Walking tour gives glimpse of Tarentum's history

| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The borough of Tarentum has a storied past. Founded in 1842, it was originally a Shawnee Indian settlement and later had a canal running through town. Much of it went up in flames during a fire in 1885. A St. Patrick's Day flood swept through and wreaked havoc in 1936.

If you are curious and want to learn more, the Tarentum History & Landmarks Foundation will host the fifth annual Historical Walking Tours of Tarentum, and the foundaton's executive director, Cindy Homburg, invites those interested in the borough's history to come to Riverview Memorial Park along First Avenue.

The Tarentum History & Landmarks Foundation is celebrating its 40th year. About 250 members receive quarterly booklets featuring historical aspects of Tarentum. Membership is $10 a year.

“There are two special stops on this tour that you will find very interesting,” Homburg says. “Take advantage of this tour and learn about your hometown. The history of the old and the new is what we are showing and talking about.”

One of the stops along the tour showcases Engine House 281 of Eureka Hose along Second Avenue. The oldest firehouse in Tarentum proudly displays Neptune, an antique fire engine that was used to battle the Pittsburgh Fire of 1845. Neptune was built in the early 1840s.

A fire destroyed a large section of the borough in 1885. “We had a bucket-brigade system of fighting fires back then, and it was ineffective,” Homburg says. “The Independent Pump and Hose Company was organized in 1886 and purchased Neptune.”

The fire company changed its name in 1907 to its current Eureka Hose.

“No one knows why it's called Neptune,” Homburg says, “and it was in use a long time until the firehouse bought their first motorized fire truck in 1915.”

Homburg has lived in Tarentum for 42 years and calls it “home,” although she is originally from Valencia.

“I love teaching people the history of this town. My mother was a Tarentum native, and I spent summers here as a kid, and this is home to me.”

Three tours will be offered, all beginning at the Snack Shack in Riverview Memorial Park. Tours are open to all ages. The educational walks are leisurely and will last an hour.

Foundation secretary Theda Fredley is a tour guide along with Homburg.

“I enjoy meeting people and sharing all of the stories Tarentum has,” Fredley says, “and there are many stories, even ghost stories, but I don't believe in them.”

“I do believe in ghosts,” Homburg says, “however, this is not a ghost tour. This is a history tour. But let's just say there are lots of stories around Tarentum if you have an interest in ghosts.”

At one time, three fire stations occupied Tarentum, and a stop at Engine House 281 of Eureka Hose is included.

“I could talk about Tarentum all day,” Homburg says. “But I don't want to give all the details away, so come take the tour.”

Joyce Hanz is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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