A public recreation area to honor the rich history along Route 40 on Summit Mountain opened to the public on Independence Day.
The idea for the Route 40 Watering Trough park started when the Shoemaker family near Lick Hollow Springs decided to donate the land for a park or a monument.
“Joe Hardy heard about the desire and began to work with public officials to see if the community would be supportive of the notion, and with the help of a lot of individuals, the Watering Trough park was born,” said Cheri Bomar, the executive vice president and general counsel with Hardy World in Bentleyville. “The Shoemaker family, Fayette County commissioners, as well as the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau and Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, were all great allies of the project and should be thanked.”
The park features a pavilion, a watering trough area and a picnic area as well as signage that pays homage to the rich history of the location.
The signage reads that after the Revolutionary War, William Downard lived in a house built against the hillside where people and goods flowed past on the new National Road.
Even though Downard’s clearing was too small for a wagon yard and tavern, there was enough space to pull over for a water break.
Downard diverted the spring water to a large wooden trough, creating a travelers’ oasis.
In the 1850s, travel shifted to trains, which caused the National Road to deteriorate, and the house fell into disrepair.
Then, during the Industrial Revolution in the early 1900s, the wealthy vacationed at the Summit Inn and stopped at the trough on the way to top-up their vehicle’s radiators and cool overheated brakes.
Businesses like the Mountain Water Club, The Big Watering Trough Restaurant and the Empire Dance Hall came and went with the dance hall closing when the coal industry ebbed in the 1950s.
Local businessman Don Shoemaker purchased the ailing restaurant, but the building was destroyed by fire in 1997.
Bomar said the area was opened to the public following a ribbon cutting on July 4.
“There are a few more features to be added to the park, which include a dedication plaque to the Shoemaker Family and also the watering wheel feature,” Bomar said.