Following the Revolutionary War, an inn was built along a wagon trail (today’s East Pittsburgh Street) that stretched from Philadelphia west over the Appalachian Mountains to Fort Pitt, now Pittsburgh. A tiny settlement known as Newtown grew around the inn, today the intersection of Pittsburgh and Main streets.
After a raid by Guyasuta-led Seneca Indians accompanied by Canadian rangers burned Hannastown, the original Westmoreland County Seat north of Greensburg, in 1782, Newtown was tabbed as the new county seat. In 1799 when the settlement was formally incorporated it adopted the name of Greensburg, after Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene.
Even though Greensburg was one of the few settlements in a vast agricultural region and even though it had the second post office in southwestern Pennsylvania (after Pittsburgh), there was very little growth here in the first half of the 19th century. By 1850 the population tally stood at 1,051. But Greensburg won a station on the Pennsylvania Railroad main line in 1852 and that made all the difference.
When coal and coke exploded in the region it was shipped from Greensburg. In the early 1900s the City could count more than 25 coal operators and shippers with offices in downtown. Many of the workers who came to mine the coal lived in “patch towns” near the mines with limited facilities. When it came time to go to town for supplies, Greensburg is where they went. This wealth helped the town outstrip its neighbors in growth and sophistication. The difference is apparent when walking the streets of Greensburg, not only in the substance of the buildings but in the quality of materials.
Our walking tour of historic Greensburg will visit the marble and granite and cast iron on display along Main Street but first we’ll start in a piece of greenspace that was a cemetery at one time but no longer, save for one memorial that reads poignantly for an inscription that never came to pass: “The earthly remains of Arthur St. Clair are deposited beneath this humble monument which is erected to supply the place of a nobler one due from his country”...
St. Clair Park
northeast corner of North Maple Avenue and East Otterman Street
The fingerprints of Arthur St. Clair, a Scot born in 1736, are all over the early history of North America, but, like fingerprints, without proper investigation they remain obscure. He first gained notice on the Plains of Abraham where his valor helped secure Quebec City for the British against the French in 1759. Later he was sent as the King’s Magistrate by the Penn family to western Pennsylvania where he was awarded thousands of acres of land for his war service, including most of what is now Westmoreland County. In that capacity, Penn marched into Fort Pitt, newly claimed by the British through representatives of the Virginia colony and, without arms, took the settlement for Pennsylvania. Fighting against the British in the American revolution, St. Clair was commissioned a brigadier general and rapidly made a major general. He crossed the Delaware with Washington and was with him at trenton and Princeton and Morristown and, in the end, at Yorktown. After the war, St. Clair took became president of the Congress of the United States Assembled. Under the Articles of Confederation, this was the highest office in the land. In this capacity he pushed forth the Northwest Ordinance from which would sprout six states. Arthur St. Clair, an American patriot of the first rank, seemed destined to be immortalized on a coin. It was not to be. He pushed for the new Constitution that made his job obsolete in 1789 and he left for the frontier as governor general of the Northwest Territories. In 1791 he led new American troops against an uprising against Miami Indians in present-day Ohio. It became the worst rout by Native Americans in American military history, surpassing even Little Bighorn. More than 600 men died. St. Clair financed much of the expedition himself, expecting to be reimbursed by the Federal government. It did not happen. His military and political career were in tatters, his fortune gone, his estate, the Hermitage, sold off to pay creditors. St. Clair returned to Westmoreland County where the shunned former president opened a tavern on the Forbes Road. In 1818, in his eighties, he tumbled from the back of a wagon and died. Fellow members of the local Masons Lodge paid to bury him on the grounds of this park, one of the few places in America named in honor of Arthur St. Clair. In addition to the hillside monument the park features a building from the early 1780s that was used for a school and place of worship by people of German Lutheran and Reformed churches. It was reconstructed and dedicated here in 1976.
EXIT THE PARK ON THE WEST SIDE THROUGH THE NORTH MAPLE STREET ENTRANCE. TURN LEFT ON NORTH AMPLE STREE TAND RIGHT N EAST OTTERMAN STREET. WALK ON EBLOCK TO MAIN STREET AND TURN LEFT.
