Skip to main content

North Hills Monthly

Community Guide: Sewickley

Sep 30, 2015 02:34PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch
With its proximity to downtown Pittsburgh and its convenience to the airport, Sewickley’s location is ideal. But it’s more than just a stop on the way to somewhere else. “Sewickley is a walking town, and people are really drawn to that,” explained Jennifer Markus, co-founder of Village Green Partners, a nonprofit that promotes Sewickley through marketing and business development. “There are not a lot of small communities in Pittsburgh where you can walk everywhere.”

The word Sewickley is derived from the Native American word seweekly, meaning ‘sweet water,’ which refers to the ‘water’ that seeps from maple trees. Many of the area’s wealthiest residents called Sewickley home, including the Heinz family and other industrialists who helped to shape Pittsburgh. Sewickley’s long and proud history resonates throughout the borough, where stately mansions dot the neighborhoods, and many buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Though the borough of Sewickley is only 1.2 square miles and has a population of just under 4,000, 13 communities in two counties boast the Sewickley zip code, including folks in Franklin Park and Economy Borough.

Most of Sewickley’s retailers are located on Broad and Beaver Streets, a charming area boasting unique, trendy and upscale shops and eateries. Those who mourn the decline of independent bookstores have much to celebrate at Penguin Bookshop, which hosts author visits and children’s programs. Another rarity in Sewickley is a locally owned grocery store, Safran’s Supermarket.

If shopping makes you hungry, there are numerous offerings, including Sewickley Café, Sewickley Hotel and Salud Juicery. Unique desserts can be found at the Ultimate Pastry Shop or the Sewickley Confectionary.

As you might expect in a walking town, fitness is a priority in Sewickley. Not only does the Sewickley Valley YMCA serve 10,000 people and offer many fitness and programming options, but private businesses include Clearly Pilates, Saltpower Yoga and Yoga in Sewickley. For a truly luxurious end to a day of shopping and browsing along the main thoroughfare, there’s also Aveda Van Salon and the Sewickley Spa.

Culture, Education and the Arts
Many of the stately homes that are the hallmark of Sewickley are surrounded by beautiful gardens. The Sewickley Civic Garden Council hosts an annual tour each summer to showcase their beauty. The Sweetwater Center for the Arts offers concerts as well as more than 400 classes in the visual and culinary arts.

Educational options in Sewickley are not only varied, but are second to none. The Quaker Valley School District earned a gold rating from U.S. News and World Report, with its high school consistently ranked in the top 10 in Pennsylvania. The renowned Sewickley Academy in neighboring Edgeworth attracts students from all over the city, while Montessori Children’s Community and St. James School round out the stellar educational choices.

In recent years, Sewickley has experienced a bit of a renaissance, while still maintaining its character. Many new businesses and restaurants have set up shop in Sewickley over the past few years, serving as a complement to the beautiful and historic homes and buildings throughout the borough.

A major upcoming project in Sewickley is the construction of the 11,800 square foot Vanguard Theater, an initiative of the Village Theater Company, which is scheduled to open next summer. The theater will show independent, classic and second-run films while providing programming and live performances.

And more construction is to come, reports Borough Manager Kevin Flannery. “There is a 30,000 square foot office being built, and Howard Hanna is rebuilding their building that burnt down and putting in a 4,000 square foot office,” he said. “The former Country Inn site will be 10 new homes, with three already under construction, and 16 condos.

“There is some development and there is growth,” he added. “The borough has taken great strides over past 12 years to rebuild our infrastructure.”

Events and Goings-On
There is something interesting happening in Sewickley throughout the year, including two events that help folks deal with the mid-winter doldrums—the much-anticipated Chocolate Walk in February and the Soup Crawl in March. In spring, Sewickley is the site of a spring gallery walk; a pet parade in May called Sewickley Unleashed; a house tour sponsored by the Child Health Association; and one of the oldest Memorial Day parades in the state of Pennsylvania, complete with fireworks.

Upcoming Events
  • Oct. 9: Sweet Blues Series Kickoff Party featuring Billy Price. Sweetwater Center for the Arts, 6:30-10 p.m., Sewickley Heights Golf Club
  • Oct. 10: Sewickley 5K Heart & Sole Run, sponsored by Sewickley Valley Health System
  • Oct. 31: Halloween Parade, trick-or-treating in the business district
  • Nov. 4: Sixth Annual Sewickley Wine Walk, sponsored by the Sewickley Chamber of Commerce 5-8:30 p.m.
  • Nov. 14: 15th Annual Unique Boutique, Edgeworth Club, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Nov. 28: Small Business Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Dec. 4: Sewickley Light Up Night, 5-9 p.m.
  • Dec. 5: Santa Parade, 10:30-11 a.m.