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.




photos by kristi jan hoover
 

What's Here?

Dravosburg
This borough, about 1 square mile in size, can be found heading southeast out of Pittsburgh — far down the (Monongahela) River. Dravosburg boasts a strong community with a notable fish fry during Lent at its volunteer fire department and a Holly Jolly Christmas celebration.

Port Vue
The Port Vue website says it’s “where the sun always shines and the mud never dries.” The borough near the meeting of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers broke off from Lincoln Township in 1891.

Glassport
Glassport’s name pays homage to its glass-making past. The borough’s curious history includes a 1963 tornado that damaged a glass company’s roof, unleashing molten glass that hardened into a 250-ton block. Though the glass industry has left the community, Glassport still has 4,900 residents in its 1.5 square miles of riverfront real estate.

Liberty
Along the Youghiogheny River, you’ll find the quiet borough of Liberty, once part of Port Vue before it was “liberated” in 1912. Today, Liberty is home to South Allegheny Middle and High schools.

Lincoln
Distinct from the city neighborhood of the same name, Lincoln Borough encompasses 5 square miles of thickly wooded land that offers plenty of woods, parks and wildlife to discover.

Clairton
The city of Clairton centers around its contribution to U.S. Steel’s Mon Valley Works: The Clairton coke plant, with its 10 coke-oven batteries, is the largest coke-manufacturing facility in the United States. The community also is home to the Clairton Bears high school football team, which recently made news when the Cincinnati Bengals drafted alum Tyler Boyd.

Elizabeth Borough
Named after Colonel Stephen Bayard’s wife, Elizabeth Borough has a history of not just making glass but building steamboats and ships. The borough, which has about 1,600 residents, has a quaint commercial district lined with small, independent businesses.

West Elizabeth
This former coal-mining and boat-building borough covers a small cut of land across the Monongahela River from Elizabeth. West Elizabeth feeds into the high-achieving West Jefferson Hills School District.

Elizabeth Township
To the east of Forward Township is Elizabeth Township, a nearly 23-square-mile area with access to the Youghiogheny River Trail and all of the beautiful greenery surrounding it.

Forward Township
At the southern hook of Allegheny County, the quiet area that includes Forward Township touches Washington and Westmoreland counties.
 

Eat

The menu at Driscoll & Sons Cafe in Elizabeth Township offers an array of mainstays you might expect from a classic American restaurant, but it surprises with a selection of well-prepared seafood. Enjoy some delicious, meaty Italian wedding soup.  2101 Douglas Run Road, driscollsandsonscafe.com.
 

For a satisfying chili-cheese dog, visit Hoov’s Hot Dog Shop in Clarton. The quaint red-brick restaurant offers more than hot dogs; it’s also known for the kind of filling, jumbo fried-fish sandwiches Steel City residents love.  513 N. State St., 412/328-9278.

An old red-brick bank building in Elizabeth has been the home of Rockwell’s Red Lion Restaurant since 1980. The restaurant touts its seafood entrees, such as salmon with crabmeat risotto and baked scrod.  201 S. Second Ave., rockwellsredlion.com.
 

Drink

Traveling through Elizabeth, you can’t miss the Market Street Saloon, the huge green building that takes up the corner of Market Street and Second Avenue. The saloon is a favorite local pick to watch the Steelers play.  100 S. Second Ave., 412/384-7004.
 

The lounge area of Max n Odi’s in Glassport feels like a place where everybody knows your name. Even if you’re not local, you can enjoy great food and drink specials.  500 Monongahela Ave., 412/872-4247.

Annie’s Hitching Post is a hillside destination in Port Vue, where bar-goers enjoy regular DJ nights, pool, darts and general merriment.  314 Port Vue Ave., 412/896-1925.
 

Shop

In 2016, there aren’t many places left where you can buy model trains and the little detailed figurines that give train sets their charm. That’s why Ken’s Trains in Glassport is so special. The hobby shop has specialized in model sets since 1994.  621 Monongahela Ave., kenstrains.com.

The deceptively small storefront of Barton’s Flowers & Bake Shop in Elizabeth conceals the extensive inventory of fresh and artificial flowers, party supplies, cards and decorations. The best part is the bakery, which sells beautiful cakes, pastries and Barton’s famous thumbprints (which carry a favorable icing-to-cookie ratio).  311 S. Second St., bartonsbakeshop.com.

Claudia’s Green Acres in Forward Township carries an array of vegetables, flowers, hanging baskets and even antiques. The plant shop specializes in herbs and stocks a wide variety of tomato plants.  2020 Hayden Blvd., 412/384-3049.
 

Do

Explore the wildlife preserve at Dead Man’s Hollow, a 440-acre area straddling Liberty and Lincoln boroughs. Find the sycamore tree with three trunks and see how nature has reclaimed remnants of the hollow’s industrial past.  dead-mans-hollow.com.

Test your putting skills and then your courage at Family Funscape in Forward Township. The outdoor fun complex offers an 18-hole mini golf course, a ropes course and a zip line.  7350 Hutchinson Road, familyfunscape.com.

More educational than Old MacDonald’s farm, Round Hill Park & Farm in Elizabeth Township has an exhibit farm to teach visitors about how farms work. The county park also has a soccer field, spray park and trails to explore, alleghenycounty.us/parks/round-hill/about-round-hill-park.aspx.
 

Food Critic's Pick

I’m a sucker for a good red-sauce joint, and Ciccanti Ristorante in Clairton is one of the few restaurants in the region that scratches that itch for me. Go for the chicken Parmesan, beef brasciola and spaghetti with meatballs. If you’re lucky, the terrific lasagna or barley soup will be one of the daily specials. (1206 Route 51, ciccanti.com) — Hal B. Klein
 

Signature Event

At the height of fall foliage season, head to the Elizabeth Township Community Center for the annual Fall Festival. You’ll find all of the mainstays of a good fall fest: a pumpkin patch, sausage and kielbasa sandwiches and kids activities — plus a haunted pathway, family portrait sessions and a vendor show with plenty of baked goods and crafts. (elizabethtownshippa.com) — 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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Getting Around & More

Your Guide to Getting There

How to make your way through construction, inscrutable directions and traffic and (quickly) get to everything Pittsburgh has to offer.

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The thing that annoyed a young Andy Warhol. A typo broadcast over the city skyline. And how our first mayor outwitted hostile natives at age 13. All of this and much more in the latest edition of Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh!

The Easy and Practical Newcomer's Guide to Pittsburgh

Here's everything you need to know about getting settled in the Steel City.
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