by Karen Fetter
The City of Latrobe is a town filled with the pride of its residents. Located in the foothills of the Laurel Mountains between Greensburg and Ligonier, this city offers both a small town feel and the benefits of an urban area. Many long-time residents have shown great civic pride, which makes the area such a friendly and safe place to live.
Latrobe offers something for everyone. There are several parks located nearby that offer hiking, hunting, and outdoor activities. Latrobe also offers culture and entertainment through Saint Vincent College’s Theater and the Latrobe Art Center. Traveling into Latrobe should never be a problem either. Amtrak service is available at the restored train station landmark located downtown. Also, Arnold Palmer Regional Airport offers more than commuter flights. Since its partnership with Northwest Airlines, flights can be scheduled to destinations all over the country.
Latrobe features top-rated schools, a low crime rate, and inexpensive housing. These are just a few of the qualities that make Latrobe an ideal place to live.
Latrobe is one city in Westmoreland County that has truly contributed to this county culture and heritage.
Two major celebrity icons have grown up in Latrobe Fred Rogers and Arnold Palmer, both graduates of Latrobe High School. Latrobe is the hometown of the Latrobe Brewing Company and Rolling Rock Beer, the first Banana Split, the first scheduled airmail pickup, and is the location of Saint Vincent Basilica and College, where the Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp is held annually. Needless to say, residents have a reason to feel pride about their community.
The first explorer to record his journey to the area that is now known Latrobe was Christopher Gist about 250 years ago. It was in 1852 that civil engineer Oliver Barnes laid out the plans for the community that would be incorporated in 1854 as the Borough of Latrobe.
The change from Borough to City came about as the result of a Home Rule study. The history behind the name of Latrobe, which is appropriately pronounced La Trobe, came from Barnes best friend and college classmate, Benjamin Latrobe, who was a civil engineer for the B&O Railroad. Its location along the route of the Pennsylvania Railroad helped Latrobe develop into a significant industrial hub.
The Banana Split
While this treat is very tasty, few may know how it began. Of course, many resident of Latrobe can proudly tell anyone who asks. Pharmacist David Strickler created the worlds first banana split in 1904 at his drug store. The delightful treat has one scoop each of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice cream with a banana split in half along the sides. Each scoop is topped with a serving of chocolate, strawberry, or pineapple topping and then finished off with whipped cream and a cherry. First patrons of the treat were actually Saint Vincent College students. Now the dessert can be found anywhere ice cream is served.
Saint Vincent College & the Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp
Latrobe has a connection with professional football since the time of its conception in the 1890s. Latrobe native John Brallier was one of the earliest players to play football professionally. Also, the Latrobe Athletic Association was the first team that was made up of professional players to play a full season of football. But in addition to this piece of significant history, Saint Vincent College is also the site that hosts the Steelers Training Camp each year. Fans come to watch the players before the season begins and are able to take part in games and activities along with the opportunity to get free autographs from the players. This annual event is one that many Latrobe natives look forward to each year.
Fred Rogers was born in Latrobe in 1928. He joined the WQED staff in Pittsburgh in 1953 and dedicated his time to children’s programming. His show Mister Rogers Neighborhood was available nationally in 1968 and has been seen by children everyday. Characters like Lady Elaine, King Friday, and Henrietta Pussycat became household names. The same values and environment that Fred grew up with in Latrobe are reflected in his shows. He also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nations highest civilian honor. Needless to say, Latrobe is proud to identify with Fred Rogers.
Latrobe is the birthplace to golf legend Arnold Palmer. He began golfing at a young age and was a caddy from age eleven. He became professional in 1954. Arnold won 92 championships including four Masters Tournaments, two British Opens, and one U.S. Open. His popularity contributed to the interest in golf during the 1960s and is a great source of pride for Latrobe.
Another great part of Latrobe history is Rolling Rock Beer. Rolling Rock began in 1939 by brewing beer from the mountain springs. The amber beverage came in green bottles with the mystery number 33 printed on them. It was the most recognized consumer product produced in Latrobe by Latrobe Brewing Company, formerly a division of Labatt’s USA, Inc.
