UPCOMING EVENTS and LATEST NEWS (as of 08/30/20)

SMOG MUSEUM - COVID-19 update
As an all-volunteer unpaid organization, we are not under pressure to open the museum despite the level green status of Washington County. We do not have the means to do temperature checks, etc. for our visitors. We are still in a wait-and-see mode on the virus and will re-evaluate our position each month so that we don’t put our volunteers in any unnecessary situations. With that said, we don’t anticipate opening in August and September with our normal Saturday hours, but we will be open by appointment for small manageable groups. When we do open, we'll be practicing safely first for our volunteers and guests and enforcing that both wear facemasks and that we social distance. Your patience and understanding are appreciated. If you send us an email or leave a voicemail, we can contact you to arrange your visit

The SMOG MUSEUM will remain CLOSED for now, but... 
- We can still be reached daily by email.
- All voicemail messages will be returned within a few days. 
- Any research inquiries can still continue electronically.
- Any merchandise orders will continue.
- Artifact donations can be arranged.

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CANCELED - The next Cement City Home and Walking Tour dates for 2020 are scheduled for 

Saturday, September 26 and possibly Sunday, September 27 All tours start at 1:00 p.m. 
Please email donorahistoricalsociety@gmail.com or call 724 -823 -0364 to RSVP. Space is limited. 
Click Cement City to learn more. THIS WILL BE RESCHEDULED HOPEFULLY IN 2021.

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CANCELED - Saturday, September 12th at 6:00 p.m. - Donora Football Dragons – 1904 to 1968 - a

historical presentation - Part Two - 1946 to 1968, a historic look at the evolution

of football in Donora. This event will take place at the Donora Cro Club at 329 Castner

Avenue. Food and drinks will be available to purchase. Part One - 1904 to 1945 took

place in October 2018.  THIS WILL BE RESCHEDULED HOPEFULLY IN 2021.


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NOT CANCELED YET, but probably will be - Saturday, November 21st at 6:00 p.m. - Stan "The Man" Musial - Centennial Birthday -

November 21, 1920 - historical presentation and storytelling.. This event will take place at the Donora Cro Club at 329 Castner Avenue. Food and drinks will be available to purchase. THIS WILL BE RESCHEDULED HOPEFULLY IN 2021.


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New T-Shirts and Sweatshirts!!   Donora Smog Museum on the Merchandise page.

New T-Shirts and Sweatshirts!!   Donora Dragon - Forged in 1901 on the Merchandise page.  Also sold at the Donora Public Library during their normal hours.


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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.


To Donate to the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum, please use our PayPal option below:


If you would like to add a note along with your donation, please consider sending an email to:

 
Postcard of the Pennsylvania Railroad station c1910 that once stood at the corner of Eighth Street and Meldon Avenue in Donora. The station no longer exists.


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, our Facebook page "Donora Historical Society adn Smog Museum," 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!


This sign, refurbished in 2019, greets visitors as they come across the Stan "The Man" Musial Bridge into Donora. Staying right puts you on McKean Avenue and your journey to some of the most unique history in the USA. Stay on McKean for two red lights to arrive at your destination: the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum. Click Directions  for further directions.




The next Eldora Park Walking Tour dates are scheduled for Sunday, March 22 at 1:00 p.m. ,
Saturday, April 4th at 12:00 p.m.  and Saturday, 
April 18th at 12:00 p.m.  (still room).  Please email donorahistoricalsociety@gmail.com or call 
724 -823 -0364 to RSVP. Space is limited. Click Eldora Park Walking Tour to learn more.


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Saturday, November 2nd at 10:00 a.m. - Smog Hike - a joint project with GASP (Group

Against Smog and Pollution) and Venture OutdoorsRegistration is through Venture Outdoors at

www.venture.org/events/7520348/Members $10, non-members $15 - includes lunch.