About Us

Donora Historical Society
 
Background
 
The Donora Historical Society was established in 1946 and incorporated in 1996 and is recognized as the oldest community historical society in Washington County of Pennsylvania.  We are a non-profit with 501(c)3 status and operate on a volunteer basis.  Our parent historical societies are the Washington Country Historical Society and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.  The original charter members did yeomen's work with laying the foundation for preserving Donora's history.  The members that followed would continue that work for the next 70 years.  As a testament to all of their hard work and dedication, we have a plethora of artifacts and documents that we can use for research and presentation purposes.  In 2008, we opened our present facility to showcase our artifacts and call it the Smog Museum, thus our formal title is the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum.  They are one in the same entity.
 
Please click on the YouTube videos below for an introduction to the Donora Historical Society:
 

Introduction to the Donora Historical Society

 
as well as
 

Introduction to Donora Historical Society

 
These videos were created.by two Cal U of PA English Honors students:  Rachael Fawley and Corrine Dowlin, as part of a "Digital Storytelling" class that was also sponsored by the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh.
 
Additional information on Cal U and their "Digital Storytelling" class can be found on their website Cal U of PA.
 

 
Partners and Supporters

The Donora Historical Society is proud to list these businesses and non-profits as partners and supporters of the Society.   Their help and contributions go a long way to the ongoing preservation of Donora history.
  
Beistel Machining                                            23 McKean Avenue, Donora
BPO Elks                                                                 Meldon Avenue, Donora
Max Chywski - State Farm Insurance                 Route 835, Monongahela
Colgan Insurance Agency Inc.                      537 McKean Avenue, Donora
CSC Insurance                                      4552 Route 51 South, Belle Vernon
Del Suppo, Inc.                                                 26 McKean Avenue, Donora
Delsandro Family                                                 Donora and Hampton, VA
Eastern Alloy, Inc.                                         1138 Meldon Avenue, Donora
Gilmore Electric                                                      Meldon Avenue, Donora
Hanna Sales                                                    833 McKean Avenue, Donora
Donora Union Pharmacy                               642 McKean Avenue, Donora
JED Heating and Cooling, Inc.                      840 McKean Avenue, Donora
Rivers of Steel Heritage Area                623 E. Eighth Avenue, Homestead
Washington County Community Foundation 331 S Main St, Washington
Washington County Tourism                   273 South Main St,, Washington
 

 
Grants Awarded To Date
 
2010 - Washington County Community Foundation - McBride-McMaster
           Historical Education Grant - used to develop glass plate negatives
           from our Bruce Dreisbach Collection.  (1)
2013 - Washington County Tourism - Marketing Grant - used to 
           update brochures and to purchase table covers.  (1)
2013 - Washington County Tourism - Capital Grant - used to purchase
           display cases.  (2)
2014 - River of Steel Heritage Area - used to develop glass plate
           negatives from our Bruce Dreisbach Collection.  (1)
2014 - Washington County Community Foundation - McBride-McMaster
           Historical Education Grant - used to purchase archival quality
           storage boxes.  (1)
2015 - FirstEnergy Foundation - used for the Civil War Exhibit.  (.5)
2015 - Washington County Chamber of Commerce / Tourism -
           Marketing Grant - used to create Cement City Home and Walking
           Tour brochures.  (1)
2016 - Washington County Community Foundation - Hart History Fund
           Grant - used to develop glass plate negatives from our Bruce
           Dreisbach Collection.  (1)
 

 
Meetings
 
We meet the second Tuesday of each month for most of the year.  Our business meetings start at 6:00 p.m. and the historical presentations that are open to the general public, start at 7:00 p.m. and last for around 60 to 90 minutes.  On occasion we will meet at the Donora Public Library if we are expecting larger crowds.  On other occasions we may meet on a Saturday instead of Monday.
 
