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picture of bridge

View east on Ohio River Blvd near Lowries Run, Emsworth

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A 1928 Allegheny County bond issue included funding for Ohio River Blvd, Saw Mill Run Blvd, Allegheny River Blvd and Mosside Blvd. The first three of these received pairs of directional pylons at each end of their route.

The massive pylons are constructed of cut stone and feature bas-reliefs carved panels created by sculptor Frank Vittor. Vittor is also noted for stonecarvings on several other public works projects, including the Westinghouse Bridge pylons.

The carved panels marking the county's three urban boulevards were designed to commemorate early local history. Marilyn Evert lists the subjects as follows: "the first coal being mined in Mount Washington in about 1750; the first Ohio River steamboat, the New Orleans, built in Pittsburgh in 1810; the Allegheny Portage Railroad which first provided canal and rail transportation to the east in 1834; the first sawmill in Allegheny County, built on Saw Mill Run in 1776; the Reverend John McMillan, founder of the first school in 1780; Capt. Celeron de Blainville burying lead plates along the Allegheny River in 1749, claiming the lands for Louis XV of France; Col. Daniel Brodhead and his expedition against the Seneca Indians in 1779; pioneers moving westward after Anthony Wayne's victories in 1795; Anthony Wayne camped with his men at Legionville during the winter of 1792-1793; George Washington negotiating with Indians at Logstown Council, 1753, to extend colonization territory; Col. Henry Bouquet fighting the Indians at Bushy Run in 1763; and the farmer who settled the frontier."

Of the twelve pylons, only two pair remain as of 2005: Allegheny River Blvd in Verona and Ohio River Blvd in Emsworth. The pair on Allegheny River Blvd near Washington Blvd is gone. The pair on Ohio River Blvd at California Av was removed when the Beaver Avenue Expressway project was grafted to the older boulevard. (1970-73)

On Saw Mill Run Blvd, one at Warrington Blvd was destroyed by a runaway vehicle in 1979 -- part of the broken relief panel was rescued by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation; its mate was apparently still standing as late as 1983, but removed for street widening. The other pair on Saw Mill Run were presumably taken down when the Banksville Circle was removed during construction of the Parkway West.


Ohio River Blvd at Emsworth, outbound from Pittsburgh (from Beaver):
"The first Ohio River steamboat, New Orleans, was built at Pittsburgh in 1810-11, and sailed down the river on its maiden trip, October 20, 1811"

Ohio River Blvd at Emsworth, inbound toward Pittsburgh:
"The Allegheny Portage Railroad . . . first gave canal and rail transportation from Pittsburgh to the East, March 24, 1834"

Carved stone panel facing traffic:





PennDOT replaced the nearby bridge over Lowries Run in 2011-12. Because of their close proximity to the roadway, the decorative pylons were removed and their fate uncertain. Spurred by inquries by former Emsworth Council president Maria West to the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, the borough and PennDOT found new locations for the monuments. Each was thoroughly cleaned and restored, with their internal lighting repaired.

Though they once stood directly opposite one another, their new locations are about eight-tenths of a mile apart. The pylon depicting the First Steam Boat was relocated further west to a triangular traffic island at Ohio River Blvd and Center Avenue, the main entrance to the Emsworth business district. The pylon depicting canal packetboats was moved further east to another triangular roadside area at Ohio River Blvd and Western Avenue.

The restoration and preservation of these two pylons adds to the success of the town of Verona on Allegheny River Blvd. An effort led by then Verona councilman, Dave Ricupero, funded by the Verona Chamber of Commerce and contracted Avalotis Painting, resulted in the cleaning and restoration of their monumental pair in 2008. The Verona monuments show: "Colonel Daniel Brodhead with his expedition sailed up the Allegheny River...against the Seneca Indians 1779" and Capt. Celeron de Blainville's Allegheny Valley expedition of 1749 when he claimed the river for France.

A carving from another pylon was rescued from a 1999 estate sale by Jack Giblin, then director of Bushy Run Battlefield in Penn Township, Westmoreland County. The Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society bought the Bushy Run carving and gave it to the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission for display at the battlefield museum. Measuring 5 feet 4 inches tall, 4 feet wide and 7 inches thick, only the carved stone panel remains from the full monumental pylon.

Along with sculptural elements from the Manchester Bridge and various other artifacts, two more of the Vittor panels have been in the courtyard of the Children's Museum -- though these most of items have been moved to protected storage. Of the panels at the courtyard: one shows George Washington in Ambridge in 1753. The other, which was broken years before it was installed on the North Side, shows Anthony Wayne's encampment in Legionville.

Marilyn Evert reports that one of the monuments which stood on Saw Mill Run Blvd at the foot of Warrington Avenue was destroyed by a runaway vehicle in 1979; perhaps it was that of Anthony Wayne at Legionville. With subsequent roadway widening, neither remains. A trio at the southern entrance to Ohio River Blvd were also removed by roadway widening (1970-73) with the construction of the elevated Beaver Avenue portion of Route 65 through the Manchester neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

A pair of 1931 letters to the editor in the Pittsburgh Press complained about the added expense of the pylons. One stated no one would notice them after 10 years; but was appeased by the notion that they were not only plaques to glorify the County officials since the pylons also included historical artwork. The other writer was not so impressed, but did mention in passing the fact that the sculptor was spending an extended period of time under an obscuring tent carving the panels on site and using a plaster model for reference.


field check; Evert, "Discovering Pittsburgh's Sculpture"; The Citizen (a newspaper serving Emsworth and nearby communities); Advance Leader (Oakmont/Verona); Marylynne Pitz, Post-Gazette; Pittsburgh Press

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Introduction -- Nearby Structures

Page created: 17-Jan-2005
Last modified: 05-Sep-2012; 17-Jan-2005

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