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The Ohio River Valley

Once forbidden territory for settlers and reserved for the various Native American tribes who hunted and camped in the area, 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.

photos by kristi jan hoover


What’s Here?

Once a day-tripper getaway for excursion boats from Pittsburgh, Sewickley is a word that comes from the original inhabitants and is believed by many to mean “sweet water.” Though it’s not clear if they meant the river, a spring or tree sap.

It’s hard to be much more of a company town than Ambridge, which takes its name from the American Bridge plant that turned out the Golden Gate Bridge and countless others.

Harmony Township
The moniker of this hilly residential area around Ambridge harks to the Harmony Society, a dissident sect of German Christians who founded what now is Old Economy Village.

​Both the tiny town, home to Quaker Valley High School, and the township next to it are named for surveyor Jonathan Leet, who helped to parcel out the area for Revolutionary War vets.

​Leet Township
The main artery, Camp Meeting Road, is a reminder that this area once was the site of religious retreats. Jonas Salk first tested his polio vaccine here on volunteers at the D.T. Watson Home for Crippled Children.

Ohio Township
A principally residential community with previously limited options for shopping, the township is seeing a burst of new home-building and related development on the bluffs overlooking Interstate 79. 

Neville Island
This large island in the Ohio River was the prize in a 1799 Supreme Court case between two Revolutionary War commanders. It is named for a third, Gen. John Neville, a key figure in the Whiskey Rebellion.

Ben Avon
Homes along Ben Avon’s tree-lined streets are quite a bit larger than the Dickson Log House, built here in 1796, which can be seen at the bend in Western Avenue.

Ben Avon Heights
Former farmland bought by a Ben Avon resident to build a golf course, this small community was a popular place for summer homes a century ago.

Bell Acres
Formerly Sewickley Township, Bell Acres covers the site of a lumber mill that once chopped down the thick forests to make railroad ties. Plenty of trees still are standing tall, as are some impressive homes, such as those lining Beech Ridge Drive.

​Sewickley Heights
When air pollution from manufacturing made the East End and North Side unpleasant for Pittsburgh’s millionaires, they built mansions here near the then-new Allegheny Country Club.

​Sewickley Hills
Landowners in eastern Sewickley Heights banded together to form this municipality in 1958 to avoid being annexed by neighboring Ohio Township. 

Glen Osborne
The riverside residential area upstream of Sewickley was a popular place for riverboat pilots, and later, railroad conductors, to build homes.

Aleppo Township
Aleppo broke away from Kilbuck Township in 1876, only to see itself chipped away to form new neighbors. What remains is segmented by ravines; to drive through it east to west, you have to leave Aleppo at least five times.

German immigrants settled this town in the mid-1800s. The I-79 bridge opened in 1976 as the last piece of the highway, cutting the borough in half.

​Kilbuck Township
Once much larger but eroded by breakaway municipalities, the township is named for a Lenape chief who left the British to back the Americans during the Revolutionary War. A hillside here broke away and fell on Route 65 in 2006 after developers tried to build a Walmart atop it.

The site of the first dam downstream of Pittsburgh, this steep borough is a mostly working-class neighborhood contained within a single square mile.

It’s quite possible that apple orchards here — which led founders to choose the name Avalon (the “apple island” of Arthurian legend) — were planted by John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed.

An old-school, boosterish sign on Ohio River Boulevard invites commuters to “live, worship, shop” in this borough, incorporated in 1867 with a fancy French name.

How tiny is Haysville? Its main drag, River Road — its only drag, really — has room for about a dozen modest houses before it peters out into the hillside.


Locals crowd the waiting area at no-frills Pizza House in Ambridge, better known as “Police Station Pizza,” for the crunchy Sicilian-style crust and warm-but-not-cooked artisanal pepperoni.  1007 Merchant St., 724/266-3904.

