Tube City Almanac

February 12, 2009

The 131st Municipality?

Category: History || By

Does Allegheny County have a 131st municipality on O'Neil Boulevard?

Following up our story about the strange status of the house next to Founders' Hall Middle School, I spent several hours searching various legal and newspaper databases, looking for a copy of the court ruling that created White Oak Borough out of Versailles Township.

I don't have the full text yet, but I did dredge up an article from the Sept. 5, 1946, issue of the Post-Gazette which either sheds some light on the subject, or muddies the water even further.

According to this story, the parcel couldn't be included in White Oak, apparently because it wasn't contiguous to the rest of the borough. But the property owner --- Herbert Van Kirk --- didn't want to be annexed to the city of McKeesport.

Apparently the situation has been stalemated for the past 61 years, until the U.S. Census Bureau made an issue out of it. Only in Pennsylvania!

Tube City Almanac has asked the Census Bureau for comment. They are researching the issue and have promised to get back to me.

. . .

Two-Acre Township Waif of Versailles
Tract With One Home Pinched Off Whether Borough or Annexation Petitions Win

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 5, 1946, p. 2)

Herbert S. Van Kirk is a modern day Robinson Crusoe who faces the ordeal of finding himself on a two-acre island in the sea of McKeesport. He proposes to call his island Van Kirk township.

This geographical predicament is imminent because of current actions in the reshuffling of Versailles township, where the Van Kirk family lived at 3524 O'Neil boulevard for many years.

The Van Kirk property, although surrounded by the city of McKeesport, is officially in Versailles township, but none of the current moves to liquidate the township includes the Van Kirk property.

Clear? Well, let's try again.

Things came to a head Tuesday morning when Versailles township residents filed petitions in Allegheny county quarter sessions court requesting the approval of incorporation into White Oak borough.

May Be High and Dry

If the courts approve a petition of the entire township to become White Oak borough, Mr. Van Kirk will be left high, dry and lonesome as the only remaining part of Versailles township.

If, on the other hand the courts approve annexation of the township to McKeesport, Van Kirk will still be living in a separate entity.

It all began in 1938 when the McKeesport school board bought 38 acres of a 40-acre plot of ground owned by the Van Kirk family. The school land became part of the city of McKeesport but the Van Kirks on their two acres chose to remain in Versailles township.

A year ago when the township's third precinct became Eden Park borough Van Kirk's voting privileges were shifted from that district to District Four. Yesterday, with the borough petition and the First district annexation already hanging fire, the Fourth district petitioned for annexation to McKeesport. McKeesport council immediately gave preliminary reading to the ordinance and indicated approval of the move to annex the only remaining township area under the annexation program.

Wants His Own Township

This would liquidate Versailles township --- except for Van Kirk's two acres. State law prohibits the inclusion of Van Kirk's "little world" in any of these petitions.

One solution --- annexation to McKeesport --- has been turned down by Mr. Van Kirk. He said that McKeesport would not tolerate his pistol range.

Last night, while officials declined to suggest a solution to the problem, the bewildered Van Kirk had a statement to make:

"You can say, I guess, that I'm still a resident of Allegheny county in a state of confusion. To solve the problem, I will probably ask permission to form my own township --- Van Kirk township."

Your Comments are Welcome!

Can anyone explain why Mt. Vernon in Elizabeth Township have a McKeesport mailing zip code?
Thee Dude - February 13, 2009

I blame Obama.
Webmaster - February 13, 2009

Excellent investigative journalism. Too little of that in our town.

Doesn’t “Little” Boston use our zip too?

Can’t wait till White Oak has to also.
Paul "Sluggo" Shelly (URL) - February 13, 2009

Jason, great digging on your part. At least someone has a historical perspective on this issue. I tend to get a little sensitive about the issue and still cringe when I pass Penn State MCKEESPORT. I am proud to live in McKeesport and not White Oak, even if they DO have a pool. Just think of all we have. Like a school District named after us….LOL
Adam - February 13, 2009

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