Though I was born at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, I grew up just outside the city in the little borough of Dormont. Incorporated in 1909, it was the first independent municipality in Greater Pittsburgh's South Hills area. The name is a play on the French mont d'or meaning gold mountain. At less than one square mile, Dormont is compact and walkable, if you don't mind the hills. There's also good bus and light rail service. In 2000 the population was 9,305. Can you say densely populated?
I don't know if it was that densely populated when I was growing up there back in the 1950's and early 60's, but many of the houses were duplexes, so it might have been. As a child I didn't pay attention to statistics. Though small and urban, Dormont in that period wasn't all concrete. There was a large wooded area near Kelton Elementary School, complete with a swinging rope hanging from a large tree for the more daring kids.
On the other side of town is Dormont Park, a lovely, green park. The Fourth of July was a big day in Dormont. In the morning my dad would drive me to Dormont Pool, located in the park, where every child was given a grab bag full of little toys, candy and lots of peanuts in the shell. My dad always ate most of my peanuts. Then there was a local parade along West Liberty Avenue. In the evening, we'd head back to the park, where we sat on a blanket in the park to watch the annual fireworks display and was it spectacular!
Dormont Pool is the oldest (1923) municipal swimming pool in Pennsylvania as well as one of the largest at >60,000 square feet. I spent many a hot summer day at the pool, getting cooled off, only to walk home uphill and end up as sweaty as I'd started out. Apparently the pool is now in need of major repairs and locals are pitching in to save it. Details are at http://www.savedormontpool.com/.
The church we attended, Dormont Presbyterian, is now over 100 years old and has been designated as a historic place by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
(A view of downtown Pittsburgh from Biltmore Avenue in Dormont.)
Dormont offers the best of two worlds in its small town atmosphere and its proximity to a big city. I remember riding the streetcar into Pittsburgh with my mom to shop at Joseph Horne's or one of the other big department stores. In the 1920's and 30's Dormont was touted for its clean air, South Hills being relatively free of the smoke and pollution in Pittsburgh. By the 1950's, the area had switched from coal to natural gas and the air was much cleaner everywhere. As a child, I thought most of the buildings in downtown where made of black stone. Then one day I saw a building being sandblasted and realized they were all covered with coal soot!
Famous Dormonters include comedian Dennis Miller and Republican Congresman Ron Paul who ran for president this year and, of course, me. (Just kidding.)
Dormont was a great place to grow up, and to judge by this article at popcitymedia.com, it still is. Maybe one of these days I'll even get to visit again. It was fun getting re-acquainted with my home town again, and I was happy to learn that's it's still a nice place to live.
My Town Monday comes to us via Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Click on his site to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.