|Penn-McKee Hotel has stood vacant for many years|
In April 1947, at what was then McKeesport's premier hotel, the Penn-McKee, a 90-minute debate on labor law took place between future U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. The freshmen congressmen took opposing positions on the proposed Taft-Hartley Act, which, when it became law, eventually curtailed much of the labor activism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Thirteen years after that debate, the two politicians faced off again as candidates for the presidency on national television. While the audience and stakes were greater in that debate, local groups have ensured that McKeesport's role in the early history of two giants of American politics is not forgotten. At its October board meeting, the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission approved a historical marker for the site of the 1947 debate.
The designation caps a campaign by the McKeesport Preservation Society and the Battle of Homestead Foundation to obtain the coveted blue-and-gold state historic marker to be erected outside the hotel, which now stands vacant. The unveiling of the marker and a symposium on the debate and the Taft-Hartley legislation are planned for April 21, 2012, the 65th anniversary of the debate. Society director Maryann Huk said her group is forming partnerships to start restoration to reopen the Penn-McKee Hotel on Fifth Avenue, which had hosted numerous civic and private events since it opened in 1926.
McKeesport Preservation Society
Metro Pittsburgh Real Estate