149 sites placed in new Moon Township Historic Preservation Plan

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School students attend Mass on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in the chapel at chapel at the Felician Sisters Convent in Moon.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School students attend Mass on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in the chapel at chapel at the Felician Sisters Convent in Moon.
Photo by Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Moon has a historically rich legacy about which many people are unaware. Now the township has an official plan to help preserve that legacy.

In the early 20th century, the township became a respite for wealthy industrialists fleeing smog-filled Pittsburgh. They built architecturally significant summer homes and mansions in the rural area.

“Here in Moon, a lot of them built on Coraopolis Heights Road, and there are several other homes spread out throughout the township,” said Carl Griffith, chairman of the Moon Township Historic Architectural Review Board.

Some of the homes are listed in the new Moon Township Historic Preservation Plan, which includes 149 commercial buildings, places of worship, parks, early oil drilling locations and other historic resources.

Some sites could be eligible for placement on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that could qualify the owners for special tax credits for major rehabilitation work.

All of the resources in Moon's preservation plan were built by 1965, according to Tracy Zinn, a principal in the Murrysville office of T&B Planning Consultants Inc., a Tustin, Calif.-based company that was one of two firms Moon hired to develop the plan.

Places listed in the plan include the Felician Sisters Convent and chapel and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School, which were built in the early 1930s and share a complex on Woodcrest Avenue; the former Boggs School House, circa 1898, the last one-room schoolhouse in Moon; Robert Morris University's Rudolph Family Gardens, once part of the former Pine Hill Manor, which dates to about 1908, and several campus dorms designed by architect Tasso Katselas in the 1960s.

“The garden is beautiful. I mean when it's in bloom, it's an extraordinary place on campus. … I think it's a community resource,” said Robert Morris spokesman Jonathan Potts.

Even if the properties in the plan don't qualify for historic designation, it is beneficial for Moon to know what its resources are for decision-making purposes, such as awarding demolition permits and placing signs to indicate historic resources, Zinn said.

“The main goals in the development of the preservation plan were to increase public awareness of Moon's history and historic resources, promote preservation, give recognition to Moon's history and historic resources and to build upon the rich diversity of architecture that distinguishes Moon from other communities,” said Lora Dombrowski, Moon's code administrator.

The preservation plan was developed using a $10,000 Keystone Historic Preservation Grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and matching funds from Moon.

T&B and an architectural historian from Harrisburg-based Skelly and Loy Inc., an engineering and environmental consulting firm with an office in Harmar, worked on the plan in 2013. The township's board of supervisors approved it on March 5.

Zinn was to present the plan to the public during the board of supervisors' meeting on Wednesday.

In Moon, there is only one historic district, Mooncrest, which was listed on the National Register in 2013. In 1943, the federal government built Mooncrest as a planned community to house workers building naval vessels during World War II on nearby Neville Island.

The township's historic plan recommends that Moon take 20 actions to preserve its resources, such as encouraging owners of income-producing properties that could be eligible for listing on the National Register to submit applications for listing. The plan adds a conservation overlay district to the Moon zoning ordinance to protect the character of certain residential neighborhoods.

Volunteers will be needed to help with tasks in the plan, Griffith said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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