County’s history pulls into Washington station

July 28, 2017
Mayor Scott Putnam speaks Friday during the dedication ceremony for the Washington County Heritage Information Center at the old train station on South Main Street in Washington. - Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Washington County’s history continues to make history.

The Washington County Heritage Alliance, an association comprising nine history-related organizations, unveiled its newly minted information center Friday morning. The offices are in the restored train station – a historical site vintage 1882 – at 273 S. Main St., Washington.

“This was one of the original gateways to Washington County, a key stop, and we’re using it again as a gateway to Washington County,” said Scott Becker, alliance chairman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum and emcee for the news conference.

The Trolley Museum is part of the alliance, which was formed a few years ago to promote and enhance awareness of historical sites. The other eight organizations are the David Bradford House; Duncan & Miller Glass Museum; Meadowcroft Rockshelter & Historic Village; National Pike Steam Gas & Horse Association; National Road Heritage Corridor; Washington County Historical Society/LeMoyne House and Crematorium; Washington County History & Landmarks Foundation/John White House; and the Whiskey Rebellion Festival.

This group was formed a few years ago to work together to promote and enhance awareness of historical sites.

Becker was one of 11 dignitaries to approach the podium, situated 15 feet outside the entrance to the Washington County Heritage Information Center. Inside, visitors can access brochures, maps, displays and other resources in offices that will be staffed 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday through Oct. 28.

The former Baltimore & Ohio station is owned by Washington County Council on Economic Development, which upgraded the facility. WCCED, directed by Dan Reitz, is allowing the center to operate at no cost, Becker said.

Travel and tourism is already a viable industry in Pennsylvania, and is doing well in Washington County. Becker said more than 150,000 people visited the county’s heritage sites last year. One of the alliance’s goals, naturally, is to boost that number.

“A leisure traveler, unlike a business traveler, stays longer and spends more money,” said Tripp Kline, co-founder of the Whiskey Rebellion Festival. “History always stays with us. It’s a marketing tool we need to take advantage of.”

Becker said the strategic plan includes attracting motor coach tours and “working with more historical groups in the Mon Valley.” The alliance’s website is washingtoncountyheritage.com.

Pausing outside the center following the news conference, Becker beamed. “We’re really excited about this as a way to showcase all of the heritage sites in the county,” he said. “We’re all rolling up our sleeves.”

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012. Previously, he was a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won numerous awards, including a Golden Quill, an O-R staff Golden Quill award, and four other writing awards during his 40 plus years working for daily newspapers. A lifelong Pittsburgher, he is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh.

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