The months that we don't have meetings are as follows:
        January  - off for holidays
        July        - off for the summer
        August    - off for the summer
 
For 2016, the presentation schedule is as follows:
         June 22nd - Wednesday - at the Mon Valley YMCA - History
                             Enthusiasts Day - War of the Rebellion and local Civil
                             War veterans at 1:00 p.m.
         July 10th - Sunday - BOOK SIGNING - Seeing Clearly Through The
                        Smog... Clearly! - at the Donora Public Library at 1:00 p.m. 
         July 20th - Wednesday - at the Mon Valley YMCA - History
                           Enthusiasts Day - Eldora Park at 1:00 p.m
         October 8th - Saturday - Terry Necciai from Monongahela will
                               present Wildflowers:  The Nellie Sickels Album -
                              1:00 p.m.
         November 12th - Saturday - Donora Veteran's by Brian Charlton 
         December 7th - Wednesday - no meeting - Christmas dinner at 6:30
                                   p.m. at Duke's Restaurant



 
Special Events
 
On Monday, February 20, 2017 at 1:00 p.m., Smog Museum archivist and curator Brian Charlton will present The African-American Community in Donora for Black History Month at the Mon Valley YMCA for a History Enthusiast Lunch and Learn Program.

On Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 12:00 p.m., we will be having our first annual Eldora Park Walking Tour. Call for more information.

On Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 1:00 p.m., we will be having our seventh annual Cement City Home and Walking Tour #1. See the Cement City  page for more information.

On Sunday, April 23, 2017 at 1:00 p.m., we will be having our seventh annual Cement City Home and Walking Tour #1. See the Cement City page for more information.
  
On Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 11:00 a.m., Smog Museum archivist and curator Brian Charlton will present Stan "The Man" Musial  at the West End Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh at the West End.
 
On Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 3:00 p.m., we will be having our Football Game Film Event at the Donora Cro Club.  See the Home page for more information.

On Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 1:00 p.m., we will be having our seventh annual Cement City Home and Walking Tour #2. The Steelers game this day is scheduled at 4:15 p.m.  See the Cement City page for more information.

On Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 7:00 p.m., Smog Museum archivist and curator Brian Charlton will present Cement City  at the Lawrenceville Historical Society at the Lawrenceville Library.

 

On xxxxxday, xxxx, 00, 2016 starting at 9:00 a.m., we will be conducting our third annual Environmental Conference in remembrance of the 67th Anniversary of the 1948 Smog event. More details can be found on the Environmental Conference page.
  

 
Membership
 
A $15.00 donation for an individual membership ($25.00 for family) is all it takes to officially join the Historical Society each year.  Stop in at the Museum and sign up today, send us an email to request a membership/donation form, or if you would like to join the historical society to fund future projects, please make your check payable to:
 
    Donora Historical Society
 
along with your contact information and send it to:
 
    Donora Historical Society
    P.O. Box 522
    Donora, PA 15033
 
NOTE:  Keep in mind your donation is tax deductible.
 

Museum

The Society maintains a museum.  Please click on the Museum page for more information.
 

 
Volunteering
 
Our work is being carried out by a talented and devoted group of volunteers and members who share the common goal of strengthening and advancing the mission of the society.  If you would like to volunteer, please stop by the museum, email or call us to discuss further.
 

 
Funding
 
The costs of maintaining the museum and starting new projects are our biggest challenge.  With your help, these and other projects and programs can continue.  The Society relies solely on the sale of our Merchandise, contributions and fund raising to maintain the day-to-day expenses of the museum.   Please invest in the Society's efforts of preserving and promoting our town's history by making a special donation.
 
If you would like to donate to the historical society to keep the museum up and running and fund future projects, please make your check payable to:
 
    Donora Historical Society
 
and send it to:
 
    Donora Historical Society
    P.O. Box 522
    Donora, PA 15033
 
NOTE:  Keep in mind your donation is tax deductible.
 

