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Mt. Lebanon Neighborhoods Designated As Historic District On National Register

The population of Mt. Lebanon increased more rapidly during the decade from 1920 to 1930 than it has in the eight decades since. According to the 1920 census, the suburb had 2,258 residents. By 1930, that had increased almost six-fold to 13,403. As of 2010, the population was 33,137.

Why? Two words: Liberty Tubes.

According to Yvette Yescas, president of the Mt. Lebanon Historic Preservation Board, local land developers, led by Lawrence Stevenson, anticipated a population explosion upon completion of the tubes in 1924.

“Knowing that that tunnel was going to be built, they decided to come to Mt. Lebanon and begin to develop with the expectation that once that tunnel opened, people would be rushing to move out here,” Yescas said.

Stevenson was right, and with Pittsburgh’s southern suburbs suddenly accessible via automobile, the population exploded from 2,258 in 1920 to 13,403 in 1930, an increase of 580 percent.

Stevenson built subdivisions with an eye toward this newer type of transportation, and other developers followed suit, resulting in what Yescas called “a unique and extraordinary example of the early automobile suburb in the United States.”

The residents of Mt. Lebanon still enjoy wider streets with longer sight lines, planned in a way that disguises the steep grade of the hillsides.

It’s these characteristics that Yescas said make Mt. Lebanon a great candidate for historic designation. The municipality announced Tuesday that its newly defined historic district will be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation is honorary, which means it won’t place any restrictions on property owners in the area. But Yescas is hopeful that it will have positive impacts. She said structures within historic districts are eligible for federal tax credits for rehabilitation. Another positive is the potential to bring in more tourism dollars.

“Tourism money within Pennsylvania is spent not at museums and things like that, but is spent within historic districts,” Yescas said.

Yescas said the effort to designate areas of Mt. Lebanon as a historic district was initiated five years ago, when volunteers began surveyed every home and commercial structure to determine if contributed to the historic nature of the area. For the most part, a structure had to be built before 1945 and had to retain most of its original character in order to qualify.

The historic district runs through the center of the municipality and includes the subdivisions of Virginia Manor, Old Virginia Manor, Parker Gardens, Colonia Heights, Marlin Place, Mt. Lebanon Plan, Clearview Plan, Mission Hills, Avondale, Washington Park, Lebanon Hills, Beverly Heights, St. Clair Terrace, Sominole Hills and Hoodridge Plan.

Liz Reid began working at WESA in 2013 as a general assignment reporter and weekend host. Since then, she’s worked as the Morning Edition producer, health & science reporter and as an editor.
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