A Brief History of Monroeville

Area locations of interest:

  • McGinley House
  • McCully Log House
  • Old Stone Church
  • Little Stone Bridge
  • Historical Society

  • By the latter part of the 1700s, Pittsburgh had become a bustling pioneer village. Settlements began to spring up near Pittsburgh to become small villages in themselves, but the hills to the east remained sparsely populated. By the first half of the 1800s, the area now known as Monroeville was nothing more than a small village nestled among widely-scattered farms.

    In 1807, the grand-daddy of modern highways, the Northern Turnpike was completed from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and Monroeville, at its convenient location 13 miles out of Pittsburgh, became the first stagecoach stop heading east on the new road. In 1810 the village could boast of two blacksmiths, two stores, and an inn. And when a local farmer named Joel Monroe began selling off lots along the road, he was to lay the down the core of the modern community that bears his name. In 1849 the village became part of the newly-formed Patton Township.

    In the late 19th century the coal mining industry, busy in the hills around Pittsburgh, began to extend eastward. Patton Township was to enjoy a boom in coal mining when many local residents who didn’t work on the farms were to find employment in the mines, or on the railroads.

    But the coal boom ran its course, and by the first part of the 1900s, life in the little farming community had lapsed back to what it had pretty much been for the past hundred years. Those who didn’t work on the farms might now find employment in the nearby Westinghouse plant in Wilmerding, or in the sprawling railroad yards in Pitcairn.

    It was during the 20th century that Monroeville grew from a farming village with horses and buggies traveling over dirt roads, to a flourishing suburban community laced with major highways.

    In the 1940s the new William Penn Highway (US Route 22) set the stage for today’s business strip that defines the core of modern Monroeville. Soon a series of asphalt roads and concrete highways, were crisscrossing Monroeville, and in 1950 Monroeville was designated as the Pittsburgh interchange for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    The economic potential of the new road was seen by a group of farsighted businessmen who bought some property along Business Route 22 and proceeded to build a major shopping center -- The Miracle Mile, the biggest of its kind between New York and Chicago when it opened in November, 1954.

    Following the lead of Miracle Mile, other shopping strips sprang up along Route 22, as did gas stations, car dealerships, fast food stands, and banks. It was a classic case of improved roads and greater access leading to commercial development that, in turn, fueled the need for more housing and better roads.

    In 1963, the eastern extension of the Penn-Lincoln Parkway was completed, giving commuters a direct modern highway into downtown Pittsburgh. Residential and business construction in Monroeville soared, and there was a dramatic surge in population.

    As Monroeville grew, companies and corporations were increasingly drawn to the attractive suburb. US Steel consolidated its research labs here in1953, followed by a host of others. Westinghouse built its nuclear research facilities here in 1965 and 1971; Koppers Company opened a research center in 1961; Bituminous Coal in 1962, and later, PPG Industries.

    The area grew in importance as a shipping hub with the construction of the Conrail Inter-modal terminal that used a portion of the old Pitcairn Railway Yards for the trans-shipment of cargo in containers hauled by trucks to trains. At the same time, Monroeville’s reputation as a commercial and shopping center was given additional stature with the opening of the Monroeville Mall in 1969.

    Today’s Monroeville is a Municipality of some 30,000, and roads, travel and transportation remains the lifeblood of the community.

    Excerpted from: Getting Around: A History of Travel in Monroeville, by Louis Chandler. The booklet is published by the Monroeville Historical Society, and is available by contacting the author: e-mail:; or phone: 724-327-6164.

    Photos courtesy of the Monroeville Historical Society.

    For more information, please visit the Monroeville Historical Society website.