PA Research Room in Uniontown Opens World of Possibility

By Starn, Barbara | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 30, 2011 | Go to article overview

PA Research Room in Uniontown Opens World of Possibility


Starn, Barbara, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


People who wish to research their genealogy have a fine resource in the Pennsylvania Room of the Uniontown Public Library.

Vickie Leonelli, curator, said that it offers resources for everyone who is interested in genealogy.

"Teachers come here to research history so that they can incorporate local history into their lesson plans," she said. "Paralegals also come here to research their cases. Of course, people come here to research their family trees."

The room got it start when McClelland Leonard, a local geneaologist/historian donated his collection of books and other memorabilia to the Uniontown Library.

"Leonard personally funded the purchase of a vacant church building at the corner of Church and Beeson," Leonelli said. "This new library was opened to the public on Dec. 15, 1928. Out of the 14,000 books on the shelves, a small section of local historical and genealogical books were kept in a set of antique wooden barristers bookcases.

"We salvaged those original barrister bookcases and they now hold our Fayette County yearbook collection. In addition to the many local history books, Leonard donated his membership document to the Sons of the American Revolution, sketches, as well as the original working papers of well known local historian, James Hadden, author of the History of Uniontown."

Leonelli explained that when the library relocated to it's new location on Jefferson Street, the new site included a room for this collection. This room became known as the Pennsylvania Room.

"The new library, the one that exists today, included a Pennsylvania Room," she said. "The library was dedicated and opened May 16, 1970. The former Pennsylvania Room was located on the second floor of the library on the Jefferson Street side of the building, where the meeting rooms are today.

"At this point in time, the Room was already gaining in popularity, as many family researchers were beginning to explore their genealogical research and were visiting the Pennsylvania Room more frequently. People were traveling from many parts of the country to Fayette County for the purpose of conducting research in the Pennsylvania Room."

Leonelli said the late Barbara Peterson served as the library's bookkeeper as well as the curator and in 1994, the Eberly Foundation presented a $1.5 million dollar grant to the library for a major renovation to the building.

The dedication of the library's new addition and renovation took place Sept. 16, 1995. The most noticeable part of the renovation was the addition to the building for the purpose of having a much larger and impressive Pennsylvania Room (the local history department) as we know it today.

The current facility replaced the former meeting rooms. The room is recognized today as having one of the most extensive local historical and genealogical collections in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

When the library was expanded in 1995, this collection, having grown, was moved to an even larger location. …

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