Westmoreland County Courthouse
2 North Main Street
This Beaux Arts tour-de-force is the fourth courthouse for Westmoreland County; fifth if you count the sessions held in Robert Hanna’s tavern when the county was formed by an Act of Assembly on February 26, 1773. Newtown, now Greensburg, was selected as the permanent county seat in 1785 and this spot has always been reserved for the halls of justice. The imposing four-story structure of light grey Maine granite was erected in 1906. It’s central dome, 175 feet above the ground, is of Italian Renaissance style, one of only two in the world designed by the courthouse’s original architect, William Kauffman. The massive central dome is flanked on either side by two smaller ones above the main entrance, originally covered with ornamental gold and ivory terra cotta. Roof edges and pediments are decorated with stone banisters and ornamental carving and figures. Inside, beneath the 85-foot domed ceiling, is a vision of quality stonework. English-veined Italian marble decorates the public hall walls as well as the rotunda. Corridor floors and ceilings are laid with varicolored mosaics. Panels are set with marble mosaics in Renaissance patterns. A grand staircase of marble from the first floor opens upward to twin spirals to the second floor. Circular mezzanines on each floor of the rotunda are balustraded in white marble.
1 North Main Street
This limestone-and-granite building, richly decorated with Ionic pilasters, shields and garlands, was built for Barclay-Westmoreland Trust, founded in 1854, in 1928. An American coin-themed frieze features carved limestone ornamentation of sheaves of wheat from the back of pennies, Mercury dimes and Indian head nickels.
Bank and Trust
41 South Main Street
This highly decorated Romanesque building from 1896 was originally the Bank and Trust building but has received few modifications decades after the last deposit was taken. The symmetrical heavy piered-stone arched windows of the ground floor give way to two-story and single-story arched brick windows, All the arches on every floor are supported by classical pilasters.
First National Bank of Greensburg
111 South Main Street
The First National Bank of Greensburg is a Classical Revival stone-and-brick building that has been a mainstay of downtown since 1924. Paul Bartholomew, a busy city architect, did the seven-story design.
126 South Main Street
McCrory’s was one of Greensburg’s five-and-dime stores in the early 1900s. This building has changed little from its opening in the 1920s except that the the historic variety store chains have disappeared from downtown landscapes and the basement level has been closed to the public.
132 South Main Street
The Masonic temple dates to 1872 and is the oldest building in the Greensburg Downtown Historic District. Originally three floors, a fourth floor was added in 1876. The Italianate cast iron facade was popular in large cities and a testament to Greensburg’s prosperity at the time.
Troutman’s Department Store
202-226 South Main Street
Troutman’s was once the city’s largest department store, now used for offices and seniors’ housing. It has six stories with a limestone and terra-cotta facade in an Italianate style. The main portion was designed by Paul Bartholomew and built in 1923, with a more recent addition extending through to South Pennsylvania Avenue.
First Evangelical Lutheran Church
246 East Main Street
The First Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in 1784 in the log school near the public spring in St. Clair Park. The cornerstone for the present Gothic Revival building was laid on August 11, 1883.
First Presbyterian Church
300 South Main Street
This English Gothic style church was built in 1917, of water-washed Massachusetts seamed-faced granite with sandstone trim. It was designed by the Boston architect Ralph Adams Cram, who also designed the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York, and many of the buildings of Princeton University. Hexagonal towers flank the entrance with gabled buttresses and bracketed cornices along both sides with lancet stained glass windows. The congregation can trace its origins to 1788.
TURN AND WALK BANK NORTH ON MAIN STREET, RETRACING YOUR STEPS TO OTTERMAN STREET AND CONTINUE UP THE HILL.
Union Trust Building
101 North Main Street at northwest corner of Otterman Street
The former Union Trust Building is a good example of the Classical Revival style with concrete pilasters and window hoods. Built in 1921, it once served as bank and office facilities, including the headquarters of the Westmoreland-Fayette Coal and Coke Company.
Belden Law Building
117 North Main Street
The commercial survivor for the 19th century was built of brick in the Queen Anne style in 1886.
121 North Main Street
This Federal Revival Building was first constructed as a residence and then did duty as the office for the Irwin Gas & Coal Company.
Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department
137 North Main Street
The Greensburg Volunteer Fire Department was organized on January 12, 1891 and included Hose Company #1 and Hose Company #2. The City’s original firefighting equipment consisted of two hose carts and leather fire buckets. Greensburg Truck Company #2’s first ladder truck arrived in Greensburg in 1891, along with two hose carts. This ladder truck could be hand drawn or horse drawn. This is the Social Hall entrance at the rear of the Central Fire Station on Pennsylvania Avenue. This downtown house contains most of the department’s special equipment.