Adams Memorial Library
The first library in Latrobe originally began in 1927 as the Latrobe Public Library. The library was an instant success and continued to expand each year at its location in the Masonic Building. However, George Hamilton Adams recorded in his will that he would like to donate money to provide a new building for the library, which was done in 1954. As an honor to Adams the library was renamed the Adams Memorial Library. It offers a wide range of services for its patrons such as free internet access, CD-ROMs, audio books, videos, large print books, magazines, newspapers, microfilm, and a high circulation of books. There is also a children’s book room and several programs offered to adults and children. Furthermore, there are branches of the library at other area locations, and a Bookmobile that travels through the area making many stops.
Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
There is much history behind the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. It had its beginnings in the early 1920s when it was first used by Charles B. Carroll. In 1919, Carroll established a permanent flying field in the area at the intersection of the Lincoln Highway and Manito Road (Now Route 30 and Route 981). This location was ideal because of the two major highways and the proximity to the railroad and nearby towns. The airfield was called Longview Flying Field and opened in 1924. Then it became the site of the worlds first scheduled airmail pickup by All American Aviation on May 12, 1939. The airport flourished and was officially purchased by Latrobe Borough in 1950. The airport continued to expand and change ownership over the years. In 1999 it was renamed for Arnold Palmer on his 70th birthday. Today, the airport manages 50,000 aircraft departures and landings per year.
Latrobe-Unity Parks and Recreation
A board oversees Legion-Keener Park, which features a 1 mile fitness trail with a one mile extension, sponsors activities year-round for children and adults including basketball, baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball, soccer, hockey, swimming, archery, science and nature, yoga, and gymnastics. There is also a popular children’s area called Playland that was community designed and constructed.
Saint Vincent College and Monastery
Brother Boniface Wimmer founded Saint Vincent College in 1846. Wimmer was a Benedictine monk from Germany who wanted to provide education for the sons of German immigrants and to train clergy. He established the first Benedictine college in the United States.
The campus was built by monks on 200 acres of countryside. Today the college and monastery continue to be sponsored by the monks, which is also shared by the seminary and Saint Vincent Parish. The College has continued to expand and offers undergraduate and graduate level courses. Also on the campus is the Summer Theater where professional and student performances can be seen.
Latrobe Area Historical Society
The Latrobe Area Historical Society has taken great lengths to preserve the history of this colorful town. Volunteers and workers have recreated a replica general store and classroom to illustrate life in the early 1900s. Also photos, books and other documents are preserved in its location within the Latrobe Elementary School in downtown Latrobe. However, plans are being made to move the location to Route 981 in 2006.
Latrobe Area Chamber of Commerce
The Latrobe Area Chamber of Commerce is supported by the voluntary memberships of businesses, industries, professionals, and other organizations and individuals in the community. Members contribute their input to the development of the Chamber’s Business Plan, and then work with Chamber staff and other member volunteers to accomplish the tasks. Services offered by the Chamber include a business and industry expo, community awareness programs, economic education programs, an annual dinner, a monthly radio show and several networking opportunities.
Historically, the Latrobe area is known for its production of carbide. The top two manufacturers are Kennametal, Inc. and Newcomer Products, Inc. Timken Specialty Steel in Latrobe is a high-quality specialty steel maker offering more than 300 grades of high-speed, tool and die, high-strength, corrosion-resistant and bearing steels. There are many more thriving businesses in the area that produce a wide variety of materials. Latrobe offers quality labor and access to convenient transportation, which helps local businesses succeed.
Latrobe Area Hospital (Excela Health Services)
Health care and human services employ a significant number of area residents. As the area’s largest business, Latrobe Area Hospital employs over 1,500 people at its main location and 6 community health care centers. Physicians, Dentists, and other health care providers have professional offices located throughout the Latrobe area.
For current dates on all activities, please visit www.GreaterLatrobe.net
Latrobe has one major event each year that attracts visitors from all over Westmoreland County. It is the annual Greater Latrobe 4th of July Celebration. This event is from July 1 -4 with activities planned throughout the town. Such activities include a Miss Fourth of July Pageant, Firecracker Frolic, the Rolling Rock 5 Mile Run, baking contests, festival food, arts and crafts, musical performances, a parade, and a fireworks display. This event is always a success and invites many residents and visitors to participate in celebrating the nations birthday.
In addition to the Fourth of July Celebration, Latrobe also celebrates many holidays and seasons with parades including Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Halloween. Visit the Chamber of Commerce’s website to find out specific dates for each parade.
Latrobe offers Sunday night band concerts in Legion-Keener Park during the summer, a visit with Santa Clause after Thanksgiving, and arts and crafts festivals in the spring and fall.
Latrobe is always a great place to visit.