Uniontown resident Victoria Dutko Leonelli has a passion for local history, and it is that passion that led to the publishing of her first book, "Around Uniontown," a pictorial history of Uniontown and the surrounding areas.
"I was approached by Arcadia Publishers a few years back about doing a book, and right away I was excited because this town has so much history and has such a great story to tell," Leonelli said.
Arcadia Publishers, the foremost publisher of regional and local histories, told Leonelli that she needed to collect more than 200 images of Uniontown and the surrounding area.
"Around Uniontown," now in its third reprint, tells the story of Uniontown as it evolved from just 54 lots being sold by Henry Beeson, through its coal and coke days and to what it is now.
"I included photographs of Connellsville and the surrounding boroughs in the book, because you can't tell the story of Uniontown without talking about the other areas that make up that story," Leonelli said.
At first, Leonelli wanted to do a strictly postcard history of Uniontown, but later changed it to include photographs also.
"It's wonderful to be able to use photographs to tell a story," Leonelli said. She used photographs from her personal collections, from family and friends and from the Pennsylvania Room at the Uniontown Library.
Leonelli, a certified researcher and curator of the Pennsylvania Room, said she had an agreement with the library when she started the project.
"I told them if I found any images that the Pennsylvania Room didn't have, I would scan them onto a CD and donate the CD to the library when I was done with the book," Leonelli said.
Sometimes Leonelli would find images in odd places.
"One good place to find images is on eBay. Lots of people will have old photos or postcards and will be selling them. You have to be prepared to pay a lot for them sometimes. I have gotten into bidding wars with people over an image before and ended up paying $75 for an image," Leonelli said.
The earliest image in the book is a map of the area from 1879. Photos run through the 1960s.
Another interesting story that Leonelli has about the book concerns when Prince Andrew came to Uniontown for the dedication of the George Marshall Plaza.
"These books are printed in Great Britain, and when Prince Andrew visited for the dedication of the George Marshall Plaza, a copy was presented to him. I thought it was interesting that the book essentially made it full-circle back to Great Britain," Leonelli said.
Leonelli said that her publishing experience has been a positive one. "It's been a wonderful experience. I meet people, and they tell me they have read my book."
Now Leonelli is planning to write a second book, a pictorial history of Fayette County. This time, though, she plans on self-publishing.
"People here have a respect for local history and the old photographs," Leonelli said. "We're asking people not to throw away any images of local history. It's important to preserve that history."
"Around Uniontown" and the rest of the "Images of America" series are available on the Internet and at major book retailers.