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Right Beside the River
Right Beside the River
Right Beside the River map

WQED's producer Rick Sebak celebrates some of the stuff that has happened and still happens beside rivers in the Pittsburgh area. From the big mound in Moundsville, WV, to the sweeping curved corners of Vandergrift on the Kiskiminetas River north east of Pittsburgh, it's a surprising look at our region and its charms.

All of this made possible by the Buhl Foundation.

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Bonus Segments:

1. A Marina in Speers, PA: WATCH BONUS SEGMENT
Speers
Just upriver from Charleroi, there's the cool little town of Speers right beside the Mon. Many people know it because the Back Porch Restaurant is there, but we stopped at Smitty's Marina and checked out the cigar store at the Leaning House too. You can have a good time in Speers.
Links to explore:
Wikipedia entry | Back Porch Restaurant | Speers Street Grill | Leaning House

2. Corn Tortilla Chips in Cadogan, PA: WATCH BONUS SEGMENT
Cadogan
The old coal mining town of Cadogan is in Armstrong County, right beside the Allegheny River, and Nic DiCio has put together a factory there that makes some of the world's best corn tortilla chips. He uses traditional techniques to soak, cook, grind and mix the corn for his chips, and he's designed and engineered all the ovens, cooling conveyors, fryers and packing machines that make up the production line. His business is called Reyna Foods – with a store in the Strip at Penn and 21st Street – and his product line now includes corn and flour tortillas that are definitely worth a special trip. (If you visit Cadogan, be sure to check out the Villa restaurant on 128 north of town. Great Italian.)
Links to explore:
Post-Gazette review | Reyna Foods | Pittsburgh Mexican community | Falsetti's Villa restaurant

3. The 1938 Movie of California, PA: WATCH BONUS SEGMENT
California
The Monongahela River makes some crazy bends as it flows north toward Pittsburgh, and the town of California, PA, is on the left bank of the river near some of the sharpest of those curves. Founded in 1849, when lots of people were considering heading west to mine for gold, the town of California has been known for boat building, for coal mining, and for higher education. The California University of Pennsylvania is there, bigger and better than ever. There's also an excellent California Area Historical Society in the old Gallagher Family House on Wood Street where you can find out about the town's history, about local family records, and where we found out about an old movie from 1938 that includes wonderful scenes of life in California back then.
Links to explore:
California University of PA | California Area Historical Society | Wikipedia entry | California PA book

Program Segments:

1. The Mound in Moundsville, WV
Moundsville
It's the oldest thing built by humans in this part of the world: a big pile of dirt beside the Ohio River. The Adena people made the Grave Creek Mound without use of the wheel or other basic tools. It's lasted 2000 years. Impressive.
Links to explore:
West Virginia Division of Culture and History | Wikipedia Entry | Marshall County Tourism Page

2. The Official Marx Toy Museum
Marx Toy Museum
So, your mother threw away your old toys? Too bad. But you have their shapes and colors and designs permanently etched in your memory. Now you can see a lot of them again, perfectly preserved and beautifully displayed, in this unusual toy museum in Moundsville, WV. Yes, the toy museum was dreaded in Toy Story 2, but this seems OK. Who knows what goes on in here at night?
Links to explore:
Official Website | Marshall County Tourism Page | AmericanTowns Entry | Rick's Pittsburgh Magazine Article

3. The Cockayne House in Glen Dale, WV
Cockayne
The Cockayne Family moved to this part of the Upper Ohio Valley in 1795, and they raised the unusual and prized breed of sheep that produce Merino wool. They built a nice family farmhouse in 1850, and it's still here, and because the last of the Cockaynes, Sam Cockayne, was an unusual, reclusive guy who lived in two rooms at the back of house, most of this place was untouched during the last half of the twentieth century. Now it's a museum of sorts operated by the Marshall County Historical Society. Worth checking out.
Links to explore:
Cockayne House | Marshall County Tourism Page | Cockayne Farm

