Monday, June 11, 2012

McKees Rocks and Stowe

This is Part I of a series of photographs documenting McKees Rocks and Stowe Township.  McKees Rocks is a historic railroad town about three miles west of downtown Pittsburgh. While the town was settled as early as the 18th century, its greatest period of prosperity came with the opening of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad in McKees Rocks in the 1880s. Many immigrants came to McKees Rocks during this time and worked in the various industries, including the Pressed Steel car plant.  Around the turn of the 20th century, the urban suburbs in Stowe Township sprang up and provided housing for workers, families, and gentry of the overcrowded and polluted industrial town. 

McKees Rocks and Stowe Township are composed of various walkable urban neighborhoods:

"The Bottoms" (McKees Rocks) -- In the shadow of the McKees Rocks Bridge and the Adena Indian Mound is a neighborhood called The Bottoms, a surviving urban relic of the industrial age. Here many immigrants came to work in the P&LE Railroad, Pressed Steel factories, and associated industries during the late 19th century and early 20th century.  The work was laborious and dangerous.  Many workers died due to poor safety regulations, leading to the bloody McKees Rocks Strike of 1909.

"Norwood" (Stowe Township) -- hilltop neighborhood overlooking McKees Rocks and Stowe Township, with beautiful views of downtown Pittsburgh. This neighborhood is known to some as the "Mt. Washington of McKees Rocks."

"West Park" (Stowe Township) -- streetcar suburb of McKees Rocks built up around 1900, with intact and functioning business district, and many brick detached homes built for the middle class of the time.

"Presston" (Stowe Township) -- a company town built for the workers of the Pressed Steel railroad car plant.  Built circa 1899, the neighborhood is composed of many identical rows of modest frame, semi-detached houses.

"Pittock" (Stowe Township) -- a small residential neighborhood composed of older working class homes, located near Island Avenue and the Neville Island Bridge.

View of Presston from Island Avenue.
View of Presston

View of West Park from Norwood
Island Avenue
Island Avenue
Looking toward Island Avenue and The Bottoms (McKees Rocks Bridge in distance).
Factories and warehouses near Island Avenue
19th century Victorians on Island Avenue.
Historic factories and warehouses near Island Avenue
The old brewery
The Presston footbridge (closed)
Looking from Boquet Street toward Island Avenue, with view of Pittsburgh skyline in distance.
Looking toward Island Avenue

View of West Park from Norwood.

Located in West Park, this is the original Club House for  the McKees Rocks Driving Park. The race track operated from 1893 to 1900.  The building is now a private residence.

Soon to be demolished Victorian commercial buildings on Chartiers Avenue.

One of the grand old homes from McKees Rocks' heyday as a booming railroad town.

Cute little Victorian on Bruce Street

Overgrown home on 2nd Street

Houses on 2nd Street in McKees Rocks

Abandoned apartment building located on Boquet Street.

View from Alexander Street, looking toward Island Avenue.  The old P&LE Railyards and the Pittsburgh skyline are in the distance.

View from Alexander Street, looking toward The Bottoms.  The McKees Rocks Bridge is in the distance.


Sunset over McKees Rocks

P&LE Railroad buildings, before they were demolished in 2011.

Crumbling row houses in West Park
Island Avenue


  1. Nice group of photos from "the Rock". I was working there today (3-11-14) adjacent to the old brewery. Took some pics of it much like yours. There are old B&W photos at the Eat N Park in McKees rocks of the Preston Bridge, rail yards, & brewery, etc..

  2. Thank you. I grew up in he Rocks and now live in Minnesota. These pics bring back fond and some not so fond memories.

  3. The Preston footbridge is due to be torn down very soon. Things have really changed around Stowe and Rox. It is very sad.

  4. My grandfather lived in 1920 at a home in Stowe Twp located on 41 Fleming Park Avenue. That's what it's noted as in the Census. Anyone know where that address is located. There's Fleming Park Road and Fleming Avenue, but no Fleming Park Avenue. Any help is appreciated!

  5. I live in Stowe Township. I am a volunteer Firefighter and Police Dispatcher. I love this town even with all its quirks and craziness. I just wanted to express my gratitude for the work you have done to show the hidden beauty of my home. Your photos are remarkable and genuine. They show an aspect of McKees Rocks and Stowe that i think most of us forget. That behind the grime and violence there is a wonderful history and beauty in this town.

    Thank you!!

  6. I happened upon this site, I moved away from the area 50 years ago, but these pictures are forever in my memory!!! Went back to the McKees Rocks High School and wanted to cry at the condition of the school. I lived on Grove Street, below the school ... my sisters and I love roaming around the old haunts. :-))

    Phyllis Fitzgerald

  7. What's the difference between Pittock and Fleming Park. It's been too many years for me to remember...that is if I ever knew...Thanx
    Lived in West Park but long time resident of Sacramento CA.

  8. Is St Francis deSales still there ?

  9. I was born in Presston in what was known as the Brickhouse. I have looked and looked for a good photo of it. If anyone has one, I would love to have a copy.

    1. AnonymousMay 31, 2017

      You mean "the bricky" !

    2. Hello ME2NC,

      I’m sure I have a few pictures of the brick house and others as well. I’m not sure on how to post them to this page but if you like you can contact me at I have a feeling that I may know who you are and you will surely know me. I can tell you a million stories about the town and the people who lived there. Presston was one of those unique little places in a world of it’s own. We had a cast of characters from A to Z and I remember all of them. My memory serves me well. So please feel free to contact me.

  10. My grandfather built a 3 story house in Stowe Township, near 14th St. and Broadway. The house is on Broadway and my sister still lives there. I now live in Atlanta but grew up in Ingram. I love going back home Visiting places in Westpark and McKees rocks. Still hit at Mancini's every time I go there and pick up sausage from Ricci's and perogies from St. Mary's Church in the bottoms. Still a great place to visit and these photos bring back memories.

  11. Grew up in nearby Kennedy Township but had relatives who lived in the Rocks and West Park area. Many great memories from those days including Mancini's, Jenny Lee Bakery, Tastee Freeze Ice Cream stand on Chartier's Ave, and the Sto-Ken-Rox Little League parade to name a few.