by Bob Barrage
There are two towns named Birdville in Pennsylvania, one in Huntingdon County, along the Juniata River, and the other in Harrison Township, Allegheny County, overlooking the Allegheny River. This article concerns the Allegheny County Birdville.
The first white men known to have explored the Allegheny River Valley were led, from Canada, by the Frenchman Rene Robert Cavalier de la Salle in 1670, who found a wilderness teeming with deer, wolves, panthers, and buffalo roaming in the deep shadows of a virgin forest. Bald Eagles soared on thermals rising from the steep valley walls, their keen eyes on alert for their next meal. Ironically, although the watershed became the focus of a global struggle between the British and French empires – known as the French and Indian War in the New World, and the Seven-Year’s War in the Old – the drainage of the Allegheny River would remain, for the most part, Indian land, unmolested by white culture, for another century.
On November 25th, 1759, British General John Forbes took possession of Fort Duquesne at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, and renamed the place Fort Pitt. The town that grew up around the fort was called Pittsburgh, whose citizens reckon its founding as the date of Forbes’ arrival at the abandoned French fort. But the town remained an isolated frontier outpost until after the American Revolution. Then, in 1783, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, unable or unwilling to pay the back salaries it owed its veterans of the War of Independence, passed an “Act for the Sale of Certain Lands for the Purpose of Redeeming and Paying off the Certificates of Depreciation Given to Officers and Soldiers of the Pennsylvania Line”, which granted to veterans plots of land in the Indian territory to the north and west of the Allegheny River in lieu of cash. A few veterans took possession of their tract of 200-foot pine trees, but most had no interest in starting a new life on the wild frontier, and exchanged their deeds for cash with any land speculator who would offer to pay. But the speculators didn’t want to live there, either, and the first white settlers to brave the wilderness were mostly “squatters”, who labored to “improve” the land they found, and in return for their sweat hoped to earn the right to purchase their plots from whoever happened to hold the official deed.
Early settlement concentrated at what counted as crossroads in the wilderness, important intersections of the superhighways of the day: rivers and Indian paths. A blockhouse was erected at the confluence of Bull Creek and the Allegheny River in 1783, and within a decade a cluster of squatters had populated the surrounding country, which would eventually be established as the town of Tarentum in 1842. Todd’s Town was founded at the mouth of Buffalo Creek in 1796, later to be renamed Freeport in 1833. Philip Burtner and Felix Negley built a grist mill on Bull Creek in 1796, and Burtner settled along Little Bull Creek in 1800, completing in 1821 the construction of his stone house that still stands at the Natrona Heights interchange of PA Route 28. An Indian village called Chartiers Old Town had once occupied both banks of the Allegheny River at the mouth of Chartiers Creek, where the ancient Kiskiminetas Trail met the river just downstream from Jacks Island, at a shallow spot that had been used as a ford for uncounted centuries. By 1790, the natives had been replaced by white squatters, who soon discovered that any deep wells they sank in the bottomland produced salt water. Salt was a precious commodity, having sold for as much as $8 per bushel during the Revolution, and salt-well drilling became the area’s first non-agricultural industry. By the early 1800’s a few narrow, rugged frontier roads connected the scattered villages in the area, including two that survive today as Freeport Road (connecting Pittsburgh, Tarentum, Freeport, and Kittanning), and Burtner Road (connecting the Burtner homestead to the “salt fields” along the Allegheny, and crossing Freeport Road in the middle of a broad, gently-rolling plateau between Little Bull Creek and the river, creating a new crossroads).
To the primitive transportation infrastructure afforded by riverboats and horse-drawn wagons was added the canal boat when the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal opened for freight and passenger service from Johnstown to Pittsburgh in 1829. Linked to the Juniata Division by the Allegheny Portage Railroad, this unprecedented engineering feat connected the frontier with the rest of the Commonwealth, and, through the ports of the eastern seaboard, with the rest of the world, in a way that couldn’t have been imagined a generation before. In less than twenty years, the railroad arrived, following roughly the same route as the canal, providing nearly all-season, all-weather transportation at unbelievable speeds (almost 30 miles per hour). The canal and railroad passed right through the salt fields, sparking rapid expansion of the three tiny villages that had clustered around the salt wells, Karns, Charlesville, and East Tarentum. East Tarentum was later renamed Natrona, from Latin and Greek roots meaning sodium, or salt. Seizing the opportunity afforded by the intersection of reliable transportation and an abundant supply of salt and coal, a group of Philadelphia Quakers organized the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company, or Penn Salt, in 1850, concentrating their drilling and processing activities between Natrona and Charlesville. An 1876 map of the area shows what is now known as Spring Hill Road connecting the Penn Salt works with Freeport Road about a third of a mile south of the Burtner Road intersection.
On August 7th, 1888, Richard Bird, a carpenter born in 1848 in Shropshire, England, purchased about twelve acres of land at the intersections of Spring Hill, Freeport, and Burtner Roads from Thomas Jamieson, in two parcels, for $2,200 and $1,700, and on July 12, 1889, adopted a town layout drawn by John Kennedy, Jr., Justice of the Peace. Bird’s development of his new village began with the opening of Poplar Street, and then Maple Street in 1891, with Lilac and Beacon Streets soon to follow. Residents of the new neighborhood referred to their homes as “Bird houses”, after their builder, and the name “Birdville” was soon chosen for the town at the recommendation of a Mrs. Alcorn, wife of one of Mr. Bird’s employees. Beginning in 1889, the Bird family farmed the open land on the opposite side of Freeport Road, extending to the rim of the Allegheny River valley, and operated a dairy, selling their products to the few families living nearby, and at their dairy store in Natrona. The Birds were tenants of the Jamieson family, who still owned the farm until selling the rest of their land, amounting to an additional 149 acres, to Richard Bird on April 7th, 1894, for $12,000.
Adjoining the Bird holdings to the south and west was the 116-acre Potts farm, but it was a farm in name only. John Potts, son of an Irish immigrant, didn’t make his living by planting corn or grazing livestock, but by drilling oil wells. The centerpiece of his estate was the imposing “Potts Mansion”, completed in 1885. Its patterned brick, intricate woodwork, ornamental iron filigree, and soaring, multi-gabled roof stood in stark contrast to the wide, empty fields from which it rose. Across a broad front porch and through double entry doors, the home’s interior boasted fourteen-foot ceilings, gaping windows, a six-foot-wide main stair, five bedrooms, and a bath equipped with a built-in tin tub. Gas stoves, set in marble mantels, heated each room, drawing gas from a well on the estate. Predating by four years the village that eventually engulfed it, the dwelling would remain the largest in Birdville for as long as it stood. But, for all the charms of home, business interests forced John Potts to live elsewhere for most of his life, and he left the mansion in the care of his three unmarried sisters, Maria Ella, Sarah, and Emma.
