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Mooncrest gets historical status after second try

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Tuesday, May 6, 2003

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has approved an historical marker for Mooncrest.

The commission had denied Moon Township's first application. The township changed its second application to include information on the innovative design of the 60-year-old government-built neighborhood in Moon, said Jodi Noble, assistant township manager.

"They have a very unique community there," Noble said. "It has some unique historical characteristics the neighborhood can take pride in."

The township can apply for a grant to cover half of the $1,200 cost of a marker, which will be placed in Overlook Park. The township will suggest the text for the marker, which the commission must approve. The marker could be erected this year.

The marker is the first issued by the state in Moon, commission spokesman John Robinson said.

"It's something very special and unique," he said.

Mooncrest was designed and built in 1943 by the Department of War Housing. In its nomination form, the township noted Mooncrest's role as housing for Neville Island shipyard workers during World War II and its then-innovative planning concepts referred to as "New Urbanism."

Mooncrest, the first residential development in Moon, included a school and store. The township's first police station was in Mooncrest, and a municipal building was once located where Overlook Park is today.

"The site provides a look back into our American history, as an example of a community built for the workers that supported our nation during the war," the nomination form says.

Mooncrest's layout incorporates pedestrian walkways and buildings set close to the street and is an example of a planned community that can serve as a model for future developments.

"The result of this design creates a close knit village feel that is ever present," according to the nomination form. "The common architecture of the buildings and the history behind its development give Mooncrest a very unique identity."

The township has been working with the Mooncrest Neighborhood Association and Allegheny County on a redevelopment plan for Mooncrest. A ceremony marking the start of work on a new community center, the first part of the redevelopment effort, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday. The center will include a library, police substation, and offices for the neighborhood association.

Robinson said the marker does not afford Mooncrest any historical protection, but could be a catalyst for the redevelopment.

The marker "affords some degree of recognition and legitimacy of its importance," he said. "Historic preservation often has a way of serving as a catalyst to improve lots of things -- the quality of life, not just the buildings. This may be the first step."

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