Allegheny River Communities

Each borough and municipality in this northeastern corner of Allegheny County contains surprises. To those who live along the river’s edge, they’re familiar, hometown destinations and sights; to visitors, they’re spots worth making the drive out along (the finally construction-free) Route 28. Make a day trip to explore a chunk of the region off the beaten path — you might get so attached that you start thinking about a permanent move up the river.




photos by kristi jan hoover
 

What's Here?

Harrison
Here, industry and nature both have a home. Harrison hosts facilities for manufacturing company ATI Metals as well as the 500-acre Harrison Hills Park (alleghenycounty.us/parks/hhfac.aspx).

Frazer Township
Eat, drink and catch a movie at The Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills (pittsburghmills.com). While some of the storefronts in the mall proper are seeking new tenants, the sprawling shopping area surrounding it continues to thrive.

Brackenridge
This former mill town is a mostly residential community today. Its residents can enjoy daily, riverfront rest and relaxation at quiet Brackenridge Memorial Park.

Tarentum
Brackenridge’s big brother (in terms of size) is home to a number of bars, restaurants and businesses along East Sixth Avenue. It’s also a destination for bikers, thanks to busy Gatto Harley-Davidson (gattoharley-davidson.com).

East Deer Township
East Deer, the birthplace of the storied Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., has many more trees than homes. A handful of quiet neighborhoods enjoy plenty of shade.

Fawn Township
Where there are deer, fawns often follow — the township was named because it was seen as an offspring of the pre-existing Deer Township. Fawn was a big baby, however; at the time, it included present-day Harrison and Brackenridge, too.

Springdale
This borough along a bend in the Allegheny River is the birthplace of noted conservationist Rachel Carson, whose book “Silent Spring” played a part in the early days of the environmental movement. You still can visit her homestead (rachel_carson_homestead.myupsite.com) today.

Springdale Township
Springdale’s neighbor to the north typically is referred to by the names of its two primary neighborhoods, Orrville and Harwick. Residents cool off at Bouquet Park Pool (bouquetpark.com), which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016.

Cheswick
The small borough along Pittsburgh Street is no less proud of Rachel Carson than its neighbor Springdale. Rachel Carson Park is the site of Cheswick’s annual Strawberry Festival (cheswick.us).

Fox Chapel
Beautiful homes, bucolic parks and a pair of golf clubs — the Pittsburgh Field Club (fieldclub.org) and Fox Chapel Golf Club (foxchapelgolfclub.org) — define Fox Chapel. Education also is a priority here thanks to Shady Side Academy and the Fox Chapel Area School District.

Harmar Township
Most visitors encounter Harmar Township via the string of businesses and restaurants along Freeport Road. Don’t miss this large municipality’s wealth of natural beauty, including Allegheny Islands State Park, accessible only by boat.

Oakmont
The host community for the 2016 U.S. Open also is one of the region’s most distinctive hometowns. The longstanding Oaks Theater (theoakstheater.com) has converted into a destination for live performance (while remaining a single-screen theater as well).

O’Hara Township
Surrounding Fox Chapel, O’Hara Township is home to many people — more than 8,400 as of the last census — and a location to work for many more, thanks to the bustling RIDC Industrial Park.

Blawnox
While it was named for a pair of steel mills — the Blaw Steel Construction Co. and the Knox Pressed and Welded Steel Co. — this small borough also contains one of the county’s most untouched conservation projects, the undeveloped Sycamore Island.

Verona
Follow Allegheny River Boulevard north and you’ll discover a wealth of small, independent businesses in Verona, Oakmont’s southern neighbor.

Indiana Township
Most of favorite summertime destination Hartwood Acres (alleghenycounty.us/parks/hartwood/index.aspx), one site for the county’s popular free concert series, sits within Indiana Township.
 

Eat

The line might be long when you visit Oakmont Bakery, but that’s fine — more time to select delicious desserts and treats to take home. When all of those irresistible scents make you hungry, grab lunch in the bakery’s cafe.  531 Allegheny Ave., oakmontbakery.com.

Try the delicious lamb burger or order a seasonal selection at Hartwood Restaurant & Whispers Pub in Indiana Township. The intimate pub is perfect for a date or a quiet solo meal.  3400 Harts Run Road, hartwoodrestaurant.com.

