For new immigrants who settled in McKees Rocks in 1909, finding work was essential.
That year, thousands of men passed through the doors of the two-story brick employment office that was part of the 200-acre Pressed Steel Car Co. complex, which included a company town called Presston.
Today, the building, which has handsome dark woodwork, 10-feet-tall windows, two huge vaults and terrazzo floors, is owned by McKees Rocks Industrial Enterprises.
The company's 90-plus-acre industrial park serves as a terminal for river barges, railroad freight and 18-wheeler trucks. Steel products, road salt, glass, ceramics and crushed gravel are unloaded in the park in Stowe.
The company's partners are Jim Lind, a McKees Rocks native, and Carrie Klee, whose late father, John "Jack" Klee, a real estate lawyer with Dravo Corp., bought the property in the late 1980s with a few partners. The property passed to Ms. Klee when her father died in 2005. Her sister, Collyer Klee, is a partner in the company, too.
Restoring the building at 149 Nichol Ave. is a way to preserve some of the community's industrial heritage.
"It's just such a beautiful building," said Carrie Klee, who majored in history at Lafayette College in Easton, Northampton County, and lives in Highland Park.
Mr. Lind, who lives in Moon, was impressed by the structure's durability.
"All the engineers we had in here said it would last another 100 years," he said, adding that the building's trusses still have paint on them that kept them from weathering.
Now that the structure has been gutted, renovation work is slated to start in September. The building needs a new roof, plumbing, updated wiring, gutters, downspouts and windows as well as a new heating and air conditioning system.
The company plans to build new warehouses and has a permit to expand its river dock by an additional 200 feet, Mr. Lind said, adding that the move will triple its barge capacity.
Using federal tax credits and financing from PNC Bank and National City, M.R.I.E. hopes to finish renovations by March and move its 35 employees, now based in Carnegie, into the new space.
Mr. Lind and Ms. Klee have participated in obtaining historical markers for the community by attending meetings of the McKees Rocks Historical Society, which meets at Independent Hose Company No. 5. A state marker installed on Island Avenue commemorates the Pressed Steel Car Co. strike of 1909.
A new state historical marker for the company town of Presston will be unveiled at noon on Saturday, followed by a picnic and concert.
Marylynne Pitz can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1648.