A Great Town In Westmoreland County
by Karen Fetter
As times change, many towns need a new burst of energy to
renew themselves and make hometown life appealing to both
residents and visitors. Fortunately, West Newton is getting
that chance. Located in a valley next to the Youghiogheny
River in Westmoreland County, West Newton is about to
undergo an amazing restoration coupled with the fantastic
tourist attraction of the Youghiogheny River Trail.
Youghiogheny River Trail :
West Newton History :
West Newton Activities & Events
The Youghiogheny River Trail is giving this small
community of about 3,000 people the opportunity of a
lifetime. West Newton's prime location to this trail and to
the Youghiogheny River is breathing life back into the town.
With the ability to improve its economic development from
the tourism generated by the trail and the funds to restore
the downtown area, West Newton may become a destination for
everyone to visit.
The YRT is not the first trail to pass through the area.
From its conception in the late 1700s, there were three
principle Indian trails that led followers from the
Allegheny River along the Juniata, another across the Laurel
Hill, and a third from the Ohio through southwestern
Pennsylvania. Now read on to find out how West Newton will
be transformed and how you can benefit from it as well!
The Bridge to Tomorrow Downtown Renovation
The Bridge to Tomorrow Downtown Renovation Project is lead
by Downtown West Newton Incorporated (DWNI). DWNI hopes to
lure trail users from the Youghiogheny River Trail (YRT) to
the downtown area by developing the trailhead where the
trial crosses Main Street, making it more useful and safe.
Plans include developing a walking deck to the West Newton
Bridge with a History Ribbon railing display and welcome
sign, as well as creating a new Town Square along the
riverfront. According to Ben Markle, DWNI director, the
mission of the organization as a whole is to help West
Newton's downtown by stabilizing the economy, enhancing
assets, and encouraging development. Markle says the Bridge
to Tomorrow plan accomplishes all of these things.
- Develop trailhead
- Develop walking deck
- Create a new Town Square
This project is so impressive that it has won two major
awards for its plans. The first award is Best Downtown Plan
awarded by Smart Growth of Westmoreland County and the
second is statewide award for planning given by the
Pennsylvania Planning Association. For more information on
the Downtown West Newton Incorporated, visit its website at
The Youghiogheny River Trail
The Youghiogheny River Trail is located on the West Side of
the Youghiogheny River and connects to other trails to make
up the Great Allegheny Passage. The Great Allegheny Passage
connects Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA and currently
provides 100 continuous miles of smooth surface with an
additional 52-mile branch to the Pittsburgh International
Airport. In Cumberland, MD the Great Allegheny passage
connects to the C&O Canal Towpath providing continuous
access to Washington D.C.
The YRT North is a 43 mile limestone surfaced trail built
along the right-of-way of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie
Railroad tracks between McKeesport and Connellsville. This
section of the Great Allegheny Passage is open and free to
The YRT is designed as a recreational trail for bicycling,
walking, fishing and canoe access, hiking, nature study,
historic appreciation, cross country skiing, and picnicking.
The section from West Newton to Cedar Creek Park has a large
grassy path for horseback riders too! The trail promotes
health and fitness so it is accessible to people of all ages
The trail system continues to Meyersdale for 100 continuous
miles of one of the most beautiful trails in the country.
The trail parallels the west side of the Youghiogheny River
and connects many small towns like West Newton and rural
open spaces along the entire river valley.
The plans for the River Trail began in 1990. Local citizens,
trail groups, and government officials led by the National
Park Service formed a task force and prepared the concept
plan for the Youghiogheny River Trail. In 1991, Allegheny,
Fayette, and Westmoreland Counties formed the non-profit
Regional Trail Corporation (RTC) with a mission to acquire,
construct, and manage the trail.
If you have questions about the trail, contact the Regional
Trail Corporation, at 111 W. Main Street, PO Box 95, West
Newton, PA 15089. The phone number is 724/872-5586 and email
Office hours are Mon-Sat, 11 am to 4 pm.
