Click here to see a video composite of the photographs taken the night of January 23, 2013, marking the first joint meeting of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society and the Old Moon Historical Society:
More stories about Mim Bizic found on the web:
Love Tokens from the Victorian Days:
Serbian Christmas Customs
130 Years of Diplomatic Relations: Serbia/USA
One of many editorials….
Short Movie by Mim BIzic showing the Mary Roberts Rinehart Nature Park Fairy Houses built on April 20, 2013, after hearing authors Tracy and Barry Kane, in Osborne Elem. School, Sewickley, PA.
U.S. Commissary Ground Breaking Ceremonies in Moon Township on Soldiers Drive, August 18, 2012, feautring photos by Mim Bizic.
Veterans Day in Edgeworth Elementary School, November 11, 2003. Many of the Veterans shown in this video have gone on to their higher rewards. Memory Eternal. Stirring Music!
Sewickley Valley Historical Society and the Old Moon Township Historical Society
January 23, 2013
By Milana (Mim) Karlo Bizic
Mrs. Peter Floyd (Linda) (left) and the author of the following article, Mim Bizic (right), at the dinner meeting at the Hyeholde on January 23, 2013.
The “Anticipatory Set” (the “Hook!”) and objectives came in the mail, via the Sewickley Valley Historical Society’s newsletter called SIGNALS.
Edited by the Associate Director of the SVHS, Susan Holton, the headlines enticed: “The Families and Estates of Coraopolis Heights: A joint dinner meeting with the Old Moon Township Historical Society.”
I bought in! My interest in being present for this upcoming historic dinner meeting on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 was already whetted!
Additional motivation came reading further on in the newsletter that this meeting would be held at the exclusive Hyeholde Restaurant’s Round Room at 1516 Coraopolis Heights Road in Moon Township, complete with a beautiful dinner and dessert, cash bar, complimentary parking, and all for a reasonable price.
I could hardly wait for this promised date! My eager beaver’s student heart/mind was coupled with prom night-like giddiness. The 93 paid dinner customers and several other guests in attendance afterwards, for the program part of the evening, must have also felt the same way!
This event certainly proved a delightful “one for the history books” for the two Allegheny County historical societies divided only by the Ohio River, united by its bridge that replaced the two ferries that were used before the Sewickley-Coraopolis Bridge (I and II) construction (1911 and again in 1981).
John Kroeck, President and Program Director of the SVHS opened the evening’s meeting saying what a great opportunity this was to meet our neighbors with whom we have so much in common, especially the prosperous 20th century families that moved back and forth between the two communities including the Curry, Nimick, Tener, Stevenson and other families.
Sewickley’s Director Harton Semple invited the OMTHS members to visit the SVHS headquarters anytime from Tuesday to Friday, 10AM-2PM for anyone wanting to do further research on various families.
Information held at the society includes family trees, photographs and other primary sources files, including a reference library, a genealogy program, and professional staff members to help, including himself, Susan Holton and Peggy Dury, taking the time to also thank both of the ladies for their help in organizing the event.
Earl Edwards, President of the OMTHS welcomed everyone, introduced Dr. Frank Bradden who was in the audience at 104 years of age to much applause, praised Ron Potter’s photographic contributions for the presentation, and then introduced the speaker for the evening, Deborah Kennedy, a retired Social Studies teacher at Moon, who was involved in 50 productions on Moon’s stage, including two plays she wrote.
Deborah reminded the audience that much information she was about to present was gleaned from Dr. Robert A. Jocker’s 244 page book: Forgotten Past-A History of Moon Township, Pennsylvania. Jockers wrote, she said, that despite the fact that Moon Township was not incorporated as a governmental entity within Allegheny County until 1788, numerous historical events had occurred during the initial settlement, including information on the Native Americans of the Iroquois Confederacy who lived here first (“we’re all squatters!”), and the sixty-six land grants that comprise contemporary Moon Township and the four that make up the borough of Coraopolis.
Humble log cabins were the first and second generation of homes, and “Old Moon Township” continued to be an agrarian society with life centered on the home, farm and family.
But by 1919, 16 millionaire families were living on Coraopolis Heights as residents found Moon Township to be convenient to the railroad and their work offices. The Sewickley-Coraopolis Bridge had been built in 1911. Owners and executives of industry (the “new rich”) had found a pleasant place to live and work, creating an exclusive area of wealth and status.
Kennedy took time to recognize Betty (Mrs. Philip) Gundelfinger as being among us in the audience. Three generations of Gundelfingers have continuously lived in the Dutch Colonial mansion home realtor Philip Gundefinger first established in 1922, three years after purchasing the property in 1919. The lovely home gracing Beaver Grade Road has twelve spacious rooms and is enhanced by a grand side porch supported by seven white columns.
