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West Middletown Borough

West Middletown Borough Hall is located on Old Trails Road, Avella PA 15312; phone: 724-345-3731.

Beginnings [1]

West Middletown was incorporated as a borough in 1823. Thomas Gordon's book, A Gazetteer of Pennsylvania, states that the town contained "40 or 50 dwellings, 3 taverns and 1 store in 1832." Apparently Gordon listed only the most prominent businesses because deeds indicate that by the mid 1830s West Middletown was an important stop for merchants, travellers, drovers, and farmers, and the last leg of a journey to the Ohio River. It had become, in effect, one-buggy-shop, rural shopping center: general stores, taverns, inns, tinsmiths, cobblers, saddlers, hatters, and butchers. There were doctors to tend the newly born, and tombstone cutters to honor the dearly departed. Strangely, the community was never more than modestly prosperous. However, West Middletown was important, vital even, to travellers and farmers. But it was important during a time when "important" didn't need to be huge, sprawling, complicated or hectic.

Local journalists and writers have said that West Middletown is a "microcosm of the nineteenth century." In a real sense it is. The nineteenth century formed it, and the twentieth century froze it. The horse and buggy brought the town into being, and 150 years later the automobile drove business and people away. But the town didn't die. A stern heritage of pride and practicality, and an entanglement of family histories that can travel back several generations, has kept the town alive, if not growing, and rich with a cohesive, unique glimpse at what a small, rural, commercial town once looked like.

  1. Carter, Bob, Washington County History and Landmarks Foundation, West Middletown Historic District, nomination document, 1984, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washinton, D.C.
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