The eponymous sandwich at GoodFellas Deli and Drafthouse in Ohio Township is the GoodFella. Order this, and you’ll receive a New Orleans-style muffaletta on asiago ciabatta with salami, mortadella and sopressata from Parma Sausage, Boar’s Head rosemary ham and a house green-olive tapenade.  1518 Mt. Nebo Road, goodfellasdrafthouse.com.

photo by sean collier

After refurbishing an old Neville Island dive to open Carmody’s Grill, brothers Paul and Sean Carmody offer a variety of upscale pub fare and microbrews alongside the turtle soup and fried zucchini that were standards at their grandpa’s place in Franklin Park.  4905 Grand Ave., carmodysgrille.com.


Hand-markered signs and hand-coopered barrels add to the moonshiner vibe at secluded McLaughlin Distillery in Sewickley Hills. The small-batch Grandma’s Rocking Chair Whiskey is made pretty much as the name suggests, with the aid of an interesting contraption in the tasting room.  3799 Blackburn Road, mclaughlindistillery.com.

Some Sewickley residents jump-start their mornings with a shot glass of “Jamaican Sunrise” — layered wheatgrass, lemon and acai berry juices — at Salud Juicery.  Also available are smoothies, berry bowls and all manner of fresh juices, one at a time or in a six-pack cleanse.  348 Beaver St., 412/259-8818.

Toast the decision of Bellevue voters to overturn the borough’s longstanding ban on alcohol at Grille 565. Do it with a glass of the special “565” amber lager, which comes from a mini fridge tap behind the bar.  565 Lincoln Ave., grille565.com.


Eco-conscious new parents will find plenty of green-friendly supplies at Happy Baby Company in Bellevue, from wraps, cloth diapers and BPA-free sippy cups to mueslix with fenugreek and other herbal remedies to promote healthy milk production.  558 Lincoln Ave., happybabycompany.com.

You don’t even need to show up to browse the trendy summer dresses and rompers at Rosewood Boutique in Sewickley. This bright and airy shop keeps its Facebook and Instagram game strong with a daily fashion shoot.  412 Beaver St., shop-rosewood.com.

The new owners at SweetWater Bicycles in Ambridge, formerly Ambridge Bike Shop, have a full line of two-wheelers, jogging strollers, accessories and clothing.  518 Merchant St., ambridgebikeshop.com.


Get your dancing skates on at Neville Roller Drome on Neville Island for jam skate on Wednesday nights — or organ music on Thursday mornings for those who are more foxtrot- and waltz-oriented.  5109 Neville Road, nevillerollerdrome.com.

The Laughlin Memorial Library in Ambridge, with its immense marble columns, is one of the most ornate libraries in the region. The parents of Alexander Laughlin Jr. built it in 1929 to honor their son, a World War I veteran and president of the family’s tube company.  99 11th St., beaverlibraries.org/ambridge.asp.

Bellevue Mayor Paul Cusick calls Bellevue’s John A. Hermann Jr. Memorial Art Museum an “unpolished gem.” The free collection in a grand old house showcases about 100 amateur oil portraits and landscapes painted a century ago by a local resident.  318 Lincoln Ave., johnhermannmuseum.org.

Photo by laura petrilla

Food Critic’s Pick

If you live in the city and you’re looking for a good excuse to drive upriver for dinner, do what I do and visit quaint Cocothé in Sewickley. The charming restaurant, which recently expanded into the neighboring building, is one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2016 Best Restaurants. You’ll see why it made the list when you eat Executive Chef David DeVoss’s cuisine. (541 Beaver St., cocothe.com) — Hal B. Klein

Signature Event

Gear up for the sweetest holiday of the year and attend Explore Sewickley’s annual Chocolate Walk every February. Get one of the 300 tickets available, pick up your map at Explore Sewickley and eat your way through town at various shops and restaurants serving chocolate of all kinds. At the end of the route, vote for your favorites and enter a prize raffle. It’s an event worth attending; after all, as the late Charles Schulz once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” (exploresewickley.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.

Six More Things You Might Not Know about Pittsburgh

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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