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Field Notes:
Mosside Bridge, the Great Valley and PA48

Before Mosside Blvd was built, there was no road following the course of the valley from the PRR's Moss Side Station to Haymaker Rd. The main north-south routes from the valley in Pitcairn and Trafford were Haymaker Rd (Originally the Sewickley Old Town Path, an Indian trail which followed the ridge line here. The Path connected two Indian settlements, one near New Kensington and one near West Newton -- by way of Trafford, New Texas and Logan's Ferry [the latter two location in Plum])

The only road which passed through the valley in Monroeville was Hillside Av which crosses about half a mile north of Broadway (PA130). After the opening of Mosside Blvd in 1930, the section of Hillside Av between Pitcairn and Mosside fell into disuse and disrepair. Ultimately it was closed to traffic about 1981. It can be walked, but is not passable for vehicles. The eastern section, Hillside Av Extension, is still well-maintained, but is very steep and has sharp curves -- showing its early roots. It passes an abandoned stone quarry site near its crest.

Below the quarry and now buried is a small stone storage building, like a root cellar. It had an arched cornice and a datestone on its front above the door. The inscription read "LUCKSHRE 1830." Most of the building is likely intact below the grade of the road, but the arched top was destroyed (intentionally) by a county-sponsored contractor working on flood control and right-of-way clearance about 1987. I had mentioned this building to the Monroeville Historical Society, but they took no action. Someday, perhaps, I'll start digging.

Mosside Blvd was also part of the same 1928 bond issue as Ohio River Blvd, Saw Mill Run Blvd, and Allegheny River Blvd. But Mosside (perhaps because it was not built in the urban area -- or touching the City of Pittsburgh) did not receive the sculpted concrete entrance pylons as did the others. All of these roads were projects of the County of Allegheny.

On the southern side of The Great Valley (the Turtle Creek Valley), there was a previous road which roughly traced the path of the later Mosside Blvd for most of its present route. But even these roads did not make up the entire course of the current road.

Naser Rd, Patterson Rd and others criss-crossed the hilltops in the northern portion of North Versailles. This area had a small settlement, including a schoolhouse on Patterson Rd. This road followed a creek valley down to Wall. The road can be walked for some distance, but is somewhat difficult in some areas. Remains of some buildings can be found. Major portions of the hilltops were strip mined and there are tailings piles in many places. Unfortunately, the Monroeville-Pitcairn Sportsman's Club bought most of the land near PA48 (when the Chambers Landfill bought their former property for expansion). Now, the area is, of course, very dangerous to visit.

Naser Rd is still existing as a rough dirt and cinder road. It intersects the Lincoln Hwy (US30) near a very old farmhouse. The road runs in a nearly straight line toward Trafford having only a couple bends - one before it intersects Mosside Blvd and the others as part of the descent down the very steep hillside to Trafford. The embankments of a former crossing at Brush Creek can be seen at Stewart's Station in the former Cavittsville, the town which stood here before George Westinghouse built Trafford.

Near the intersection of Naser Rd and Mosside Blvd, the remains of another old farmhouse may be seen. Only the stone chimney is standing, and the property is posted against trespassing. The Wallace-Nasor house, when it was in poor condition but still intact, was included in the Pgh History and Landmarks Foundation book "Landmark Architecture of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County." It was built by James Irwin in 1790.

At Lincoln Hwy, Mosside Blvd meets Jacks Run Rd, where the latter climbs up from White Oak. Old Jacks Run Rd meets the Lincoln Hwy about a mile east of this intersection. The current Jacks Run Rd (PA48) is a relatively new route, probably built at the same time as Mosside Blvd. The earlier north-south route was on the ridge line to the east along McClintock Rd which passes the site of a very early frontier fort, north of White Oak Park. Fort Reburn is marked by a PA Historical and Museum Commission marker near Angora Gardens, north of White Oak Park.

Along Jacks Run Rd, nearer to East Allegheny High School, the road had a more modern character in grade and curve. Farther south and to its intersection with Long Run Rd / Lincoln Way, it has older houses and follows both the level and course of the creek.

Long Run Rd and Lincoln Way were part of the original 1755 Braddock Road. That English miltary expedition used this route to pass from the Youghiogheny River to the Monongahela River before crossing the Mon twice...only to be defeated in ambush at Braddock's Field.

