Salem Township park provided respite from Jim Crow-era discrimination

September 25, 2018

From the left, Chris Moore, Harvey Freeman, Olga George, Anita Jackson-Lowe and Darryl Lowe pose for a 2017 photo beneath the historic marker at Fairview Park in Salem Township. The park was purchased in 1945 as a welcoming place for African Americans during a time of segregation.

Harvey Freeman of Homestead remembers Fairview Park in its heyday.

“I used to come out here for church picnics, and sometimes there would be as many as 30 churches all here at once,” Freeman said of the Salem Township park. “There was a pool, there was a gas station and restaurant right on (Old William Penn) Highway. ... You could pull up here at one time and there would be 30 buses lined up from all different areas.”

Borne of segregation, Fairview Park was the only black-owned amusement park in Pennsylvania during the Jim Crow era. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Place, and its history will be on full display at the next American Association of University Women’s meeting, Sept. 13 in Murrysville.

Guest speaker Fawn Burch will give a presentation on the park, which was developed in 1945 by the Monongehela Valley Sunday School Association as an amusement park where black families were welcome, complete with a roller coaster, merry­-go-­round, and a picnic grove with a softball field and a swimming pool.

Today, it is managed by the Fairview Park Association.

For association trustee Darryl Lowe, who grew up in West Virginia, the park is a reminder of home.

“It’s peaceful,” Lowe said. “It’s nice to come out here and do some work. We have a chance to use our hands and fulfill this vision the founders had: of a great place with some solace.”

The Murrysville Area AAUW meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m. at the meeting room of the Murrysville Community Library, 4130 Sardis Road in Murrysville.

The public is welcome to attend. Please RSVP by Sept. 11 to MurrysvilleAAUW@gmail.com.

For more, see Murrysville-PA.AAUW.net.

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