Westmoreland County is divided into 65 municipalities of various sizes, shapes, and landscapes. It is our mission to explore what makes every one of those 65 municipalities special.
We are moving in random order through the list. We are on our eighth feature, and this time, our randomizer landed on West Leechburg Borough.
West Leechburg is a small borough of about 1,300 residents. The Kiskiminetas River winds around the north and eastern borders of the borough, and Allegheny Township forms the rest of the borders. Students in West Leechburg are served by the Leechburg Area School District in Armstrong County.
The borough has both an informative and active Facebook page and website.
The following history of West Leechburg comes from the borough website:
“The region that became West Leechburg has a history dating back to the late-1700s. As Native American ownership was superseded by European settlers, the area was part of multiple land transfers and sales between individuals. Eventually, much of the current borough ended up owned by the Hill family (for whom the Hillville section of town is named) and was governed as part of Allegheny Township. The first settler in the area was Levi Hill, who constructed a house in 1843. Over several generations, the Hill family would sell off much of the land that now makes up West Leechburg, with the Hillville area being settled first as a wilderness was turned into a productive area.
he next major development in West Leechburg's history was the founding of the West Leechburg Steel and Tin Plate Company (later the West Leechburg Steel Company) in 1897. This would see many houses spring up in the lower end of town (around 1st through 4th streets) and this area became known as West Leechburg.
Additional early settlements in West Leechburg include Patrick Town, a coal mining settlement at the end of modern day 7th Street and Mulassa, another coal mining settlement located in the valley where the reservoir was once located.
In the 1920s, leaders in both Hillville and West Leechburg, seeking to improve roads and water conditions, filed a petition to secede from Allegheny Township and form a united borough. This petition was granted by Westmoreland County Court and West Leechburg Borough was incorporated on January 30, 1928.
The West Leechburg Volunteer Fire Department would be officially incorporated several years later on April 25, 1944 to provide fire protection to the growing borough. On July 10, 1946 the West Leechburg Water Authority was formed and tasked with creating a dam and reservoir to supply water for drinking and fire protection. The dam would be completed several years later and would eventually grow to impound a 65,000,000 gallon reservoir.
Coal mining was another major industry in West Leechburg, with known mines including the Old Sorghum, Peru, West Penn Coal, and Valley Coal mines located across town and supplying the area's steel operations. Coal mining would die out in the area in the 1940s and 1950s, but mushroom farming would rise as a new industry, with the first mushroom house opening in 1919 and many mushroom houses were open by the 1970s.
As time progressed, the mushroom houses would also close down. The steel mill (which had become part of Allegheny Steel in 1936 and Allegheny Ludlum Steel in 1938) was idled in 2006 and has not restarted production, with many of the mill buildings having been demolished. This has left West Leechburg a primarily residential town, though holding out hope of some redevelopment.
The West Leechburg Water Authority was also forced to cease operations on February 28, 1993 due to financially burdensome upgrade requirements. The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County became the borough's water supplier and remains so to this day. The former West Leechburg reservoir was drained in August, 2002 due to leaks in the pipe system. The dam was considered a safety hazard and was demolished using federal grant money in 2010.
As we look toward the future, West Leechburg remains a peaceful residential town with many exciting opportunities and developments ahead.”