“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign,” goes the old Freedom Rock classic. I don’t know if the Five Man Electrical Band ever made it to New Kensington, but they’d likely be dismayed that said signs are still “blockin’ out the scenery (and) breakin’ (their) mind.” These signs, in fact, have managed to outlive many of the people, businesses–entire industries–that once surrounded them.
New Kensington. The town Alcoa built. An obviously once-thriving, larger-than-average industry town that lies up the Allegheny River from metro Pittsburgh. Like many of its sister communities, the industry is now long gone and the overwhelming experience of visiting is both vacancy and beauty.
I’ve been to New Ken maybe a dozen times for a variety of reasons, but usually just to poke around. I’m always struck by how incredible much of the architecture/building stock still is. Gorgeous late Victorian/pre-war grand homes and ornate apartments, great industrial spaces, lean art deco retail storefronts in terra cotta and stone. It kills me that businesses will continue to locate their expansions to desert office parks when there are fully intact towns like New Kensington just dying for that Amazon distribution point, a call center or manufacturer to come in. Sigh.
Anyway, there are a bunch of great things to see in New Kensington. I visited on a cold, but beautifully sunny day (no filters needed!) last weekend. This trip I chose to just focus on the (painted wall) signs downtown in the flats, but the Orbit will be back–we didn’t even make it to Parnassus or Arnold!