Donora History

In 1794, the Whiskey Insurrectionists held several meetings at Fells Church, approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) east of Donora.

A trolley line opened in Donora on December 15, 1901, linking First and McKean, and Fifteenth Street and Meldon.  It was extended in 1911 to Black Diamond to connect to the Charleroi to Pittsburgh interurban trolley.  The line was abandoned on May 5, 1953.

The town was the scene of the infamous Donora Smog of 1948.  Between October 26 and October 31, 1948, an air inversion trapped industrial effluent (air pollution) from the American Steel and Wire plant and Donora Zinc Works.  During this spike in air pollution, 6,000 people suffered respiratory problems and extreme discomfort.  “In three days, 20 people died… After the inversion lifted, another 50 died, including Lukasz Musial, the father of baseball great Stan Musial.  Hundreds more finished the rest of their lives with damaged lungs and hearts.”  The incident made national headlines.  Today, the town is home to the Donora Smog Museum which tells the impact of the Donora Smog on the air quality standards enacted by the federal government in subsequent years.

Donora’s neighborhood known as “Cement City” is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The homes built in the neighborhood are completely made out of pre-formed and poured concrete.  This structural building technique was championed by Thomas Edison, and was used by neighborhoods throughout the United States.  The homes were built as employee housing for the Donora Wire and Steel Mill in the early 1900s.

Donora is home to the world’s second largest “Cement City” housing tract, innovated by Thomas Edison.  The Cement City Historic District consists of 80 “poured in place” homes.  The Cement City Historic District and Webster Donora Bridge are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Borough of Donora and surrounding areas have also been utilized as the filming location for several films and television shows.  Most recently, the American television drama series American Rust starring Jeff Daniels and Maura Tierney used several sites in Donora for filming.