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Moon Township is a township along the Ohio River in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States. Moon is a part of the Pittsburgh Metro Area and is located 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Pittsburgh. The origin of its name is unknown; historians suggest it was derived from a crescent-shaped bend in the river. Local lore tells of a waning crescent moon that descended to plow furrows in farmer's fields with its sharp cusp, but killed many excited witnesses who cursed and praised the moon's early morning activities. The population was 24,185 at the 2010 census.
The initial settlement of Moon Township was a direct result of the westward expansion of English settlers and traders who arrived in the Ohio Valley in the early to mid-18th century. During the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), the Iroquois, which controlled the land for hunting grounds through right of conquest, ceded large parcels of southwestern Pennsylvania lands through treaty or abandonment to settlers; in some cases, the land was already occupied by squatters. The ceding of these lands occurred either through early treaties or outright abandonment by the Iroquois nation, the avowed owners of the land.
On the southern banks of the Ohio, political disputes among settlers clouded the disposition of lands. Generally, the Pennsylvania Land Office apportioned land to owners through grants. But, some of the land encompassing what is now the Coraopolis Heights, Thorn Run valley, and Narrows Run valley were claimed through the process of "Tomahawk Improvements". Settlement processes were often convoluted because of differences among land policies of the several colonies claiming the land, specifically Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Each colony had its own means of either granting or restricting settlement opportunities. Each settler claiming land in what is now Moon Township had to go through a multi-level process of application for grant, warrant of property, and survey to ensure the physical boundaries of the property, and patent approval whereby the applicant paid for the land and title was conferred.
On April 3, 1769, Andrew Montour, an Indian interpreter who had provided service to the English settlers during the French and Indian War, was granted one of the first land patents for approximately 350 acres (1.4 km2) of what later became the borough of Coraopolis and Neville Island. In 1773, the settler John Meek was awarded a 400-acre (1.6 km2) land grant from Virginia above the river bottom and between the Thorn Run and Montour Run valleys, and "Moon Township" was born.
The settlers Robert Loudon and John Vail were awarded grants to a total of 600 acres (2.4 km2). Loudon's tract was situated on the Coraopolis Heights adjacent to the Meek grant. Vail's grant was established somewhere between the current Thorn Run and Narrows Run valleys (although this location is open to some interpretation).
Three other early grants were warranted by either Virginia or Pennsylvania land speculators. The boundaries of these land tracts are hard to identify, but historians believe that they encompassed about 700 acres (2.8 km2) or so, and were occupied by anonymous squatters. while the history is not known, scholars believe the squatters were somehow marginal to the social order. In abandoning their lands, the squatters ceded any potential claims to settlers who would otherwise improve and/or cultivate the land.
As the 18th century drew to a close, abandoned lands were taken up by new settlers who were drawn to the region by the fertility of the soil. This round of pioneers were, by and large, wealthier than their predecessors and had the means to develop the broken and hilly areas into plots suitable for farming.
At this time Moon Township occupied an enormous tract of land - possibly 145 square miles (380 km2). The sheer difficulty of residents performing their civic duties (e.g., report to assigned polling places or attend jury trials) made it necessary for local governing authorities to parcel out the land into smaller municipalities. So in 1790, the current Fayette Townships were portioned off from Moon Township, to be followed by Findlay and Crescent townships, respectively.
In 1943, the federal government designed and built a housing plan known as Mooncrest for defense workers. Mooncrest residents produced armor plates, munitions and ships at the nearby Dravo Corp. during World War II. Operated by the U.S. Air Force after 1945, homes were sold to private investors in the mid-1950s.
Moon became home to Pittsburgh's modern-day airport in 1951, replacing the Allegheny County Airport as the main terminal for the region. The area developed mainly due to the airport. Prior to this time, the western hills of Allegheny County consisted largely of rolling farms and small residential developments. On April 1, 1956, TWA Flight 400 crashed on takeoff from the airport, killing 22 persons just past the east end of the runway, which lies in Moon Township.
During the Cold War, Moon Township was the location of Nike Site PI-71, which was a battery of Nike Ajax and/or Nike Hercules surface-to-air missiles, used by US armed forces for high – and medium-altitude air defense. The former missile site is now a nature preserve.
Development of Pennsylvania Route 60 (now Interstate 376) to the Pittsburgh airport, plus the addition of the Parkway West from Pittsburgh and nearby exits of Interstate 79, allowed Moon to become the area's crossroads for transportation via air and road.
In 1991, the relocation of the landside terminal of the Pittsburgh International Airport to nearby Findlay Township resulted in a loss in traffic to the township. Moon experienced a significant loss of tax revenues but has since rebounded as the cargo area for the airport.
