Mt Lebanon Magazine

710 Washington Rd
Pittsburgh, PA 15228

Mt Lebanon Magazine

The official magazine of Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania

A new appreciation of an old suburb

When I walk the streets of Mt. Lebanon, admiring the distinctive and beautiful old houses, I like to think of the lives of people who lived in them over the years. There were graduations and weddings and Christmas celebrations and Thanksgiving dinners here, long before I was born. Many of these houses have been here for 100 years and people in them lived through World War II, the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War, as well as the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the Bicentennial and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

Mt. Lebanon is an old suburb, one of the first built around the industrial center of Pittsburgh. Although its founding dates to 1912, its growth was mainly spurred by the access afforded by the opening of the Liberty tunnels in the mid-1920s. When America became a nation that traveled by automobile, Mt. Lebanon was right there to welcome the new commuters.

Dormont Junction, just before entering Lebo, in the 1920s

The municipality was touted by real estate developers as offering fresh air and cleanliness, away from the city. Remember this was when Pittsburghers were inhaling tons of smoke and soot from the steel mills operating 24/7 just a couple of miles away. A flood of new housing was built in the ’30s when prosperous families realized that their children could grow up in what must have seemed like the country.

Of course, Mt. Lebanon’s status as an outer ring suburb has been supplanted by ones farther out: Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair, Peter Township. Now we’re an inner ring suburb—able to offer quick access to downtown in a place that’s still very different from the city.

Some people see the municipality’s features as liabilities: small lots, old houses, a business district split by a major road, garages built for Model Ts, even some alleyways. Mt. Lebanon is not a place where you would look first if you wanted to build your own house; open land is scarce and expensive, and what’s left is mostly on the sides of steep hills.

I see most of those “problems” as assets. Small lots promote community. When your house is set close to your neighbors’, it’s almost impossible not to get to know them. I grew up here and as a child never felt that our yard was inadequate to play or explore in. My parents did a fair amount of entertaining in it, too, small as it was. Our neighbors were our friends, and we rarely locked the doors during the day. (Many Leboites still don’t.) Parents on our street knew all the kids up and down the block, and looked out for them.

Hoodridge homes

If your house was built more than 50 years ago, it was probably very well constructed, with thick walls of brick or stone, a slate roof, plaster finishes, crown molding, maybe even a corner cupboard in the dining room. The houses are old, yes, but more than make up for it in charm. Travel our historic district and you’ll be bowled over by both the variety of architectural styles and their distinctive features: mullioned windows, arched front doors, even castle-like turrets. Many of these houses have been altered over the years with additions and updates, expansive family rooms and huge kitchens, so Lebo houses stand with the best of Pittsburgh real estate.

And of course, we have an actual town center, unlike many of the surrounding areas. A place where the library, the coffee shop, the ice cream parlor, the municipal building, and lots of restaurants are concentrated into a compact, walkable area with two big parking garages. No small thing.

Planned communities all over the country are trying to replicate this kind of town: walkable, charming, accessible, set up for community. Mt. Lebanon’s progenitors were way ahead of them.

Comments

  1. Author’s gravatar

    My wife and I both grew up in Mt. Lebanon. I remember walking everywhere; to school, to Virginia Manor, to Mission Hills, to the pool. We lived near Beverly Road and our parents shopped there. I remember Mt Lebanon as a real community with so much to offer its residents. Our son now owns the family home on N. Meadowcroft and they certainly enjoy the community. A really good place to buy a house, live and raise a family with great amenities, great schools, great community services. Never nice regretted the taxes paid for exceptional services.

  2. Author’s gravatar

    I believe the land for the elementary schools were set aside early so neighborhoods could form around them and children could walk to and from schools. The emphasis on excellent schools right at the start also built Mt. Lebanon’s reputation as a first class township in the Pittsburgh area.

  3. Author’s gravatar

    I live in California, but grew up in Mt Lebanon when I tell people in California about the safe and beautiful town I grew up in where we never locked our doors and didnt worry about our cars being stolen., they look at me like I’m crazy. They can’t believe there is still a place like that in our country. When my husband comes to Mt Lebanon to visit my family, he is amazed at the houses, the trees, and that there’s no major fencing or walls that divides the backyards. Everything you wrote about Mt. Lebanon brings back many wonderful memories. My family still resides in Mt. Lebanon, and loves it as much as I did growing up there. They will never move, and frankly, I don’t blame them.

  4. Author’s gravatar

    I want to add one more thing…. my grandparents went to Washington school. My parents went to Washington school. My brothers and I went to Washington school. Their children went to Washington school., and their grandchildren go to Washington school. We took a tour recently, and it felt like the school had not changed and the warmth there has not changed!

  5. Author’s gravatar

    My parents lived in our house in Mt Lebanon from 1947 to 1993. They never had a key to the house. When my mother sold the house the buyers were both dumbfounded and very pleased that they lived in a place that didn’t require locked doors.

  6. Author’s gravatar

    My aunt, Ruth Brannigan Stocker, lived at 74 Standish, with her husband, Paul, and sons Bobby, Dennis, and Donny. Visiting them from the East End was always an adventure in the 50’s. Recently I was near there for business and took a drive by it. Their home and neighborhood still looked lovely. Miss those days. Keep up the good work!

  7. Author’s gravatar

    We lived off hoodridge on ridgeview we walked to school every day past those stone homes – also had friends lived in them

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