Tragically, Richard Bird passed away just over a year after his third and largest land acquisition, on April 14th, 1895, at the age of 47. Deprived of its patriarch, the Bird family was soon forced to give up the farm, which was purchased by Robert Jamieson at Sheriff’s sale on August 29th, 1896. A mere seven months later, Jamieson resold the farm to Penn Salt. The Company extended Birdville with the addition of Adams Street, retaining the rest of the farm property for Company use (principally as a convenient place to dump its waste).
The original Birdville Grade School (serving grades one through eight), a two-room, two-story building on the southeast corner of Freeport and Burtner Roads, was built in 1897, with two more rooms added in 1899. The town’s first church was erected by the Free Methodists just south of the school on Freeport Road. Birdville’s first Post Office was established in 1899, and was located in the home of the Postmaster, Kinsey Drane, at the corner of Maple Street and Freeport Road. In 1912, a trolley line opened from Tarentum to Birdville. Its official name was the “Tarentum, Brackenridge and Butler Railway”, but locals nicknamed it the “Birdville Trolley”, possibly as a humorous jab at its failure to go any further. The trolley would run until 1940, when it was replaced by the Harmony Bus Line. A commercial district soon sprang up at the end of the trolley tracks, along Freeport Road between Spring Hill and Burtner Roads, with groceries, general stores, and the Citizens’ Volunteer Hose Company, chartered April 7th, 1913. Within a decade after the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight, local pilots began using the nearly unbroken hilltop pasture stretching from Birdville to Brackenridge as an impromptu airfield. It was at the south end of that pasture, opposite the village of Birdville, that western Pennsylvania’s first attempted airmail flight crashed during takeoff on its way to Pittsburgh on October 4th, 1913.
During the first week of May, 1922, Harrison Township Police Chief Arthur Welser became the first cop to walk a regular beat on the dirt streets of Birdville, an event hailed by the local newspaper as marking the transformation of the village from “out of town” to a real “town.” A new Birdville Grade School, with ten classrooms and a large, central, two-story, sky-lighted auditorium space, was built on the southeast corner of Adams Street and Burtner Road in 1921-1922, with a four-classroom addition quickly following in 1928. After Postmaster Drane’s brief tenure, the Birdville Post Office moved south along Freeport Road to Miller’s Grocery Store, then crossed the street to the F. B. Woods General Merchandise store while Franklin B. Woods served as postmaster (from 1914 to 1922), and then crossed again to the front room of the Citizens’ Hose Company fire hall, back on the west side of Freeport Road.
After the local sandlot baseball season came to a close in the autumn of 1923, the roofed grandstand, bleachers, and outfield fence that stood for many years at the old ball field at West Tarentum’s Peterson Park were dismantled and reassembled on the grounds of Birdville Field, a ball park situated along the southeast side of Freeport Road, between the intersections with Pennsylvania Avenue and Spring Hill Road, on land owned by the Potts family. The local newspaper described the facility, which opened on Saturday, June 7th, 1924, as a “model baseball arena, both in accommodations and in diamond.” For the next decade, the dual-purpose, baseball-and-football stadium served as home field for such local teams as the Natrona Triple Linkers baseball club, and the varsity football squads of both Har-Brack and Tarentum High Schools. (Har-Brack moved to a new gridiron on the High School campus in 1926, and the Tarentum Redcats adopted Riverview Park – the future Dresher Stadium – as their home field in 1929.) Birdville Field also played host to elite visiting outfits like the Havana Red Sox, Honus Wagner’s Carnegie Elks, the Pittsburgh Pirates (when they were the defending 1925 World Series champions), and the legendary Homestead Grays, one of the greatest baseball squads of all time. Of the hundreds of men and boys who played there, one – Cliff Montgomery – would later be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, and seven would be inducted into the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, including the Pirates’ Kiki Cuyler, Bill McKechnie, Pie Traynor, Honus Wagner, and Paul Waner; and the Grays’ Cumberland Posey and Smokey Joe Williams.
On February 4th, 1927, the Harrison Township Commissioners ruled that all neighborhoods on “the hill” – including the old frontier villages of Campton, Pleasantville, Natrona Heights, and Birdville, and the newer settlements of Harrison Heights and Harrison Place – would henceforth be treated as a single community, and would be known as “Natrona Heights”. Following suit, the U.S. Postal Service changed the name of the Birdville Post Office to “Natrona Heights”, effective on the following April 1st, so that “Birdville”, as an official mailing address, ceased to exist.
Birdville’s Citizens’ Volunteer Hose Company purchased and refurbished a used hearse in 1936, inaugurating the area’s first ambulance service, which saw its first action during that year’s great St. Patrick’s Day flood.
In the late 1920’s, the Birdville-Natrona Heights plateau, still open pasture in those days, was identified as a prime location for an airport. Twice in the early 1930’s, local officials and aviation enthusiasts organized community airport commissions to advocate for the construction of an airport on the “Penn Salt farm”, formerly the Richard Bird farm, at the northwest corner of which stood Birdville School. After those two commissions failed to produce fruit, the Harrison Township commissioners applied to the Works Progress Administration on November 30th, 1935, for assistance in developing the Penn Salt farm into an airport, and were stunned when the WPA responded on December 3rd with a $220,000 grant, conditioned on the township first acquiring the land. The WPA’s plan included runways of 4,700, 3,900, and 3,200 feet. A new airport commission was hastily formed from representatives of Tarentum and Brackenridge borough councils and the Harrison Township commissioners, but the coalition quickly broke down. Brackenridge officials, apparently stung by previous dealings with federal grants, pulled out first, followed by Harrison Township, after their solicitor discovered a state law that prevented townships from raising money to buy land for airports. Tarentum then declined to continue with the project on their own, which made sense, since the grant was offered to Harrison Township, and not the borough of Tarentum. The WPA’s January 15th, 1936 deadline for acceptance of the grant came and went, and the opportunity for a federally-funded airport construction project disappeared. But during the following summer, local entrepreneurs and aviation enthusiasts Kenneth L. Wolfe, Henry A. Stiller, and William C. Allen established the Natrona Heights Airport across Springhill Road from the Penn Salt farm. This more modest airport included a small hangar and three runways at various angles laid out on the broad, grass field leased from the John Potts estate, across Freeport Road from the Potts Mansion.
