Allegheny River Communities
The communities along the Allegheny River are known for natural beauty as well as shopping at Pittsburgh Mills and taking on the course at Oakmont Country Club.
photo by erik drost via flickr creative commons
Harrison: Lest you think steel is a thing of the past, Harrison is home to one of ATI’s production sites [atimetals.com], helping to keep the company’s mills at the forefront of the industry.
Frazer Township: Shopping doesn’t get bigger in western Pennsylvania than the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills [590 Pittsburgh Mills Blvd., pittsburghmills.com], a mall bested only by King of Prussia Mall for biggest in the state.
Brackenridge: This quiet hometown is the birthplace of Bud Carson, defensive coordinator for the Steelers during the championship years of the ’70s. (OK, he also was a head coach of the Cleveland Browns, but we’ll let that slide.)
Tarentum: The “Crossroads of the Allegheny Valley” has seen everything from bottle manufacturing to the high school education of actress Estelle Harris.
East Deer Township: The birthplace of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co. experienced a population growth of more than 15 percent in the last decade.
Fawn Township: Did you know buffalo once lived in the Allegheny Valley? Fawn’s Bull Creek is named for the former population.
Springdale: And guess what else besides buffalo used to populate the region? Prehistoric alligators. Right there in Springdale’s Riddle Run, which also meets the Allegheny River. (We’re keeping an eye on you, Allegheny River — alligators live for a long time.)
Springdale Township: To avoid confusion with the preceding Springdale, residents tend to identify themselves as living in either Orrville to the east or Harwick to the west.
Cheswick: If you need us in early June, we’ll be at Rachel Carson Park’s annual Strawberry Festival [cheswick.us]. The firefighters are in charge of the hot dogs, and there’s a chance of chocolate-strawberry shortcake. What more do you need?
Fox Chapel: Get on your fancy pants: There always are plenty of society happenings in Fox Chapel, among the wealthiest communities in Pennsylvania. Want to get in on the high life? Start with the Pittsburgh Field Club [121 Field Club Road, fieldclub.org], founded in 1882.
Harmar Township: If you need a big dose of beauty in your day, Harmar’s undeveloped Allegheny Islands State Park [dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/alleghenyislands] is your solution.
Oakmont: In 2016, Oakmont Country Club [1233 Hulton Road, oakmont-countryclub.org] will host the U.S. Open for the ninth time, giving world-class golfers the chance to visit this charming community.
O’Hara Township: The sprawling RIDC Industrial Park is located within O’Hara Township, as is the quirky Bayernhof Museum [225 St. Charles Place, bayernhofmuseum.com] and its large collection of rare, automated musical instruments.
Blawnox: A former steel town named for two of its mills — the Blaw Steel Construction Co. and the Knox Pressed and Welded Steel Co. — Blawnox is known to many today as the home of blues venue Moondog’s [378 Freeport Road, moondogs.us].
Verona: If you spent your Saturday mornings pounding Little Hug Fruit Barrels after a soccer game — or if you’ve moved on to Daily’s Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri pouches in your adulthood — you have Verona’s American Beverage Corporation [ambev.com] to thank.
Indiana Township: Can you find the suburb within the suburb? Indiana Township harbors the unincorporated village of Dorseyville. It’s the civic equivalent of having a secret lair behind your bookcase.
photo by john altdorfer
10 Things We Love in the Allegheny River Communities
1 Head to the Verona Public Dock [101 Arch St.] and get out onto the water. Boats not your thing? There’s still a beautiful view for those perfect-weather days we treasure around here.
2 We know you’re already headed to Hartwood Acres [200 Hartwood Acres, alleghenycounty.us/parks/hwfac.aspx] for summer concerts, but consider getting there early and exploring the estate’s Tudor-style mansion and its collection of antiques.
3 Looking for somewhere different to get your fresh-baked bread? (Personally, we can never have enough options.) Take a deep breath — several, really — before placing your order at Vibo’s Bakery [881 Brackenridge Ave.] in Brackenridge.
4 Tarentum knows how to have some unusual fun. Come fall, be on the lookout for the annual Scarecrow Contest [tarentumboro.com]. You can participate in a straw man’s creation (alone or as a group) or take a stroll along Corbet Street and East Sixth Avenue when the entries deck the light poles.
5 Hovering above the mall food court used to be strictly for dreams and out-of-body experiences. Thanks to the Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail [590 Pittsburgh Mills Blvd., facebook.com/pittsburghmillsskytrail], it’s become a reality; strap in and climb, perch and soar above shoppers.
6 O’Hara’s Meadow Park [ohara.pa.us/parks.asp#meadow] contains 24 acres of relaxation. You can watch a ballgame, play a round of tennis or hold that big birthday bash you’ve always wanted in the park’s picnic shelter (it has electricity and running water).
7 The Allegheny River is full of locks and dams, but Harmar Township’s Allegheny River Lock and Dam No. 3 has a surviving lockkeeper’s house from 1907 [Barking Road]. Get your engineering and history nerd on at the same time.
8 It’s easy to find things to do when the weather gets warm, but many are frequently pressed for places to go during those long winter months. Fear not! Fox Chapel’s McCahill Park [Squaw Run and Guyasuta roads] has a free outdoor ice rink. You’ll still be cold, but you’ll have fun while you shiver.
9 We’re always on the lookout for a killer cocktail, and have we found one for you at Indiana Township’s Andora [599 Dorseyville Road, andorarestaurant.com]. Meet us at the restaurant — the former Cross Keys Inn, built circa 1850 — for an Italian Stallion: Tuaca, Amaretto and Frangelico. (It’ll warm you up if you took our advice on ice skating.)
10 We’re big fans of cider, so we take an abiding interest in the historic Lehner Grain-and-Cider Mill and House [548 and 560 Penn St.] in Verona. The site has been inactive for almost 100 years, but a quick visit is a nice reminder that the greater Pittsburgh area always has been invested in our love of imbibing the sweet stuff.
PHOTO BY JOHN ALTDORFER
Explore the Oakmont community via the Oakmont Arboretum Trail [traillink.com/trail/arboretum-trail.aspx] that follows the railroad tracks. You’ll be on the trail for close to a mile and will stay near downtown; the asphalt trail runs between the two main streets of Allegheny Avenue and Allegheny River Boulevard. Beware — the trail runs by the famed Oakmont Bakery, which might entice you to cut your walk short. Do note that this trail is intended only for walking and running; dogs, bicycles, skateboards and motorized vehicles are not permitted. — Jennie Dorris
Under-the-radar food and drinks
Blackberry Meadows Farm [7115 Ridge Road, blackberrymeadows.com] in Fawn Township is a bastion of sustainability in the suburbs. Greg Boulos and Jen Montgomery took over the 85-acre certified organic farm in 2008 and have expanded their offerings to include a wide range of hard-to-find (or nearly extinct) heirloom fruits and vegetables, plus a small selection of other products such as farm-fresh eggs. This year they’re working toward completion of a net-zero-energy farm kitchen, including a pizza oven. The farm offers several CSA options and vends at many of the region’s farmers markets. The farm — and the pizza oven — can be rented for special occasions. — Hal B. Klein