GREENSBURG – It’s an event 250 years in the making – and one that will go on throughout 2023: the historic anniversary celebration for Westmoreland County.
Community leaders, elected officials, and Westmoreland County Courthouse employees came together on Monday to celebrate Westmoreland County, which was founded on Feb. 26, 1773. The party, which featured red, white, and blue cupcakes along with informational pamphlets and county trivia, was one of the first events marking the anniversary in a year full of them.
“Westmoreland County is a place that we’re proud to call home,” Westmoreland County Commissioner Sean Kertes said. “Seeing the historical figures that came from Westmoreland County, we’re going to be talking about those throughout the entire year as well as the tourism and attributes that we have in this county. We have a diverse county that we want to show off and have people from outside of Westmoreland come visit and see the different parts of Westmoreland County. We want them to stop by and explore all of the wonderful amenities that we have in this county.”
The courthouse was a perfect location for the celebration, as it was an opportunity to show off the lobby, which is now adorned with displays celebrating the county’s history. A photo collage highlights attractions such as Fort Ligonier, Bushy Run Battlefield, The Palace Theatre, and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. Banners hanging from the ceiling showcase the scenic beauty of the county, and free-standing displays give a glimpse into some of the county’s historically significant moments.
“It’s very exciting to be in one of the first counties of Pennsylvania and one of the counties that was part of the American Revolution,” Westmoreland County commissioner Douglas Chew said. “As my colleague said, the history that we have here is wonderful, and we hope that a lot of people come out this year to see it and spend some time with us.”
Planning for the yearlong celebration began midway through 2022 and included stakeholders from different organizations in the county, including the county commissioners’ offices, GO Laurel Highlands, the Westmoreland Historical Society, and more.
The Westmoreland Heritage Partners, a network of approximately 80 of the county’s historic and cultural organizations, met in July to brainstorm ideas about countywide collaboration on celebrations. Meetings at the county level continued with plans solidifying as 2022 ended and 2023 began.
“When we started brainstorming ways to honor Westmoreland County’s 250th birthday, we tossed around a lot of ideas from centralized projects to inspirational ideas to stimulate grassroots participation by many different groups,” said Lisa C. Hays, executive director of the Westmoreland Historical Society.
“Jessica Petrovich at GO Laurel Highlands wrangled a lot of ideas and kept things moving forward. The redo of the courthouse lobby is the first of the centralized activities, and the result is nothing short of spectacular! The Westmoreland Historical Society planned the History Alcove at the end of the lobby, and we tried to highlight 250 years of history, not just history 250 years ago. It feels like the beautiful features in the lobby lead you right into the history, which is very appropriate as we honor our 250th birthday.”
The anniversary has helped bring people from across the county together, according to Petrovich.
“Planning for this momentous year has been a collaborative effort,” she said. “We are so grateful for the cooperation and creativity across multiple organizations, and we hope that every resident and visitor finds an occasion to celebrate the 250th anniversary throughout all of 2023.”
Establishing Westmoreland County was a process that took more than a decade.
“Westmoreland was the 11th and last county created by the Penn Provincial Government,” Hays said. “Several legal hurdles had to be overcome before its creation was possible.
“The movement for the new county was headed by Arthur St. Clair, the most influential and best-known resident of the region,” Hays continued.
“As the Penn family’s agent in Western Pennsylvania, he urged the creation of a new county, aided by the petition made by the inhabitants of the territory west of the Laurel Hill. Pennsylvania’s General Assembly passed an act to organize a new county, named Westmoreland, on Feb. 26, 1773. The act set the new county’s boundaries – all of present-day Southwestern Pennsylvania!”
All organizations throughout Westmoreland County are encouraged to participate. Those wishing to participate may contact Petrovich at email@example.com.
Westmoreland County residents can request a free commemorative booklet for the 250th, featuring the Westmoreland Heritage Partners, at www.westmoreland250.com.
Outline of Planned and Tentative Celebrations for 2023
- Beginning this month and lasting throughout the entire year, Westmoreland County residents can go to to request a FREE commemorative booklet for the 250th, featuring the Westmoreland Heritage Partners.
- The official “birthday” of Westmoreland County on Feb. 26.
- Many area organizations will be hosting trivia nights featuring questions on Westmoreland County history, places, and other facts.
- The Westmoreland Cultural Trust’s Party at the Palace incorporated Westmoreland 250.
- Irwin hosted a birthday party for Westmoreland County at Brandy’s Basement on Main Street.
- The Big Mac Museum in North Huntingdon offered Big Macs for $2.50 on Feb. 26, the birthday of Westmoreland County!
- Rostraver Township Historical Society will host a special lecture on March 14.
- Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill will open their doors on March 19 for Lenten Vespers and an exploration of the space for the public.
- On Saturday, March 25, The Westmoreland County Parks and Recreation Department’s “March for Parks” will celebrate with special Westmoreland 250 features, including reenactors along the walking path, Westmoreland 250 giveaways for participants, and more.
- Organizations will open their “front doors” and welcome visitors into Westmoreland County.
- Members of the public can contribute to the Smart Growth Partnership Community Asset Mapping Project; hoping to reach at least 250 locations of historical significance: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/0fe82da0747c4e8eb043b9e3ba3ea671. To add an event to the asset map: https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/1ced4b2bd4134b5ea20f129510fd824a
- Brandywine Conservancy’s Penguin Court will be talking about creating Monarch Waystations, a goal is to have at least 250 throughout Westmoreland County by the end of the year.
- Tentative opening for Westmoreland 250 Exhibition at the Westmoreland Historical Society
- Organizations are encouraged to plant 25/250 native plants/trees at their sites.
- Organizations encourage the public to visit sites throughout Westmoreland County during the summer travel season.
- Fort Ligonier will be offering 25% off admission to their 18th-century military encampment weekend, May 27-28.
- Westmoreland Conservancy will be hosting a special “Hike through History” on May 6.
- A special project will be unveiled at select Westmoreland County Parks, featuring work from students at the Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center. Stay tuned!
- The Westmoreland County Commissioners will hold their June meeting at Historic Hanna’s Town, the original county seat for Westmoreland.
- Theatrical organizations across the county are encouraged to offer performances related to Westmoreland County’s history.
- Organizations are encouraged to highlight and honor local Westmoreland makers that offer products in their organizations.
- The Ligonier Country Market will be honoring their Westmoreland County makers, bakers, and growers throughout this month.
- Possible collaborations with local Independence Day celebrations are in the works.
- Organizations are planning ways to involve students at local universities and high schools.
- A special contest will be held in collaboration with the Westmoreland County Fair.
- Special art events are being planned with art centers and museums throughout the county.
- The Westmoreland Museum of American Art will be hosting a community event with a Westmoreland 250 twist.
- Seasonal events can include special Westmoreland 250 twists, including the Hobgoblin Hikes, Historic Hanna’s Town’s Jack o’ Lantern Tours and Family Day, and more.
- Organizations are planning to participate in community service to honor the 250th anniversary.
- Collaborations with local Turkey Trots are being planned.
- A time capsule and its contents will be shared with the public and then buried.
- A grand, end-of-year celebration gala is in the works, stay tuned for details!