 

Heinz History Center Affiliation

In 2013, the Donora Historical Society joined the Heinz History Center's - History Center Affiliate Program (HCAP).  Since then we've worked on numerous projects together, some of which are listed below:
  • October 2012 - Brian Charlton presented at the Heinz History Center as part of the Environmental Teen Town Hall & National Youth Summit on the Dust Bowl by Ken Burns with a live webcast with the Smithsonian Institution;
  • September 2013 - Brian Charlton wrote an article for the Heinz History Center's Western PA History magazine titled, "Cement City: Thomas Edison's Experiment With Worker's Housing In Donora."  The magazine can be found on our Merchandise page;
  • Fall of 2013 - HCAP sponsored program with Cal U of PA Honors English class titled "Digital Storytelling".  The result was the video found on our 1948 Smog page titled, "A Town Called Donora";
  • October 2013 - Heinz History Center helped organize and staff our first Environmental Conference titled, “Commemorating the 1948 Donora Smog Disaster -- a seminal moment in environmental history”;
  • March 2014 - we hosted a group of Heinz History Center docents for a special Cement City Home and Walking Tour, as well as lunch and a tour of the Smog Museum;
  • Spring 2014 - HCAP sponsored program with Cal U of PA Honors English class titled "Digital Storytelling".  The result was the video found on our Cement City page titled, "Cement City:  A Digital Story";
  • September 2014 - as part of the HCAP Affiliate Ambassador's series, Brian Charlton presented "Donora and the 1948 Air Quality Crisis" at the Heinz History Center that was filmed and aired by C-SPAN and can still be seen via our 1948 Smog page;
  • October 2014 - Heinz history Center helped organize and staff our second Environmental Conference titled, "1948 Smog:  Digital Storytelling";
  • Fall 2014 - HCAP sponsored program with Cal U of PA Honors English class titled "Digital Storytelling".   The result was the video found on our Cement City page titled, "Cement City:  The Initial Proposal";
  • March/April 2015 - hosted the Heinz History Center traveling Civil War Exhibit for six weeks;
  • Spring 2015 - HCAP sponsored program with Cal U of PA Honors English class.  The result was editing this website;
  • August 2015 - Donora Historical Socety and Smog Museum featured in Heinz History Center's Western PA History Magazine - Summer 2015 in their HCAP Spotlight article;
  • December 2015 - helped the Heinz History Center receive a national award from the American Association for State and Local History for the traveling Civil War Exhibit.
  • September 2016 - submitted a project application on "Digital Storytelling" with the Heinz History Center and Cal U of PA to the Appalachian Studies Conference to be held in 2017 at Virginia Tech University.
  • March 2017 - presented "Digital Storytelling" with the Heinz History Center and Cal U of PA to the Appalachian Studies Conference at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, VA.
  • March 2017 - awarded the Heinz History Center travelling WW II Exhibit for February 1 to April 7, 2020.
 

Special Events and Projects completed in 2016

  • conducted a game film project with Ken Griffey, Sr. for basketball and football games from 1968 and 1969 (January);

  • provided photos and info for Stan Musial book by Don Korte (Feb);

  • acquired additional Donora football and Mon Valley Catholic basketball game films (March);

  • participated in the "Voices of the Mon Valley:  Oral History and Local Resources" exhibit a the Cal U of PA Manderino Library (March/Apr);

  • presented "Cement City" at the West Overton Village and Museums in Scottdale, PA (April);

  • completed our 2015 Washington County Tourism Grant for "Cement City Home and Walking Tour" brochures (April);

  • conducted our sixth annual Cement City Home and Walking Tour - Spring edition (April);

  • displayed a new rotating exhibit titled "Donora Baseball" in recognition of the HOF induction of Ken Griffey, Jr. (June);

  • created the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum Facebook page (June);

  • provided research info to award winning author Kathleen Shoop for research on the "1948 Smog" and "Stan 'The Man' Musial" for future books (June);

  • presented "War of the Rebellion and local Civil War veterans" during History Enthusiast Lunch and Learn at the Mon Valley YMCA (June);

  • presented "Eldora Park" during History Enthusiasts Lunch and Learn at the Mon Valley YMCA (July);

  • hosted Ellie Miller - Ken Griffey, Jr. fan from Seattle, WA (July);

  • submitted and accepted a 2016 Washington County Community Foundation - Hart History Fund grant to develop Bruce Dreisbach glass plate negatives (August);

  • submitted a project application on "Digital Storytelling" with the Heinz History Center and Cal U of PA for the Appalachian Studies Conference to be held at Virginia Tech in March 2017 (September);

