Historical marker commemorates Presston

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Presston, a company town built for workers by the Pressed Steel Car Co., remains 110 years after it was built.

Just west of the McKees Rocks Bridge, Presston lies between the Ohio River and railroad tracks and consists of 240 rowhouses spread over two streets. There's a community park with a small picnic pavilion and a former company store that houses a bar where you can smoke. CSX freight trains roar past regularly.

At noon this Saturday, a state historical marker that commemorates this archetypal working-class community will be unveiled at the entrance to the community park, said Rosemary Trump, president of the Pennsylvania Labor History Society.

Charles McCollester, a labor historian, would like to see the area's industrial heritage preserved.

"McKees Rocks, hanging by the thinnest of threads, is intact. The mill is largely intact. Presston is the most intact working-class community in Western Pennsylvania," he said, adding that the ethnic churches workers built and attended also remain.

"If we were in Germany, they would preserve it and they would have regular tours. It would be the center of industrial interpretation. Our people want to bury history, not remember it," he said.

Before the marker is unveiled, the Rev. Tim Tomson will lead an ecumenical service at 10 a.m. in St. Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church at Ella and Helen streets. The service honors those who died to create a better world for workers.

After the service, there's a 11/2-mile march from the church, past the site of the former Pressed Steel Car Co. to Presston for the marker unveiling. Members of the Industrial Workers of the World, which has been organizing Starbucks employees, will participate in the march.

At 1 p.m., there's a picnic in Presston's community park and a concert with music by Mike Stout and the Human Union plus Jerry Jumba, host of the "Carpatho-Rus' Radio Program."

On Friday, the Pennsylvania Labor History Society hosts a round-table discussion with five panelists about the Pressed Steel Car Strike of 1909. The event is at 2:30 p.m. in the Father Regis Ryan Arts Center at 420 Chartiers Ave., McKees Rocks. The discussion is open to the public.

Marylynne Pitz can be reached at mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.


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