A Great Town In Westmoreland County
by Karen Fetter
Like many areas in Westmoreland County, the Greater Derry Area developed from the railroad and the coalmining industry. However, it was first known for agriculture and still maintains that reputation today. The Greater Derry Area consists of Derry Borough and Derry Township with a population of nearly 19,000 combined. Where one ends the other begins, and they maintain a unique relationship with one another. Today, Derry Township is the largest geographical township in Pennsylvania measuring at 101 square miles. The steady growth in population continued through the years and now Derry is a place many call home. There are currently more than 5,000 families who are proud to live in the Greater Derry Area. Lets take a look at this rural area and see what it has to offer.
The Borough of Derry is located along Route 217 and within the Township of Derry. The Township of Derry is large and reaches many surrounding communities. The Township stretches to Route 30 and crosses Route 22. It borders Indiana County, Salem Township, Unity Township, and Loyalhanna Township. Surrounding towns include the City of Latrobe, Blairsville, and Ligonier. While there are no major attractions in the area, Derry does offer some of the most picturesque scenery at the foothills of the Chestnut Ridge.
Derry was originally populated by the Scotch-Irish who immigrated from Huntingdon and Franklin Counties in 1769, at a time when it was first possible to legally purchase land in Western Pennsylvania. At that time the land was called the Derry Settlement and became known for agriculture.
The population grew rapidly and by 1775 Derry Township was established. This was just two years after Westmoreland County was formed. However, once the Pennsylvania Canal was built in the 1820s, industry changed from farming to coal mines, quarries, salt wells, and timber. This new means of transporting goods gave renewed life to the area. It wasnt long after that the Pennsylvania Railroad was developed in the 1850s. This allowed even more industrialization to take place. Villages began to grow up around the coal mines and railroad stations. The culture became so diversified that the area had immigrants from all over the world. The blue-collar workers enjoyed the location of Derry and made it their home. These villages would soon turn into the Derry Station. As years went by and this area was growing in size and gaining importance, it was incorporated in 1881 and officially became the Borough of Derry.
In 2006 year the Borough of Derry celebrated its 125th anniversary!
The Borough of Derry and Derry Township work well together. In the 1950s, the two areas joined with New Alexandria Borough and formed the Derry Area School District. There is one main campus and three elementary schools in various locations through the area. Also on the main campus is another elementary school along with athletic fields, greenhouses, walking/jogging trails, and a historic one-room schoolhouse.
While the industries that started this area are no longer what makes it thrive, the Greater Derry Area continues to grow and change to meet the future. Now there are cutting tool manufacturers, machine tool builders, and Internet service providers.
There are many community groups within the Greater Derry Area that work to improve the quality of life for the residents. These groups and resources include:
- Derry Area Development Corporation
- The Derry Area Steering Committee
- Derry Area Business and Professional Association
- Derry Area Community Group
- Derry Historical Society
- Adams Memorial Library
Derry Area Development Corporation
The Derry Area Development Corporation is one of the oldest organizations in Derry serving the area for over 50 years. Among its many accomplishments, the Derry Area Development Corporation founded the Community Center and the Derry Area Pool.
The Derry Area Steering Committee
The Derry Area Steering Committee is comprised of governmental and business leaders who place an emphasis on industrial and commercial development as well as intergovernmental corporation projects. The group is working to construct an extension to the walking/jogging path. This new extension will be called the Lake Ethel Walking Path and will connect with the existing trail around the Derry Area School District Campus.
Derry Area Business and Professional Association
The Derry Area Business and Professional Associations main goal is to enhance the quality of life in the community and to serve the needs of businesses and the professional community. This group sponsors the Derry Area Community Picnic at Idlewild Park, the Halloween Parade, and the Christmas Lighting Contest. Also, this association serves as the host agency for the “Great Garage Sale” each August.
Derry Area Community Group
The Derry Area Community Group is one of the newest groups to form; however, it is one of the most active. The group works toward increasing tourism in the Greater Derry Area and raising community pride and awareness. Two projects that are noteworthy are the “Flags over Derry” campaign and the “Greater Derry Area Community Directory.” The Derry Area Community Group also operates the “Farmers Market” and conducts various community beautification projects. Presently they are creating a “Welcome Center” in the Derry Borough Council Chambers building that will provide information on The Greater Derry Area and South Western Pennsylvania.
Adams Memorial Library
In addition to these clubs and organizations, the Greater Derry Area has a branch of Adams Memorial Library located within the Derry Area High School building. This branch is called Caldwell Library and it shares operation with the high school located at 988 N. Chestnut Street. Hours of operation are 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information call 724-694-5765 or visit http://www.adamslib.org/libraries/caldwell/
Derry Area Historical Society
And lastly, the Derry Historical Society (www.derryhistory.org) is a group of dedicated individuals that have worked to preserve the historical content of the area. The Derry Historical Society was founded in 1995 for the purpose of encouraging the research, writing, and discussion of local Derry Area History and Genealogy; cultivating an appreciation of local historic architecture and architectural restoration; promoting community and school partnerships with the society; and establishing a centrally located base of operations for the display and maintenance of historic memorabilia and items of historic interest.
Currently the group is trying to increase its membership to the next level. After purchasing the new Conestoga wagon, they are beginning work on the Fulton House Historical Museum Complex.
Below is a list of preserved structures throughout Derry Area including hours of operation and location.
Derry Area School District’s One Room School House
North Chestnut Street Extension Open Wednesday evenings 5:30 to 8:00 PM during the summer months For more information call 724-694-8383 This is a restored one-room schoolhouse complete with the appropriate artifacts of the day.
Derry Station Railroad Heritage Park
Intersection of South Chestnut Street & the Railroad Mainline Call 724-694-2218 to schedule a tour. The exterior of the park is always open.
This park is dedicated to the memory of the men and women who built the railroad. It features a PRR Caboose museum and Blue Caboose Gift Shop. The site is a project of the Derry Area Industrial / Cultural Heritage Association.
Derry Volunteer Fire Department Museum
114 East Second Avenue
Call 724-694-2653 to schedule a tour.
This Fire Department Museums features numerous artifacts from fire fighters and much more.
Call 724-537-2165 or 724-694-8253 for more details.
The Derry Area Historical Society restored this 1817 log Stage Coach Inn.
Old Salem Church
Route 982, between New Derry and Sundial The exterior of the Church and the Cemetery can be viewed during daylight hours. Nondenominational Services are held at 2:30 PM on Sundays. All are welcome.
This church is the oldest place of worship in the Derry Area. It was founded in 1786 as a Presbyterian Church.
Derry has a variety of events for the public to participate in throughout the year. Some events have not yet been scheduled for next year, however, they occur in the same month each year. Contact the Downtown Derry Borough at 724-694- 2030 or Derry Township at 724-694-8835 or visit www.derrytownship.com for more information.
Important events include the Derry Township Agricultural Fair in July, the Great Garage Sale in August, and parades for Halloween and other holidays throughout the year, and Christmas Caroling in December.
The Greater Derry Area is a very scenic place to live. People can enjoy the rural landscape, but can still be close to highly developed areas for business and work. Take a drive and visit the Greater Derry Area. You may find that it is a perfect place for you to call home.
Derry, Westmoreland County, PA
Discover Great Places In Westmoreland