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History of Carnegie

by Larry Ciptak

for the Steel Heritage Corporation

November 1992

 

I.          HISTORY OF CARNEGIE

Earliest to settle in the region now called Carnegie Borough, six miles south west of Pittsburgh, were the Talligewi Indians, of whom little is known.  The Delaware Indians later conquered them, and later the Iroquois Nation claimed all of Western Pennsylvania.

The first known settler to the area that is now Carnegie was Peter Chartier, a French spy and leader of the Shawanese Indians.  He fled westward from Philadelphia in 1743, and built a trading post at the mouth of what is now called Chartiers Creek.

In 1765, Major William Lea–an English Army officer–built Old Saint Luke's Church (Episcopal) in Woodville, the oldest church west of the Alleghenies.

The first white settlers in what is now Carnegie proper were John and James Bell, who came from Virginia in 1768, established "tomahawk claims" before returning to Virginia, and returned the following summer and build permanent dwellings in the area.  John was captured by the Indians at age 14, and lived with them for many years as an adopted son before being returned to his friends.

John Campbell–a friend of George Washington–held title to what is now the First Ward in 1769.  It was through his friend's influence that he received the grant for what was then called Campbellsburg.

Stephen Ross was the first to hold title to property now called the Second Ward.  He came from the same town in Virginia as the Bells, settling on Chartiers Creek in 1789 to operate a boat landing.

Though there were settlers in the first half of the 19th century, there was no town or major transportation.  The land was mostly timber.

A post office–named Rich Valley–was established in 1853, the area having been stimulated by the opening of coal mines.  Churches and schools started cropping up.

The first church in Mansfield was the First Presbyterian Church, built in 1852-53.  The United Presbyterians organized a congregation in 1856, and two years later built a church.  In 1859 the Methodists completed a house of worship, and the Baptists organized in 1868.  The Roman Catholics dominated the religious life in Chartiers Borough, across the creek from Mansfield Borough.  The German Catholics built St. Joseph's in 1876, and St. Luke Roman Catholic was built in 1880.  (Detailed information of church histories in Carnegie can be found in the appendix.)

Mansfield was incorporated into a borough on September 6, 1872, the same day Chartiers incorporated as a borough.

An increase in coal and oil activity in surrounding communities caused an increase in population.  The census of 1880 reported a population of 1,852 in Chartiers Borough.  The largest employers at the time were the Mansfield Coal and Coke Co., the D. Steen and Sons Colliery and the Grant Mines Mining Co.  Also at the time, there were 500 acres of coal land in neighboring Collier Township.  The area now called Carnegie served as a residential center for laborers who worked the coal fields and in other industries in the surrounding communities.

The Pennsylvania Lead Co. organized in 1872, processing lead, silver and gold from raw materials shipped from the west.  120 men were employed.  They were located just outside Chartiers Borough, and were aided by the Chartiers and Mansfield Railway Co., who had built a route from Mansfield Borough to Washington, Pennsylvania a year earlier.

Mansfield Valley citizens wanted a steel mill for their town, and in 1883 J.C. Kirkpatrick and Co. agreed to build a rolling mill if the town would provide them a free site.  The mill later became known as the Chartiers Iron and Steel Co.  The mill brought many new families to the area.

Chartiers Borough and Mansfield Borough both incorporated on November 6th, 1872, as related but semi-autonomous units.  Chartiers became the First Ward, and Mansfield the Second Ward.  Gas mains were laid out on Main Street and Washington Avenue in 1885-86, and Chartiers Street was the first to become paved, in 1888.  Population in Chartiers Borough in 1880 was 1852.

In 1891, Mansfield boasted of four churches, seven doctors, a schoolhouse on Lydia Street, a bank and a number of businesses.  There were two wooden covered bridges spanning Chartiers Creek which linked Mansfield and Chartiers boroughs.  At the time the primary industry was coal mining, soon to be rivaled by the metals industry.

The consolidation discussion came to a head on February 20, 1894, when residents of both boroughs voted 670 to 125 for consolidation into a single entity.  The new government of Carnegie included a Burgess and a six-person Council.  One of the councilmen was elected to serve as president.  Separate justices of the peace served each ward.

Andrew Carnegie was contacted and asked if he would allow the town to be named in his honor.  He concurred, and added that if the town was named after him he would do something nice in return.  He kept his promise: Carnegie donated the new borough $200,000 for the building of a library.  He supplemented this gift in following years with additional endowments.  The Andrew Carnegie Free Library was opened on May 1, 1901.