John Potts’ unmarried sister Emma, the Mansion’s last resident, passed away on June 6th, 1936, just as plans were being finalized for the new airfield. The Potts Mansion was soon repurposed as the home of Harrison Township VFW Post 894, and years later would be razed to make way for a McDonalds.
On July 2nd, 1939, the Natrona Heights Airport joined a unique network of rural airmail delivery in which small, single-engine aircraft dropped bags of mail from the air while simultaneously snagging outgoing bags on a trailing hook without ever touching the ground. During the first experimental year of the “Airmail Pickup”, the system’s first “air express” shipment (the mailing of parcels, as opposed to letters) left from the Natrona Heights pickup site on August 25th, 1939. That station was also selected to serve as one of only three sites in the network to participate in a night pickup trial, in which pilots were guided to the pickup apparatus by patterns of colored neon lights, which operated from November 15th through December 22nd, 1939. The Natrona Heights Airport also served as host to the Corrigan Aero Club’s annual air shows in 1938 (commemorating the 25th anniversary of the failed airmail attempt of 1913), 1939, 1940, and 1941. Those elaborate exhibitions included such entertainments as band concerts, aerial parades and races; demonstrations of aerobatics, airmail pickup, combat flying and massed paratrooper landings; and contests in bomb dropping and parachuting for accuracy. The club was founded as the “Allegheny Valley Aero Club” in 1938 to promote aviation – and particularly the establishment of a permanent, full-service airport in the community – and then renamed itself in honor of Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan, whose mother was from Tarentum. (On July 18th, 1938, Corrigan became the eighth person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, but the first to claim to have done it by mistake.) Ironically, soon after the club’s fourth annual air show, the airport closed. In May of 1941, the Federal Works Agency seized the eastern half of the airfield for the construction of the Sheldon Park Defense Housing project, providing, by mid-1942, two hundred new homes for workers at the area’s key defense-related industries, Penn Salt in Natrona, and Allegheny Ludlum Steel in Brackenridge (incorporated as Allegheny Steel and Iron Company in 1901), a manufacturer of stainless steel and other exotic alloys.
By the outbreak of the Second World War, Penn Salt had expanded from a purveyor of salt and lye to a large, diversified chemical manufacturer, supplying the Allied war effort with, among other things, hydrofluoric acid, which was essential to the production of the uranium and plutonium bombs that would end the war in 1945.
On October 30th, 1942, at the regular meeting of the Sheldon Park Community Council, the neighborhood’s citizens decided to sponsor a new Boy Scout Troop. On what was then known as “Armistice Day”, November 11th, 1942, the General Chairman of the Sheldon Park Community Council, Lorraine S. Acre, signed the first charter application for Boy Scout Troop 186. The community patches worn on the left shoulder of the uniform identified the hometown of the new Boy Scout troop as “Sheldon Park”, and the troop flag read “Troop 186, Sheldon Park, Natrona Heights, Penna.”
Airmail pickup service intensified during World War II, as the folks at home were eager for rapid exchange of letters with their boys overseas. During the autumn of 1942, the pickup route that included the Birdville area became the first of the five routes in the system to expand operations to two round trips of the pickup plane (four passes over the field) daily. After the closure of the Natrona Heights Airport, the pickup site was relocated to the field immediately behind Birdville School. Some Birdville students were lucky enough during those years to assist ground personnel with the mail bags.
The Natrona Heights post office again moved from the Citizens’ Hose fire hall to the Fastoria Building, next door, in 1947, in the current location of Phillippi’s Family Dining and Pizzeria (whose specialty pizza is the “Birdville Pie”).
The iconic and popular Airmail Pickup service continued at a slower pace after the end of the War, but eventually fell victim to the ever-increasing efficiency of ground-delivery of mail to rural areas. The system shut down one route at a time, and the last route to go was the one that passed over Birdville. Since the Birdville site was the last on the route before the pickup plane returned to the system hub at the Allegheny County Airport, the very last pickup of the Airmail Pickup system would have been snatched from the back yard of Birdville School, had not the location been moved to the large open field near the intersection of Pacific and Idaho Avenues (where Highlands High School and its associated playing fields are today located) in order to provide for the extra space needed for the extravagant proceedings held by the Corrigan Aero Club to mark the historic passing of an era on June 30th, 1949.
Seeking to keep up with the rapidly growing community, nine classrooms, a kitchen, and a cafeteria were added to Birdville School, with the new “ultra-modern” wing ready for students in the fall of 1950. On the following November 30th, the Birdville Parent-Teachers’ Association assumed sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 186 from the Sheldon Park Community Council. The shoulder patches were changed from “Sheldon Park” to “Birdville”, but the troop continued to meet in Sheldon Park. An article in the February 17th, 1951, Valley Daily News, reporting on the troop’s participation in a mobilization drill, contained the first known reference in print to “Boy Scout Troop 186, Birdville.” The troop flag was replaced in 1953, dropping the reference to Sheldon Park, and identifying the unit’s hometown simply as “Natrona Heights, Pa.” An article in the February 15th, 1954, Valley Daily News, reporting on the troop’s recent family dinner celebrating National Boy Scout Week, contained the first known reference in print to “Birdville Troop 186.”
After the Natrona Heights Airport closed, the land was purchased by a group of local developers who, on that site, opened the Heights Plaza Shopping Center on November 10th, 1955. It was one of the first shopping malls in western Pennsylvania.
Birdville Troop 186 held its First Annual Eagle Scout Recognition Dinner in February of 1955 at the Citizens’ Hose Fire Hall, next door to the Natrona Heights Post Office, and returned there for their second annual banquet in 1956. Later that year, the Troop moved its meeting place from the Sheldon Park Recreation Center to the Birdville Elementary School auditorium (a grade one through six facility since 1939), and soon thereafter replaced their short-lived “Natrona Heights” flag with one that identified their hometown as “Birdville, Pa”, in agreement with their shoulder patches. The troop’s third annual Eagle Banquet was held at Birdville Elementary School, and would continue to convene there until moving to the recently-completed Highlands Senior High School in 1973.
