponsoring exhibits, concerts, lectures, classes and workshops for adults and children.
In August 2009, Laurel Arts opened its Education & Dance Center in the Georgian Place Suites. Our new facility houses our dance programs, STUDIO KIDS preschool, expanded performing and visual arts classes, and a retail shop selling dance and art supplies.
In November 2009, The Guild of American Papercutters established its National Museum in partnership with Laurel Arts at the home of the Philip Dressler Center for the Arts. The gallery is located on the second floor of the Dressler Center and is the first American museum devoted to the art form of papercutting.
P.O. Box 414 • Somerset, PA • 15501