  • presented "Stan 'The Man' Musial" at the South Park Historical Society (September);

  • launched a project with the Donora Public Library for an addition to the library for a future home for the Historical Society (September);

  • conducted our sixth annual Cement City Home and Walking Tour - Fall edition (October);

  • hosted Terry Necciai who presented "Wildflowers:  The Nellie Sickels Album" a story about West Columbia and the early days of Donora (October);

  • hosted W&J Professor Dr. Robert East and his environmental class at the Smog Museum (November);

  • presented "Cement City" at the Lawrenceville Historical Society (November);

  • displayed a rotating exhibit - honoring Donora war veterans (Nov);

  • presented "Remembering Donora Veterans" during the Veterans Day parade festivities (November);

  • displayed a vintage Christmas exhibit at the Donora Library (Nov);

  • completed our Christmas Wreath and Garland fundraiser (Nov);

  • hosted Tom Norris of the Air Quality Program of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (EPA) with a museum tour and to discuss future projects (December);

  • Christmas Party at Duke’s Café (December);

  • provided research info on the 1948 Smog for various groups and publications:  Landisburg Lions Club of Perry County for an Earth Day presentation;  Air quality curriculum for North Carolina HS science programs;  Ringgold MS Gifted Architectural Project;  Belle Vernon MS History Day entrant on 1948 Smog --State Champ;  Fourth Grade student from Kirkwood, MO on Stan Musial;  Scope Magazine, Scholastic, Inc. New York;  Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Smog Data.



Special Events and Projects completed in 2015
 
  • displayed a new rotating exhibit honoring Donora war veterans (Jan);
  • presented "Greetings From Donora" - history of Donora thru postcards (February);
  • provided photos and info for a Stan Musial book by James Giglio titled: "Stan Musial:  Baseball Hero" that is part of the "Notable Missourians" series (February);
  • hosted the Heinz History Center's travelling Civil War Exhibit at the Donora Public Library for six weeks - supplemented with 21 presentations held on Saturdays for over 1,000 visitors that included close to 500 school students, teachers and chaperones.  Raised funds for the Donora Public Library and Donora Historical Society (March/April);
  • helped graduate student from Wesleyan University, Connecticut on "1948 Smog" research;
  • presented "1948 Smog" at the Mount Lebanon Historical Society (March);
  • presented "1948 Smog" at the South Park Historical Society (Mar);
  • presented "Donora Historical Society Events" for the Charleroi Golden Agers luncheon (April);
  • conducted our fifth annual Cement City Home and Walking Tour - Spring edition (May);
  • displayed a new rotating exhibit - display of the Donora-Webster Bridge (May);
  • presented "Donora-Webster Bridge" to recognize its upcoming razing (June);
  • hosted Wild Travels TV from Chicago, a travel series who were interested in filming a program on the events of the "1948 Smog" (June);
  • hosted Steve Schaeber of the Mobile Air Conditioning Society Worldwide (MACS) near Philadelphia, on his article for the ACtion Magazine on the parallels between our current Air Conditioning emissions and the 1948 Smog (June);
  • submitted and were awarded a Washington County Chamber of Commerce/Tourism Marketing Grant for Cement City brochures (July);
  • presented "Stan 'The Man" Musial" during History Enthusiasts Lunch and Learn at the Mon Valley UMCA (July);
  • hosted Jerry and Cindy Rombach - Stan Musial fans from Kenai, Alaska (July);
  • In the Summer 2015 edition of the Heinz History Center's Western PA History magazine, the Historical Society was featured in their "Spotlight on HCAP" that highlights one of the History Center Affiliate Program's (HCAP) members (August);
  • hosted Alan Lockwood, M.D., Emeritus Professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine at the University of New York at Buffalo and author of "The Silent Epidemic:  Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health."  Lockwood and his family were interested in the "1948 Smog" (Aug);
  • provided research info on the 1948 Smog for various publications:  The Wall Street Journal, EPA Alumni Association Magazine, Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) - Pittsburgh Chapter, and the Kentucky Division of Air Quality;
  • hosted Donora High School alumni for the reunion presentations - "Class of 1953 Remembers" and "Class of 1965 - 50th Anniversary" (August);
  • hosted Attorney Michael Jacks from WV for his presentation on his research of the "Zinc Works Remediation Study" (September);
  • conducted our fifth annual Cement City Home and Walking Tour - Fall editions - Saturday and Sunday (October);
  • launched our football and basketball game film transfer to DVD and fundraiser (October);
  • hosted Monessen native and author Ralph E. Stone on his reading and book signing of "Diary of a First Street Rambler" (October);
  • presented "1948 Smog" at the Lawrenceville Historical Society (Oct);
  • displayed a Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum display at the Donora Smog Race at the start/finish line at the Donora Skating Rink (October);
  • presented "Donora-Webster Bridge - Redo" (November);
  • complete our annual Christmas Wreath and Garland fundraiser (November);
  • acquired additional Donora Dragons football game films from the 1960's to be transferred to DVD (November);
  • held our annual Christmas Party at Duke's Cafe (December);
  • Acquired Stan "The Man" Musial letters during his minor league and WWII Navy days (December).
 