The first high school supporting both boroughs was built in 1899.  In 1956 a new high school was dedicated.

Early settlers to the region tended to be Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and other Protestant groups.  When the coal mines opened, the area attracted workers from Ireland, eastern Europe, the  southern Mediterranean regions and African-Americans from the southern U.S.

By 1916, Carnegie had three railroad lines and 14 metal industries employing 6,270 people, most who lived in the borough.  The town maintained or increased its population every decade until 1950.  The "crowning blow" was the closing of Superior Steel in the 1960's.  The following census (1970) reported an 8.6% drop in population–1,023 people.  In 1982 over 20% of Carnegie residents were 65-year-old or older, and unemployment was at 15%.

Dr. Sam Astorino of Duquesne University–who write a book on the history of Carnegie–divides Carnegie's past into three chronological periods: the frontiersmen who came to the area prior to the American Revolution; the merger of 1894; and the 1960's with the downfall of the industrial base and the ill-fated "redevelopment."  "The remaining issue is whether there is a fourth phase of Carnegie's history yet to come," said Dr. Astorino.

 

II.         CHURCHES & CHURCH CONSOLIDATION

Several interviewees alluded to past tensions between ethnic/religious groups in Carnegie.  According to Dan McGrogan, Italians were often discriminated against.

There are 23 churches in the 1.3 square miles of Carnegie.  15 of these churches are members of the Carnegie Area Ministerium Association, an organization designed to reduce isolation among the religious communities.

According to Junia Campbell, the Ministerium is compiling individual church histories for publication in a booklet.  Funding for the printing has already been procured through a donation by an unnamed Carnegie resident.

A list of church histories is provided in the appendix.

Two churches in Carnegie are closing: St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church (German) on Second Avenue, and Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church (Polish) on Broadway Extension.  Holy Souls Roman Catholic Church,  St, Ignatius DeLoyola Roman Catholic Church, and St. Luke Roman Catholic Church are consolidating into a new parish, St. Elizabeth Anne Seton.  The three churches will remain as "parish sites," and three priests will rotate among the three congregations.

There is much bitterness and anger about the closings and consolidation by both residents and church leadership.  Churches immediately circulated petitions against the closings and merger.  The day of the annual Art & Heritage Festival (in October and in its 6th year), Immaculate Conception–who for the past three years was a major provider of ethnic foods for the festival–pulled out altogether.  According to longtime residents, there was a conspicuous absence of ethnic foods usually provided to the festival by the churches, and this was attributed to the church closings.  Father Paluse, retiring pastor of Holy Souls, refused to discuss the church closing with the Steel Heritage Corporation representative.

For a community that has been ethnically socialized primarily through its churches, the church closings and consolidation may have a negative effect on the transmission of ethnic culture to future generations.  However, long-standing rivalries amongst ethnic churches (for example, St. Ignatius and Immaculate Conception) may go by the wayside, as parishes have no choice but to band together for survival.

 

III.       THE DISPLACEMENT OF CARNEGIE'S AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY

There are two African-American churches in Carnegie: St. Paul AME Zion Church, and Second Baptist Church, both on Mansfield Boulevard.  Black settlement patterns in Carnegie centered around these two houses of worship.  An African-American community also sprang up in neighboring Rosslyn Farms.

The property now occupied by Batey Chevrolet–once Pine and Walnut Streets–was primarily black, said Charles Brown, building inspector for the borough. Redevelopment in 1964 found Arch, Sycamore, Pine and Locust Streets–once "pockets" of African-Americans–being rezoned "light industry."  Many homes were torn down and black residents forced to relocate.  "Carnegie [then] lost a significant number of blacks to the West End," Mr. Brown said.  Still other blacks moved to the South Hills and to the Homewood/Brushton area, which was concurrently receiving a large group of African-Americans displaced due to the building of the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh's Hill District.

Redevelopment and subsequent relocation had a definite effect on the black community in Carnegie.  The two churches had been the center for social as well as spiritual activity for the black community.  When the parishioners were forced to relocate, because many had no automobiles, they chose other churches closer to their new homes.  "You had people who were raised [in Carnegie] and lived here all their lives, and all of a sudden here comes redevelopment, and you're gone."

