Irwin gears up for 150th anniversary

Champagne reception set for Nov. 15

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When Col. John Irwin in the late 1700s settled in what is now the borough that bears his name, his first house was set on fire by Indians and his second was struck by lightning and burned.

So, the colonel built the Brush Hill/Scull House of brown fieldstone, vowing to construct a home "that neither man nor nature can destroy."

That Federal-style house, now on the National Register of Historic Places, still stands at 651 Brush Hill Road in Irwin and is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Donald Miller. It is one of the first mansions built west of the Appalachians.

Irwin lived from 1739 to 1822. When his brother's son, also named John Irwin, was 25 years old, he built his house at the intersection of Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, where it still stands. The house also served as a stage coach inn for travelers on the Pittsburgh to Philadelphia Turnpike.

Hallie Chatfield of the Norwin Historical Society said in early 1864, the younger John Irwin and about 60 other residents of the hamlet of Irwin petitioned Westmoreland County to form an incorporated borough and succeeded in doing so on Nov. 14, 1864.

Now, Irwin is preparing for its 150th anniversary celebration, which will start about one year prior to the anniversary.

The kickoff for 10 months of celebrating will be a champagne and hors d'oeuvres reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 15 at Banquets Unlimited, North Huntingdon. The reception will feature a chocolate fountain, a short talk on the history of Irwin by Carl Huszar of the Norwin Historical Society, and music by the Gail Macioce Trio with Dave Cremonese on keyboard and Thom Book on guitar.

Debbie Kelly, Irwin councilwoman and head of the 150th anniversary committee, said committee members are excited they have been able to accomplish so much in preparing for the events "and invite the whole community into downtown Irwin to celebrate."

Ms. Macioce, who is an Irwin councilwoman and is on the committee, said members have been working since May 2012 to get ready for the celebration.

Events of the Irwin Business and Professional Association will be "supersized" throughout the year to reflect the fact it is the borough's anniversary year, she said.

The second event highlighted in the celebration will be Irwin's Light Up Night Parade Nov. 21, followed by the Irwin Business and Professional Association Christmas Cookie Tour on Dec. 6 and the historical society's Historic House Tour on Dec. 7.

In the new year, a Chili and Wing Cookoff will be held Feb. 6 in various restaurants and in a church in downtown Irwin.

A car cruise will be held April 26 downtown, and an ethnic food festival will be held June 14 throughout the downtown area.

Art & Jazz Nights will be held, in which Jazz pianists, guitarists and vocalists perform in various restaurants and on street corners in downtown Irwin, on June 19 and July 17.

The anniversary will culminate with a weeklong series of events in August.

On Aug. 3, a nondenominational church service will be held in Irwin Park.

"All are welcome," Ms. Macioce said.

On Aug. 5, a Firemen's Cookout is planned for Dan Rose Park, formerly known as Bell Park along Main Street, and on Aug. 6, the Norwin Community Picnic will be held at Idlewild Park.

An Antique Super Car Cruise will be held Aug. 7 at a location not yet determined, and at 10 a.m. Aug. 9, the celebration will end with a parade from Kohl's along Pennsylvania Avenue to Main Street; a Rib Rally at 2 p.m. in Irwin Park; music and food at 3 p.m. in the park; a band at 6 p.m.; and fireworks at 10 p.m.

A "then and now" coffee table book of vintage photos of Irwin churches, transportation, industry, homes, families and cemeteries will be printed in 2014 as part of the celebration.

The book can be ordered at the reception and later, Mrs. Chatfield said.


Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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