In 1958, the Natrona Heights Post Office moved from the Fastoria Building to its current location in Heights Plaza, on the edge of the former grounds of the Natrona Heights Airport. After over a century of operation, Penn Salt closed its Natrona plant in 1959, and sold the property to Allegheny Ludlum. In the years since the end of World War II, the main output of Penn Salt’s Natrona facility had been weed killers and pesticides, including Lindane and DDT. By the time the plant was decommissioned, birds were rare sights in Birdville, and insects were unheard of.
On January 25th, 1961, Birdville Troop 186 became the most successful Eagle-Scout-producing troop in the history of the William D. Boyce District when two of its Scouts passed their Boards of Review, elevating the troop’s total to 22 Eagle Scouts. The lead would never be relinquished, even after the 1999 merger of the Boyce and Guyasuta Districts expanded the district’s territory to encompass the area from Lower Burrell to North Park, and from Birdville to Etna.
In 1962, Springdale, Pennsylvania, native Rachel Carson published her classic “Silent Spring”, a scathing criticism of the abuse of chemical pesticides, railing against the chemical industry’s attempt to mislead the public about the toxicity of their products, and the imprudence of public officials who fell for the deception. Her book was credited with launching the modern environmental movement, and convinced many nations, including the US, to ban the manufacture and use of DDT. Her chilling description of an anti-utopian world where no birds sang in the spring was eerily familiar to residents of Birdville, a mere seven miles from the Carson homestead. By the end of the twentieth century, thanks in part to the DDT ban inspired by Carson’s work, and to aggressive reintroduction efforts by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Bald Eagles – once nearly extinct in the lower forty-eight states – could once again be seen fishing the Allegheny River within sight of the former Penn Salt DDT plant. Along with the return of the eagles came turkey, deer, bear, fox, and coyote, with the occasional buffalo roaming a fenced pasture, and scattered, questionable tales of panthers.
During the years that Kramer Wolfe served as Scoutmaster of Troop 186, from 1963 to 1968, many adult leaders began to push for the removal of “Birdville” from the Troop flag and community shoulder patch because of harassment the Scouts were beginning to endure at district Scouting events over the odd name of their town, but the boys didn’t seem to be interested in a change. After Clair Lloyd became Scoutmaster in 1968, “Birdville”-related taunting had so intensified that it even led to fist fights at district campouts. The older “Natrona Heights” troop flag was sometimes used at outings. Mr. Lloyd decided to let the Scouts vote on a change from “Birdville” to “Natrona Heights”, and the boys elected to stick with “Birdville”, as Mr. Lloyd joked, “maybe just to aggravate people”.
Citizens’ Hose became the first fire department in western Pennsylvania to employ the “jaws of life” – then the latest in rescue equipment – in 1973.
In March and April of 1976, a portion of the long-abandoned Penn Salt “No. 2 Mine” collapsed beneath the heart of Birdville, destroying the Pennywize Super Market (on the northwest corner of Freeport and Burtner Roads), and critically damaging Birdville School, forcing its closure for the remainder of the school year. Pupils of the largest of Highlands School District’s ten elementary schools finished the term divided between several neighboring schools. When classes resumed in the fall, only kindergarteners through third-graders returned to Birdville School, since only the wing added in 1950 was deemed safe to occupy. Fourth- through sixth-graders, dubbed the “Birdville Annex”, were bussed elsewhere, but kept their separate identity as Birdville students. The damaged portion of the building, which included the auditorium, never reopened. In 1981, with student enrollment shrinking throughout the district, fourth-graders returned to the undamaged section of Birdville School, with fifth- and sixth-graders still riding a bus out of the neighborhood. Then, in 1982, Birdville’s displaced fifth- and sixth-graders were sent to Grandview Elementary School in Tarentum, where they were intermixed with the general student population, putting an end to the “Birdville Annex”.
On December 11th, 1980, Congress passed the “Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980”, which placed at the disposal of the Environmental Protection Agency the so-called “Superfund” for hazardous waste dump cleanup. On October 23rd, 1981, the EPA went public with its hit-list of the 114 worst chemical waste dumps in the country – the very places where the agency intended to spend its Superfund – and among them appeared the abandoned Penn Salt dump, on the former Richard Bird farm. Although Penn Salt had sold off most of the farm over the years for residential development, it had retained the section along Springhill Road, and dumped a variety of industrial wastes there until closing its Natrona plant in 1959. The company subsequently sold the land to Allegheny-Ludlum Steel, who donated the upper 14.3 acres to Harrison Township, who in turn built ALSCO Community Park there in 1975 and 1976, complete with tennis courts, ball fields, and a picnic shelter. While performing excavation for the new park in June of 1976, a bulldozer operator reported suffering chemical burns and nausea upon inhaling an unidentified white crystalline powder he dug up, which turned out to be a byproduct of the manufacture of the insecticide Lindane. After a protracted ordeal of testing, studies, negotiations, and court rulings, the entire dump site was covered with a waterproof cap to prevent buried wastes from leaching into ground water, a new park was built on top, and a treatment plant was built to remove any toxins from ground water draining from the site. The work took place in 1998 and 1999 (not long after the first Bald Eagle sightings were reported nearby) at cost of about $14 million, a small but undisclosed portion of which paid by Allegheny Ludlum, and the rest covered by Elf Atochem, the descendant of Penn Salt, so the EPA could spend its Superfund elsewhere.
Birdville Troop 186 produced its 100th Eagle Scout on February 6th, 1984, becoming the first troop known to have achieved that milestone in the Allegheny Trails Council, which encompassed Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Washington, and portions of Westmoreland and Fayette counties.
The damaged section of Birdville School (almost all of the original 1921-1922 structure and most of the 1928 addition) was demolished in August and September of 1986, and on May 4th, 1987, the school board voted to close the school permanently at the end of the 1988-1989 school year. On June 7th, 1989, classes concluded in Birdville Elementary School for the last time. The building and grounds were sold to the Citizens’ Volunteer Hose Company in March of 1991, who remodeled the school into a fire hall and moved its operations there at the beginning of 1996. The field behind the hall, once used for Airmail Pickup, now serves as a landing site for helicopter air ambulances. The Most Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church of Natrona Heights, situated a short distance to the southwest of the old Natrona Heights Airport, assumed sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 186. During a subsequent Troop Committee meeting, a suggestion was aired to change the troop flag to reflect the change in sponsorship, removing the reference to Birdville. A collective gasp ended the discussion. In 2002, as the troop prepared to celebrate the presentation of its 150th Eagle Award, the unit purchased its first new troop flag since the 1950’s. It read, “Troop 186, Birdville, Pa.”
