Magic City LbNA # 42293
|Placed Date||Jul 13 2008|
This letterbox was placed by our family to honor my hometown, Charleroi, PA, the “Magic City”.
This letterbox can be completed on foot or by mostly driving. It is easiest to access the letterbox’s hiding location if you are a six-footer. Try not to access the box if anyone is around to see what you are doing.
Charleroi was settled in 1890 and is a namesake of its sister city, Charleroi, Belgium. Early immigrants from Belgium came for the glass industry in the town. Charleroi was known as the “Magic City” because of the speed with which it grew.
This small town was the birthplace several well-known people, including
- Olive Thomas, a silent film actress, a Ziegfeld girl, and the original flapper
- Mitchell Paige, a recipient of the Medal of Honor from World War II who singlehandedly stopped an entire Japanese regiment at the Battle of Guadalcanal after all of the other Marines in his platoon were killed or wounded
- Shirley Jones, an actress and singer who starred in the movies Oklahoma!, Carousel, The Music Man and in the television series The Partridge Family.
You will enter Charleroi on PA Route 88. From the south (east), you will be on McKean Avenue. From the north (west), you will be on Fallowfield Avenue, with McKean Avenue one street to your left. A public parking lot is located in the Chamber Plaza on Fifth Street just across the railroad tracks from McKean Avenue.
To navigate in Charleroi, remember that the numbered streets run up and down the hill and the named avenues run along the hill (parallel to the river) with an alley between each avenue.
From the Magic City Square (small park) at the corner of Fifth Street and McKean Avenue, proceed northwest (in the direction of traffic). Look for the historical placard at 514 McKean Avenue. You are standing at the site of one of the earliest movie theaters in the country!
Add the number of 1’s in the years listed on the placard to the number of the Palace Theater’s place in the nation’s history (e.g., first theater =1, second theater = 2, etc.). Continue down McKean Avenue to the street number equal to this sum and turn left.
Turn left again, and look for the sign on your left. Read about a Charleroi resident who was a professional baseball player, a successful businessman, and who went on to be the governor of Pennsylvania.
Continue down this avenue until you come to the street with the same number as the last digit of John Tener’s last year as governor.
Turn left and continue until you cross the railroad tracks. Note the Veteran’s Memorial on the right, listing all the Charleroi residents who have fought in the service of their country.
Your way will jog slightly left, then right. Continue until you can go no further. Turn left and continue straight until you see Cougar Joe’s memorial placard. The high school teams are the Cougars and Cougar Joe was their biggest fan.
You’ll need to decide which way to go from here, but if you pass the right field, you will see a pavilion straight ahead. If you are driving, you can park at the pavilion.
Go up the steps into the pavilion and turn back toward Cougar Joe’s placard. Look up and you will see an electrical breaker box. The letterbox is behind the breaker box. The easiest way to get it is to climb up on the pavilion railing and reach behind the left side of the breaker box.
After stamping in and replacing the box, take a look at the Monongahela River. This is a working river and you can often see barge traffic on it. To the left is flood control Dam and Lock #4. The town next to the dam on this side of the river is North Charleroi, but the town is known to the residents of this part of the Monongahela River valley as “Lock 4”. Beyond and across the river is the city of Monessen. If you turn left from facing the river, you will see the former Corning Glass Works. Turn left again and you will see the town (actually borough) of Charleroi stretched across the hillside. Note the different styles of churches found in town, including red brick and steepled Roman Catholic, domed Greek Orthodox, and onion-domed Russian Orthodox.
While looking at the town, imagine what a vibrant community this was a generation ago, when the steel mill in Monessen, the glass factory in Charleroi, and the mines in the area all but guaranteed full employment; when the stores that lined the streets offered the best and most varied shopping in the Valley; and when the town supported two large-screen movie theaters (the State, which is gone, and the Coyle, which is closed but still standing at 311 McKean Avenue).