A Pittsburgh-Based Writer With a Love of Local History

Courtesy of Gage Goulding/Idlewild and SoakZone

Hello! My name is Jennifer Sopko and I’m a Pittsburgh-based writer with a love of local history.

I have worked as a professional writer and historian in western Pennsylvania for more than 15 years.  I am a published author and journalist and I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

Since 2003, I have written about the Ligonier Valley, Westmoreland County and Western Pennsylvania for several regional publications. My writing projects focus on Western Pennsylvania history with goals of enlightening readers about forgotten and obscure regional history and reinterpreting connections between familiar stories.

I am the author of Ligonier Valley Vignettes: Tales from the Laurel Highlands (2013), a series of historical vignettes about Pennsylvania’s Ligonier Valley that was published by The History Press. My second book, Idlewild: History and Memories of Pennsylvania’s Oldest Amusement Park, a comprehensive history of  the western Pennsylvania railroad picnic grove that became an award winning children’s amusement park, was published in April 2018. I am currently working on a new book on lost amusement parks across Western Pennsylvania, slated for publication in 2021.

Since 2003, I have worked as a stringer for the Latrobe Bulletin, a daily newspaper based in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, primarily covering local government in the Ligonier Valley area, as well as writing features on local history, community events and other news. My stories also appear in the Bulletin‘s sister publication, The Ligonier Echo, a weekly newspaper based in Ligonier.

Since 2004, I have contributed articles for Westmoreland History, a publication of the Westmoreland County Historical Society (WCHS), relating the history of a variety of personages, places, and establishments in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, including: Idlewild Park; the Greensburg, Pennsylvania Volunteer Fire Department; Civil War general Richard Coulter; Fairview Park; drive-in theaters; and early 20th century opera houses.

I have also contributed to Western Pennsylvania History, which is the region’s oldest continually published magazine that’s produced quarterly by the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.

In 2011, I became the education correspondent for the Tube City Almanac, a locally-owned and independent online journal featuring news and events in McKeesport, Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. I now currently serve on the Tube City Community Media board of directors.

My work with the WCHS branched off into an association with the Pennsylvania Room at the Ligonier Valley Library in Ligonier, which gave me the opportunity to curate my first photo and memorabilia exhibit during the summer of 2009 featuring Pennsylvania drive-in theaters. My exhibit was based on an article I wrote for the WCHS featuring past and present drive-in theaters in Westmoreland County. Today, I continue to volunteer in the Pennsylvania Room and guest curated the 2019 Historic Photography Show featuring Idlewild Park, which is running through July 9.

My personal interests include: reading 19th and early 20th century British and American literature; rocking out at concerts with my favorite classic rock bands; playing flute, traveling; collecting vintage baseball cards; and cheering for/yelling at the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins and Pirates.



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