4. Fiddle's Confectionery in Brownsville, PA
Fiddles
It's a hot dog place right beside the Monongahela River. It opened in 1910 as the Empire Confectionery, and a it's still a popular gathering spot in the town of Brownsville. Now named for its second owner, Fadell Hallal, a Syrian immigrant who was a nephew of the founder of this place, Fiddle's flourished throughout the twentieth century, passing from Fadell to his nephew John Mitchell around the time of World War II, then the business was bought by the Novotny family in 1990. Still a great place to get a good dog or a hearty lunch. Look for Loopy.
Links to explore:
Valley Independent article | Brownsville Photo Album | KDKA Brownsville Story | Rick's Pittsburgh Magazine Article

5. Fredericktown Ferry in Fredericktown, PA
Ferry
It's a car-carrying boat that goes back and forth across the Mon river between the town of Fredericktown and the place called Labelle (LAY-bell.) It's an example of how we all used to travel before we became the City of Bridges. The low red vessel looks insect-like from a distance, but it's a simple friendly way to get from here to there without swimming. It's a nice preparatory ride before you get to the River Styx too.
Links to explore:
Fayette County Page | Valley Independent Article | NY Times Article | Rick's Pittsburgh Magazine Article

6. Vandergrift, PA, on the Kiskiminetas
Vandergrift
This town was imagined and created at the very end of the 19th century as an ideal sort of place to live and work. Around 1895, George McMurtry, president of the Apollo Iron and Steel Company, hired the design firm of Frederick Law Olmstead to lay out the streets and to make the plan for a beautiful downtown. And it's still a striking place to visit. There's a great little museum, wide sidewalks for strolling, and you might catch a show at the Casino if you're there on the right evening.
Links to explore:
Wikipedia Entry | Vandergrift Public Library | Victorian Vandergrift Museum and Historical Society

7. Reads Ink Used Book Store in Vandergrift, PA
Reads Inc
One of the great joys in life is stumbling upon an excellent and unexpected bookstore. Reads Ink is that. Lots of books, reasonably priced. It's a former funeral home that can be an escape from the rest of the world. Since we shot there, George Hines has sold the place to Tina Mendicino and Patrick Roberto, but they say the place isn't going to change. It's worth the drive when you're ready for an armload of books.
Links to explore:
InsiderPages Listing | YellowBot Listing

8. Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale, PA
Rachel Carson House
The woman who wrote Silent Spring was born and raised here in this modest farmhouse on the hill above the Allegheny River, and it's a very interesting opportunity to consider her early life and all her accomplishments, maybe to take a walk in the woods, and to see some of the factors that led to Rachel Carson's love and commitment to nature and the environment. Now the Rachel Carson Sustainable Feast has become an annual event on Memorial Day weekend, complete with interesting local foods and small businesses and organizations with "green" intentions. It's just good to know about the woman whose name is now on the Ninth Street Bridge downtown.
Links to explore:
Rachel Carson Homestead | Time Magazine Article | The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson

9. Christine Davis Consultants, Archeologists in Verona, PA
Verona
Christine Davis and her archeologist colleagues may have the most interesting office in the area in their old mill building beside the Allegheny, and they're doing fascinating work with local history and artifacts, but they seem to know how cool and fun all of this can be. (They officially call themselves "a cultural resource management firm specializing in archaeological surveys, historic resource surveys, and Historic American Building Survey/Historic American Engineering Record [HABS/HAER] documentation.") In their mill building, there's a dirty room in the basement where muddy "diggers" bring their "finds" to be cleaned and catalogued, while upstairs there are lots of white archival boxes where treasures are kept till they are shipped to museums and other storage places for historic preservation.
Links to explore:
Christine Davis Consultants | Post-Gazette Article | Tribune-Review Article

10. Allegheny River Boulevard & Ohio River Boulevard
Pylons
Sometimes you just have to slow down and look around. Sometimes you just have to let somebody point things out to you. Sometimes things light up at night and surprise you. It's easy to take our two riverside boulevards for granted, but they haven't been there forever. They were commissioned and built during the Great Depression by Allegheny County, and they were meant to be beautiful roadways, true "parkways" where the trees and plantings were as important as the pavement and the bridges. Watch for the London Plane trees along both of these roads, and imagine how pleasant they would be if the traffic weren't so slow.
Links to explore:
Allegheny River Boulevard | Ohio River Boulevard | Rick's Pittsburgh Magazine Article

11. Old Economy Village in Ambridge, PA
Old Economy
The Harmonists were an odd bunch with some strange beliefs, but in the 19th century they came to Western Pennsylvania twice and established towns in the Pittsburgh area: first in 1804 at Harmony (near Zelionople) – then they moved to Indiana in 1814 and established New Harmony, IN – then they came back and established Economy along the Ohio River in 1824 (in what's now called Ambridge) and this was their final home.