The loss of parishioners created financial hardships for the two churches, which persists today, according to Mr. Brown.

From before the displacement up to the present, black social activities outside of religious observance have taken place in downtown Pittsburgh, according to Mr. Brown.

Concerning racial relations, "Carnegie was no different than any other community," said Mr. Brown.  Restaurants and bars were segregated, although the schools were integrated prior to the Civil Rights movement.  Racism was "very subtle," but nevertheless existed, he said.

Carnegie's black workers were employed on the railroads and the mills–but not at Carnegie's largest employer, Superior Steel, according to Mr. Brown, who knew of no blacks who worked at Superior.  Rather, black men commuted to J&L, Braddock, Homestead or to Universal in Bridgeville.

 

IV.       THE CARNEGIE AREA REVITALIZATION EFFORT (CARE)

In 1984 the Carnegie Area Revitalization Effort (CARE) was organized to investigate ways to bring life back to Carnegie's flagging business district.  CARE was founded by Ed Applebaum of Carnegie Supply Co., John Ferry and Junia Campbell, then manager of Carnegie's Mellon Bank.

In 1990 CARE began a public improvement program along East Main Street, which is near completion.  New street lights, sidewalks and other infrastructure has brought some vitality back to that particular sector, but the revitalized area is in gross disproportion to the pedestrian mall, which is dilapidated and with many empty storefronts.

In July 1992, Bonnie Wilkenson was hired as "Main Street Manager" through a Department of Community Affairs grant.  She is working closely with Ms. Campbell and CARE to bring new businesses to the area.  Ms. Wilkenson is planning the formation of the Carnegie Business Association, which is hoped to achieve greater effectiveness than the now-defunct Carnegie Chamber of Commerce had.

CARE is developing a four-point program to achieve these goals: integration of the mall; development of a business association; improved image through renovation; marketing of Carnegie; fundraising activities; and the setting up of this program with other communities.

 

V.        THE POLISH COMMUNITY

This past June St. Ignatius School closed its doors to the 120 children in kindergarten through sixth grade who attended.  Three years earlier, grades seven and eight were closed.

St. Ignatius DeLoyola Church in Glendale is "95% Polish," according to ex-pastor Father Zygmunt Szarnicki, who spent 20 years there.  The school was a very important instrument in the transmission of Polish culture to the children, and the closing will more than likely have a marked impact on such.

The school closing is blamed on dwindling enrollment, rising costs of operations, lack of parishioner support, and a shortage of extracurricular activities afforded at public schools.  Tuition was $350 a year per family, according to Father Szarnicki: but "some of our own people were spongers.  They smiled and laughed and never gave us anything."  Students who left went either to public schools or parochial schools like St. Simon & Jude (Greentree), Our Lady of Grace (Bower Hill), St. Luke's (Carnegie) or St. Agatha's (Bridgeville).  Father Szarnicki added that church membership has also dropped as a result, as some of these schools require parish membership to attend.

St. Ignatius School was a major conduit of Polish ethnicity to the children.  In art class, children made dolls and paper "cut-outs" in the Polish tradition.  They learned and sang songs in Polish.  Mrs. Collins, a teacher at the school, taught them authentic Polish dances.  The children made costumes and put on plays.  They learned and sang Polish Christmas Carols.  Polish authors were read and recited in class.  Films of Polish culture were shown.  School children also attended church every Wednesday.  "Children loved [these activities]," Father Szarnicki said.  "They were thrilled and wanted to participate in everything."

Though the school is closed, Polish culture is still offered, but not disseminated in such a structured manner.  Throughout the year, parish women regularly make pierohis for sale–up to 1,000 dozen at a time–as well as Poltski, a round donut with no hole and a jelly or fruit filling, and kielbassa with sauerkraut.  The nearby Polish Falcons club teaches Polish song and dance to both children and adults.  Helen Matlak, a St. Ignatius parishoner and musician who conducts "Polka masses" throughout Pennsylvania and surrounding states, leads a popular and well-attended annual Polka mass at the church.

But concerning Polish culture, children will have to "get it from the church.  Otherwise they'll have to get it from the home or special classes," Father Szarnicki said.

 

VI.       THE DOWNFALL OF THE CARNEGIE BUSINESS COMMUNITY

In 1962 Superior Steel Co. shut down their Carnegie operations, putting 5,000 men out of work.  Unlike the mill closings of the late 1970's, many mills in other communities were still active, and most of the laid off steelworkers found work in the steel industry.

