Location: The Historic Summit Inn in the Laurel Highlands

Featured guests: Karen Harris, second-generation owner of the Summit Inn

3 things that surprised me:

1. The Historic Summit Inn opened in 1907 and Karen’s parents, Don and Eunice Shoemaker, started working there in 1957. Karen, who grew up at the hotel and jokingly describes herself as a “hotel brat” back then, says she’d sit on the front steps and wait until other guests her age would arrive. In 1963, her parents bought the inn and Karen worked alongside her parents. She eventually took over the daily operation in 2000. Today, Karen’s daughter Amanda, the third generation, is in charge.

2. Karen says that the way that people think of hotels like the Summit Inn has changed in the past few decades. When she was a kid, families would check in and stay for an entire week. There was a social director who would plan events and sports tournaments and bingo nights throughout the week to entertain the guests. There was an official flag-raising ceremony every morning and on many nights a band would play in The Baron Munchausen Room, the nightclub below the lobby.

3. In the early days, the Summit Inn hosted famous guests including Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and Thomas Edison, who came to the hotel together on more than one occasion. Famous Pittsburghers including the Heinz and Kaufmann families visited as well.

One thing that didn’t make the final cut: Karen recalls when she was a teenager at the inn and they still had an old-fashioned telephone switchboard. With an array of jacks and cords, she could call all her friends and chat with them all at once on something resembling a conference call. Thinking back, she realizes that she must have been using all their phone lines so anyone trying to reach the hotel to make a reservation would have gotten a busy signal. Laughing, she says she would have been pretty angry if any of her kids had done something like that.

Additional info: You can learn more about the Historic Summit Inn and make a reservation at the website.

Want more Yinzer Backstage Pass? Check out our visit to the Carrie Blast Furnaces to learn how Quantum Theatre put on their production of Hamlet in a historic industrial site.

Boaz is the host of NEXTpittsburgh's Yinzer Backstage Pass video series. He is also an author, filmmaker, advertising copywriter, teacher, experiential storyteller, talk show host, gardener, kazoo museum curator and so much more.