ShareThis Page
Westmoreland

Borne of segregation, Salem Twp.'s Fairview Park welcomes all

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, 2:48 p.m.

Fairview Park in Salem Township is a very special place for WQED and KDKA host Chris Moore, who is on its board of directors.

"They're not making any more land," Moore said. "I thought it was very important."

The land, off of Old William Penn Highway, was originally purchased in 1945 by the Monongahela Valley Sunday School Association.

It was a consortium of black Sunday school superintendents who established the park primarily as a safe place for blacks to congregate and celebrate in a heavily segregated America.

The park has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2011, and in August received an official historic marker from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

"I just feel honored to be a part of the legacy of upholding this and bringing it to the next generation," said Anita Jackson-Lowe, who began attending board meetings in the mid-'90s and now serves as the first female president of the park association's board of directors.

The original purchase was 155 acres. A significant portion was sold in the late 1950s and early 1960s in order to pay back taxes, and today the park spans 55 acres between Old William Penn Highway and Route 22.

Trustee emeritus Harvey Freeman of Homestead remembers the park in its heyday.

"I used to come out here for church picnics, and sometimes there would be as many as 30 churches all here at once," Freeman said. "There was a pool, there was a gas station and restaurant right on (Old William Penn) Highway. … You could pull up here at one time and there would be 30 buses lined up from all different areas."

This year, members of the association held the 71st annual Fairview Park picnic, and the association board pays dues and puts in plenty of work to maintain the grounds and keep the park a beautiful, safe place for anyone to enjoy.

For trustee chairman Darryl Lowe, who grew up in West Virginia, the park is a reminder of home.

"It's peaceful," Lowe said. "It's nice to come out here and do some work. We have a chance to use our hands and fulfill this vision the founders had: of a great place with some solace."

Moore said that solace and isolation can occasionally rattle young people who are used to the constant hum of the city.

"We had a group out here one time, helping out with some maintenance, and they said, 'We're gonna go over in the woods for a little bit,'" Moore said. "They got over the hill, and a big thunderclap sounded. They all came running back real quick. Or we'd be sitting in the pavilion and an owl would hoot, and everyone would be looking around like, 'What was that?'"

In the 1960s, as Jim Crow laws around the nation were struck down, membership at the park declined sharply.

"It was actually tougher, because (black) kids could then go other places like Kennywood, and they wanted to go," Freeman said.

The association has gotten some of its former land back over the years. One parcel was sold and became the home of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, and the property owners willed the land back to the park after they died.

These days, the association board is working with community groups to make sure people know about the park: local Boy Scout troops helped clean out the park's barn, and the association website discusses its history and its availability to anyone in the community.

"For me, it's recognizing the vision other folks had when it began," Moore said. "It's that 'do-for-self' attitude.

"They didn't have a place to go and they said, 'We'll make a place.' "Young people need to know about that. These folks didn't let anyone stop them."

Lowe agreed: "That's the future: the kids, the people in the community who get a chance to come out here and experience something they that they didn't even know was here."

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

From the left, Chris Moore, Harvey Freeman, Olga George, Anita Jackson-Lowe and Darryl Lowe pose for a photo beneath the historic market at Fairview Park in Salem Township. The park was purchased in 1945 as a welcoming place for African Americans during a time of segregation.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
From the left, Chris Moore, Harvey Freeman, Olga George, Anita Jackson-Lowe and Darryl Lowe pose for a photo beneath the historic market at Fairview Park in Salem Township. The park was purchased in 1945 as a welcoming place for African Americans during a time of segregation.
Above, the historic marker erected at Fairview Park in Salem Township. The park's association will take over management duty for the Delmont-area farmer's market in the summer of 2018.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Above, the historic marker erected at Fairview Park in Salem Township. The park's association will take over management duty for the Delmont-area farmer's market in the summer of 2018.
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me