Today, the Borough boasts riverfront parks, playgrounds and docks, full time police, fire and EMS services and a thriving local business community. Uniquely situated along the Allegheny River, the Borough is just south of the tri-county point of Allegheny, Armstrong and Westmoreland Counties. The cornerstone of this triving community starts with a beautiful riverfront park that features several baseball stadiums, a deck hockey court, a children’s spray water park and a covered amphitheater with outdoor seating, restrooms and concessions.
The history of our small town dates back to the early 1700s.
The site of Tarentum, at the mouth of Bull Creek, was first inhabited by Shawnee Indians who established a village in 1729.
In 1734, a Frenchman, Peter Chartier, maintained a trading post until the Shawnee moved down river in 1745. Old maps show the early site of Tarentum as “Chartier’s Old Town.”
By 1783, the Westmoreland County militia erected a log blockhouse on Bull Creek for the safety of scouts keeping track of Indian movement in the region. At the close of the American Revolution, settlement on the west bank of the Allegheny River began to multiply.
The town of Tarentum was founded by Judge Henry Marie Brackenridge in 1829 when the Pennsylvania Canal was completed between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Brackenridge, who owned land between Tarentum and Natrona, surveyed an area between Ross and Lock Streets. He called the town “Tarentum” after an ancient Greek city-state in Italy.
The Methodist and Presbyterian churches were founded prior to 1842, and others soon followed. The first industry was C.L. Flaccus Glass, established in 1879 on Bridge Street. In 1884, Works 2, Pittsburgh Plate Glass was built in the West End, adjoining the Godfrey and Clark Paper Built, erected in 1885.
Industrialization developed in the valley when the railroad replaced the old canal in 1866. Tarentum had a population of 4000 in the 1880’s. The Allegheny Valley Times, established in 1881, was the first newspaper. During that period, a fire company, several fraternal lodges, and a bank was established. A police force was organized in 1900.
The town since has been home to several veteran groups. Riverview Memorial Park was dedicated to the memory of all veterans on September 6, 1926.
Tarentum established the first high school in the valley in 1892 on Second Avenue. Today it is part of the Highlands School District.
Transportation was the key to the town’s development. First by canal, then the Pennsylvania Railroad, and at present by the Allegheny Valley Expressway and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
One hundred years after its incorporation, Tarentum reached a population of over 9000 and became a leading mercantile center in the Valley.
While the Tarentum bridge opened for traffic on February 26, 1952, a population decline started to occur in the Borough.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, development continued to surround the Borough, which saw the completion of the Allegheny Valley Expressway in 1986, but the heart of the Borough still suffered from a decline in population and business.
By the year 2000, the population in the Borough dropped below 5000 for the first time in over a century.
The 2010 census indicated the Borough had a population of 4,530. While the population decreased over the prior decade, there has been a rise in younger demographics within the Borough who take advantage of the modern amenities offered in the community.
The Borough continues to push its revitalization efforts to provide a vibrant community for our residents and neighboring municipalities. The future success and quality of life in the Borough appear promising.