A Great Town In Westmoreland County
by Karen Fetter
If you are interested in being close to a major city, yet still having the comforts of a small town, then consider visiting Irwin, PA. Situated in a prime location for traveling into Pittsburgh, Irwin Borough is one area in Westmoreland County that people are flocking to live in.
While Irwin Borough is mainly residential, it still has an active business district. Located near the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Route 30, many businesses line the roads both on the outskirts and in downtown Irwin. People can enjoy commerce while also having the feeling of suburbia. From collectible and redecorating shops to restaurants and delis Irwin has it all. It is because of these characteristics that people are finding how attractive it is to live in Irwin Borough.
With a population of just over 4,000 the community is rising in popularity. The one square mile community has an active community spirit. There is an outgoing Chamber of Commerce and Professional Business Association not to mention plans for a complete renovation of the downtown.
With this much care for its town, residents are making sure that Irwin stays healthy and vital in years to come.
The area that Irwin lies in is also known as Norwin, which encompasses the political communities of Irwin, North Irwin, and North Huntingdon. The name Norwin is a combination of letters from the names of all three communities.
Irwin Borough was founded by Col. John Irwin in 1773. He began buying land in 1769 and built a log fur-trading post which was later burned by Indians. He purchased another piece of land named Brush Hill and built a frame house. This house also burned. Then he built a third house on the same site, which still stands today. After his death and the death of his brother James, James’ son inherited the land that is from Jacktown to Wardentown. This is what became the town of Irwin.
By 1864, the population of the town of Irwin reached 500 and there was public demand for incorporation as a Borough. A petition for a charter was sent to court that summer and it was approved August 23, 1864.
With the development of the coal industry, the borough grew rapidly. There were at least six stores in Irwin in addition to James Carson’s blacksmith shop and Cyrus Wilson’s wagon shop. The town had three hotels: the Guffey House, Twigger’s, and Joseph McQuiston’s. Many other businesses were located near the Pennsylvania Railroad station, which was located beyond Main Street.
Irwin was a focal point of commerce and continued so into the 1900s. In 1940 the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened. Irwin was one of the first locations to have an exchange. This new way of traveling impacted the communities that surrounded it. Businesses that that were located along Route 30 were no longer thriving. However, because Irwin had a turnpike exchange, the area still survived. In fact, there is a successful business district along Route 30 and in downtown Irwin.
Much of Irwins history is told in a mural that is located at 75 Pennsylvania Avenue along the side of the Remote Control Systems, Inc. building. The mural was painted by Wayne Fettro through a project by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. The main image of the mural is a trolley traveling down the road while five coal miners stand across the bottom with their hat lanterns and lunch boxes. The Old Shay Ale Brewery and the former Penn Gas and Coal Co., Shaft No. 2 are pictured. Also there is an image of the first traffic light installed in Irwin.
The Irwin Project
The Irwin Project is a plan to revitalize the Main Street of Irwin to encourage more growth and economic development in the area. The project also includes a beautification plan to enhance the look and style of the borough.
The Irwin Project was approved by a unanimous vote of borough council in the summer of 2004. Then within a year the project had received or been pledged a total of $110,000 including a $50,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development through the Land Use Planning and Technical Assistance Program, $11,000 raised through private funds, and $50,00 in other private pledges. Guiding the project is chairman Bob Michaud, vice president of marketing for Irwin Bank and Trust.
Norwin Historical Society
The Norwin Historical Society (NHS) was founded in 1994. The NHS has established a postcard collection and installed several Historical Markers throughout the area. The NHS also initiated the creation of Cats Meow Collectibles including The Scull House, The Larimer House, The Clock Tower, and Isaly’s. Also, a major fundraiser that the NHS has is the Norwin House Tour where people can visit and tour seven homes in the area. The event takes place the first Saturday in December.
Isalys Bakery Dairy & Deli
Isaly’s is gone now, but remains in our hearts and memories. Isaly’s was best known for inventing the Klondike bar, chipped chopped ham, and the legendary Skyscraper cones. Isalys began in 1833 when Christian Isaly immigrated from Switzerland to Monroe County in Ohio. His trade was making cheese. Generations after him expanded the business into dairy farming. Then they were bottling milk for home delivery via horse-drawn carts. Soon Isaly’s Dairy Company was formed and sold products in Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.
Isaly’s came to Pittsburgh from Ohio in 1931 and opened its first store in Homewood. The business expanded to 100 stores with one location in Irwin. These stores were very popular in the neighborhoods that they were in because they stayed open until midnight.
Norwin Public Library
Located at 100 Caruthers Lane, the Norwin Public Library (www.norwinpubliclibrary.org) has undergone a complete renovation. The library has an extensive collection of books for adults and children, DVDs, audio cds, and books on tape. The library offers 28 public use computers with Internet access and several databases for research. In addition, there is a coffee shop and lounge area. The Norwin Public Library now offers the Learning Express Library. Practice Tests for the SATs, ACTs, Civil Service, and many others. Those interested in helping support the library can become Friends of the Library, a program designed to help the library grow and prosper in the community.
Norwin Public Library also offers free computer classes in Basic Windows, Word Processing, Internet, and more. For more information and a schedule of classes, call the library at 724-863-4700.
Irwin Business and Professional Association (IBPA)
The Irwin Business and Professional Association (IBPA) is an organization that promotes the town of Irwin so the community remains vital and healthy. The organization mainly involves merchants, but membership is open to anyone who is interested in the welfare of Irwin. The IBPA tries to schedule monthly events for people to attend. These events are highly successful and contribute to the community life in Irwin. These events are as follows:
Pansy Day – April 1
Car Show – the last Saturday in April
Mom and Me Day May
Craft Show – June
Flea Market – July
Community Picnic August
Flea Market – September
Halloween Parade – October
Light-up Night – one week before Thanksgiving, Thursday night
For more information contact Lois Woleslagle at 724-864-0560
The Norwin Chamber of Commerce
The Norwin Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the growth and establishment of this community as a superior location in which to live, work, vacation, and conduct business.
All sizes and types of organizations are represented. Members include manufacturing, agriculture, finance, health, media, retailing, elected officials, churches and service clubs, and individuals. Together, the members of the Chamber work to make the businesses in our region thrive. Among the many events held each year are the following:
Foothills Football Classic
This annual event takes place June 10, 2006 and includes all star athletes from Westmoreland County and surrounding counties. Students are divided into north and south teams and are given the opportunity to play each other. The winner receives a scholarship for college. 2006 is the first year the Norwin Chamber is a co-sponsor for the event. http://www.foothillsfootballclassic.com.
Community Picnic Day
The Norwin community will celebrate its 74th Annual Community Day Picnic at Idlewild Park on August 2, 2006. Games, childrens activities, softball, and prizes are a part of the annual event. Contact the Norwin Chamber of Commerce for more information at 724-863-0888.
Annual Chamber Golf Outing
This annual event takes place June 5, 2006 at the Youghiogheny Country Club. Contact the Norwin Chamber of Commerce for more information.
Irwin, Westmoreland County, PA
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