Mystery Photo: A bend in the river

February 17, 2013
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Horseshoe Bend, or Greenfield Bend, as it appeared in the late 19th century.
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Park Burroughs / Observer-Reporter
Greenfield Bend as it appears today, photographed from the High Point restaurant on Route 88, Coal Center Order a Print

The location of this bend in the river may have been a mystery to some of us here at the Observer-Reporter (or at least to this writer), but it was obvious to many of our readers who flooded us with calls and email messages. Though the horseshoe-shaped bend in the Monongahela River is only partially visible in the photo, Almost every reader who contacted us identified the town on the opposite side of the water as Newell in Fayette County. Those who navigate the river know the area as the Greenfield Bend.

Those who travel Route 88 are accustomed to this view that’s just up the hill from Coal Center. It can be enjoyed today from the parking lot, deck or bar at the High Point restaurant and lounge. “It started out as a roadhouse in the early 1930s,” said owner Bob Sepesy, who runs the place with his wife, Loretta. “We’re the third owners and have had it since 1986.” He said they’ve done extensive renovations to the restaurant, which is open every day but Sunday.

From the bar and lunch counter, the vista resembles a miniature train village with every aspect of modern life exhibited: trains on both sides of the river, houses, churches, factories, farmland and, of course, California University of Pennsylvania, just out of view to the right in the contemporary photograph.

A few people guessed that this view was of Brady’s Bend on the Allegheny River, but that’s not so. A few of the houses in Newell seem to be unchanged since the photo was taken, which we are quite certain was before 1903. We know that because that’s when the rail line through Newell opened, and there are no tracks visible in the old photo.

Fred Pozzuto of South Strabane Township wrote: “For many years I was an engineer responsible for issuing many of the river permits for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District. This particular bend in the river is well known to local tow boat pilots and was notorious to navigate by barges, especially empty barges on windy days. The Corps would not issue permits for marinas or docks on this certain stretch of the river because they would be a navigational hazard to barge traffic. Large tows need the full width of the river to navigate this bend and occasionally would run ashore if an inexperienced pilot would miscalculate his position in the navigation channel.”

Buzz Garnic runs a boxing gym in nearby Granville, where International Boxing Federation lightweight champ Paul Spadafora trained.

“I lived down there on the river 76 years,” Garnic said. “I remember boys – older boys, not me – used to jump off that pier there into the river to impress the girls.” The “pier” is actually a piling for a bridge to Newell that was never finished. “My mother used to work up at High Point for $3 a day.”

We apologize for not returning all the calls we received about this picture, and thank all who helped us identify it. Look for another Mystery Photo in next Monday’s Observer-Reporter.

Park Burroughs has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1972. He is the winner of numerous state and regional awards for feature, column and editorial writing. He is the author of two books, “Enter, With Torches: Recollections of a Grumpy Old Editor,” and "Washington County Murder and Mayhem." He retired in September 2012 but continues to contribute to the O-R’s news pages.

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