It served as Moon Township's first planned neighborhood development—a cluster of adjoined redbrick houses situated on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River.
Recent years have seen the Mooncrest neighborhood on decline—many of its historic homes, built for Defense Department workers after the onset of World War II, have fallen into disrepair. Now, Moon Township officials are hoping to have Mooncrest added to the National Register of Historic Places, a title that could aid restoration efforts in the neighborhood.
"There are perks to it," said Moon code officer Lora Dombrowski, discussing the neighborhood being added to the National Register. "There are tax incentives. It would help us with restoration efforts. But the main reason is to educate residents about the history of the neighborhood."
Constructed in 1943, Dombrowski said the 42-acre neighborhood was central to life in Moon Township—the community's police department, school and municipal building were all once located in Mooncrest.
Neville Island shipyard workers once occupied its homes. After 1945, the ward was operated by the Air Force and by the mid-1950s its housing stock was sold individually to private owners.
Today Mooncrest, sequestered off Old Thorn Run Road, is no longer a bustling part of the community, but still stands testament to the region's industrial and military heritage, Dombrowski said.
"We're trying to bring back some community pride," Dombrowski said. "There are probably some absentee landlord issues, management issues. But we want there to be an awareness of what it could be."
"Right now we're doing oral interviews," she said. "There are still some original residents who live in the area and there are still residents who've moved out of Mooncrest but still live in Moon Township."
She said they will compile stories and photographs in a publication documenting the neighborhood’s history that will someday be taught to Moon Area School District students. Township officials met with school district administrators in recent months to discuss adding Mooncrest's history to the district's curriculum.
"They were very excited about it," she said of the school district. "If we can get word to students in the district, I know we can open this up to the surrounding community."
Next month, the township will submit its draft proposal, which will be reviewed by state officials before the application process proceeds to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which maintains the historic register.
Members of the Historic Architectural Review Board have spent more than three years working on the Mooncrest project.
"I think of this as the beginning of the project," Dombrowski said. "Next year at this time we will probably know whether we've been approved (for the National Register)."
Township officials say the goal of the project is to educate the Moon community about the neighborhood's historic significance—many residents may not even know the development exists, Dombrowski said.
"One of the biggest issues is probably that no one knows about (Mooncrest), but it's a diamond in the rough," she said. "It was a shining part of the community."
The township is seeking historic photographs of the Mooncrest neighborhood for its publication as well as its application to the National Register of Historic Places. Photographs will be scanned and returned to owners. Those who have documents of interest should contact Dombrowski at 412.262.1700 or Fire Marshall Charlie Belgie at 412.262.5004.