UPCOMING EVENTS and LATEST NEWS (as of 08/13/17)

GALLERY - see new pics of two of our morerecent groups that visited the Smog Museum - the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Washington County Community Foundation - Women of Philanthropy Giving Circle.

DONORA DRAGONS FOOTBALL – GAME FILM EVENTDue to the excitement generated from our ongoing game film project, our first “Game Film Event”, to show and relive Donora Dragon football games from the 1960’s with former coaches, players, cheerleaders, band members and fans – a “Return to Glory” is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon, September 23, 2017 at the Croatian Club (Cro Club) in Donora located at 329 Castner Avenue.  The games will be shown in the club hall with food and drinks available for purchase from the Cro Club.  The event is free but donations will be gladly accepted.  We encourage audience participation by sharing your stories or memorabilia as we show portions of various games.  We also welcome your ideas or volunteer time before September to make the day extra special.  Please RSVP for the Game Film Event, or with your ideas or interest in volunteering, by contacting the Donora Historical Society by phone or email.  Prior to the Game Film event at 3:00 p.m., we encourage you to visit the Smog Museum at 595 McKean Avenue to see our rotating exhibit titled “History of Donora Dragon Football” that will feature photos, game balls and programs, lettermen’s jackets and leather helmets.  Hear stories about Coach Jimmy Russell, Jake Kovalcik, Dan Towler, Larry Crawford, Ken Griffey and many others, as well as Donora’s football ties to the likes of Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi.  After a good understanding of where football in Donora got its start, we’ll head up to the Cro Club to watch some games, swap stories and have a good time.  Follow the “Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum” and the “Donora Cro Club” on Facebook for future updates.


Our next Cement City Home and Walking Tour is scheduled for Sunday, October 15th at 1:00 p.m.  Space is limited.  Click on the  Cement City tab above to learn more.  RSVP to hold your spot.  If Oct 15th sells out, we may also schedule Saturday, October 15th. 

$5 T-Shirt closeout sale - limited size quantities and colors - Sweatshirts are SOLD OUT - Click on our site's Merchandise tab to see style and colors.  Shipping and Handling is extra.  T-shirts also available at the Donora Public Library during the week and on Saturdays.


facebook - find us and like us by searching on Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum.  All of our upcoming presentations and events will be announced here on this website, on facebook, and various newspapers.



 
 
The Founding of Donora -- The Big Bang...
 
Well, not all of a sudden...  
 
Once roamed by Iroquois, and then the Delaware, Shawnee and Mingo Native Americans, in 1769, a village 30 miles south of Pittsburgh known as Horseshoe Bottom because of its horseshoe river border, was formally recognized as a settlement when grain mill owner Nicholas Crist surveyed the area.  He later called it Strasburg in 1784.

 

In 1814, Charles DeHaas attempted to start a town in the same area called Pittsborough, but then later changed it to Columbia and then finally to West Columbia.  In the summer of 1815, twenty houses were built, and in 1819, a post office was established.  Shortly after, the prosperity of the place seems to have waned and the lots passed from one owner to another during the next three-quarters of a century.  The photo to the left shows Watkins General Store in West Columbia probably in the 1890's. 

 

In the late 1800's, America was being transformed by two powerful forces:  Industrialization and immigration.  "Company towns,” sprang up almost overnight and were the instant creations of steelmasters, bankers, and mining and railroad barons.  The immigrants search for work was successful in the industrial and mining communities of Western Pennsylvania. 

 

The photo to the right shows Webster, Pennsylvania in the foreground on the Monongahela River just opposite of what was the relatively undeveloped town of West Columbia in the background, probably in the late 1800's.  This is the earliest picture that we have of our town.

 

OK, now...

 

It wasn't until 1899, when Andrew W. Mellon, Richard B. Mellon, Henry Clay Frick and William H. Donner formed the Union Improvement Company, that the area surrounding West Columbia had much growth.

 

The next year in 1900, this company purchased over 500 acres with the intention of building an industrial complex and community.  The Monongahela River Valley was already well established as one of the largest steel-making centers in the world and this new town would be the final piece.  When lot sales were opened (see photo to the left) on August 30, 1900, there was a rush of people to the new town.  What was once a village of only four houses with twelve persons residing therein, the new town would swell in three years to 1,000 buildings and over 6,000 people.

 

The Union Improvement Company broke ground for the Union Steel Company on May 29, 1900, and at the time was one of the largest plants of its kind in the United States, occupying a 300 acre footprint along the riverfront.  The Union Steel Company was later purchased by the United States Steel Corporation under the name of the American Steel & Wire Company.
 
Mellon Bank provided the financing for the new town and as a gesture of good faith and success in their venture, Donner's name was combined with the name of Andrew Mellon's bride Nora to create the community's unique name of Donora.  The photo to the right is the corner of McKean Avenue and Fifth Street.  The building on the left was once Mellon Bank, but not in 1900.
 
The borough of Donora was incorporated on February 11, 1901, and in May, 1903, the village of West Columbia was taken in as part of Donora.
 
Aside from the 1948 Smog incident, the steel mill would serve Donora well for the next 60 or so years until it started to close in the late 1950's and finishing in the late 1960's.  Although the mills have long since gone, today Donora has a thriving industrial park in the footprint of the original mill.

  

Always more than just a mill town, Donora was a dynamic and diverse community:  22 churches and a synagogue, numerous ethnic social, political and beneficial associations, dozens of social clubs and fraternal organizations, sports teams, bands and an orchestra.  The education system, always a priority and point of community pride, produced doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, business people, entrepreneurs, politicians, college presidents, journalists, teachers, entertainers, sports celebrities and more.
 
Donora tells the story of industrial America:  immigration, hard work, sacrifice and a devotion to faith, family, education and country.
 
Donora has a rich history and the Donora Historical Society has been preserving that history since 1946.  Please learn more about our history while visiting this website or stop by our museum to see our vast collection of artifacts related to our town -- next to yours the best town in the USA!