Trinity United Church
139 North Main Street
This Gothic Revival brick church with stone trim dates to the early 1880s; the congregation formed in 1849.
Christ Episcopal Church
145 North Main Street
This sandstone church, crafted in the Gothic revival style, is the second on this site. It was built in 1889.
Westmoreland Museum of American Art
221 North Main Street
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art was established as the Woods Marchand Foundation in 1949 at the bequest of Mary Marchand Woods, a resident of Greensburg interested in the arts but without a personal collection. This visionary founder bequeathed her entire estate in order for the Museum facility to be built in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, 35 miles east of Pittsburgh, where it was positioned to serve the people of rural Westmoreland County as well as the city of Pittsburgh. In 1959, the Museum opened its doors to the public and its focus became the collection and exhibition of American and southwestern Pennsylvania art.
Greensburg Academy site
301 North Main Street
On this site in 1811 the original Greensburg Academy was erected. This private school for boys and girls, with its commanding view of downtown Greensburg, inspired the name of the surrounding hilltop community, Academy Hill. In 1850, a fire of unknown origin destroyed the Greensburg Academy. Thereafter, the first public school to occupy Academy Hill was erected in 1862-63, with a subsequent school building erected in 1897. The existing school was erected in 1924. Thus, since 1862, this site has continuously provided facilities for public education in the City of Greensburg.
Blessed Sacrament Cathedral
300 North Main Street
The parish dates from March 10, 1789, when a group of laymen representing about 25 area families paid five shillings, the equivalent of less than $1 today, for the 1.5 acres that comprise the current site. Their intent was to build a Roman Catholic Church and public burial ground. Construction of a log church was started, then called to a halt because of a lack of funding. The space was never completed, never used, and the townspeople worshipped for the next 50 years at sites in Latrobe and Crabtree. The second church of the parish was built in 1846; the present building came along in 1923. Built of sandstone with Indiana limestone trim, the English Gothic building was designed by Comes, Perry and McMullen in Pittsburgh.
340 North Main Street
The Art Deco Basle Theater opened on September 15, 1939 and was hailed as “The Theater of Tomorrow”. It later became the Midtown, and survived until 1985, when it closed. A limited liability group purchased the theater in 2002 and now offers live performances. The theater is also used as a church. It helps anchor the town’s blossoming art scene.
424 North Main Street
The Academy Hill Historic District lies immediately north of the Greensburg business district. it was developed between 1880 and 1940 after an iron bridge spanned the railroad tracks that divided the two. The architecture of Academy Hill reflects the social differences prevalent in turn-of-the-century Greensburg - the high-style houses were built for the civic and industrial leaders and were built near the top of the hill; the remainder of the neighborhood was developed for middle managers and the working class and exhibits less architectural detail. Prominent among the architecturally impressive homes is the former home, now the YWCA, of William A. Huff, a founder and director of the First National Bank. Architect Ralph Adams Cram, who also designed the bank, drew up the plans for this Neo-Georgian mansion speckled with Ionic columns. Cram, a Boston architect, rarely took residential work and designed this for his friend Huff.
524 North Main Street
William Jamison was part of the family that established the Jamison Coal and Coke Company in 1892 that soon became industry leaders with control of over 20,000 acres of coal rights in southwestern Pennsylvania. His large 2 1/2-story Neo-Colonial Revival style home was built in 1903. it is a funeral home today.
TURN RIGHT ON KENNETH STREET. TURN RIGHT ON NORTH MAPLE STREET.
416 North Maple Street
This block is chock full of handsome Colonial Revival houses for the first part of the 1900s.
TURN LEFT ON GRANT STREET. TURN RIGHT ON WALNUT STREET.
334 Walnut Avenue
Paul Batholomew, who designed many buildings in the downtown historic district was also awash in commissions in Academy Hill. Seven of the homes in the neighborhood were created by the Cleveland-born architect; here is created a Tudor Revival style residence.
TURN RIGHT ON PARK STREET. TURN LEFT ON NORTH MAPLE STREET AND CROSS THE RAILROAD TRACKS TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT IN ST. CLAIR PARK.