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Snapshot: Historian Seeks Moon Township Photos for Glimpse of Community's Past

The Moon Historic Architectural Review Board and a Robert Morris University professor hope to collect photos and oral histories, documenting Moon Township and its Mooncrest neighborhood.

John McCarthy, a history professor at Robert Morris University, called it a remnant of World War II's American home front. 

Township officials are taking steps to preserve the Mooncrest neighborhood, a 400-home cluster of adjoined brick houses off Old Thorn Run Road, and its industrial-era past. 

"(Mooncrest) shows how major of a national effort World War II was," said McCarthy, who specializes in the study of urban history.

"You literally had hundreds of thousands of people working in the war industry to create weapons, and places like Mooncrest are where they lived," he said.  

The 42-acre neighborhood, constructed in 1943 by the U.S. Department of Defense, was home to Neville Island shipyard workers and their families before its housing stock was sold to private landlords in the 1950s.

 

The neighborhood was named a historic district in 2004 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

McCarthy and the board seek historic photographs of both Moon Township and the Mooncrest neighborhood to be featured in a book documenting the community's rural and World War II past.  

The group hopes to gather photos depicting day-to-day life in Mooncrest and the wider community prior to the 1950s. 

Mooncrest was once home to the township's grocery store and schoolhouse, both former landmarks McCarthy hopes to document in the book. 

The group also hopes to find historic photographs of the neighborhood's Baptist church.  

In addition to collecting photographs, the group seeks out original Mooncrest residents, who called the area home in the 1940s and 1950s. 

McCarthy's students will interview those past residents as a part of an oral history of the community. 

Sequestered and overlooking the Ohio River, many homes in the neighborhood have fallen into disrepair in more recent decades. McCarthy said Mooncrest's housing decline might overshadow its historic significance. 

He said he was shocked when he attended a Moon Board of Supervisors meeting several years ago and overheard a community member say Mooncrest should be "bulldozed." 

"And I think whoever said that might not understand its value," McCarthy said. "In my opinion, this (project) is also for people who live around Mooncrest to see that it's not the dumping ground of Moon. People live back there." 

Here's how you can get involved: 

What they're doing: Professor McCarthy and members of the Moon Historic Architectural Review Board are collecting photographs for a book documenting Moon history. 

They also hope to interview residents for an oral history of Mooncrest and have the neighborhood added to the National Register of Historic Places. 

What they're looking for: Historic photographs of both Moon Township and the Mooncrest neighborhood. 

In particular: Photographs shot prior to the 1950s that feature past residents in front of streetscapes, stores, community centers or churches. 

Who they want to talk to: Mooncrest residents from the 1940s and 1950s.

How to submit photographs: McCarthy can be reached at McCarthy@rmu.edu. You can also contact to Lora Dombrowski at ldombrowski@moontwp.com or 412-262-1700 or Moon Fire Marshall Charles Belgie at cbelgie@moontwp.com or 412-262-5004. 

Have any photos on hand right now? Click the "upload photos" link above to add your own to our gallery. 

Wendy Albright (Todd) September 29, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I'm blessed to know that an area i hung out at,played at and delivered pizza to on my first job will be in the historical records my dad and other family members were raised here so im hopping to come across some photos to submit from the Todd family , The Grannis family and also the Olson's in whitch also was the owners of the now known as Olson park on Flaugherty run I cant wait to see the records that will be found good luck to the project. Wendy Albright (Todd)...
Lora Dombrowski October 23, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Thank you. Please feel free to contact me. Lora Dombrowski at 412-262-1700 or ldombrowski@moontwp.com I am excited to see what information you might find.

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