A Brief History of Sewickley
Sewickley is a borough located about 12 miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh with a population of around 3,000. The borough of this lovely neighborhood is bordered by Edgeworth, Osborne and Sewickley Heights. Three of the 11 municipalities located near the town all share the same post office and 15143 zip code. The “village” as the locals like to refer to it, is just across the Ohio River from Moon Twp.
The origins of Sewickley are rooted in major historical events of the 18th century, including the French and Indian War, Pontiac’s Rebellion, and the American Revolution. The name “Sewickley” is believed to have originated from Native American words for “raccoon” and “town”. The land, initially inhabited by Native Americans, was surveyed and sold to American Revolutionary War veterans post the war.
In 1794, following the Battle of Fallen Timbers that crushed the last Indian resistance, the first settlers made their way to Sewickley.
The early 19th century saw an increase in traffic heading westward, resulting in the growth of inns and taverns. The Ohio River was bustling with flatboats, keelboats, and steamboats.
Sewickley’s sense of community solidified in 1837 when James and Mary Olver moved their school from Pittsburgh to Sewickley, establishing the Edgeworth Female Seminary. The coeducational Sewickley Academy was founded a year later, making Sewickley a hub for education.
The arrival of the railroad in 1851 spurred rapid development, transforming Sewickley into an attractive suburb of Pittsburgh. Over time, the borough became home to several train stations, including Haysville, Glen Osborne, Sewickley, Roseburg, Quaker Valley, Edgeworth, Shields, and Leetsdale.
On July 6, 1853, the Borough of Sewickley was officially incorporated. It was followed by the incorporation of Osborne Borough in 1883, and Edgeworth and Leetsdale in 1904.
The heights above Sewickley were developed into magnificent homes and farms, attracting some of America’s wealthiest families. The allure of the Heights was amplified when the Allegheny Country Club moved there in 1902, fostering a community that revolved around the club.
Sewickley’s connectivity improved significantly with the completion of the Sewickley-Coraopolis Bridge in 1911, connecting the north and south banks of the Ohio River. A second bridge replaced the original in 1981. The construction of Ohio River Boulevard, completed in 1934, further enhanced the borough’s infrastructure.
Facts About Sewickley
The name of the town is said to be a Native American word meaning “sweet water.” Most take that to mean the Ohio River, but historians debate whether its that or the syrup from all the maple trees. The Sewickley Public Library is one of the top 25 largest libraries in the Pittsburgh Business Times Book of Lists. Multiple movies were filmed in this neighborhood, including Houseguest (where a local Bruegger’s was briefly turned into a working McDonald’s). Scenes from Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher, The Lifeguard with Kristen Bell and the Mothman Prophecies. Foxcatcher, with big names like Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum was also shot in the Sewickley area.
The population of Sewickley peaked in the 1960 census, with over 6,000 residents. However, as of the 2020 census, the population was 3,907. Sewickley is predominantly White, with African American and other races constituting a smaller percentage of the population.
Sewickley is home to several private schools, including Sewickley Academy, St. James Catholic School, Eden Christian Academy, and Montessori Children’s Community. The public school system, Quaker Valley School District, is known for its innovative approach to education and is among the top-ranked school districts in the nation.
Heritage Valley Sewickley, part of the Heritage Valley Health System, provides comprehensive health care for residents in and around Sewickley. The health system includes medical, surgical, and diagnostic services at its hospitals, community satellite facilities, and physician offices.
The Sewickley Cemetery, opened in 1860, is home to several war memorials and is the final resting place for over 12,000 people.
Sewickley’s rich historical journey, vibrant community life, and cultural significance make it a fascinating borough to explore. Whether it’s the borough’s role in shaping education in the region, its contribution to health care, or its representation in popular culture, Sewickley continues to be a dynamic and evolving borough in Pennsylvania.