Greensburg's Main Street Memories

Greensburg History

Greensburg is a city full of history, apparent by the numerous landmarks and cultural institutions that dot the landscape. The distinctive dome of the 1906 Beaux-Arts style Westmoreland County Courthouse stands prominently in the Greensburg skyline. It was not always the county seat of Westmoreland County, however. In 1769, an emerging town, founded by Robert Hanna, was to become the site of the first English Courts west of the Allegheny Mountains. Hanna's Town, as it came to be known, was chosen over Pittsburgh to serve as the county seat when Westmoreland County was formed on February 26, 1773. However, by 1782, it would be destroyed during a raid by Guyasuta-led Seneca Indians and British rangers in what was one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War.

The message is movement. A few miles south in a tiny settlement known as Newtown, county government was relocated and reestablished in December 1785. Located along a wagon trail that stretched from Philadelphia west to Fort Pitt in what is now present-day Pittsburgh, Newtown was poised for growth. In 1786, the original log structure of the Westmoreland County Courthouse was built on land that was purchased from two residents, Christopher Truby and William Jack. To this day, the courthouse, in its various incarnations, has stood on this site. The area surrounding the Westmoreland County Courthouse eventually became the original borough of Greensburg, named for American Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene, and formally incorporated as a borough in 1799.

Following a stagnant period of growth during the early to mid-1800s, Greensburg began to experience an influx of small businesses and hardworking residents by the late 1800s. The annexation of the boroughs of Ludwick, East Greensburg and Southeast Greensburg in the early 1900s increased its population to over 10,000 residents. Greensburg's economic boom was further strengthened with the discovery of large soft coal deposits nearby, which spurred the Pennsylvania Railroad to build the French Renaissance-style Train Station, a 1910 landmark complete with gargoyles and Jacobean clock tower. By then, Downtown Greensburg would flourish with economic activity, becoming a major mercantile center for the region and boasting four major department stores, in addition to dozens of independent and national retailers.

The visually charming Seton Hill College, founded in 1883 as the Saint Joseph Academy for Girls, was chartered as a four-year women's institution in 1918. In 1926, the grand Manos Theatre, predecessor to the Palace Theatre, opened for business along West Otterman Street. Two years later, Greensburg was incorporated as a Third-Class City. By the 1940s and 1950s, more residential neighborhoods were developed in various sections of town and in nearby Hempfield Township. Greensburg's status as a cultural center continued to prosper with the opening of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in 1959 and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg in 1963. The touch-tone telephone was also introduced by the mid-1960s, with the first commercial service available in Greensburg and the Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, albeit for an extra charge.

Downtown Greensburg would gradually undergo a transition from retailing to a business and cultural center with the opening of Greengate and Westmoreland malls in 1965 and 1977, respectively. Troutman's, once the city's largest department store, finally closed in 1985 as changes in local shopping habits had already taken its toll on many retail businesses. In recent years, a large portion of the former Troutman’s building has found a new use as an office and senior living facility. Similar revitalization projects such as the restorations of the Palace Theater and the historic Train Station are reviving the downtown core. In 2002, Seton Hill College was chartered as a coeducational university. As the venerable Catholic institution continues to evolve and adapt to its growing student base, it has also taken on an ambitious expansion in the form of a new performing arts center in the middle of Greensburg's Cultural District. More development is expected to take place in the near future, including an expansion of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.