Fun facts: ‘The West Side is the Best Side’
Photo courtesy Tifon Images
The west side of Pittsburgh is teaming with a rich history and hidden interesting facts.
By Tara Bailey
-Did You Know-
→ Did you know the western Ohio River communities of Crafton, Ingram, McKees Rocks, Stowe, Kennedy, Robinson, Neville Island and Coraopolis are among some of the oldest neighborhoods in the county? Not only do these neighborhoods have a unique history dating back to pre-revolutionary days, but each town has some hidden fun facts you may not know about.
→ Did you know long before Robinson Town Centre, Mall at Robinson and Settler’s Ridge, Robinson Township was a vast land of rolling hills where Scotsman James Bell became the first permanent settler in 1769. The 15 square mile municipality is now a major retail hub for one of the largest shopping districts in the western suburbs.
Right next door from Robinson is Kennedy Township. James Speer was the first person to build a house on land that is part of current day Kennedy. He received a patent of land from William Penn in 1787.
In 1921, the first school building, called Ken Mawr was built. This was also the first school in Pennsylvania with multiple rooms built into one, as opposed to the old-fashioned one-room schools.
→ Did you know in 1797, Adam Patterson was the first to buy some land on what is now Coraopolis, stretching from Main to Watt streets? At the time, it was called Middletown, established in 1861. On June 7, 1886, Coraopolis became the official name.
Across the Coraopolis Bridge to Grand Avenue, you arrive at Neville Island. This township overlooking the Ohio River was once in a custody battle between Pennsylvania and Virginia. The dispute of conflicting land claims made its way to the Supreme Court in Irvine v. Sims’ Lessee (1799).
The state of Pennsylvania awarded Gen. William Irvine the island — formerly Montour’s Island — for his service in the American Revolutionary War. However, Charles Simms of Virginia also laid claim to the island and won. Simms later transferred the deed to the island to his partner, Gen. John Neville.
→ Did you know from Island to Chartiers avenues, Stowe Township and McKees Rocks are a stone’s throw away from each other?
Named after Col. Alexander McKee with a combined population of more than 12,000 and a shared school district, “The Rocks” is the birthplace of well-known figures including TV pitchman Billy Mays, the 69th Governor of Ohio John Kasich and mystery author Carl Kosak, who writes under the pseudonym, K. C. Constantine. In 1972, Kosak published “The Rocksburg Railroad Murders” about a fictional town he created out of his admiration for his hometown of McKees Rocks.
→ Did you know Crafton is the childhood home of former Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher and veteran radio announcer Paul Shannon. In 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek named Crafton the “Best Place to Raise Kids in Pennsylvania.”
On top of that, filmmakers took interest in the town with the 1991 American psychological horror film Silence of the Lambs, which featured the Bradford Court Apartments at 1767 Crafton Blvd. In the scene, serial killer Buffalo Bill abducted unsuspecting Catherine Martin.
→ Did you know Ingram, founded in 1902, was named after Thomas Ingram? This new borough marketed itself as a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh’s steel industry. The two communities of Crafton and Ingram are tight-knit neighbors, sharing the Crafton-Ingram shopping center together.
All the recent developments happening west of the Ohio River will further catapult the west into the spotlight. Just because things change does not mean things will not stay the same. West Pittsburghers will continue to have a strong sense of community pride in our rich history.
In the words of the musician and activist Ice Cube, “The West Side is the Best Side.”