Finch’s Crossing is based on Scottdale, Pennsylvania, an idyllic little town of about five thousand residents nestled in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. At one time, Scottdale had the distinction of having more millionaires per capita than any other town in the United States. Much of those millions came from coke production (not the soda). Coke was made from bituminous coal, and was an important fuel for blast furnaces for iron smelting and the production of cast iron. Western Pennsylvania was heavily involved in coke production from the late 1800s into the early 1900s. Scottdale’s idyllic, tree-lined streets are populated with the large, lovely homes built by affluent citizens during that time. Neighborhoods display a wide variety of architectural styles, with walkways pouring out onto wide stone sidewalks, now buckled in places by roots from massive trees. Scottdale's commercial district on Pittsburgh Street boasts several boutiques and a few restaurants.
The Scottdale Library on Pittsburgh Street was a tiny place, much like the shotgun houses in the South, narrow places with one room behind another instead of side by side. I spent many happy hours here as a child. The library also delivered books to my Grandmother Martha, who was almost completely bedridden with arthritis.
Run by the Mennonites, the Provident Bookstore, now gone, was one of my favorite places to visit. In addition to books, it also had little stationery items perfect for a little girl’s hands—tiny notebook and pencil sets, Dover sticker books, and laminated inspirational bookmarks.
Burns Drug is the model for Hoffman’s Drugstore in Finch’s Crossing, where friends and neighbors meet at the lunch counter for a bite and the local gossip. Burns was a small local family chain started in the 1930s and closed in 2009. In its heyday, it was the hangout for local teenagers after school.
My Grandmother Martha lived on Loucks Avenue. A widow for many years, she lived there with her two cats, Smokey and Fluffy. When my Grandfather Lee was alive he grew award-winning roses in the side yard.
My Grandmother Ruby lived on Arthur Avenue where she built this modest rancher after her husband died and her children were nearly grown.
The Greystone Manor in Finch’s Crossing is named for the actual Greystone Manor on Chestnut Street in Scottdale. The building has been home to Greystone Manor Decorators Fine Gifts & Home Accessories and the Chamber of Commerce. In my opinion it is one of the most beautiful structures in Scottdale and grand enough to be the historic inn on the outskirts of Finch’s Crossing. Built in 1905 for coal industrialist E.H. Reid, the mansion has four-stories in the classic revival style. Unoccupied at the moment, it has been used as a movie set from time to time. Recently, local civic and preservation groups have joined forces with the historical society to restore and preserve the Greystone.