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Serpentine Curve on Blackburn Road

Signals, March 2012

The following, from the March 11, 1916, issue of The [Sewickley] Herald, indicates that the stone wall on Blackburn Road was the gift of Mrs. Henry W. Oliver, not her daughter, Mrs. Henry Robinson Rea, as has been stated in many recent publications. Mrs. Oliver was also the donor of the land on Blackburn Road on which Sewickley Valley Hospital and the YMCA were built. The Alexander Davidsons lived in the gatehouse at “Farmhill,” the Henry Robinson Rea estate. Davidson’s daughter, Virginia Davidson Lee, donated photo albums of the “Farmhill” gardens and family scrapbooks to the Sewickley Valley Historical Society.

A splendid piece of construction work was completed some time ago on the Blackburn Road that is deserving of special mention. It is located at ''Deadman's Curve," where the old bridge formerly stood, the abruptness of the curve being a constant menace to autoists and drivers. Some years ago an effort was made to have the county authorities repair the road at this point and make the curve less abrupt. Last summer the county engineers decided to widen the bridge by putting in a three-foot sheet iron pipe on the end of the eighteen-foot concrete work. As this work would be done on the Oliver estate, Mrs. H. W. Oliver and Mrs. H. R. Rea asked the county authorities to be permitted to take up the work and offered to pay for it. This request was granted, and Mr. Alex. Davidson, who has charge of the Oliver estate, was authorized to draw up a plan that would widen the road and bridge at that point and eliminate the danger.

This plan included a retaining wall around the curve and a concrete culvert, and the widening of the road from twenty to forty-two feet, which gives an even curve all the way, as the picture shows. The smooth portion shows where the old road lay, and the rough surface shows the widened thoroughfare. The spandrel on the east side of the road was also built up with stone concrete to have it correspond with the new wall, so the entire improvement would add to the beauty of the roadway.

The entire work was planned and executed under the direction of Mr. Davidson and paid for by Mrs. Oliver and is a splendid illustration of broad-minded public spirit, and when the benefits to be derived from the elimination of this dangerous curve and the artistic value of the entire improvement becomes more apparent, this civic gift of Mrs. Oliver will be more fully appreciated.


Intern Hard at Work at Historical Society Headquarters

For the past several weeks, an intern from Duquesne University has been working at the Historical Society while completing an archival internship. Elizabeth Mubarek, a graduate student at Duquesne, is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Public History, with focuses on Archival, Museum and Editing Studies.

Elizabeth has been going through and organizing several of our previously unsorted collections, among which are the Benjamin Franklin Jones Collection, comprising material amassed when Jones was Chairman of the Republican National Committee in the 1880s, as well as a collection of personal documents and correspondence of Franklin Taylor Nevin (1875-1939), author of the historical essays from the Sewickley Herald that were published in book form in 1929 as The Village of Sewickley. (A reprint edition is available from SVHS for $20.00 plus tax, postage and handling.)

Elizabeth received her Bachelor’s from Grove City College, with degrees in both history and communication studies, as well as a minor in sociology. She is from Concord, Massachusetts, but will be living in Sewickley during the remainder of her time at Duquesne.


The Italian Gardens of Sewickley & Pittsburgh

Wednesday, March 14, 7:30 p.m.

Old Sewickley Post Office

an illustrated presentation by Mary Menniti

Edgeworth resident Mary Menniti will give a slideshow presentation about the beautiful, traditional Italian- American vegetable gardens that still exist in the Pittsburgh area, including many in the Sewickley Valley. These gardens provide glimpses into the past, reminding us of how far society has come from the self-sufficient lifestyles that were commonplace not long ago. The connection between the local history of Sewickley and Italian economic and political history will also be discussed.

Mary founded The Italian Garden Project to celebrate the joy and wisdom inherent in the traditional Italian American vegetable garden, preserving this heritage and demonstrating its relevance for reconnecting to our food, our families and the earth.


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