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Historic Monroeville hotel checks out after more than 65 years

Samson X Horne
| Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, 5:42 p.m.
The Sunrise Inn - formerly the Phoenix Motel - on Route 22 in Monroeville was torn down by demolition crews on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Tribune-Review
The Sunrise Inn - formerly the Phoenix Motel - on Route 22 in Monroeville was torn down by demolition crews on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017.
The Phoenix Hotel as it looked in the late 1960s.
Monroeville Historical Society
The Phoenix Hotel as it looked in the late 1960s.

Developers in Monroeville have had another historic landmark in the municipality demolished.

Bulldozers on Thursday were taking down the Sunrise Inn, a motel that was popular due to its close proximity to the Pennsylvania Turnpike interchange, which opened in 1950. The demolition comes shortly after another landmark, the Penn-Monroe Bar on William Penn Highway, was taken down recently.

Also on William Penn Highway, across from the Miracle Mile Shopping Center, the Sunrise hotel opened in the 1950s. It was previously known as the Phoenix Motel, which also included the Phoenix Lounge bar and restaurant.

Local historian Louis Chandler called it the “granddaddy of Monroeville hotels,” along with the Terrace Hotel, both established not long after the interchange opened.

Legend has it “The Phoenix” was controlled by Pittsburgh mafioso Michael Genovese, who used it as a money-laundering operation for the local mob.

Chandler moved to Monroeville in 1977. He said ties with the mafia would have “certainly made sense.”

“(The mafia does) try to get into legitimate businesses. This one was lucrative and on the main drag,” Chandler said.

But he said he couldn't verify the claims and doesn't know who can.

Monroeville Mayor Greg Erosenko, who has been living in the community for just over 30 years, dismissed the rumors as “crazy talk.”

“I've never seen evidence of a smoking gun on that,” said Erosenko.

According to the Monroeville Historical Society, the location's name changed in the mid-1970s and the lounge area was converted to a restaurant space for various establishments until Sunrise Inn's last days.

The building was up for sale during the past several years, even as it was occupied up until last year.

“I'm glad to see it come down because the building simply wasn't taken care of,” said Erosenko. “It's been an eyesore for quite awhile. The goal is to make Route 22 look good. We have to reinvest in ourselves.”

Monroeville Manager Tim Little said developers received permission from the municipality to erect a Panda Express restaurant in its place. An completion date for that project was not known, Little said.

Samson X Horne is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach him at 412-320-7845 or shorne@tribweb.com.

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