Vistas & Views: A Scenic Photography Tour Blog

History of the Laurel Highlands

In 1957, the former West Penn Power (now Allegheny Power) along with Mountain View Inn, Idlewild Park, Mountain Playhouse, Laurel Caverns and The Historic Summit Inn along with other tourism partners from Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland Counties recognized how much visitors loved coming to the Laurel Highlands region. They decided that a tourism bureau should be formed to help others discover this gem in southwestern Pennsylvania.

On July 26 of that year, a meeting was held at the Laurel Summit Hotel where more than 100 business owners and residents gathered to form an organization to promote vacation recreation and tourist attractions in the Chestnut and Laurel Ridge regions. After many names were debated, the name Laurel Highlands was officially adopted.

Even from the earliest press tour in 1958, the Laurel Highlands was a showcase of natural beauty, history and relaxing accommodations with stops at Ohiopyle, Fort Ligonier, Fort Necessity and the Summit Hotel.

In 1959, Harold Swenson, director of the Travel and Vacation Bureau of the Pennsylvania Department of Commerce, said his Bureau was “proudest of the Laurel Highlands,” and used the organization as an example of others to follow.

In the 60 years following, the Laurel Highlands has grown into an idyllic escape that welcomes millions of visitors each year for unique outdoor escapes, cultural amenities, health and wellness enrichment and classic amusement across thousands of area businesses, from locally-owned and family-run shops to world class resorts.