House on a Hill: Connecting with the Past in Western Pennsylvania

“It is our family and local histories that are our most precious parts of culture, in my estimation. They put ‘meat on the bones’ of the artifacts we find. Of course, all family history is myth until we have the documentation that backs it up.” — Lynne Humphries-Russ   The narrow access road was hidden, and I almost missed the turnoff. I was anxious to see the...
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Fayette at the Crossroads

Fayette County has always been at the crossroads, both literally and figuratively, its destiny shaped by its location, the incredible riches of its natural resources and the vi­tality of a people descended from al­most every nation of Europe. It has a son of dual personality, geo­graphically divided between mountains and lowlands, historically divided into two almost equal eras of economic...
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Pithole City: Boom Town Turned Ghost Town, An Interview with James B. Stevenson

One hundred and twenty-five years ago this summer, the placid calm of northwestern Pennsylvania’s sparsely populated but panoramic vista was ruptured when “Colonel” Edwin L. Drake’s well coughed up rich, black crude oil on August 28, 1859. The following boom years of the oil industry gave rise to numerous towns and cities, some of which were short-lived ghost towns. The...
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Pittsburgh’s Park of a Century

Currently ranked first as the Most Livable City by the Rand-McNally annual survey, Pittsburgh is reveling in media exposure comparable to the boosterism of the town of Zenith which writer Sinclair Lewis satirized in his novel, Babbit. Accompanying the zealous, self-proclaimed promotion, however, has been a healthy dose of self­-examination, with the city’s less enviable qualities suddenly...
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