Walking tours combine yesterday with today
W hether we’ve lived in the same town all our life or are new to the area, learning how our neighborhood had its start gives us a familiar feeling, almost family-like.
To give insight to the core of Mt. Lebanon, the mission of Mt. Lebanon Historical Society has been to interpret and preserve the history of this South Hills community. Through its exhibits, programs and walking tours, history-minded men and women are provided with reflections of the early days and a focus on today.
By 1876, 10 homes, a church and school, a general store with a post office and two cemeteries occupied this area only six miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Mt. Lebanon is now abuzz with superb restaurants, coffee houses, shopping opportunities, parks, outstanding schools and the award-winning St. Clair Hospital. Easy access is available to the T-Station, heading both to South Hills Village and Pittsburgh. Many distinctive residential homes in English Tudor, Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance and those with a Spanish influence, line the avenues. New businesses tempt the interests of all ages.
Just a few weeks ago, walkers visited St. Bernard Catholic Church and Mt. Lebanon United Presbyterian, two historic churches on Washington Road, learning of their early beginnings and their magnificent stained glass windows.
Also in September, historical society docent Pat Calvelo led a group through the business district pointing out various architectural innovations along its main thoroughfare. We traveled at a leisurely pace to absorb details which many of us have always been in too big of a rush to notice. We don’t ever take the time to see what’s before our eyes, much less look upward. There’s so much to see.
While pointing out major designs and interesting tidbits, Pat had available photos and information of Mt. Lebanon’s then and now, referencing buildings from Lebanon Avenue to Rollier’s.
The municipal building, erected in the 1930s, features an art deco design inside and out. Attention was drawn to the sculpture above the main door featuring a man on a throne, standing eagles and the words “Wisdom in Government” carved in stone.
We learned about squared curbs on the early paved roads and the more recent sloped ones. We checked out the glazed ceramic tiles on the former Isaly’s building, and noticed that if you look carefully, the sign above the door on the former Joseph Horne Company building is still recognizable. And it wasn’t difficult to visualize the apple orchard that once filled the land where Mt. Lebanon Floral now sits.
With Halloween approaching quickly, the Mt. Lebanon Historical Society is planning a Graves and Goblins Walking Tour set for 1 p.m. Oct. 26. This 90-minute walk through Mt. Lebanon Cemetery, the third oldest in the South Hills, will offer informative stories of Mt. Lebanon’s beginning and many early residents who are buried within its gates.
Gravestones and monuments tell a story of their own, such as the one shaped like a doll house and large private mausoleums owned by individual families. Others tell a written story of a person’s life.
For details on the upcoming tour, call 412-418-9348.
The first settlers arrived in the 1770s, having purchased the land from descendants of William Penn. It wasn’t until 1912 that Mt. Lebanon Township was incorporated as a First Class Township, continuing to be mainly a farming community until the first streetcars headed to Pittsburgh in 1901. The opening of the Liberty Tubes in 1924 allowed easy automobile access into the city.