 
Special Events and Projects completed in 2014 
  • helped doctorial students from Stanford, Mercyhurst and Wisconsin Eau Claire;  helped undergrad students from Cal U and Drexel;  helped middle and high school "History Day" students from CA, KY, PA, TX and OH with "1948 Smog" research;
  • presented "The Founding of Donora."  Celebrated the bicentennial of the town that existed before Donora - West Columbia founded in 1814 (February);
  • hosted a group of Heinz History Center docents for a special Cement City Home and Walking Tour, as well as lunch and a tour of the Smog Museum (March);
  • worked with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball club on Stan Musial memorabilia (March);
  • completed Rivers of Steel grant used for Dreisbach glass plate negatives (March);
  • hosted Tom Crespo for his presentation on the Donora Southern Railroad (April);
  • visited Monessen's Genealogical Meeting to present Donora's favorite photographer -- Bruce Dreisbach (April);
  • hosted Jim Cheney, a PA travel blogger, for his website http://www.uncoveringpa.com/ for an entry on the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum (April);
  • hosted Donora High School alumni for their presentation -- "Class of 1953 Remembers the 1948 Smog" (May);
  • partnered with the Heinz History Center's and Cal U's "Digital Storytelling" Honors English class for the creation of Cement City videos (May/December);
  • attended the Heinz History Center Affiliate Program (HCAP) all-day meeting held in McKeesport (June);
  • submitted and were awarded a Washington County Community Foundation -- McBride-McMaster grant for archival quality storage boxes (June);
  • updated our 501(c)3 non-profit paperwork and status (June);
  • hosted former pro baseball players Ron Necciai (Gallatin) and Ken Barbao (Donora) to discuss their careers and growing up in the Mon Valley (June);
  • displayed a Dan Towler and 1944/1945 football teams exhibit at the Donora Borough building for the "Deacon" Dan Towler street dedication (August);
  • presented "Donora in the 1950's" for Donora's Class of 1953 (Aug);
  • hosted Scott Frederick who presented the Cincinnati Mine disaster (September);
  • awarded the Heinz History Center's traveling Civil War exhibit for 2015 (September);
  • presented "Donora and the 1948 Air Quality Crisis" at the Heinz History Center that was filmed and aired by C-SPAN (Sept/Oct);
  • conducted our fourth annual Cement City Home and Walking Tour - 45 attendees (October);
  • conducted our second annual Environmental Conference in partnership with Cal U and the Heinz History Center on Digital Storytelling for area students - 137 attendees (October);
  • presented the making of "Digital Storytelling -- A Town Called:  Donora" (October);
  • presented "1948 Smog" for Westmorland County Book Club and Lawrenceville Book Club (November);
  • displayed a new rotating exhibit that featured a comprehensive display to honor Donora war veterans for Veteran's Day (November);
  • presented "Surprises From the Archives" (November);
  • completed our Christmas Wreath and Garland fundraiser (Nov);
  • aquired Donora Dragons leather helmet from the 1930's (August);  Stan "The Man" Musial framed autographed jersey (November).

