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Building on Saltsburg history

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Paul Paterra
Thursday, July 5, 2007

A builder is doing his part to preserve the historic flavor of downtown Saltsburg, and he’s hoping to entice new residents in the process.

Bob Sekora, of Salem, purchased buildings at 214 and 216 Washington St., as well as the structure in the rear of one of the buildings, which he’s converting into three townhouses that might be ready for tenants in two or three months.

“I’m a retired engineer, and I’m always building something or restoring something,” Sekora said.

He’s giving the buildings a modern touch with insulation and gutters, but the structures willl retain their 19th-century look, including colonial-style shutters and traditional color schemes.

The buildings are deeply connected to Saltsburg’s history. The Indiana County borough of little more than 900 residents was founded in 1769 where the Kiskiminetas River is formed by the convergence of the Conemaugh River and Loyalhanna Creek.
The stone house at 214 Washington St. is the town’s oldest building, reportedly constructed in 1827. In the Pennsylvania Canal’s heyday, brothers Robert and William McIlwain established a general store there.

The brick building at 216 Washington St. once housed a drugstore, along with the office of Dr. John McFarland, the town’s first physician. McFarland wore many hats throughout his life, including a stint as director of the Indiana County Medical Society. He later served in the state House of Representatives and was one of the first directors of the Northern Pennsylvania Railroad.

P.J. Hruska, council vice president, says Sekora’s plans to keep the buildings true to form are important.

“To some people, it’s life or death,” Hruska said. “I want to keep it that way myself, (but) I know it’s hard and expensive to do it that way. It looks good to people coming into town. It’s important to me personally, and I know it’s important to a lot of people in the town.”

Local historian Jack Maguire appreciates Sekora’s efforts.

“That’s important to have that attitude, to preserve that rather than just tear it down,” said Maguire, president of Historical Saltsburg Inc. and past president of the Saltsburg Area Historical Society. “It’s important to have somebody who has the energy to do that.”

Sekora wouldn’t have it any other way.

“You don’t have a historic district if you tear your structures down. We’ve removed over 180 years of changes and modifications. It’s like doing an archaeological dig on a building. It’s really the only way you can find the true history of a structure,” he said.

He’s already received inquiries from people interested in renting the townhouses, but he hasn’t decided just what he’s going to do with the other buildings.

“They can be private residences, or I can seek a permit and change the use and make them commercial,” he said.

After completing the townhouses, Sekora will focus on 214 Washington St. He’s planning to have that completed in about two years.

Sekora will call his enclave of buildings Canal Commons, because the townhouses will face Canal Park, as will the rear entrances of 214 and 216 Washington St.

Sekora, who’s doing most of the work himself with the help of some family members, hopes to plant a seed for growth in the community.

“Saltsburg is a well-kept secret,” Sekora said. “You have everything you want here. It’s a very peaceful, quiet community. There’s a very broad range of ages. There’s a lot of senior citizens, but you also see a lot of youth. It’s a family community. There’s going to be more people coming. There’s more restoring that’s going to be done.”

Paul Paterra can be reached at or (724) 836-6220.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

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Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633