There is a common notion that “Birdville” is a place that “used to be”. But that notion ignores a key fact: that, as an incorporated municipality, Birdville never existed at all. Legally and politically, the place is called Harrison Township, which was formed in 1863 from a piece of Fawn Township, which was in turn formed from a piece of East Deer Township in 1858, which was created when Deer Township split in 1836, which was formed by the split of Pitt Township in 1796, eight years after Allegheny County was created from a piece of Westmoreland County, which was itself established in 1773. Birdville existed – like Karns, Natrona, Ducktown, Campton, Pleasantville, and Natrona Heights – because that’s what the people who lived there called the place. And they still do. You can still dine on Birdville Pie at Phillippi’s, the “Birdville Brothers” of Citizens’ Volunteer Hose Company will still rush to your aid in an emergency, and you can still sit around a campfire with Birdville Troop 186. Birdville is still as real – or unreal – as it ever was.
Bob Barrage, 20 November 2015
of a virgin forest: Ferree, Vera Burtner, "The Burtner Homestead Reviewing History", May 1976, pp. 2, 4.
in lieu of cash: Freyer, Mitch, "Property owners follow paperwork into history," Valley News Dispatch, September 27, 2010, pp. A3, A5.
hold the official deed: Ferree, Vera Burtner, "The Burtner Homestead Reviewing History", May 1976, pp. 4, 5.
Allegheny River in 1783: Day, Sherman, Historical Collections, 1843, as sited by Ferree, Vera Burtner, "The Burtner Homestead Reviewing History", May 1976, p. 3.
Freeport in 1833: "Community Guide: September 2010 Edition," Valley News Dispatch, September 26, 2010, pp. 17, 35.
of PA Route 28: Ferree, Vera Burtner, "The Burtner House: A National Registered Historical Landmark, Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania", Burtner House Restoration Society, Natrona Heights PA, undated.
non-agricultural industry: Ferree, Vera Burtner, "The Burtner Homestead Reviewing History", May 1976, pp. 1, 4, 5, 11.
a generation before: Shank, William H., P.E., "The Amazing Pennsylvania Canals", American Canal and Transportation Center, York PA, 1981, pp. 19-39.
30 miles per hour): Ferree, Vera Burtner, "The Burtner Homestead Continuing History", undated, p. 4.
Natrona and Charlesville: Ferree, Vera Burtner, "The Burtner Homestead Continuing History", undated, p. 1.
in Shropshire, England: Crytzer, Layton D., “Birdville: Our Town”, August 19th, 2009, p. 1.
two parcels, for $2,200: Deed reproduced in Crytzer, Layton D., “Birdville: Our Town”, August 19th, 2009, pp.7-12.
and $1,700: Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book Volume 646, p. 328.
after their builder: Ferree, Vera Burtner, “The Burtner Homestead Continuing History”, undated, p. 9.
of Mr. Bird’s employees: Culleiton, Charles J., “Greetings from the A-K Valley: A Picture Postcard History of the Communities in the Allegheny-Kiskiminetas Valley”, Allegheny-Kiski Historical Society, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2003, p. 59.
dairy store in Natrona: Crytzer, Layton D., “Birdville: Our Town”, August 19th, 2009, pp. 4&5.
1894, for $12,000: Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book Volume 865, p. 449.
119-acre Potts farm: Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book Volume 2304, p. 309.
Ella, Sarah, and Emma: Cincala, Elaine B., Louise D. Cincala, J. A. Ferree, George M. Cincala, Jr., Mrs. H. John Harper, “Harrison Township Historical Album; 1669-1976”, Harrison Township Bicentennial Committee Incorporated, 1976, pp. 113 and 114. “Potts Mansion, Birdville, Pa.” (Postcard). “William Potts”, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=21810519
the age of 47: Crytzer, Layton D., “Birdville: Our Town”, August 19th, 2009, p. 13.
August 29th, 1896: Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds, Sheriff’s Deed Book Volume 5, p. 58.
farm to Penn Salt: Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book Volume 971, p. 182.
for Company use: Ferree, Vera Burtner, “The Burtner Homestead Continuing History”, undated, p. 9.
to dump its waste: “Salt: Natrona firm played big role World War I, II”, Valley News Dispatch, Feb. 18, 1996, http://www.protector.pair.com/articles/alsco/pennsalt.html
rooms added in 1899: Culleiton, Charles J., “Greetings from the A-K Valley: A Picture Postcard History of the Communities in the Allegheny-Kiskiminetas Valley”, Allegheny-Kiski Historical Society, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2003, p. 59. The specific location of the school can be seen on the “Sanborn Map (1921)”, reproduced in Culleiton, Charles J., “Historical Natrona”, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2009, p.125.
Harmony Bus Line: Ferree, Vera Burtner, “The Burtner Homestead Continuing History”, undated, pp. 5,9. The specific location of the church can be seen on the “Sanborn Map (1921)”, reproduced in Culleiton, Charles J., “Historical Natrona”, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2009, p.125.
chartered April 7th, 1913: “Citizens Volunteer Hose Co., 100 Years and [Going] Strong, 1913-2013”, program of the fire department’s 100th-anniversary banquet, March 2, 2013.
on October 4th, 1913: “Sponsor of First Mail Flight in State Gets Last Ride at Hill Field – His First”, Valley Daily News, August 1, 1938, pp. 1 and 2. “John Kowalski”, The Verona Historical Society, 2008-2015, http://www.veronahistory.org/john-kowalsky.html. “Experimental Aeroplane Mail Service; Natrona PA; Not Flown”, http://www.aerodacious.com/PIO1913.HTM. “Aerial Mail Headlines: 1910-1916”, http://www.rfrajola.compioneerpioneer.pdf
to a real “town”: “Police Chief Denies Charge Of Sleeping,” Valley Daily News, March 1, 1921, p. 1. “Police Patrol Established In Hill District,” Valley Daily News, May 4, 1921, pp. 1 and 3.
Road in 1921-1922: Culleiton, Charles J., “Historical Natrona”, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2009, p. 135; and documents on file with W.G. Eckles Co., Architects, New Castle PA.
following in 1928: Documents on file at the office of Highlands School District, 1500 Pacific Avenue, Natrona Heights PA.
