Donora, Pennsylvania

Name origin: portmanteau of "William Donner" and "Nora Mellon"
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Washington
Coordinates 40°10′33″N 79°51′41″W / 40.17583°N 79.86139°W / 40.17583; -79.86139
Area 2.0 sq mi (5 km2)
 - land 1.9 sq mi (5 km2)
 - water 0.2 sq mi (1 km2)
Population 5,653 (2000)
Density 2,973.8 / sq mi (1,148 / km2)
Established 1900
 - Incorporated 1901
Mayor John Lignelli
Timezone EST (UTC-4)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-5)
Area code 724
Location of Donora in Washington County
Location of Donora in Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States

Donora is a borough in Washington County, Pennsylvania, 20 miles (32 km) south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela river. Donora was incorporated in 1901. Donora got its name from a combination of William Donner and Nora Mellon, banker Andrew W. Mellon's wife. Agriculture, coal-mining, steel-making, wire-making, and other industries were conducted in Donora early in its history. In 1910, 8,174 people lived there; in 1920, 14,131; and in 1940, 13,180 people lived in Donora. The population was 5,653 at the 2000 census. Donora is a Rust Belt place which has lost most of its industrial capacity. It is in the "Mon valley" 5 miles (8.0 km) downriver from Charleroi and 25 miles (40 km) upstream of Braddock, Pennsylvania.



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

A trolley line opened in Donora on December 15, 1901, linking First and McKean and Fifteenth Street and Meldon.[1] 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. "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. But another 40 years would pass before the whole truth about Donora's bad air made public-health history." [2] 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.[3]


Donora is located at 40°10′33″N 79°51′41″W / 40.17583°N 79.86139°W / 40.17583; -79.86139 (40.175879, -79.861264)[4].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 2.0 square miles (5.2 km2), of which, 1.9 square miles (4.9 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km2) of it (7.32%) is water.


As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 5,653 people, 2,469 households, and 1,434 families residing in the borough. The population density was 2,973.8 people per square mile (1,148.8/km²). There were 2,958 housing units at an average density of 1,556.1 per square mile (601.1/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 82.10% White, 14.84% African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.27% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.32% from other races, and 2.32% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.02% of the population.

There were 2,469 households out of which 23.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.9% were married couples living together, 16.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.9% were non-families. 37.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 21.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the Washington County borough the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 6.4% from 18 to 24, 25.5% from 25 to 44, 21.4% from 45 to 64, and 25.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 82.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.4 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $27,939, and the median income for a family was $37,176. Males had a median income of $33,725 versus $22,346 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $17,893. About 12.4% of families and 16.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.2% of those under age 18 and 14.0% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people

Hall of Famer Stan Musial of the St. Louis Cardinals and baseball greats Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey, Jr., orthodox metropolitan Vladimir (Nagosky) were all born in Donora. All Americans Arnold Galiffa, and Bimbo Cecconi are also from Donora. Tackle Harry Ostapowicz led both the offensive and defensive lines for the WPIAL Champion Dragons.[6]

Further reading

  • Davis, Devra (2002). When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01521-2. 
  • Roueché, Berton. Eleven Blue Men, Little, Brown, 1947-1953,. ISBN 9997502914. 
  • Snyder, Lynn Page (1994). The Death-Dealing Smog over Donora, Pennsylvania: Industrial Air Pollution, Public Health, and Federal Policy, 1915-1963. University of Pennsylvania. 
  • Bryson, Chris (Fall 1998). "A Secret History of America's Worst Air Pollution Disaster". Earth Island Journal 13. 
  • Stacey, Charles (2010). Donora. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-7206-2. 


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