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Flatiron Building Heritage Center


Flatiron Building Heritage Center


Location Details

PHONE: 724-785-9331
ADDRESS: 69 Market St.
Brownsville, PA 15417
HOURS: M-Sa 11-2; Su noon-4; or by appointment
COST: Donations welcome


When Brownsville residents visit the Flatiron Building Heritage Center, it’s as if they’re coming home. And in a way they are. Most of them grew up either in Brownsville or in one of the nearby coal-patch towns. Looking beyond the boarded-up buildings that so starkly define present-day Brownsville, these residents can see both a vibrant past and a purposeful future for the community. The Flatiron Building is an important part of that community and is the connecting point between Brownsville’s two historic districts.

Dating back to the 1830s, the building housed ethnic banks, taxi services, a trolley stop, and a number of different tailors, as well as the original Brownsville library and post office. There was even a vacuum-cleaner repair shop.

Named for its shape, the Flatiron currently houses a museum and gift shop, an art gallery, and the offices of the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation (BARC). In the museum, visitors learn about Brownsville’s Colonial past. The town took root at the western point of Nemacolin’s Trail, now known as U.S. Route 40 or the National Road. Brownsville’s role in river travel and commerce includes the production and launch of the nation’s first steamboat, the Enterprise, in 1814, and the construction of its first cast-iron bridge, completed in 1839. And as for Brownsville’s industrial legacy, the coal and coke mined in Fayette County passed through Brownsville on its way to feed the steel mills in Pittsburgh. These stories are told through artifacts, photographs, scale models, paintings, and a topographical map that interprets Brownsville’s participation in two Heritage Areas, Rivers of Steel and National Road.

The paintings and sculptures in the gallery tell the story of local artist Frank L. Melega (1905-1997). Melega got his start creating signs for Brownsville businesses. Intrigued by everyday life in and around the region’s coal patches, he began to paint images, including Sunday Morning in a patch town, Rescue from a mining accident, and Mine Explosion. Many of these images are on permanent display in the Flatiron Building, thanks to donations by the artist and his son. Although the scenes Melega depicted could be grim, he used light to convey hope and optimism.

That hope and optimism has become a guiding force for Brownsville as well.

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