 
Special Events and Projects completed in 2013 
  • hosted 17 Environmental Engineering and Chemistry students from St. Francis University (Loretto PA), to discuss the 1948 Smog (Jan);
  • became a Heinz History Center Affiliate Program (HCAP) member (Feb);
  • presentation on Donora Women for Women’s History Month (March);
  • hosted Root Sports for a feature on Stan Musial shown on April 17th broadcast of St. Louis vs. Pittsburgh on MLB Network and Root Sports of St. Louis (April);
  • hosted Charlie Talbert - history of the Monongahela Cemetery 150th Anniversary (April);
  • hosted Joshua Scully - story behind the D.L. Clark Candy Co (May);
  • submitted and accepted 2013 Rivers of Steel matching grant (May);
  • hosted Rich Rockwell - the history of Eldora Park (June);
  • hosted “Try Again Homes” - a non-profit corporation from Washington, PA who provides safe nurturing places for children for healthier communities through adoption and foster care programs (June);
  • submitted and accepted 2013 Washington County Tourism Grant (June);
  • discussion/book signing at the library on new Donora book of historical fiction titled, “Steel Town Showdown” written by David Lonich (Sept);
  • Heinz History Center's Western PA History magazineCement City” article by Brian Charlton (Sept);
  • hosted 20 tourists at the Smog Museum as part of a larger seven day tour organized by Sports Leisure Vacations from Sacramento, CA titled, “Fall Foliage with the Famous in Pennsylvania” (Oct);
  • hosted the Westmoreland County Community Book Club to review “After the Fog” -- a novel of historical fiction about the 1948 Donora Smog (Oct);
  • organized a Town Hall conference titled;  “Commemorating the 1948 Donora Smog Disaster -- a seminal moment in environmental history” that focused on education, awareness, communication and the commemoration of that infamous Halloween weekend in 1948 which forever linked the town of Donora with the modern environmental movement.  Scholars from Carnegie Mellon, W&J, Cal U, and Chatham University; a Natural Gas representative from Consol Energy; and members of the Heinz History Center contributed.  The day concluded with a screening of “Rumor of Blue Sky,” a primary source documentary by filmmaker and Art Institute of Pittsburgh professor Andrew Maietta (Oct);
  • Third Annual Cement City Walking Tour – 33 attendees (Oct);
  • hosted local student Carmen Sawa who presented her award winning film on the 1948 Smog used for the 2013 Pennsylvania History Day Competition (Oct);
  • hosted Dennis Ballas- history of 1918 Flu and impact on Mon Valley (November);
  • worked with Cal U Honor students on a “Digital Story Telling” class documentary.  The class was sponsored by the Heinz History Center.  Donora’s documentary was considered best in show and featured a poem on the 1948 Smog written in 1950 by a young German poet named Guenter Kunert who went on to be one of the most versatile and important contemporary German writers (Dec).

 
Special Events and Projects completed in 2012 
  • African-American history in Donora – Part I and II (Feb and March);
  • launched the Donora Historical Society website (May);
  • St. Dominic’s Church historical presentation (June);
  • booth at the Whiskey Rebellion Festival in Washington, PA (Aug);
  • book signing - “After the Fog” -- a novel of historical fiction by Kathleen Shoop (Sept);
  • Brian Charlton presented at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh as part of the Environmental Teen Town Hall & National Youth Summit on the Dust Bowl by Ken Burns with a live webcast with the Smithsonian Institution (Oct);
  • Second Annual Cement City Walking Tour – 26 attendees (Oct);
  • hosted Pioneer Productions from London, England for the Weather Channel documentary series “When Weather Changed The World” (Nov);
  • Palmer Park and the Legion Field historical presentation with Ron Paglia (Nov);
  • Shutterbug Magazine – December issue on our Bruce Dreisbach glass plate negative collection (Dec).

Our Mission:

The mission of the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum is to preserve, research, interpret and promote Donora history through cooperative continuing educational relationships with individuals and institutions; focusing on causes and effects of the 1948 "smog" tragedy and its impact on global environmental concerns and issues.