History Transcends Through Time

Recollection of a Location, 100 Years Apart

Sometimes ones curiosity about a place may have them ponder a little deeper about it’s historical significance. This was the case with Kevin McIlwain, who spent time in a place that had more historical meaning than he even thought. Kevin’s era at this place was in the 1950’s and 60’s. Also, there was something very important happening at this place in the 1860’s, which by then 100 years had past. This is Kevin’s recollection of his time spent there in his era, and then someone a few generations back recalls her time there.

Taylor House
1904 Directory indicates Benjamin Taylor resided here at 420 S. Jefferson St. He was a foreman at the Steel Works located across the street from his residence.

Having known Pete Harmon for quite a few years I asked him if he had any information or pictures of a house that I knew to be my grandparents’ at the southern end of Jefferson St. It was a red brick house that sat on property that abutted the Pennsylvania Railroad, it was my impression that it was a railroad hotel.


The house had a large yard with a garage that was long enough for several cars parked behind one another. The house had 4 rooms and a bath on the second floor. The rooms ranged from very large to very small. One was used by my aunt Anna Lee and the smallest was used by my grandmother as a sewing room. The first floor had 3 rooms and a large kitchen, which is where my grandmother spent her waning years after not being able to climb stairs.
The house was drafty and several of the rooms upstairs were closed off, but still had beds in them. The center hallway that had the staircase was also closed in by a carpenter later on, in an effort to keep from heating the whole house unnecessarily. The original source of heat was a coal furnace, and the basement always had a large pile of coal in in it, coal trucks would back in across the lawn to dump their loads in the chute. The banister of the stairs had a bend in it large enough that a person could start all the way at the top and slide the whole way. My sister taught me that, and with a little waxed paper, we had some great times on it. There was a large steel pipe in the yard that had the highest TV antenna I can remember in the neighborhood. We would typically watch the 3 Pittsburgh channels (2,4, and 11) but if you wanted to change the direction we had to go out with a pipe wrench and turn the bottom which also turned the top.
The neighbors were Clair Bowser’s North American Van Lines warehouse and Dean Phipps warehouse too. I would visit the loading dock of the outgoing trucks at Dean Phipps frequently. Les Simpson of Wick City was the foreman of this area.
My aunt sold the house to The Urban Redevelopment Authority in Kittanning after Gram passed away and she moved to the northern end of town. It was a nice house and I remember many happy times there with the family. I did go back once after it had been sold and was sitting empty, the grass had grown so tall that it had fallen over, the back door was standing open, so I ventured inside and had a look like before, but obviously there was no one home. Just goes to show a house needs a family before it can become a home.

By Kevin McIlwain

Showing Kittanning Brewing Company

The residence shown in the bottom center in a 1913 Sanborn Map. The Kittanning Brewing Company now is the location of the truck parking lot of Noel Ford.

2015 Location of Former Residence at 420 S. Jefferson St.

Looking north from S. Jefferson St. towards town from the front of the residence former location.

Taylor house


In 1922 an article was written in the Simpson Daily Leader Times of this same residence. Describing it at this time the railroad just came to Kittanning in the late 1850s, and as stated right at the edge of town not through it. This made me think of other historical journals regarding the accounts of the Civil War soldiers in Kittanning which I thought were interesting. One of them was the fact that for soldiers entering the service from the farms and country side, this would be their first time of ever seeing such a things as a train. It must have been an awe inspiring experience to see a complicated piece of machinery. From television accounts we don’t comprehend Civil War soldiers being in Kittanning, but with Camp Orr being south of the current YMCA, this is were several prepared before leaving by train from Kittanning.

Below is an early map of Kittanning showing the residence at 420 S. Jefferson St. which is listed as occupied by C. Rider. Without the date of the map, it is unknown which time period this is, but more than likely later than 1867 after the Reiters moved to Rosston, and due to the completion of the railroad tracks continuing through town.

Map of Lower Kittanning before the 1900’s with the C. Rider residence. The Rolling Mill was in the area of the current PennDot building. The rolling mill remained in Kittanning till 1926.

Note – All photos can be clicked for an enlarged view.

Edgewood, Then and Now


Edgewood Intersection from 1970’s to 2012 era (Photo by Karl Swigart and Pete Harmon)

Mention the name Edgewood Intersection and most drivers from around the Kittanning area will most likely identify it as the traffic intersection at the bottom of the Indiana Pike hill. The present day configuration of the Edgewood Intersection was not its first. During the initial relocation of the Edgewood Intersection in 1934, several houses would be razed to relocate the intersection by creating the railroad overpass and the buildup of the roadway from the railroad overpass down past Kings Lanes, all the way to the Kittanning Bridge, thus creating South Water Street. Then around 1972-73 approximately another 32 homes would need to be razed in order to change the Edgewood Intersection into its present day configuration. The following description along with accompanying photos will hopefully help to describe and show, those whom have heard the name Edgewood mentioned and what it looked like, prior to the houses being razed and the intersection restructured around 1972-73. 

View from across the river showing the Steel Plant, Typewriter Works, and Edgewood to the right (Old Kittanning Postcard)

Edgewood till the end was a tight knit community of lower to middle class inhabitants. In its earlier days many of the men from the Edgewood and Typewriter hill area where employed by the Kittanning Iron Works, as well as other local business that helped to support it. Edgewood was also called “Slabtown”, supposedly derived from some of the houses being built from wooden slabs of lumber, possibly deposited along the river bank after floating down the river from lumber mills operating up-river or from discarded crating discarded from the Kittanning Iron Works.

Coming north from Ford City on the “Old Road” Route 66 approaching Edgewood Intersection showing the current Park n’ Ride and how it appeared in the 1970’s. (Photos by Pete Harmon and Karl Swigart)

  Today its hard to imagine situated along and below old State Traffic Route 66 Kittanning to Ford City road once stood approximately 11 houses. These houses sat directly across from the present day Edgewood Intersection’s “Park and Ride” parking lot and was down over the hill a bit between the present day highway guard rails, and the former Pennsylvania Railroad tracks (now the Armstrong Trail). Where the Park and Ride is located today once stood two businesses, James Ward Thompson’s Garage and the Thrifty Oil Co. Gas Station. 

Today there are no signs of what was there for the generations of families that called Edgewood their home. These additional lanes were cut into the hillside eliminating the homes. (Photo by Pete Harmon and Karl Swigart)

Running parallel to and along the right side of the Indiana Pike hill (going towards Indiana) were another 17 houses and one business, Mary Carter Paints. They were separated by a small alleyway, which ran from old State Route 66 up through this grouping of houses and eventually exited at its upper end back onto the Indiana Pike roadway, just below the grouping of two homes and Kibuk Cycle Sales Inc. on the left side of the Indiana Pike hill. These houses and one business (Mary Carter Paints) were located directly across from the present day Ace Hardware store. There were an additional three houses located above old State Traffic Route 66 on the hill behind the Park and Ride. Today the area where they stood is now the excavated cut in the hill made for the new roadway going from the Edgewood Intersection toward Ford City. (Article by Karl Swigart)

This is just a short series of Edgewood that Karl will be sharing with Kittanningonline readers. He has amassed quite a bit of information regarding that area and is anxious to share, Thanks Karl.