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Westmoreland history center construction set for spring 2013

| Wednesday, July 4, 2012, 11:37 p.m.

Work on a new building, The Westmoreland History Education Center, at historic Hanna's Town could begin in spring 2013.

The center will house a new headquarters for the Westmoreland County Historical Society as well as a place to display changing exhibits and a space for programming opportunities, said Lisa Hays, executive director of the historical society.

“Research and (a) library and exhibits and programs are all going to be under one roof,” Hays said.

Though the building will be located at Hanna's Town in Hempfield, it will showcase many aspects of the county's history.

Hays said many historical societies, including her own, are forced to keep artifacts in boxes because they have no place to display them.

“I'm excited to have a place to show changing exhibits,” she said, “... to get these hidden treasures out to the public to appreciate and learn from.”

The society is about halfway to its $4.3 million goal for the project, she said. That figure includes about $1.2 million from the county, some grant money from foundations and hundreds of private donations.

Though the exact date for the project will depend on fundraising, Hays said she hopes to seek bids for the project late this winter, then break ground in the spring.

The project has been scaled down from its original $7.5 million plans.

“We are not finishing the ground floor to save money — to get our project to a more reasonable goal,” Hays said. “Just with the difficult economic times, we thought it would be prudent to save some space for future finishing.”

Plans for the first phase call for telling the county's larger story.

For now, Hays said, the society will hold off on a Hanna's Town-specific exhibit because the partially constructed village there can tell that story. The entire building will be finished, she said.

Hanna's Town, particularly around Independence Day, tells its own Revolutionary War story, Hays said.

“There was a western campaign to the revolution ... that is little known,” she said. “And Hanna's Town tells that story so well.”

Next weekend, July 14 and 15, Hanna's Town will present a re-enactment of colonial court, reciting cases that were actually heard at the site between 1773 and 1786 before Greensburg was established as the county seat.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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