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North Hills Monthly

Community Guide: West View

Oct 30, 2015 03:05PM ● By Jill Cueni Cohen
Established in 1905, the small, 1.3-square mile borough of West View has a firm place in history thanks to the former West View Park amusement park. However, as time goes by, the area’s original claim-to-fame dims in significance as a new crop of families now call West View home.

According to Bruce Fromlak, West View’s longtime police chief and manager, the area has retained its small-town feel and continues to emulate the borough’s 50-year-old slogan: ‘A good place to live’ even as its demographics change. “For a while, West View was an older community, but there are now more children as younger families move into the area,” he said, noting that West View Elementary School is one of the larger elementary schools in the North Hills School District. “As a borough, we provide services to our residents that people wouldn’t necessarily get in a larger community, and we get to know everyone personally.”

Now memorialized in the name of a shopping center where rollercoasters once stood, West View Park used to be located in West View Borough’s valley, which was accessible to Pittsburgh streetcar riders via the #10 West View route. The ‘trolley park’ and was quite popular until its demise in 1977 after 71 years of operation, and West View Park Shopping Center opened in 1981.

According to John Schalcosky, 33, president of the West View Historical Society, there’s still tremendous interest in the old park and the history of the area in general. Boasting approximately 5,000 members, those in the society know that West View is much more than just the site of a bygone amusement park. “I wasn’t even born when West View Park was there,” said Schalcosky, adding that the group meets bi-monthly and operates solely on social networking groups. “The younger generation has no idea about the park; there is so much more history here than that.” In fact, West View is the location of the very first non native white people born north of Pittsburgh in 1798: twins Casper and David Reel.

Casper Reel’s grave, which is located on the site of the old Highland Country Club property, will be protected, even as the site is developed. “There will be expensive homes and townhomes built there, and that will change things,” said Schalcosky of construction in the area. “There will be a larger influx of a different type of crowd, but in West View you can get a reasonably sized house at a reasonable rent, and you can still find that.”

Locally owned bars and businesses that have been in the borough forever still line the streets, including one of the oldest diners in the country—the West View Isaly’s. The name has been altered, but the interior, with its pressed-tin ceiling, is as authentic as it was in the 1950s.

The borough is also home to several schools. “We have a new school in the plaza that teaches medical records, dental assistance, massage therapy, etc... and there’s also a karate school on the hill,” said Fromlak. “This is a place where you can learn a vocation, make yourself better, even progress your career.”

One perk of living in West View with kids is its long-running free Summer Recreation Program, which operates from June through August. “Between 35 to 50 children are hosted at West View Elementary; they do things like go on field trips to PNC Park for a behind-the-scenes tour and to the Avonworth pool every Tuesday,” said Fromlak, noting that the program has been running since the early 1970s.

“We still have our yearly Halloween parade,” said Fromlak, adding that volunteers pack more than 1,200 bags to give to borough residents who march in the parade. “Our Memorial Day parade is hosted by the VFW, and we support it. Everybody comes out for this event, which always brings the community together.”

Fromlak added that West View’s Community Days, which are normally held during the second or third Saturday in June, are well-attended, and that the borough is considering showing movies in the park again, because it was such a big success in the past. “Older couples, people with kids…everyone turned out for that,” he said. The borough’s holiday celebration will kick off on December 4th, with choirs, visits from Santa, and a huge Christmas tree beside the municipal building.

“West View is an extremely safe place to live, shop and work,” said Fromlak, adding that the town’s crime rate is low. “It’s a really good place to live.”