Gatto Cycle Diner in Tarentum will serve your favorite greasy-spoon specialties. Dive a little deeper and you’ll find choices you’re unlikely to encounter in many train-car diners, such as a great muffaletta sandwich.  139 E. Sixth Ave. & 117 E. Seventh Ave., gattocycle.com/dealer-info/diner.
 

Drink

Feelin’ the blues? There may be no better place in Allegheny County to exorcise those demons than Moondog’s, the longstanding bar and music venue in Blawnox. Throw back a few cold beers and listen to licks from a local or touring act.  378 Freeport Road, moondogs.us.

Select a craft beer at Fusion Bar & Grill in Harmar Township and pair it with Indian food. It’s a family-friendly place, so if you need a spot for good beer that also offers a kid’s menu, Fusion fits the bill.  775 Freeport Road, fusionpittsburgh.com.

The O’Hara Township branch of local chain The Coffee Tree Roasters gladly will make your morning favorite — but don’t ignore the indulgent frozen options among its seasonal selections.  48 Fox Chapel Road, coffeetree.com.
 

Shop

Looking for a read that’ll leave you guessing? That’s the specialty at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. The store carries pulpy adventures, classic whodunits and much more; it also hosts frequent author visits.  514 Allegheny River Blvd., mysterylovers.com.

Explore the winding corridors and hidden rooms of all three floors of the E.N. Miller Antique Mall in Verona, and you’ll leave with a new treasure — as small as a refrigerator magnet or as large as a bedroom set.  615 E. Railroad Ave., 412/828-3288.

The world has changed: Everything that once was nerdy now is cool. Outfit yourself with comics, toys, apparel and more at New Dimension Comics in The Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer Township.  590 Pittsburgh Mills Circle, ndcomics.com/stores/pittsburgh-mills.
 


photo via flickr creative commons
 

Do

Feel like spending your day inspecting rare, automatic musical instruments? That’s simply one of the pleasures at the remarkable Bayernhof Museum in O’Hara Township. Reservations are required.  225 St. Charles Place, bayernhofmuseum.com.

Can it really be considered summer before you’ve spent a night with miniature golf and a frozen treat? Get both in one stop at Glen’s Custard in Springdale Borough.  400 Pittsburgh St., glenscustard.com.

Sometimes you need to go bowling. Relax like Lebowski at FunFest Entertainment Center in Harmar Township. The large facility also offers laser tag, arcade games, a connected bar and more.  2525 Freeport Road, funfestcenter.com.
 

Food Critic's Pick

Get set to crush some of the best wings in Pittsburgh at Nox’s Tavern and Grille in Blawnox. Nox’s serves 21 flavors of wings, so there’s something for just about everyone here; my favorites are hot garlic-Parm, hot sauce and sriracha-lime. If for whatever reason you’re not in the mood for wings, the original steamers — half-pound beef burgers steamed and served with a variety of toppings — also are a solid choice. (720 Blaw Ave., noxstavern.com) — Hal B. Klein
 

Signature Event

For more than 40 years, people have been flocking to the Burtner House Strawberry Festival in Harrison for a dose of history and a slice of famous strawberry shortcake. Always held on the third Saturday in June, the event, sponsored by the Burtner House Restoration Society, features Civil War re-enactors, genealogy researchers, guided tours of the historical home and more. If you can’t make it in the summer, head over in the fall for the annual Harvest Fest at the home. (724/493-9678) — Lauren Davidson
 

 

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21 Great Communities

Around the Point

With exciting options for work, play and attractive new housing – these Pittsburgh neighborhoods are the places a rising number of urbanites want to call home.

The New North

If you venture to this neighborhood only to attend a sporting event or concert at PNC Park or Heinz Field, you’re missing out; the area is full of restaurants, museums, cultural landmarks and churches, as well as some lovely historic homes.

The Old Allegheny Slopes

No matter where you drive or walk in The Old Allegheny Slopes, you are probably going up or down a hill. This makes for a lot of good views, along with hidden surprises tucked into these city neighborhoods.

The Northern 'Burbs

The area commonly referred to as the North Hills maintains its long-held status as a fine suburban place to live or go for a walk in a nature park, but the area also offers plenty of shopping and dining and play options.

The Near East

There’s a reason all of the out-of-town trend pieces praising Pittsburgh’s 21st-century rebirth seem to focus on these neighborhoods. This thriving part of the city is where design, the arts, restaurant culture and high-end shopping are integrated into Pittsburgh’s working-class bones.

