125 years in the making: Wilkinsburg celebrates anniversary with events

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Three days of events will be held Oct. 5-7 to celebrate Wilkinsburg's 125th anniversary.

The borough needs something to celebrate. Eleven people have been killed in Wilkinsburg this year, compared with two homicides in 2011. Mayor John Thompson noted that the violence stems from a small segment of the population in the borough.

"We're going through a time here, and some bad things are happening, and a lot of it is with bad people," he said.

Wilkinsburg police have said they are trying to crack down on the gun violence by better enforcing curfew violations, among other methods, and police Chief Ophelia "Cookie" Coleman has attributed much of the violence to drugs and groups of feuding young people.

The mayor hopes to draw residents and visitors to the events next weekend so they can "see and hear the positive side of Wilkinsburg."

Wilkinsburg was founded Oct. 5, 1887, and was once a bustling area of shops, homes and churches. At its peak in the 1950s, the borough was home to nearly 40,000 people. Now, the population hovers around 16,000.

Mr. Thompson cited a supermarket, new rental properties and new housing as just a few of the successes in the borough since its last big celebration 25 years ago.

"We don't want folks to forget there are some good things happening," he said.

The events will kick off Friday, Oct. 5, with a free community reception at Hosanna House, 807 Wallace Ave., from 6 to 10 p.m.

Tracey Evans, executive director of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp., said there will be food, activities for kids, music, historical photos on display and tables for Wilkinsburg organizations to display information.

On Saturday, Oct. 6, events will begin at 11 a.m. with a community parade down Penn Avenue.

Mr. Thompson said former elected officials from Wilkinsburg will be featured in the parade.

"We want to recognize those that have been a part of the success of our community," he said.

That night, there will be a gala at the DoubleTree Hotel in Monroeville.

Tickets to the Oct. 6 gala, which are $125, can be purchased at the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corp. offices, 1001 Wood St., or on the third floor of the Wilkinsburg Borough Building, 605 Ross Ave.

The final event will be an ecumenical community service featuring dozens of area churches.

Mr. Thompson said the group of chaplains that help the community cope after "critical incidents" will attend the religious event, which will begin at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, at Wilkinsburg Senior High School.

Details: 412-244-2900.

Correction/Clarification: (Published 28, 2012) The borough of Wilkinsburg was founded on Oct. 5, 1887. An incorrect date was listed in a story about the borough's 125th anniversary.

Annie Siebert: asiebert@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.


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