A large part of the airport's runways and facilities are located within the boundary of Moon Township, although the terminal and about half of the airport's land area are in Findlay Township, to the west.
The township is home to the Air Force Reserve 911th Airlift Wing, which was established in 1943. Moon is also home to the 171st Air Refueling Wing of the Pa. Air National Guard. Additionally, the Army has its 99th Regional Readiness Command, built in the late 1990s in Moon Township.
Since the loss of the airport terminal, the township has shifted its focus from airport commerce to corporate development, residences and university hub. The main campus of Robert Morris University is also located within the township.
Growth is expected to continue in Moon in the near future due to many new construction projects such as the redevelopment of University Boulevard and conversion of the West Hills Shopping Center into a new shopping plaza.
Ground was broken in late 2006 on the new Cherrington Parkway extension. The extension, anticipated to be opened in early 2008, will create additional shovel-ready land for Class A office space, for corporate development.
As a result of Robert Morris University, the college feeds much of the economy along the township's University Boulevard area.
After years of declining its operations in Moon Township, US Airways announced Feb. 20, 2007, it would build its flight operations center on a piece of land adjacent to the Pittsburgh International Airport and Business Route 60 (now Interstate 376 Business). The center would retain 450 high paying jobs and increase it by 150 for a total of 600 jobs.
Wal-Mart officials announced their plans to build a supercenter location on the site of what's now the West Hills Shopping Center. The company also purchased two adjacent parcels of land along Brodhead Road. The store could open as soon as 2010. As of June 9, 2014, Wal-Mart has still not begun construction at this site.
On the morning of Aug. 14, 2003, the former Beers School and Narrows Run roads became known as University Boulevard, a move that helped to promote the township as the home of Robert Morris University.
The new road name also depicts the township's efforts to re-emerge as a business-dominant community. Since the 2003 renaming, township officials have researched various zoning ordinances to piece together Moon's main business corridor.
Playing off the township's unique name, supervisors in 2005 gave Moon a new slogan, "Explore Our Universe." "The slogan is a play not only on the township's lunar name but also on Robert Morris University and the University Boulevard business corridor, which township officials would like investors and consumers to explore a little more thoroughly," wrote the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005.
Moon Park, the township's largest community park, was to begin a $10 million renovation in the spring of 2008.
Moon Township is home to the Moon Area School District, which consists of students from both Moon and Crescent townships. The school district enrolls approximately 3,800 students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade.
The township is also situated next to Hopewell Township in Beaver County.
In 2007, Moon Township was honored with several honors as one of the country's best places to live.
Township officials had no idea the community received the award until Greg Smith, the township's manager, found the report online. The recognition includes the 15108 zip code covering Coraopolis borough, Kennedy and Moon townships.
Moon also was included in the 2007 "Best Places To Raise Your Family" published by Wiley Publishing, Inc. Moon is featured on pages 166-167. This listing included Coraopolis and Moon as the rankings are based on zip code.
Moon was nominated as a runner up in the list of top Pittsburgh suburbs to raise a family in 2013.
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Because Pittsburgh International Airport is adjacent to Moon, many presidential visits to the Pittsburgh area start in Moon. For example, President Gerald Ford made a surprise visit to Moon a day after pardoning President Richard M. Nixon on Sept. 9, 1974. President Bill Clinton in the 1990s greeted Prime Minister John Major of Great Britain at a hangar at the 911th Air Wing of the Air force Reserve at the Pittsburgh International Airport in Moon Township. In 2008, Clinton made a campaign appearance at Robert Morris University. A day after securing the Democratic nomination for president, then-Vice President Al Gore held a rally at Moon's high school gym on March 16, 2000. September 2009 President Obama visited Pittsburgh for the G-20 conference.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the township has a total area of 24.1 square miles (62 km2), of which 23.7 square miles (61 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2), or 1.41%, is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 22,290 people, 8,445 households, and 5,767 families residing in the township. The population density was 939.1 people per square mile (362.5/km²). There were 9,200 housing units at an average density of 387.6/sq mi (149.6/km²). The racial makeup of the township was 93.17% White, 3.58% African American, 0.06% Native American, 1.94% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.25% from other races, and 0.97% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.99% of the population.
There were 8,445 households out of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.9% were married couples living together, 7.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.7% were non-families. 26.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.99.
In the township the population was spread out with 22.1% under the age of 18, 10.6% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 24.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 97.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.1 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $57,173, and the median income for a family was $68,256. Males had a median income of $48,444 versus $31,073 for females. The per capita income for the township was $26,457. About 2.2% of families and 4.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.6% of those under age 18 and 3.5% of those age 65 or over.