However, the closing was still a major blow to the town.  Carnegie needed to bring money into town somehow.  In 1964, the state Redevelopment Authority proposed the building of a pedestrian mall.  The plan included the paving over of much of Main Street–then the only conduit through town–and the building of Mansfield Avenue to run parallel to Main Street.  In 1964 the plan was implemented, amongst much fanfare.

Within a couple years it was generally assumed that the mall was not going to pan out to everyone's expectations.  Following years proved much worse: not only were businesses (and consumers) choosing nearby Great Southern Shopping Center on Rt. 50 in Collier Township, but Mansfield Avenue provided people with a convenient way to bypass Carnegie altogether.  Main Street was shut off, the mall began to empty and wither away, and Carnegie was left feeling misled, forgotten and more than anything, angry.

Almost without exception, all individuals contacted for this study named the building of the mall as "the worst thing that ever happened to Carnegie."

CARE is attempting to reverse some of this long-term damage.  Through its efforts, federal funds have been appropriated to widen West Main Street, from the mall up to the beginning of the four-lane after the intersection with Interstate 79.  This, in addition to the building of a busway from the Airport to Pittsburgh with a stop in Carnegie, is hoped to have a positive impact of the town's business community.

CARE is also studying the possibility of re-opening Main Street as a one-way from the end of East Main Street to the parking lot at West Mall Plaza.

 

VII.      THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF CARNEGIE

The Historical Society of Carnegie is a non-profit organization incorporated in October of 1990.  They are located in the East Mall Plaza.

The Society is actively collecting artifacts, documentation, photographs, film and videos concerning the history of their town.  One of their members, Dr. Sam Astorino of Duquesne University, is presently writing a book on the history of Carnegie.  The organization is also fighting the proposed closing of the local YWCA by circulating a petition and generating grass roots support.

Among the material they have collected so far:

  • Microfilm from the Mansfield Item to the Carnegie Signal-Item, 1873-1982;
  • Yearbooks and reunion books from Carnegie High School;
  • Videotaped interviews of senior citizens;
  • A taped interview with Dave Clayton, chief engineer at Superior Steel for 40 years;
  • Videos of borough council meetings;
  • Video of the 1956 flood;
  • Photographs of all the floods going back to 1920;
  • Photos of churches and church activities;
  • A 1904 photo of the Veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War);
  • Pieces of a miniature "Main Street" having been worked on for the past nine years by a member;
  • Maps, including an early 1900 plot plan of Carnegie and an 1876 Allegheny County map of Mansfield and Chartiers boroughs;
  • A 1960 film, "The Superior Steel Story," 1-1/2 hours in length;
  • Carnegie YWCA records;
  • Film of Honus Wagner being honored at Forbes Field;
  • Polk's 1938 Carnegie directory, listing all businesses and residents.

The Historical Society of Carnegie meets the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m.  Contact Dan or Marcella McGrogan, 412-276-7447, for more information.

 

XIII.     THE UKRAINIAN COMMUNITY

There are two Ukrainian churches in Carnegie–St. Peter & Paul's Ukrainian (Orthodox) Church and Holy Trinity (Catholic) Church.  The are located a block from each other on Mansfield Avenue.

According to Steve and Beverly Kapeluck (parishioners at St. Peter & Paul's), there were once 1,000 Ukrainian families in their parish alone.  They estimate that there are now approximately 500 families between the two churches.

St. Peter & Paul's has a Ukrainian dance troupe–50 years old–for both juniors and seniors.  There are presently 18 seniors and 15 juniors, and in the past the number was once up around 50 members.  The troupe performs at a variety of festivals, including a coal mining festival in Youngstown, Ohio, at the University of Pittsburgh festival in September, in East McKeesport and also in Punxatawney.

Two Ukrainian language schools exist in Carnegie. One is held Saturdays at Holy Trinity Church by the Society of Ukrainian Women, and people come from all over the city to attend the classes, according to Mrs. Kapeluck.

Evidently the Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox did little co-mingling until a couple decades ago, according to the Kapelucks.  "The priests [from the two Carnegie parishes] would not sit down together," said Mrs. Kapeluck.  But a dwindling of newcomers to the Ukrainian community–St. Peter & Paul's has seen only two immigrants since W.W.IIthe various Ukrainian sects have banded together for survival.  An example of this is the Ukrainian Orthodox Camp which is now mixed with Orthodox and Catholics, according to the Kapelucks.