Woods served as postmaster: Oral history interview, Bob Barrage and Dorothy Stover, granddaughter of F.B. Woods, 14 November 2012.
west side of Freeport Road: “Natrona, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania”, Sanborn Map Company, New York, NY, September, 1912, sheet 10. “Natrona, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania”, Sanborn Map Company, New York, NY, December, 1921, sheet 15. Culleiton, Charles J., “Greetings from the A-K Valley: A Picture Postcard History of the Communities in the Allegheny-Kiskiminetas Valley”, Allegheny-Kiski Historical Society, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2003, pp. 60, 61, 63. Cullieton states that the post office was located in the F.B. Woods General Store on page 63, that the Woods Store later became the A.J. Millen General Store on page 60, and that the post office was located in Miller’s Grocery between its stays in the Drane home and the Fastoria Building on page 61, without mention of the Woods Store or the Citizens’ Hose fire hall (though photos on page 148 clearly show it there). An undated photograph from the collection of the Citizens’ Volunteer Hose Company shows the fire hall with “Birdville Post Office” painted on the front window. Since the name of the post office was changed to “Natrona Heights” on April 1st, 1927, the move to the fire hall must have predated the name change. The location of the Drane home and the grocery/P.O. can be seen on the 1912 Sanborn map. The location of the P.O. in the Woods store can be seen on the 1921 Sanborn map, as well as the Citizens Hose fire hall, though it’s shown in the wrong place. So there’s some confusion about the movements of the post office. I’ve taken my best guess, based on Mr. Culleiton’s works, the Sanborn maps, and the other sources listed herein.
grounds of Birdville Field: “Peterson Park Grandstand To Be Moved To Birdville Field; Moving of Stand Marks End of Old Ball Park; Good Teams On Card”, Valley Daily News, June 16, 1923, p. 1. “Peterson Park Fence Will Be Used In Birdville”, Valley Daily News, January 23, 1924, p. 5.
by the Potts family: Doris Ripper Nolf interviews, January 7 and February 11, 2015. Ron Wasilowski interview, January 7, 2015. Kearns, Bruno L., “Along the Banks of the Allegheny”, no listed publisher, 1999, p. 78. “Big Speedway May Be Located Here; Plot Near Birdville Already Surveyed; Site Nearly Ideal; Pittsburgh Millionaire is Lending Support to Local Project; Has Many Advantages; ‘Red’ Fetterman, Famous Racer, Likes Birdville Site”, Valley Daily News, February 22, 1923, p. 1. “Heights Lets Chance Pass”, Valley Daily News, August 13, 1928, p. 8. Deed Book Volume 2357, Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds, p. 79.
and in diamond: “Raise Flat at Game Today”, Valley Daily News, June 7, 1924, p. 1.
campus in 1926: “Unions’ New Field”, and “Use Gym Bleachers”, Valley Daily News, July 27, 1926, p. 10. “Union Humbles Kittanning, 28-0; Har-Brack’s Scholastic Opening Is Auspicious; Kitties Fail to Show Form They Were Reported To Possess; Young Kicks Well”, Valley Daily News, September 25, 1926, p. 10.
field in 1929: “T.H.S. Gridders Hold First Home Workout”, Valley Daily News, September 10, 1925, p. 9. “Park Dedication Ceremonies Start”, Valley Daily News, September 4, 1926, p. 1. “T.H.S. Plays Alumni Saturday”, Valley Daily News, September 15, 1926, p. 11. “Football Lid Comes Off Clean This Week”, Valley Daily News, September 19, 1927, p. 10. “T.H.S. Opens With Parnassus Abroad”, Valley Daily News, September 19, 1928, p. 10.
College Football Hall of Fame: “Play By Play Story Of Tarentum Victory, Valley Daily News, November 23, 1925, p. 10. Marino, John, “Bartellians Bag Benefit Game; Nease Runs 2 Yards For Only Score”, Valley Daily News, December 10, 1925, p. 13. http://www.footballfoundation.org/Programs/CollegeFootballHallofFame
Smokey Joe Williams: “Natrona Team Loses Opening Game In Tenth Inning; Hans Wagner’s Carnegie Team Winner, 7 to 3; Locals Score Decisive Win Over Up-River Club, Seven to Three; To Meet Electrics”, Valley Daily News, May 4, 1925, 1925, p. 6. “Natrona Overwhelmed By Grays; Hillites Lose Loose Tilt, 32-0”, Valley Daily News, May 10, 1926, p. 10. “Pirates Win Exhibition Game, 6 To 3; Cuyler’s Homer Thrills Fans As Natrona Loses; Big Crowd Sees Buccaneers in First Visit Here In Ten Years; Locals Play Well”, Valley Daily News, June 3, 1926, p. 14. http://baseballhall.org/hof
known as “Natrona Heights”: Harrison Township Ordinance 368, February 4, 1927.
address, ceased to exist: “Birdville to be Natrona Heights after April First”, Simpson’s Daily Leader-Times, Kittanning PA, March 27, 1927, p. 6.
St. Patrick’s Day flood: “Citizens Volunteer Hose Co., 100 Years and [Going] Strong, 1913-2013”, program of the fire department’s 100th-anniversary banquet, March 2, 2013.
location for an airport: “Natrona Heights Best Airport Site In Pittsburgh District”, Valley Daily News, April 3, 1928, p.1. Ferree, Vera Burtner, “The Burtner Homestead Continuing History”, undated, p. 6.
stood Birdville School: “Community Airport”, Simpsons’ Daily Leader-Times, May 21, 1930, p. 6. “WPA Cash Spurs Airport Boosters”, Valley Daily News, December 4, 1935, pp. 1 and 2.
first acquiring the land: “Valley Airport Get OK of WPA; Jobs for 306 Men; Wages $220,000”, Valley Daily News, December 3, 1935, p. 1.