Lincoln Way was named by local boosters trying to entice the official routing of the real Lincoln Highway to pass through White Oak, rather than North Versailles, on its way to Pittsburgh. The effort was in vain as the Lincoln passed north of the area. Long Run Rd extends on an easy grade to Circleville where it intersects with the Lincoln Hwy. Circleville was also the site of an encampment of Braddock's troops -- having journeyed to this point in a northwestern direction only to be discouraged by the difficult passages along upper reaches of Brush Creek and Turtle Creek. They decided to turn southwestward after breaking camp. The reached the Youghiogheny River at Crawford Run -- the point which is a major landmark on the boundary of Allegheny County. Choosing not to follow the steep sides of the riverbank here, the turned northwest and marched through White Oak to the Monongahela River.

In the area around Moss Side Station, the site of the 1930 Mosside Bridge (replaced 2007) on PA48 between Monroeville and North Versailles, the 1907 USGS topo map shows a slightly different arrangement of roads. The pre-1930 bridge is shown and its alignment is at a different angle from the current bridge. Mosside Blvd north of Broadway did not exist and Hillside Ave was the main connection to Haymaker Rd and northward through the area.

On the south end, the original path of the road which became Mosside Blvd in North Versailles was substantially the same but the section at the bottom of the hill has been changed. It appears that the former road followed Centralia St and Center Av (which seem to have been one street). If you follow the course of this road, it meets Wall Ave (also signed Moss Side Av at Dawson) at a point near the old Conrail Auto Depot entrance. All of the streets and houses in this immediate area are oriented along Center Av...and the angle of the pre-1930 bridge as shown on the USGS map also aligns with this plan of streets.

The old abutment adjacent to the current south abutment of the 1930 bridge indicates the old bridge crossed the RR at a 90 degree angle. (The current bridge is angled so the south end is more toward the east.) So the old bridge north approach would have met Broadway directly in front of the old gas station which is currently Autohaven at PA48 and PA130. This matches the USGS map. In the other direction, the abutment indicates the bridge proceding southward to a point almost exactly at the current Intermodal Terminal entrance, between Division St and Irwin St.

The Pennsylvania Railroad's eastbound (EB) classification yard, which stretched eastward from this point, was not present when the 1907 USGS map was published. But the contour lines, when compared to the 1953 USGS topo map, indicate that the "Mound" was attached to the bottom of the North Versailles hillside. The Mound is a hill some fifty feet high standing like an island on the north edge of the valley floor -- and separating the two sets of spans which make up the present Mosside Bridge. It looks something like an Indian burial mound. There are no signs of building on the Mound, but several old utility poles may be found there. Comparison of the contour lines also indicates the PRR cut the gap of the "back channel" and excavated the lower section of the hillside below the current path of Mosside Blvd, in order to widen the valley floor for the EB yard.

On the 1953 map, the proto-Mosside Blvd passed to the southwest of the Mound, farther up the hill, to an intersection with the old bridge's southern approach at Wall Av.

Just inside the Intermodal Terminal entrance the section of the former EB hump track has been repaved to the west. It was paved previously and was an alternate entrance to the Auto Depot. To the east, the path of the EB hump track is a gravel road which passes through the "back channel" cut. The building of the EB hump track, the removal of the pre-1930 bridge, and later railroad reconstruction and grading have obliterated most of the physical evidence -- but north of this track location there is a large mass of vegetation overgrowth which hides other clues.

With permission of the railroad police, and no small measure of bushwhacking, one may visit the original cut stone arch which carried the PRR eastbound hump track over the old road between North Versailles and Patton Twp (Monroeville). The road was at a much lower elevation than the rest of the area as it currently exists. The underpass is heavily littered with old car parts, beer cans and trash.

After locating the stone arch, one may draw a line from the remains of the stone abutment near the north end of the current Mosside Bridge to the arch. On this line, at a point just south of the eastern section of the Intermodal track, there is the remains of one of the pre-1930 bridge piers. It is difficult, but possible to see from the sidewalk of the current Mosside Bridge. There were likely several other piers along the path of the older bridge, but years of changes in the railyard have removed other traces. East of the Mosside Bridge, on the north side of the Turtle Creek, there are remains of the concrete roadways, building foundations, utility service and railroad ties hidden among the overgrowth.

The area of the EB hump yard toward Trafford (formerly Cavittsville and Stewart's Station) was once the site of a proving ground for cannons used in the Civil War. The Fort Pitt Foundry was located on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, between 12th St (O'Hara St) and 13th St (Walnut St). During the Civil War years, about 80 percent of the Union heavy artilery and about 15 percent of their cannons were produced there. The first proving ground opened in Tarentum in 1861; in that same year, a second testing area was established east of the Mosside Bridge. It is reported that so many cannons were fired into the south bank of the hillside that a cave was hollowed out.

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Page created: Page created: 09-Nov-2000
Last modified: 15-Jun-2008