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Moon moves toward preservation plan

| Wednesday, July 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

When the Polo Club apartments were being built about 20 years ago on Beaver Grade Road, Moon officials worked with the developer to place the units around a century-old tree on the grounds.

“If we didn't know that old tree was there, it wouldn't have been preserved,” said Lora Dombrowski, the township's code administrator.

Moon has since looked at preserving the Mooncrest neighborhood, built during World War II for workers at a Neville Island landing craft factory. Dombrowski said a state historical official told her that the township needs to develop a plan “to say what's worth preserving and what's just old.”

At the behest of its historic architectural review board, the township is doing just that.

The next step is an informational meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 24 in the municipal building, 1000 Beaver Grade Road. Consultants will present an inventory of about 150 potential resources and accept residents' comments.

Dombrowski said the study's purpose isn't to impose rules for what owners must do with their properties.

“We wanted this for a planning tool,” Dombrowski said. “We're trying to educate people so they'll want to do things on their own.”

Despite its reputation as a relatively new community with modern homes and office buildings, Moon is the oldest township in Allegheny County. It was founded in 1788 as one of the county's original municipalities.

Tracy Zinn, principal with township consultants T&B Planning of Murrysville, said her firm shared the list of resources with officials in June. A draft of a preservation plan should be available by late fall, she said.

Laura Ricketts, architectural historian with Skelly & Loy, a Downtown subcontractor to T&B, said three “major moments” in Moon history spurred construction:

• The 19th century, when agriculture was the focus and farmhouses were built.

• The early 20th century, when wealthy industrialists built summer homes and people of lesser means built smaller homes along main roads. Large summer homes included the Roselea estate; the Hyeholde, which now is a restaurant; and the Nimick estate, now part of Robin Hill Park. Ricketts said there were a number of smaller homes with distinctive architectural styles, such as Tudor and Craftsman.

• The post-World War II period, when subdivisions linked to township highways and the former Greater Pittsburgh International Airport were built.

“The entire country is grappling with this” more recent period, as 50-year-old were are considered now to have historical value, Ricketts said.

Other historical resources include the many oil and gas wells in Moon, the former one-room Boggs School, and the large fireplace of the house off Pillar Drive that belonged to early township settler Joshua Meeks.

“The survey is not meant to privilege big, fancy single-family homes,” Ricketts said. “We're trying to get the full flavor (of the township).”

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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