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Officials Break Ground on Heritage Center Annex

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
October 13, 2022
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Board members and employees of McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center watch as McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, Heritage Center board chair Matt Gergely and state Sen. Jim Brewster ceremonially break ground on a new annex to the facility in Renziehausen Park. (Tube City Almanac photo)

Local officials and representatives of McKeesport Regional History & Heritage Center broke ground Wednesday evening on an annex that will roughly double the amount of exhibit space available at the Renziehausen Park museum and archive.

Construction of the 3,500-square-foot wing is expected to begin within a few weeks and, weather-permitting, will be complete in late spring or early summer 2023, said Branden Kucich, owner of Kucich Construction, general contractor on the project.

The expansion is a reflection that the heritage center has increasingly become a regional asset that serves not just the McKeesport Area School District, but surrounding communities as well, said state Sen. Jim Brewster.

“There is an abundance of items that have been stored that people haven’t been able to see” on display, Brewster said. “The heritage center really has become a destination point, along with the rose garden, here in McKeesport. People come here from all over the country, including people who grew up in McKeesport as well as the surrounding areas.”

Support for the expansion is being provided by a $350,000 grant from the state Department of Community & Economic Development as well as local matching funds raised by the heritage center.

Brewster said the grant money is being disbursed from American Rescue Plan funding allocated to Pennsylvania. The investment in the heritage center is part of $8 million in capital funding from the ARP program across the Mon-Yough area that also will include improvements to Clairton Education Center and McKeesport’s UPMC Latterman Clinic.

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said the city will use a portion of its own ARP funding to supplement the project.

The center, a charitable organization, is located on property leased from the city.

Brewster’s support was vital to securing the ARP investment, said Matt Gergely, who chairs the center’s board of directors.

“Without his support, our mission to share our region’s history is confined to the walls you see here today,” Gergely said.

Founded in 1988, the heritage center has grown to include archives and resources that range from pre-Colonial days to the present time. In addition to maintaining McKeesport’s first schoolhouse, built in 1832, the heritage center also includes a complete record of the McKeesport Daily News on microfilm, an extensive clipping file, cemetery and death records dating to the 1800s, yearbooks for most area schools, and other genealogical resources.

The center also maintains and displays artifacts from local faith organizations and schools, the steel and iron industries, local businesses such as Menzie Dairy and G.C. Murphy Co., and items, including uniforms and awards, related to famous McKeesport-area residents, including athletes, artists and pioneers.

In recent years, the center also has absorbed collections from Glassport and West Mifflin.

“We’re continuing to grow, and McKeesport’s history is continuing to grow with it,” Gergely said.

The annex is being constructed on a vacant parcel to the south of the present complex, facing the Garden Club of McKeesport.

Kucich said the building was designed with the assistance of city engineer Jim Garvin and will be constructed of brick and wood framing to blend with the existing heritage center structures.

The center will remain open throughout the construction process, Gergely said.

Originally published October 13, 2022.

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