Edwin R. Crawford had been a mill worker before becoming one of McKeesport's wealthiest men and most famous names.
A biographical outline of his life was presented at the McKeesport Heritage Center last week to kick off the historical organization's 30th anniversary.
The center's 2010 Founder's Day Address, given by University of South Carolina history professor Miles S. Richards, told the story of a man whose business decisions and philanthropy continue to benefit McKees- port today.
At his death in 1936 at 66 years old, about half of his estate went to a trust in his name. The E.R. Crawford Trust still operates 75 years later and is the biggest benefactor to the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus in McKeesport, according to a spokeswoman, and also supports UPMC McKeesport, among other local organizations.
Mr. Richards explained that before Mr. Crawford was a philanthropist, he worked at the old Demmler Mill, a successful tinplate factory that once stood where Highland Grove is today.
Mr. Crawford founded his own factory in the early 1900s called McKeesport Tin Plate in Port Vue on land that ELG Metals now calls home. In its heyday, Mr. Crawford's business employed thousands of people and grew to become one of the most successful steel companies in the world before losing money after the Great Depression and being sold to Jones & Laughlin Steel Co.
The history of the Heritage Center shared some of the spotlight with Mr. Crawford's history on Sunday afternoon.
Founded in 1980 by a group of community leaders, the center originally used Penn State's campus in McKeesport for its facilities and resources, said Michelle Wardle, executive director.
In 1990, construction began on the center at 1832 Arboretum Drive, in Renziehausen Park. Next to the Renziehausen Rose Garden and including the 1832 schoolhouse as part of its complex, the center runs both a museum and a research center to preserve the Mon-Yough area's past. Two additions were added to the center in 1999 and 2002.
The heritage center is funded through grants, independent foundations and memberships. Memberships to the center cost $35 for families and $25 for individuals.
Most members and visitors reminisce about McKeesport's former businesses Downtown and the people who lived there, Ms. Wardle said.
"A good portion of visitors come to do genealogy research, and look up [obituaries], funeral records and census records," she said.
The center also provides tours for school groups, scout groups and senior groups.
The schoolhouse at the center is also a "big draw for people bringing kids and grandkids," Ms. Wardle said.
Artifacts at the museum include historic photographs, club and business records, and substantial archives of anniversary books from local churches and businesses.
"The model of the National Tube Works is also a big draw, particularly for people who worked there," she said.
While no events are scheduled to celebrate the center's 30th anniversary, Ms. Wardle said the center would repeat its summer program next year, hosting speakers who will discuss the history of Plum Borough, the trolleys during World War II, local folklore and local sports.
The museum is free and open to the public. The research center is free to members and charges a $15 fee to nonmembers. The heritage center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
Candy Woodall, freelance writer: email@example.com .