How well do you know the central business district of Mt. Lebanon? Probably not as well as the second grader who lives down the street from you. Every year, all second grade students in Mt. Lebanon take a walking tour of uptown Mt. Lebanon where they learn about the history and architecture of their community. Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), the Mt. Lebanon School District, the Historical Society of Mount Lebanon and Mt. Lebanon Library worked together to come up with the program that familiarizes children with the history and architecture of Mt. Lebanon’s central business district started the program in 2001.
The tour begins at the library, runs down Washington Road to Clearview Common and then loops back to the library. Along the way, the group stops inside the Art Deco municipal building and the Mt. Lebanon History Center on Lebanon Avenue. Before setting off, children are given a sheet of paper with close-ups of seven images of architectural details, which they must search for during the tour. These details and embellishments include the night deposit box outside the Shops at the Bank building (670-672 Washington Road), Roman Doric pilasters (Stevenson William Building), the caduceus symbol outside the Howard Hanna building (formerly the Medical Arts Building), the gargoyles (also known as grotesques) above the door at Mt. Lebanon Floral; the comedy and tragedy masks outside Mellon auditorium, the oriole window at the house at 782 Washington Road; the aluminum details and terrazzo floor inside the municipal building; and the terra cotta facade outside the Steel City Ballroom building (formerly an Isaly’s).
During the tour, children learn about:
- The architectural strengths of an arch
- The significance of the Renaissance figures atop the Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building
- How Mt. Lebanon got its name from two Cedar of Lebanon trees brought to the area about 1850
- How Washington Road developed from a dirt road for stagecoaches into a major highway.
- How Washington Road got its name (it linked Pittsburgh to Little Washington)
- How the opening of the Liberty Tunnel in 1924 impacted the growth of the community
- How buildings are “recycled” when a new business moves into an old building
- How the library moved from the municipal building to its own building
- How the fire department moved from the municipal building to its own building
- How Andrew Mellon Middle School got its name (Mellon was Secretary of the Treasury from 1921 to 1932)
- Different styles of architecture: Gothic (Southminster Church); Spanish (791 and 788 Washington Road, at the corner of Washington Road and Lebanon Avenue); Tudor (782 Washington Road); Bungalow (770 Washington Road); Art Deco (Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building)
- How the land where Washington School now stands was once an apple orchard
- How Yogli Mogli was built to be a movie theater (it never was)
- How Mineo’s Pizza once housed Horne’s Department Store
- What a cornerstone is
- How a streetcar line used to run down Washington Road and turn around in Clearview Common