Township commissioners: “Community Airport”, Simpsons’ Daily Leader-Times, May 21, 1930, p. 6. “WPA Cash Spurs Airport Boosters”, Valley Daily News, December 4, 1935, pp. 1 and 2.
grants, pulled out first: “Official Airport Group Will Act: Tarentum Chooses Member”, Valley Daily News, December 10, 1935, pp. 1 and 2.
buy land for airports: “Valley Airport Project Periled by New Legal Snag”, Valley Daily News, December 16, 1935, p. 1.
construction project disappeared: “Council Abandons WPA Airport Project”, Valley Daily News, January 14, 1936, p. 1.
from the Potts Mansion: “Heights Airport Is Now Reality; 2 Planes Busy”, Valley Daily News, August 24, 1936, pp. 1 and 2.
for a McDonalds: Crytzer, Layton D., “Birdville; Our Town”, Natrona Heights PA, August 19, 2009, pp. 5 and 23. “Miss Emma Potts, Teacher For 42 Years, Dies; Last Of Widely Known Family”, Valley Daily News, June 8, 1936, p. 2.
ever touching the ground: “Program Will Mark Airmail Start Here”, Valley Daily News, July 1, 1939, pp. 1&2.
on August 25th, 1939: “First Air Express Shipment is Made From Heights Field”, Valley Daily News, August 26, 1939, pp. 1, 2, & 3.
through December 22nd, 1939: Lewis, W. David, and William F. Trimble, “The Airway to Everywhere: A History of All American Aviation, 1937-1953, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989, p. 64.
shipment from that field): http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1940-corrigan-aero-club-program-natrona-heights
1939: “5000 See Heights Air Show”, Valley Daily News, September 25, 1939, p. 1.
1940: “The Corrigan Aero Club Presents The Third Annual Air Show, Natrona Heights Airport, September 21, 1940” (event program).
and 1941: “Parade, Air Show End Flag Week”, Valley Daily News, June 13, 1941, pp. 1 and 2. “Rain Hampers Flag Day Air Show Program”, Valley Daily News, June 16, 1941, p. 2.
and parachuting for accuracy: “5000 See Heights Air Show”, Valley Daily News, September 25, 1939, p. 1. “The Corrigan Aero Club Presents The Third Annual Air Show, Natrona Heights Airport, September 21, 1940” (event program).
mother was from Tarentum: http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1940-corrigan-aero-club-program-natrona-heights
across the Atlantic Ocean: Skaarup, Harold A., “Washington Warbird Survivors: A Handbook on Where to Find Them”, Writers Club Press, an imprint of iUniverse, Inc, Lincoln NE, 2002, p. 167.
two hundred new homes: “Defense Houses Go On Potts Estate”, Valley Daily News, May 16, 1941, p. 1. Drawings for “Defense Housing Project, Harrison Township Pa” project number 36241X, by Prack and Prack, Registered Architects, Joseph E. Burke, site engineer, Ezra C. Stiles, landscape architect, dated 23 June 1941, revised 29 July 1941. According to “Sheldon Park Residents Keenly Interested in Project,” Valley Daily News, Thursday, January 11, 1943, pp. 1 & 2, the landscaping for the new Sheldon Park neighborhood wasn’t yet complete before residents began planting flowers on their own during the summer of 1942.
end the war in 1945: “Salt: Natrona firm played big role World War I, II”, Valley News Dispatch, Feb. 18, 1996, http://www.protector.pair.com/articles/alsco/pennsalt.html
application for Boy Scout Troop 186: Charter records on file at the office of the Laurel Highlands Council, Boy Scouts of America, Flag Plaza, 1275 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh PA.
Park, Natrona Heights, Penna: Scrapbooks of Walter Baker, Scoutmaster of Troop 186 1947-1956, volume 1, pp. 5,15.
over the field) daily: “Air Mail Pickup Service Increased”, Valley Daily News, November 19, 1942, p. 1.
behind Birdville School: “Helicopter Use Urged In Revival”, Valley Daily News, July 1, 1949, pp. 1 & 8.
with the mail bags: Oral history interviews, Bob Barrage and Mike Hannan, July 8, 2011; and Bob Barrage and Don Vrotney, August 26, 2012.
next door, in 1947: Culleiton, Charles J., “Greetings from the A-K Valley: A Picture Postcard History of the Communities in the Allegheny-Kiskiminetas Valley”, Allegheny-Kiski Historical Society, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2003, pp. 61,63. “Birdville Area People Proud of Post Office”, Valley Daily News, Tuesday, June 8, 1948, p. 1.
mail to rural areas: Lewis, W. David, and William F. Trimble, “The Airway to Everywhere: A History of All American Aviation, 1937-1953, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989, p. 148.
on June 30th, 1949: Helicopter Use Urged In Revival”, Valley Daily News, July 1, 1949, pp. 1 & 8.
the fall of 1950: “In Nice New School,” Valley Daily News, September 5th, 1950, p. 14. Undated newspaper clipping from the Birdville PTA Scrapbook, presumably from the Valley Daily News: “9 New Classrooms Ready in Birdville.”
Sheldon Park Community Council: Charter records on file at the office of the Laurel Highlands Council, Boy Scouts of America, Flag Plaza, 1275 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh PA.
“Sheldon Park” to “Birdville”: Scrapbooks of Walter Baker, Scoutmaster of Troop 186 1947-1956, volume 2, p. 23.
meet in Sheldon Park: Oral history interviews, Bob Barrage and William Feitknecht, William R. McCoy, Lewis F. Rehner, Edward L. Smith, Kenneth Smith, Thomas J. Wasilowski, and Kramer E. “Skip” Wolfe, Jr.
malls in western Pennsylvania: Valley News Dispatch, December 19, 1993.
in February of 1955: “3 Harrison Twp. Scouts Receive Highest Award”, clipping from unidentified newspaper in the Scrapbooks of Walter Baker, volume 3, p. 6, possibly the Valley Daily News, February 19, 1955.
annual banquet in 1956: “Boy Scouts at Birdville Win Awards”, Valley Daily News, February 10, 1956, p. 16.
six facility since 1939: Circumstantial evidence culled from Birdville PTA minutes, 1938-1948.
at Birdville Elementary School: “Two Scouts Win Eagle Award”, Valley Daily News, February 9, 1957, p. 13.
High School in 1973: “Scouts to be honored”, Valley News Dispatch, March 23, 1973, p. 5.
location in Heights Plaza: Culleiton, Charles J., “Greetings from the A-K Valley: A Picture Postcard History of the Communities in the Allegheny-Kiskiminetas Valley”, Allegheny-Kiski Historical Society, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2003, p. 61.
including Lindane and DDT: “Salt: Natrona firm played big role World War I, II”, Valley News Dispatch, Feb. 18, 1996, http://www.protector.pair.com/articles/alsco/pennsalt.html
interested in a change: Oral history interview, Bob Barrage and Kramer E. “Skip” Wolfe, Jr.
just to aggravate people”: Oral history interview, Bob Barrage and Clair H. Lloyd.
equipment – in 1973: “Citizens Volunteer Hose Co., 100 Years and [Going] Strong, 1913-2013”, program of the fire department’s 100th-anniversary banquet, March 2, 2013.
