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'Ghost walks' help to revitalize Brownsville

Joe Napsha
| Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Just in time for the approach of Halloween, a Brownsville organization is promoting a “ghost walk” of 13 properties and the Christ Episcopal Cemetery in the town's Northside historic district as a fundraiser to help in the revitalization of the hard-hit Fayette County community.

The owners of historic homes in North Brownsville will share stories of paranormal experiences at their properties during the Northside Ghost Walk on Oct. 18 and 19. The candlelight walking tours of properties along Front, Market and Church streets, including the historic Christ Episcopal Cemetery where George Washington's cousins are buried, will begin at 10 p.m. both evenings at Brownsville Fire Co. No. 1 at 520 Market St.

The proceeds from the tours, which cost $7 per person, will be used to purchase decorative banners that will be hung on utility poles on North Market Street to promote the historic Northside district, said Jef Wilhelm, a member of the Northside Beautification Project, which is a sponsoring the ghost walk.

“We are hoping to erect them in early spring (2014). If the decorative lamps are not erected, then we will use the existing utility poles,” said Wilhelm, a Northside Beautification Project committee member. The beautification project committee is a group of homeowners working to improve their neighborhood.

Vintage–costumed homeowners will tell real-life stories of experiences, sightings and mysterious events at the houses, as well as conjure up images at Christ Episcopal Cemetery, which is a burial ground from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, according to the Northside Beautification Project.

An earlier fundraiser paid for flower planters on the town's Northside, Wilhelm said.

The Northside Ghost Walk is being held in tandem with the annual ghost tours at historic Nemacolin Castle at 136 Front St.

Nemacolin Castle Ghost Tours will be conducted throughout October on Saturdays and Sundays, from 6 to 10 p.m., and on Halloween Eve, Oct. 31, through the weekend of Nov. 1, 2 and 3. The ghost tours cost $9 for adults and $4 for children 12 and under.

The Northside Beautification Project committee did not want to conduct its own ghost walk when one was occurring at Nemacolin Castle, Wilhelm said.

“We did not want to compete with Nemacolin Castle,” ghost tours, Wilhelm said.

Wilhelm seems the initiative as part of the greater efforts to revitalize Brownsville, which is being steered by the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County.

The Redevelopment Authority is marketing 28 properties in the downtown's commercial district for redevelopment. The properties along Market, High and Front streets and Brownsville Avenue are part of a National Register Historic District, one of two in the borough.

Twenty-two of those properties being marketed were taken through eminent domain from Monroeville developers Ernest and Marilyn Liggett and three of their companies, which failed to maintain the blighted properties.

“A lot is being done to the downtown area, but very little is being done to the Northside,” said Wilhelm, who has renovated a house in the Northside district.

Andrew P. French, executive director of the county's redevelopment authority, could not be reached for comment.

The borough has helped to improve the look of the town's Northside, planting small shrubs to give it a “green” look, Brownsville Mayor Lester Ward said.

In Brownsville's downtown, the borough has repaved a parking lot and is working to create a stage across the street from the parking lot.

“The overall plan is that it will be a green area and a park ... to help revitalize the area,” the mayor said.

“We're trying to give the town a different feel,” Ward said.

Ward said he is anticipating that the redevelopment authority will conduct a town hall meeting in October to discuss the results of a meeting with the primary stakeholders.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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