Kennedy told us that the earliest mansion was built in 1905, a magnificent Dutch Gambel home named “Cranston Farm” on 150 acres from one of the original land grants. Using Jockers’ historical research, Kennedy relayed that this home had seven magnificent gardens: a Lily Pond Garden, a Wisteria Arbor Garden, an Iris Garden with six hundred varieties, a Grape Arbor Garden that featured posts decorated with Gnomes statuettes in the various process of wine making, a Spring House Garden with stone tablets recording past historical events in relation to Cranston Farm, the Elephant Walk where elephant footprint led from the children’s playhouse to the woods, and lastly, “Eleanor’s Pulpit” garden that contained a tower providing a view of the entire estate. Both of the Johnstons were avid gardeners, and Mrs. Johnstown founded the Moon Township Garden Club, “wishing to extend both the knowledge and pleasure of gardening to the community.” The estate was sold in 1941 after the death of the owners and changed owners several times before the mansion was destroyed in 1958. In 1967, this property became known as the “Londonberry Estates.”
Another of the mansions Kennedy highlighted in her PowerPoint presentation was Roselea Farm, established in 1905 with 123 acres, when George Shaw, a prominent Pittsburgh attorney purchased the land from Peter Ehrart. The imposing twenty-one room English Tudor-European farmhouse included quarters for staff. Over time, parts of the land were parceled off, and in August of 1950, Russell and Nancy Patton purchased the thirty-two acre farm.
The current owners of Roselea were all present, Nancy Mills afterwards adding input about how the house her mother owned was seized by eminent domain in the 1950s during the Korean conflict for officer quarters for the U.S. Air Force. The duty of these officers stationed at the Army Air Force base in Moon Township built during WWII, was to defend the vital steel mills and other things near Pittsburgh at the time. They used the Roselea barn for a party room, and the main house for the officers’ bedrooms. Once the Air Force returned the house, it required ten months restoration before they could move in again. The Air Force, Nancy said, did pay rent and for the restoration, but it had been quite an ordeal.
Many homes were discussed throughout the night, but I’ll just highlight a few.
The Mooncrest neighborhood, Kennedy said, was built in 1943 to house the people working on Neville Island.
The Flaugherty House was built in 1923 and served as a YMCA and Summer Retreat for working girls. The girls were transported by horse and buggy from the railroad station in Crescent Township to the estate.
The Lockhart estate, built in 1909 and known then as “High Skeog” later became the Montour Country Club.
Francis B. Nimick bequeathed her Georgian ROBIN HILL estate to Moon Township, in order to preserve the surrounding woodlands as “parkland forever,” quite a magnanimous gift to all of us.
In 1962, Mobay Chemical Corporation bought the Federal style Baywood Mansion that had been built in 1927 on property that was once part of Roselea. The company uses the Coraopolis Heights Road estate as a guest conference facility.
The current Robert Morris campus was once home to Harvey Childs II’s PINE HILL MANOR. The wealthy industrialist Childs sold the property to Oliver Kaufmann (owner from 1941-1962), who then sold the property to Robert Morris College. At first the home was used for faculty and administrative offices, but as the college grew, the house became inadequate. The home was demolished, but the beautiful circular garden remains of that elegant past.
My favorite memory of the evening was hearing how “Langhurst” mansion, built by C.J. Lang, founder of the Russell Machine Company, and his wife, Amelia, became an orphanage in 1918-1920 for World War I Serbian orphans. After living in the home for nine years, the Langs sold their estate to the Serbian Church, which in turn, had it converted into an orphanage, the only known orphanage in Moon Township. But after only two years, it was sold again and became a private residence.
Can’t leave without a word about Hyeholde. The beautiful French provincial type home and restaurant surroundings we were all enjoying to the hilt, was built by William Kryskill and his bride, Clara, starting in 1931. Mr. Kryskill was the architect, contractor and subcontractor for his own dream that took over seven years to complete. They dug the foundation, poured the footer and laid the block for the foundation. They purchased an old barn and used the structural materials after hauling them to the site. They erected the walls and cut and laid the stone floors. They created the fireplace and chimney and had subcontracted the roof work, but when the contractor was delayed, William Kryskill completed the slate roof by himself! No wonder why his daughter, Barbara McKenna, current owner, is so proud of their magnificent achievements.
Guests from the two historical societies mingled both before and after the program. It was a pleasure for me to sit next to Ron Potter whom Harton Semple recognized at the end of the evening with a beautiful plaque from the Sewickley Valley Historical Society featuring Indians overlooking the Sewickley Bridge, copied from an old 1911 Sewickley-Coraopolis ad poster.
Of course, Deborah Kennedy, who did a wonderful presentation of the homes featured this evening, also received one.
I’ll end with these words by Robert A. Jockers (in Florida at the time of the meeting!) from his book, Forgotten Past.
“The significance of history then lies in the fact that knowledge of the past enables us to stimulate new thoughts and ideas to understand previous missteps, learn from them, and establish a more positive guide for tomorrow as we are both the heir to the past and ancestor to the future.”
Jockers hoped his book would provide insight and understanding of how those who come before us struggled and sacrificed to build the world in which we live today. “They have placed the gauntlet before us, challenging us to protect, preserve and enhance for future generations the freedom that they died for and that we hold so sacred.”
Jockers gave credit to the Moon Township Historical Society for their financial support in the publication of this history.
And now for some Closure! Forgotten Past can be ordered on Amazon in regular book form or in the Kindle e-edition, which also can be downloaded on an Apple iPad, for a very reasonable price.
For a free video showing the joy of the SVHS-OMTHS participants in the night’s festivities, you may access the photos I took at YouTube’s
So, we know the evening really wasn’t prom night, but it sure held the magic of times long past!
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