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Former Monsour Medical Center's demolition finally begins in Jeannette

| Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, 12:34 a.m.

It's taken eight years, but demolition work at the former Monsour Medical Center property in Jeannette began on Thursday when a work crew razed an outlying building that once housed the medical practice of a hospital founder.

“It's moving at a crawl, but it's moving,” said city attorney Scott Avolio.

The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp., which developed the demolition plan, hopes to acquire the property this year.

“We're more than happy,” said Mayor Richard Jacobelli. “We're super excited.”

The late Dr. William Monsour had set up his practice in the building that was demolished. Its roof and part of the walls had collapsed.

Next, the work crew will tear down a stone house adjacent to the hospital along Route 30. Known as Senator Brown's Mansion, it was built in 1783 and at one time was the residence of Dr. Robert Monsour.

The building was heavily damaged by fire last year and poses a danger to pedestrians and motorists because of its proximity to the highway.

A barricade will be set up around the main tower of the center to prevent vandals and trespassers from entering because it could collapse.

The county then will raze the hospital.

“This time next year, there will be no tower,” Avolio said.

Westmoreland County plans to acquire the former hospital property this year at a free-and-clear sale. The county tax claims bureau in December filed notice with creditors that it will offer the property for sale with the intention of acquiring it.

The main creditors, the federal government and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., have filed no objections to the county's plan. The county development group has applied for $1 million in state funds to pay for the demolition.

The county wants to ready the 32.7-acre site for commercial development. It was put up for sale in 2009 because of unpaid taxes but attracted no buyers.

The hospital has been a landmark along Route 30 for a half-century.

Built for $1.5 million by the Monsour family, it opened on Jan. 1, 1958. Court records show the original owners were Eva Monsour and her sons, Robert, Roy, William and Howard, all physicians. Howard Monsour is the only survivor.

The hospital originally was owned by the Monsour Hospital and Clinic Inc. and opened as a for-profit venture. The Monsours sold it to the Monsour Medical Foundation in 1975 and converted it into a nonprofit.

The Monsours sold 3.5 percent of their stock to the foundation for $500,000, then turned over the remaining 46.7 percent to the foundation, which agreed to make installment payments to the Monsours for the next 15 years, according to court records.

The medical center closed in 2006 after failing a series of state inspections and not correcting the problems.

The state granted Monsour a provisional license with restrictions, but the board of directors refused to accept them and opted to close.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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