Brief History of Monroeville
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Monroeville is a Municipality of some 30,000, and roads, travel
and transportation remains the lifeblood of the community.
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.
of the Monroeville Historical Society.
For more information,
please visit the Monroeville
Historical Society website.