Vandergrift Historical Museum reopens after pandemic closure

A historical treasure in Vandergrift has reopened.

Vandergrift Mayor Barbara Turiak said she welcomed the news of the opening of the Victorian Vandergrift Museum and Historical Society, after being closed for more than a year due to the pandemic.

“This is a must visit to Vandergrift,” she said. “The volunteers showed me around once and I spent three hours there and never left the first floor.”

The museum, housed in the former Sherman school built in 1911, is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays. Free tours are available.

Offering three floors of donated items, artefacts and memorabilia linked to Vandergrift’s history, company president Anthony Ferrante said the museum was fortunate enough to financially survive its extended closure.

“Donations really slowed down during the pandemic. People are more likely to donate when they are visiting here, ”Ferrante said.

A nucleus of about 15 volunteers takes care of everything for the association.

The museum is home to the George Nasse Memorial Library which includes an extensive genealogy collection spanning Armstrong and Westmoreland counties.

Ferrante’s wife, Barbara, has been a volunteer since the museum opened in 1990.

She said visitors often had questions and comments about Vandergrift’s first factory, The Apollo Iron and Steel Company, founded in 1898 and owned by wealthy industrialist George G. McMurtry.

McMurtry had a vision of a planned community for his factory workers. He hired world-renowned architect Frederick L. Olmsted, best known for his design of Central Park in New York City, to design Vandergrift.

Inspired by trips to England and Europe, Olmstead incorporated elements of a European industrial city such as expanses of green grass, parks, tree-lined avenues and more into his designs for Vandergrift.

A revolutionary idea for the time, McMurtry even came up with all new homes, including a tub, a rarity in the late 1800s.

“The steel plant was one of the largest, employing around 5,000 people,” Ferrante said. “Vandergrift was ahead of its time at the time. There was electricity and heat at the time and the employees bought their own homes and that was taken off their paychecks. “

The company owns two other properties, a rental property at 102 Columbia Ave. which serves as a source of income and Goldstrum Memorial Hall, a building next to the museum that houses a large collection of military-related items and contains the Veterans Memorial Hall.

To book a tour, call 724-568-1990 or 724-681-6667.

Joyce Hanz is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Joyce at 724-226-7725, jhanz@triblive.com or via Twitter .



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