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The Ohio Valley

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The Monongahela River led Pittsburghers upriver from West Virginia, and the Allegheny led them to upstate New York, but the Ohio River was their path to the larger world, via the Mississippi River to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. The gateway to this prospect was McKees Rocks, the impressive hill on which, for centuries around 900 BCE, Native Americans lived and buried their dead.

There are no internationally significant buildings along the Ohio's banks in Pittsburgh today, but notably intriguing environments abound. The first of these is McKees Rocks itself, the best preserved of Pittsburgh's industrial satellites. The segregation of the immigrant workforce—not only by religion but also by ethnic origin—eventually produced an overabundance of churches here. The Roman Catholic St. Francis de Sales (810 Chartiers Avenue), designed by Marius Rousseau in 1899 as an exquisite miniature of S. Maria del Fiore, in Florence, Italy, is now a banqueting hall. Nearby churches include a Russian Orthodox and a Byzantine Catholic, but the synagogue has been demolished.

Factories were the old glory of the Ohio River valley's architecture in Pittsburgh. Two of the region's most striking factories survive, unloved, in McKees Rocks. One, the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie locomotive repair shop ( AL63), is traditionalist and massive; the other, the old Taylor-Wilson plant ( AL62), is radical and gossamer light. Both are underused and serve as little more than storage facilities.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lu Donnelly et al.

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