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, editor and historian in Western Pennsylvania for nearly 20 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 with goals of enlightening readers about forgotten and obscure regional history and reinterpreting familiar stories.

AUTHOR: I am the author of two books published by The History Press: Ligonier Valley Vignettes: Tales from the Laurel Highlands (2013), a series of historical vignettes about Pennsylvania’s Ligonier Valley; and Idlewild: History and Memories of Pennsylvania’s Oldest Amusement Park (2018) a comprehensive history of the Western Pennsylvania railroad picnic grove and its development into a beloved and award-winning amusement park. I am currently working on a new book on lost amusement parks across Western Pennsylvania, slated for publication in 2022.

FREELANCE JOURNALIST & WRITER: I string for the Latrobe Bulletin, a daily newspaper based in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where I cover local government in the Ligonier Valley and write occasional 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. I have also contributed articles to Tube City Almanac, Westmoreland History magazine, and Western Pennsylvania History magazine.

EDITOR: In 2020, I became editor of Westmoreland History magazine, a triannual publication of the Westmoreland Historical Society that for more than 25 years has offered the public compelling stories about the local, regional, and national history that has shaped Pennsylvania’s Westmoreland County. I’ve also served as a commissioned editor for a self-published travel book and a privately published memoir, and I also co-edit the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association quarterly newsletter, The Liggie.

COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER: I have served as co-chair for the Westmoreland Historical Society (WHS) 2015 and 2016 annual fundraisers and volunteer in the Ligonier Valley Library’s Pennsylvania Room, where I was guest curator for historic photo and memorabilia shows about Pennsylvania drive-in theaters (2009) and Idlewild Park (2019). I am member of the WHS, the Senator John Heinz History Center, the National Amusement Park Historical Association (NAPHA), the American Coaster Enthusiasts Western Pennsylvania chapter, the National Carousel Association, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, the Ephemera Society of America and the McKeesport Regional History and Heritage Center. I also serve as secretary on the board of directors for the Ligonier Valley Rail Road Association and Tube City Community Media Inc. and as NAPHA Executive Committee recording secretary.

On a personal note, I love 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.


9 thoughts on “A Pittsburgh-Based Writer With a Love of Local History”

    1. Hi Janet! As far as I’m aware, no. The name Sopko is very common around Western PA, which fascinates me. My family name is Sobczek, but my grandfather Americanized it when he went into business.

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