Where 8 Meets 28

The river communities that have been home to many families with histories in steel- and glass-making have a wealth of quaint, independent retail stores, restaurants and businesses, as well as much-loved libraries, festivals and community days.

Allegheny River Communities

Each borough and municipality in this northeastern corner of Allegheny County contains surprises. To those who live along the river’s edge, they’re familiar, hometown destinations and sights; to visitors, they’re spots worth making the drive out along (the finally construction-free) Route 28.

College Town

When people talk about the revitalization of Pittsburgh, it usually involves the tagline meds and eds — and meds and eds it is in College Town. You’ll find the sprawling buildings of Carnegie Mellon University, Carlow University and the University of Pittsburgh as well as several UPMC medical complexes.

Green Pittsburgh

Green Pittsburgh is a story of the birth and rebirth of our city: students and young professionals flock to Squirrel Hill and Shadyside, adding vibrancy that radiates from top universities. Meanwhile, redevelopment in Hazelwood and Glen Hazel offers new chances for affordable housing and a blossoming community.

The Hidden East End

The Mellons, Fricks, Carnegies and Westinghouses built their mansions in this most-stylish part of town. But their departure for greener and more secluded pastures — and the mass relocation of families here after the razing of the Lower Hill — left much of this area economically depressed for decades. Now the long-awaited renaissance of East Liberty is beginning to bring major reinvestment here, too.

The Eastern Border

Most of these communities, which lie to the east of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels, are residential suburbs with small business districts. There also are tons of beauty in these hills, which are packed with historic homes, parks, schools and churches, as well as evidence of Pittsburgh’s steel-making and industrial past.
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The Sprawling Suburbs

Roadways, which prompted the construction of shopping malls, always have played a key role in this region’s growth. Research labs for U.S. Steel, Westinghouse and others attracted engineers from around the world, particularly India, and the new immigrants often built temples — one of which is a familiar sight perched on a hillside overlooking I-376

The Mon and Beyond

Past meets the present in the communities making up Pittsburgh’s eastern and Mon Valley regions. Here you’ll encounter reminders of where we started as leaders in the steel industry and — while plenty of these small towns still face challenges — you’ll find glimpses of where we’re going in neighborhoods moving towards revitalization.

Scaling the Mountain

There’s a lot happening in the area between the South Side and the Hilltop, and every time you visit, it seems a new business has cropped up. The communities around Mount Washington enjoy beautiful views of the city as well as parks, strong neighborhood associations and ethnic restaurants.

The Reborn 'Burbs

This is where the city’s southern suburbs begin, at the edge of the city limits and drifting into the areas closest to Pittsburgh proper. Along the south bank of the Monongahela River — in an area with heavy industrial roots — you’ll find neighborhoods in the midst of revitalization, with plenty of business and more quaint places to live.

Far Down the River

Pittsburgh loves its blue-collar industrial history, and at the heart of that are the communities that make up the Mon Valley. Where the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers meet is the beginning of a network of proud, tight-knit communities with lots of trails and woods to explore, plenty of fishing spots and — important for any community — a wealth of beloved soft-serve ice cream stands.

The Southern Suburbs

With their abundance of green spaces, thriving business districts and walkable sidewalk communities, Pittsburgh’s southern suburbs offer plenty of incentive for families looking for a peaceful place to call home. Though mere minutes from Downtown, these neighborhoods make residents feel as though they are worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The Midwest

The neighborhoods west of Downtown were among the region’s first. Most were part of Chartiers Township, which (like the creek) was named for Pierre Chartier, a local trader of French and Shawnee parentage who later became a chief. Formerly farmland, most of this area was transformed by industry into working-class neighborhoods, a legacy which persists today.

Down the Highways

While driving southbound on Interstate 79, don’t be scared to take an exit and explore. These townships and boroughs range from scenic farmland to busy main streets. Regardless of the surroundings, the areas in this region all offer plenty to experience.

The Far-Flung 'Burbs

These primarily residential communities have spent the past years growing — and becoming more and more popular. With Pittsburgh International Airport nearby and increasing economic development, it’s easy to see why so many call this end of the region home.

The Ohio River Valley

The lands north of the Ohio River became part of the Depreciation Lands used to pay Revolutionary War veterans for their service. The numerous small boroughs and townships along Ohio River Boulevard are collected into slightly larger (but still compact) school districts, befitting their continued status as popular hometowns to raise families generation after generation.
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