On Palm Sunday for the past 30 years is the "Pysanky" Easter Egg sale at St. Peter & Paul's, eggs hand-painted in the Ukrainian tradition.  The money generated by the sale is put into the churches' building fund, said Mr. Kapeluck.  An average of 1,800 eggs are painted and sold annually.

For the past 30 years at St. Peter & Paul's, liturgy has been conducted in English one week, Ukrainian the next.

St. Peter & Paul's has for the last six years been building a "living museum" in the church concerning their Ukrainian heritage.  The Kapeluck's son Michael, 29, is heading the project (he was also interviewed by a Steel Heritage representative in the South Side).

Concerns of the Carnegie Ukrainians about their future are the proliferation of mixed marriages (Ukrainians marrying non-Ukrainians), and the trend of church closings.

 

IX.       CONCLUSIONS/AREAS FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Carnegie, built and later deserted by industry, is in transition.  Proximity to downtown Pittsburgh and the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport probably will result in an economic resurgence for Carnegie, although many variables–such as Carnegie being a "land-locked" community–will hinder but not deter progress.  More than likely, Carnegie will transform into a residential and service-based community.

As the churches have long been a transmitter of ethnic culture in Carnegie, further research on the churches and their community involvement will paint a more comprehensive picture of Carnegie's ethnic heritage than was afforded by the limited scope of this study.  As mentioned previously, the Carnegie Area Ministerium is working to document church histories and community involvement.  Several individuals contacted for this study said Carnegie's churches have segregated the community.  Dwindling membership and church closings and consolidation are forcing the parishes to band together for survival, and this may result in a greater sense of community.

Affiliation with the cooperative and enthusiastic Historical Society of Carnegie will also yield answers concerning Carnegie's past which will provide context for today's cultural environment.

St. Peter & Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church has already been the subject of a documentary produced by Dr. Doris Dyen, on their Easter Egg painting tradition of "Pysanky."  Dr. Sam Astorino of Duquesne University is documenting Carnegie history for publication in a forthcoming book.

Carnegie seems more interested in undoing the damage caused by the so-called "redevelopment" than it is in preserving cultural traditions.  Perhaps a return to economic stability will enable them to focus more on upholding traditional church and community activities.

The "brain drain" of young, educated Carnegie residents choosing to leave the community appears to have stabilized.  Many first-time homeowners are finding Carnegie both affordable and a safe place to raise a family.  Communities on the outskirts of Carnegie–Rosslyn Farms, Greentree, Collier Township–are experiencing growth as well.  Though Carnegie lags behind these communities, the improvements made to Main Street, the proposed widening of Mansfield Avenue and the building of the busway through Carnegie will more than likely spur a period of growth for the community.

Carnegie is an aging population.  Many households contain only a single individual.  As the elderly population dies out, they will be replaced by young families and first-time homeowners who will expand the tax base of the borough.  However, the infrastructure in Carnegie is in some cases in poor shape, and changes will need to be made to attract families to the community.

Close family ties and a persisting ethnic identity have helped Carnegie somehow cope with the mass changes it has experience for the past three decades.  These assets will have to be preserved and nurtured to retain the distinct cultural flavor that each year diminishes in Carnegie.

I hesitate to make any strong recommendations for further exploration on the basis that this study merely skimmed the surface of the cultural milieu in Carnegie.  However, I will make these suggestions:

  • Contact each individual church to discover how they promote ethnicity in their spiritual and social activities.  As the churches are very segregated, few know or seem concerned with the activities of the others.
  • Promote the goals of the Steel Heritage Corporation through networking with both the Carnegie Area Revitalization Effort (CARE) and the Historical Society of Carnegie.  The Historical Society has shown interest in holding a "town meeting" with the Steel Heritage Corporation.  Use that meeting as a conduit towards further research.
  • The Andrew Carnegie Free Library–while not used or supported extensively by the community–would be a good place to promote the Steel Heritage Corporation, and also to generate participatory interest in future surveys of Carnegie.  The library has a very nice auditorium and plenty of room for meeting.
  • The displacement of the black community in Carnegie deserves further attention.
  • Assist in the programming/development of the 1994 Carnegie Centennial

This study, while limited in scope and resources, can provide a "jumping off point" for further research of the Borough of Carnegie.