Take a day, weekend, or week and explore this amazing trail
that is in Westmoreland County.
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History of West Newton
While major plans are developing now in West Newton, lets
take a look at where everything started. There are several
dates that can mark the history of West Newton. Settlers
first arrived in this section of land in 1731, but it wasnt
until 1776 that there was a permanent settler by the name of
Joseph Van Kirk. However, this area was still not known as
West Newton. Instead it was called Huntingdon Township. And
then in 1790 the court ordered the township to be divided
into North and South Huntingdon. West Newton was a part of
South Huntingdon Township until it was incorporated in 1842.
The first industry other than the typical gristmills,
sawmills, and tanneries, was the paper manufacturing plant
built by the Markle family at Millgrove in 1811. The
business flourished for nearly 80 years until the water
supply became contaminated. Some other nineteenth century
businesses in West Newton were Streichers Footwear that
began in 1876, Brehms Jewelry Store that opened in 1885
(serving the public for nearly 100 years before closing in
and the Times-Sun, a weekly newspaper that was established
in 1878. The paper began as the West Newton Press and then
changed names to the Youghiogheny Times. When it was bought
by George R. Kreps of Greenville it was changed yet again to
the West Newton Times. A year later the paper took over
another paper in town called the West Newton Sun and the
operation was renamed the West Newton Sun-Times.
Fires that plagued the borough of West Newton
Unfortunately, many fires have plagued West Newton
over the years. The two that are the most memorable took
place in 1906 and 1922. In 1906 the fire started in Solomon
Goodman general department store on Main Street, which
completely destroyed the entire building and the building
adjoined. In 1922 an entire block of Main Street was
destroyed by fire between the railroad and Water Street.
Incidents of slavery
Around the time of 1850 there have been several incidents
and stories that involve connections with slaves. For
instance, one house was considered to be a stopping place
for the Underground Railroad. There was also suspicion that
a person by the name of Major Miles was a runaway slave who
had been harbored for some time. And lastly, there is
mention of a brutal attack on a man by the name of Runney.
Many in the town came to protect the man and he was able to
Some structures that are significant to the history of
the town are the Cornerstone building, the Moose building,
and the Plumer House. The Cornerstone Building has undergone
a recent transformation into six affordable housing units
and three commercial spaces. This structure is one of West
Newtons most prized pieces of architecture. The Moose
Building is one of the largest buildings in the downtown and
it sits on the corner of Main and S. Water Streets. The
Plumer House was added to the National Register of Historic
Places in 1979. This house was designed by and the residence
of John C. Plumer of West Newton. It is located on the
corner of Vine Street and Water Street. The West Newton
Historical Society currently owns the property.
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West Newton Activities and
West Newton is filled with weekly and monthly events for
residents and visitors alike. Plan a visit to West Newton
and take advantage of all of the activities yearlong.
- Self-Guided Historic Walking Tours: Historic
Downtown and Olde Cemetery Tours, DWNI Office, S, 2nd
Self-Guided Historic Driving Tours: Old Glades Trail and
Whiskey Rebellion Tours DWNI Office, S. 2nd St.
Bingo Night: Every Monday night, West Newton Fire Hall
Wings Night: Every Wednesday night, WN Moose Hall
Burger Night: Every Friday night, WN Moose Hall
Dancing: Every Second Saturday night, WN Moose Hall
Fire Co. Hoagie Sale: Every Third Saturday morning, Rite
Aid parking lot
Stock the Yough: March through June (trout and catfish),
Youghiogheny River Dock
Memorial Day Parade: May 29 starting at 9 am, Downtown
to Cemetery War Memorial
"Avenue of Flags:" Memorial Day to Flag Day, WN Cemetery
"Miracle on Main Street" & Light Up Night
Historical Society House Tour
Community Singers Christmas Concert
Experience what people from all over the United States
and western Pennsylvania are by following the Youghiogheny
River Trail and visiting West Newton. West Newton is
building its future!
West Newton, Westmoreland County, PA
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