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Charleroi

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Charleroi sits on the west bank of the Monongahela River, approximately forty-two miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Access to coal and natural gas and a wide floodplain made the site ideal as a manufacturing center after a rail connection was made c. 1880 via the Pittsburgh, Virginia and Charleston Railroad (PVCRR). James S. McKean, postmaster of Pittsburgh and an influential banker, who grew up in the area, realized this potential and formed a consortium that began selling lots in 1890. They named the city Charleroi after the industrial city in southwestern Belgium known for its glass factories. The effort attracted several manufacturers to the new Charleroi, including the Charleroi Plate Glass Company. Later known as Pittsburgh Plate Glass, it produced Carrara glass, a pigmented structural glass substitute for marble, in the Charleroi works. The Hussey-Binns Shovel Works, located in two gable-roofed brick buildings that remain adjacent to the river, and the Macbeth-Evans Chimney Works, one of the world's largest chimney glass manufacturers, also established factories here. Charleroi's growth was so rapid that in 1895, a local newspaper dubbed it the “Magic City.”

The Charleroi Land Company attracted developers and merchants, and by 1910, the community included eleven churches and one synagogue representing a dozen ethnic groups. As rail access for passengers to Pittsburgh and the adjoining towns increased accessibility, Charleroi's population tripled between 1890 and 1910. The commercial and residential portions of the town were laid out in a grid pattern on the hillsides to the west. There are two parallel main streets that host the handsome classically inspired former post office, now the John K. Tener Library, by James Knox Taylor, supervising architect of the U.S. Treasury (1909–1912; 638 Fallowfield Avenue). Two banks in the same mode are William L. Stoddart's First National Bank (1919–1922; 210–214 5th Street) and the former Bank of Charleroi and Trust Company by Hopkins and Dentz (1925–1927; Fallowfield Avenue at 5th Street). The Coyle Theater, with its marquee and vertical sign, designed by Victor A. Rigaumont (1927–1928; 311 McKean Avenue), is one of several theaters designed by the architect along the Monongahela River in Donora, Monessen, and Pittsburgh. The brick water filtration plant (1911; McKean Avenue) shows attention to detail in the civic buildings, as does the Fire Department building of 1917 at 328 Fallowfield Avenue. Two cottage-style gas stations designed by local architect Benjamin D. Trnavsky have steeply gabled roofs, testifying to petroleum company attempts to create stations resembling quaint cottages that would fit into the fabric of residential neighborhoods in the 1920s and 1930s; they are at 9th Street and McKean Avenue and at 10th Street and McKean. Charles W. Bolton and Son designed the Christ Lutheran Church (1908–1909; 400 6th Street) in a Collegiate Gothic mode using native blue stone with Indiana limestone trim.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Lu Donnelly et al.

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