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Always-charming Oakmont celebrates 125 years

Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - Gary Rodgers, of Oakmont, president of the Oakmont Historical Society, poses for a portrait inside the 'Oakmont School Room' containing yearbooks and memorabilia from the old Oakmont Schools, inside the societies Allegheny River Boulevard location in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Gary Rodgers, of Oakmont, president of the Oakmont Historical Society, poses for a portrait inside the 'Oakmont School Room' containing yearbooks and memorabilia from the old Oakmont Schools, inside the societies Allegheny River Boulevard location in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - Gary Rodgers, of Oakmont, president of the Oakmont Historical Society, poses for a portrait outside the societies Allegheny River Boulevard location in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Gary Rodgers, of Oakmont, president of the Oakmont Historical Society, poses for a portrait outside the societies Allegheny River Boulevard location in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - Gary Rodgers, of Oakmont, president of the Oakmont Historical Society, poses for a portrait inside the societies Allegheny River Boulevard location in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014. Around him you can see memorabilia from the Oakmont Fire Department, as well as historical artifacts from the town.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Gary Rodgers, of Oakmont, president of the Oakmont Historical Society, poses for a portrait inside the societies Allegheny River Boulevard location in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.  Around him you can see memorabilia from the Oakmont Fire Department, as well as historical artifacts from the town.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - Lind Sprouse (left) and Imogene King, both of Oakmont, admire the gadens of Richard and Joanne Munion, during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Lind Sprouse (left) and Imogene King, both of Oakmont, admire the gadens of Richard and Joanne Munion,  during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - Richard Munion, plays with his dog Josie, in his Twelfth Street home's garden, during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Richard Munion, plays with his dog Josie, in his Twelfth Street home's garden, during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - Cindy Tomaro (left) and her husband Joe, of Plum, admire the Munion garden on Twelfth Street, during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Cindy Tomaro (left) and her husband Joe, of Plum, admire the Munion garden on Twelfth Street, during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - Richard Munion talks to two guests at his Twelfth Street home during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Richard Munion talks to two guests at his Twelfth Street home during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - mary Ann and Bob Moser, of Morningside, stand inside the japanese style garden at Karen Schriver's Potomac Avenue home during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>mary Ann and Bob Moser, of Morningside, stand inside the japanese style garden at Karen Schriver's Potomac Avenue home during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - Bill Kemp (left) of Verona, photographs an orchid that smells like chocolate, while home owner Karen Schriver talks to Mary Tyloc of Verona, during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Bill Kemp (left) of Verona, photographs an orchid that smells like chocolate, while home owner Karen Schriver talks to Mary Tyloc of Verona,  during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
Dan Speicher | For Valley News Dispatch - Brian (left) and Kathy Williams of Oakmont, talk to Linda Turner, at Mary Lou Dunlay's home along the Allegheny River during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Dan Speicher  |  For Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Brian (left) and Kathy Williams of Oakmont, talk to Linda Turner, at Mary Lou Dunlay's home along the Allegheny River during the 125th Oakmont Anniversary garden tour in Oakmont on Sunday June 29, 2014.

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If you go

Event: Presentation of “Camps Wright & Galliard, Army Camps of Oakmont” by Gary Rogers, Oakmont Historical Society president

When 6: 30 p.m. July 28

Where: Oakmont Carnegie Library, 700 Allegheny River Blvd.

Details: This is one of a series of monthly lectures for Oakmont's 125th anniversary. Schedule is at www.oakmonthistoricalsociety.org.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Jake Flannick
Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
 

Gary Rogers has a history with Oakmont.

He traces an ancestral line to the first settler there, Michael Bright, who came from the eastern part of the state and cleared trees for farmland in what then was considered the frontier. Rogers has an enduring fondness for a place that has retained charm over its 125 years.

“You can walk the streets,” said Rogers, 56, president of the Oakmont Historical Society. He has accumulated a lifetime's worth of newspaper clippings and other reading materials about the history of the borough.

The historical society is among several organizations that have scheduled activities for each month this year, to mark the anniversary. A garden tour last weekend drew about 500 visitors to 10 sculpted locales, including a Japanese-style garden at one home overlooking the Allegheny River.

Besides using the occasion to draw attention to the borough, such activities are meant to offer a window into a place “where neighbors all know each other by name,” said Christine Little, a member of the Garden Club of Oakmont, which arranged the self-guided tour.

The borough is home to 6,400 people who live within its single square mile. Gas lamps line two red-brick thoroughfares, Allegheny Avenue and Allegheny River Boulevard, which run parallel to each other and are separated by a rail line that once transported people into Pittsburgh.

Many small businesses have helped Oakmont weather occasional economic doldrums. The chamber of commerce has 300 members.

Oakmont has many historic houses. Among them is the Kerr Memorial Museum, which was built in 1897 and which stands as an emblem of the lifestyle of an upper-middle-class family during that period, said Joan Stewart, who serves on its board and leads weekend tours there as a docent.

The Queen Anne Victorian house opened to the public in 2002. It was bequeathed to the borough by the daughter of one of the first medical doctors who settled there.

For many who tour it, Stewart said, “It reminds them of their grandmother's house.”

Rogers will continue holding monthly presentations that tell the history of the borough.

Oakmont, whose naming was a nod to the area's abundant oak trees, incorporated in 1889 as result of population growth, he said.

“It was very amicable,” he said of the founding of the borough, which previously made up the 2nd Ward of Verona. That town grew out of Plum, among the first seven townships in Allegheny County, incorporating in 1871, he said. “I think it was all positive.”

The borough gained a reputation as a weekend getaway spot, where boat and canoe clubs abounded. It's about 12 miles upriver from Downtown Pittsburgh, which for decades was marred by industrial smog.

The borough draws many visitors to its restaurants, shops and the nearby renowned Oakmont Country Club.

Rogers said he left his hometown after college, and to raise a family in Plum, only to return years later and many other people do the same.

“They would want to move back to where they grew up,” he said.

Jake Flannick is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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