I was born in Crafton and moved to Carnegie when I was around 5 years old. I lived there until I left for college in the late 90s. Like most angst filled youth, I couldn't wait to get out of my humdrum hometown. You aren't supposed to want to go home again. But something about this unassuming small town kept calling me back (like the mob to Michael Corleone in Godfather 3).
And here I am, knocking on 33 years old and now living just a few streets away from the home where I was raised. on the surface Carnegie doesn't seem like a hip or fun place to talk about. But there are plenty of hidden gems in the area (many more than a top 10 list) that I've come to better appreciate as an adult.
So I submit for your approval the 10 things to love about Carnegie.
1. Location, location, location!
As the borough's website
boasts: 'All Roads Lead to Carnegie'. Located a mere 6 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh and situated smack dab between interstates 79 and 376, Carnegie is a small town that's hiding in plain sight. The West Busway has its first stop right next to the borough building and police station, making the town incredibly accessible.
2. Riley's Pour House
Built in 1979, Riley's Pour House
is arguably the best classic Irish Pub in the Pittsburgh area. Now under new ownership, the Pour House was recently renovated and restored, adding a bigger menu and modern advances (free WiFi and flat screen TV's), but maintained its classic charm and respect for its tradition and history. Besides a great schedule of live music
the Pour House is one of the few places I've found in the burgh that actually knows how to properly pour a pint of Guinness.
3. Forsythe's Mini-Golf
You could drive through the area a hundred times and still never notice the hidden gem of a mini-golf course. Built in 1942, it hold's the distinction of Pittsburgh's oldest wooden rail miniature golf course. Its a cute, charming, and surprisingly difficult course that's fun for the whole family. If Rick Seback ever does a mini-golf course documentary , this place is surely to be high on the list.
Carnegie has a ton of churches and bars. It was rumored that at one point in history, it held the record of the highest bar to church ratio in the country. This place combines the 2 in a wonderfully satisfying way. Len and Kathleen Cefalo opened Cefalos
in the winter of 2005 in a former Presbyterian church. The impressive old stone structure is now an upscale 40's style nightclub that is great for live music, special events and banquets, or just dinner and drinking.
5. Gab 'N Eat
Located in a near the border of Carnegie and Scott Township, Gab N Eat
may be my favorite place for breakfast in the burgh outside of Pamela's. The portions are epic and the food is unpretentious and delicious (please note the famous mixed grill in my photo above). Its no wonder that people come from miles away to dine in an understated classic diner. The walls are lined with photos of locals past and present and theres even a few celebrity signatures on the wall (Mario Lemieux and Michael Keaton are among the many who have stuffed their faces). And who can't love a place with a giant Led Zeppelin poster on the wall?
6. Honus Wagner
When driving to Carnegie from the parkway, one of the first sights you'll see is a painting of Honus Wagner (photo above) welcoming you to our fine town. The Flying Dutchmen, who played almost his entire career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was one of the first 5 players inducted into the baseball hall of fame and is considered by many to be the greatest short stop of the classic era. In 2007 his rookie baseball card was sold for $2.8 million, the most ever paid for a baseball card. Carnegie has a retirement community named after him where as a child my classmates and I would sing Christmas carols to uninterested senior citizens.
7. Monkey Shines
Most Pittsburghers and horror film buffs are aware that George Romero filmed the the Zombie trilogy around our beloved city (Dawn of the Dead having made Monroville mall iconic). What you may not have known is that in 1988 in the Cubbage hill area of Carnegie (5th avenue to be exact) Romero filmed his first commercial film Monkey Shines
, a bizarre and mostly forgotten flick about a quadriplegic man and his demented psycho monkey helper. Its probably for the best that this bomb fell under the radar, but as a lifelong fan of cult horror, I beam with pride every time I watch this stinker. The movie is currently streaming on Netflix, so if you are familiar with the area, check it out. You've been warned!
8. Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall
The Andrew Carnegie Free Library
opened its doors in 1901 and looms high above main street and the business district of Carnegie. The building is a historic landmark and is one of four libraries endowed by the man of the hour, Andrew Carnegie. Besides a bunch of community events
, and pretty gnarly Civil War Room the Carnegie Carnegie,as its called, boasts a fantastic music hall that rivals other local music halls of its type and is home to two resident companies. Which brings me to my next item...
9. Stage 62
Established in (you guessed it) 1962, Stage 62
is a non-profit community theater group that strives to produce quality theater for all ages. The group, which previously resided in the Bethel Park area, is currently celebrating its 50th season and has called Carnegie its home since the early 90s. The actors in Stage 62's productions may be volunteers but you wouldn't be able to tell that from the high caliber performances. Stage 62 consistently produces excellent productions and is often ranked among professional theater groups in the area. Their most recent production of Sweeney Todd received a rave review
by Pittsburgh's City Paper's Ted Hoover who called it "without question, the greatest Sweeney I've ever heard". They push the envelope with their show choices and are always raising the bar with their level of talent. You wouldn't expect to find such an ambitious and forward thinking artistic entity in the music hall of a library...but yet Stage 62 exists and Carnegie is lucky to have it as a resident.
10. A resilient attitude
In September of 2004 the remnants of Hurricane Ivan hit Carnegie hard with 2 days of record breaking rainfall that flooded the small city. Long standing local businesses and churches closed their doors forever. This was not the first natural disaster in the area, with flood waters having hit Carnegie in 1956 and 1966, and a hurricane hitting the streets in 1963. But as you can tell from the water phoenix mural above, the residents of the city are not prone to giving up. New businesses have opened and houses were rebuilt. Local favorites are remodeling and gaining a new customer base. Our theater groups continue to put on shows to entertain the masses. Regardless of what Mother nature has thrown at it, Carnegie continues to be a fun place to visit and a great place to live. I'm proud to call it my home.
Naccarelli is a graduate of Carlynton High School and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Brian
works as a sales representative for a publishing company in the South Side of Pittsburgh. You can find more of Brian
's writing in his music blog bnacmusicblog.com
and as a frequent contributor at thepittsburghscene.com
lives in Carnegie with his wife Cathy and two terrible cats.
-All Other photos by Brian Naccarelli and Courtney Marshall Santo