They were a group of devout Germans who followed the unusual teachings of Father George Rapp, and they came to America to wait for the Second Coming of Christ which they thought was coming soon, so they were celibate and had no children to carry on their beliefs and traditions. What they left behind is one of the most amazing and complete historic villages anywhere. You need to see it.
Links to explore:
Old Economy Village | Wikipedia Entry | Explore PA History (pdf)

12. The Manufacturing of LSTs on the Ohio during World War II
LST
Throughout our history, we've built some boats beside our rivers, but during World War II at Dravo on Neville Island and at American Bridge in Ambridge, Pittsburghers really quickly designed and built shipyards that would allow the assembly of perhaps the largest vessels ever made around here. LST stood for Landing Ship Tank, and they were ocean-worthy ships, over 300 feet long, more than 50 feet wide. They transported important supplies to the Allied troops after the Normandy Invasions, and they also played a crucial role in the war in the Pacific.
Links to explore:
Wikipedia Entry | The USS LST Ship Memorial | Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships Excerpt |
LST 1156 Sea Stories (Scroll down to read Gary Augustine's memories of LST-1156)

13. Monongahela Wharf
Mon Wharf
When the French came to the forks of the Ohio River to Fort Duquesne, they usually came down the Allegheny River, while the British coming up from Virginia often arrived by way of or along the banks of the Monongahela. As the city of Pittsburgh began to grow, the gradually sloping right bank of the Mon became a major point of commerce, a dock and market as well as a frequent gathering spot on grand occasions for the city. In 2009, the Mon Wharf has been getting a makeover with a new design that includes benches, easy access to the river, places to dock your boat, and an important part of the bike trail from Pittsburgh to Washington DC.
Links to explore:
Riverlife | Pittsburgh Parking Authority | Flickr Album | Bridges & Tunnels of Allegheny County & Pittsburgh, PA

14. Biking, Hiking & Paddling Trails
Bike Pittsburgh
All around the Golden Triangle, alongside all three of the rivers, there are now beautifully designed, paved and level trails that are recognized as ideal spots for walking, bike-riding, people watching, staring at the city and getting close to the rivers. There are wonderful organizations like Bike Pittsburgh, the Allegheny Trails Alliance and Friends of The Riverfront that take care of the trails and have helped foster their growth. The Great Allegheny Passage now allows people to get from the Pittsburgh area to Washington, D.C., all on non-motorized pathways. And around Pittsburgh, water trails are becoming more common and popular with rowers, paddlers and some brave commuters.
Links to explore:
Allegheny Trail Alliance | Friends of the Riverfront | Bike Pittsburgh | Post-Gazette Article

15. West Newton, PA
West Newton
West Newton is a charming little town on the Youghiogheny River in Westmoreland County. It was first settled around the time of the American Revolution, and the Markle family's paper mill was established here in 1811. The town has had a number of industries (including a radiator factory) over the years, a number of terrible fires, and everyone seems proud of the 100-year-old bridge that crosses the Youghiogheny into the center of downtown West Newton. There's a beautiful visitors center (that looks like an old P&LE Railroad station although it's a new building - not a restoration) near the bridge, and the Youghiogheny River Trail, part of the Great Allegheny Passage, brings bicyclists and hikers from all over the world to this interesting part of the globe. Be sure to check out the beautiful old cemetery while you're there.
Links to explore:
Wikipedia Entry | Life is a Highway Blog Entry | Allegheny Trail Alliance | Scarsdale Cottage Inn |
Westmoreland County Tourism Page

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  • Portraits for the Homefront: The Story of Elizabeth Black
    The poignant story unfolds as we explore Black’s lost art career, seek out elderly veterans who encountered Miss Black on the battlefield, and present to amazed and appreciative families portraits that never arrived.
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