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Old Hanna’s Town gets $1 million boost

Pittsburgh Post GazetteWednesday, June 13, 2007
By Judy Laurinatis,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It took 30 years of planning and two years of fund raising, but a long-anticipated education center for Old Hanna’s Town historic site in Hempfield may soon be a reality.

Last week, Lisa Hayes, executive director of the Westmoreland County Historical Society, accepted a check for $1 million from county commissioners to help fund the new center, to be built on the grounds of what was once Westmoreland’s county seat. Ground-breaking is set for next spring.

The historical society has been raising funds for several years and is near its $7.5 million goal.

“Right now we have a lot of stuff in storage with no place to exhibit it,” Ms. Hayes told commissioners.

The center, expected to cost $5 million with an additional $2.5 million endowment to keep it going, will house classrooms, offices, artifacts dug at the site which are now stored all over the county and an archeological lab.

Historical societies throughout Westmoreland County will be invited to provide changing exhibits.

Ms. Hayes said Hanna’s Town was important to the development of Western Pennsylvania and the country because it was one of the earliest settlements west of the Allegheny Mountains.

It was founded in 1773, named for founder Robert Hanna and housed the first English court on the western frontier.

In 1782, the town was attacked and burned in one of the final battles of the Revolutionary War.

The county seat was then moved three miles south, to Greensburg.

The center will be built on what Ms. Hayes described as an “empty” plot of ground. The area has been studied for any archaeologically important artifacts and none has been found, she said.

She said the entire Hanna’s Town site was farmland for 130 years. so 20th-century historians found a wealth of items on the site, from intact pottery and china to toys and tools.

The village tourists can visit today consists of a reconstructed Hanna Tavern and Courthouse, three reconstructed 18th-century log houses and a Revolutionary War era fort as well as a blockhouse and wagon shed.

The new center will have massive glass panels which overlook the main historic site to its rear.

It is being designed by the Lettrich Group of Greensburg.

(Judy Laurinatis can be reached at or 412-263-1228. )

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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