Pennywize Super Market: “Subsidence ruins Heights store”, VND, March 6th, 1976, p.1. “Cash and carry”, VND, March 6th, 1976, p.4.
several neighboring schools: “Pupils transferred; State closes Birdville elementary,” VND, May 4th, 1976, p.1
identity as Birdville students: “Back to Birdville”, VND, September 8th, 1976. Oral history interviews, Brian Rigatti, David Dolak, Eric Haugh.
out of the neighborhood: “Highlands Board Approves Grades Reorganization for 1981-1982”, The Report Card; Highlands Report to Citizens, Vol. 14, No. 2, February 1981. “Grade Reorganization Proceeds According to Plan”, The Report Card; Highlands Report to Citizens, Vol. 14, No. 3, May 1981.
to the “Birdville Annex”: Krugle, Jodi, “Birdville situation bothers parents more than pupils”, VND, March 18th, 1982. Oral history interviews, Kevin and Eric Haugh.
waste dump cleanup: http://superfund.supportportal.com/link/portal/23002/23020/Article/17864/How-was-Superfund-created Haurwitz, Ralph, and Martin Smith, “Bruin Lagoon Cleanup May Begin In Spring,” The Pittsburgh Press, December 21, 1982, p. A2.
former Richard Bird farm: Jane-Ellen Rosenberger, “Area Dump On EPA Hit List Safe, State Says,” The Pittsburgh Press, October 24, 1981, p.A-1.
and a picnic shelter: EPA Superfund Record of Decision: Lindane Dump, EPA ID: PAD980712798, OU 01, Harrison Township, PA, March 31, 1992.
powder he dug up: Letter from Harold R. Day to Harry W. Trask, EPA, August 18, 1976. Review of the Investigation of the Penn Salt Co., Waste Disposal Site (Harrison Township), Allegheny County Health Department, January 15, 1980, pp. AR100007 and AR100015.
of the insecticide Lindane: Review of the Investigation of the Penn Salt Co., Waste Disposal Site (Harrison Township), Allegheny County Health Department, January 15, 1980, pp. AR100010, AR100015, and AR100062.
descendant of Penn Salt: “Alsco Park cleanup should allay fears,” Valley News Dispatch, March 15, 1998.
and September of 1986: Yerace, Tom, “Demolition: Birdville classes go on as school wing is razed”, Valley News Dispatch, September 3, 1986.
1988-1989 school year: Capilevitz, Todd, “Parents look to future, as Wood Street school fight ends”, Pittsburgh Press, May 10th, 1987, p.V4.
in March of 1991: Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book 8439, page 489.
the beginning of 1996: “CVHFINAC.3”, Thomas J. Wasilowski AIA Registered Architects, November 7th, 1995; Final Application and Certificate for Payment, L.D. Bowman and Sons, General Contractor, December 20th, 1995; Final Application and Certificate for Payment, Joe Travaglia Plastering, January 5th, 1996.
sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 186: Charter records on file at the office of the Laurel Highlands Council, Boy Scouts of America, Flag Plaza, 1275 Bedford Avenue, Pittsburgh PA.
Township split in 1836: Ferree, Vera Burtner, “The Burtner Homestead Reviewing History”, May 1976, pp. 11,12.
Pitt Township in 1796: http://www.westdeertownship.com/West%20deer%20HTML/West_Deer%20plus.htm
itself established in 1773: Ferree, Vera Burtner, “The Burtner Homestead Reviewing History”, May 1976, p. 12.
Image 1: “Potts Mansion, Birdville, Pa.”, postcard.
Image 2: “Public School Building, Birdville, Pa.”, from the postcard collection of Frank Welling, postmarked 1921.
Image 3: “View On Freeport Road, Birdville, Pa.”, from the postcard collection of Frank Welling, postmarked 1921.
Image 4: “Kittanning St., Birdville, Pa.”, from the postcard collection of Frank Welling.
Image 5: Photo of Harry Stiller and Ken Wolfe at Natrona Heights Airport, collection of Ronald L. Wolfe, 1937.
Image 6: Wilson, Charles Morrow, “R.F.D. Gets Wings: Pick-up Service Brings Air Mail to Towns off the Main Sky Lanes”, Popular Science Magazine, July 1941, p. 94.
Image 7: Culleiton, Charles J., “Greetings from the A-K Valley: A Picture Postcard History of the Communities in the Allegheny-Kiskiminetas Valley”, Allegheny-Kiski Historical Society, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2003, p. 61.
Image 8: Culleiton, Charles J., “Greetings from the A-K Valley: A Picture Postcard History of the Communities in the Allegheny-Kiskiminetas Valley”, Allegheny-Kiski Historical Society, Creighton Printing, Creighton PA, 2003, p. 62.
Image 9: Highlands School District.
Image 10: “Heights Plaza Shopping Center,” from the postcard collection of Bob Dudeck.
Image 11: Uncredited photograph accompanying the article “Stable; Natrona Heights land shift quits”, Valley News Dispatch, March 8, 1976, p. 14.
Potts Mansion, John Potts Farm, Completed 1885
The first Birdville School, Burtner and Freeport Roads, 1897-1922
Freeport Road, looking north from the intersection with Maple Street, 1908. The building that now houses Anchor Inn can be seen on the right side of the road. The white house on the far left was removed to make way for the law offices of Jacques and Jacques.
Woods General Store (where the buggies are parked), "Kittanning Street", now known as Freeport Road, early 1900's. The Birdville Post Office was housed in the store while Franklin B. Woods served as postmaster, from 1914 to 1922.
Henry Stiller and Kenneth Wolfe pose in front of the hangar at the Natrona Heights Airport, circa 1937.
Airmail Pickup in progress. The incoming bag can be seen falling to the ground at lower left as the pickup hook engages the loop of line connected to the outgoing bag, which is resting on the ground between the uprights of the ground station apparatus.
The second and final Birdville School, Burtner Road and Adams Street, 1922-1989.
Heights Plaza Shopping Center as it appeared ca. 1956-1957, soon after opening.
Mine subsidence damage to the Pennywize Supermarket. The store never reopened.
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2105 Freeport Road, Natrona Heights, PA 15065 • (724) 226-3505