a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The village of Webster before steel killed its dreams

WEBSTER, Pa. – Few people in my hometown of Webster, Pa., could relate to stories told by local old timers about their memories of the village when it was beautiful before America's Industrial Revolution turned it into an environmental disaster zone.

Well the photograph, above, recently discovered at the nearby Donora Historical Society has finally vindicated those folks who remembered the small southwestern Pennsylvania village along the Monongahela River in its heyday. Their memories were drawn from an era predating the strength of US Steel, which, in 1901, expanded a sprawling steel mill and later built zinc smelters across the Mon in Donora, creating pollution that killed most of the vegetation in Webster and contributed to the infamous smog of 1948.

The photo was taken when residents of the village had planted lush gardens behind clean picket fences, as well as a new Presbyterian church next to a Victorian apartment building. They had big dreams and houses by the river where their children could walk to its shores for a swim. Tree shade was abundant.

Click here to view a larger version of the photo. Click here to read a story written in 1908 by a Webster woman about the history of the town.

(Allow me a day or two to take a photo from a similar vantage point of how things look here today)


Anonymous said...

Gosh...thanks, Scott. Loved the picture and your piece!


Mathias said...


I appreciate your blog of the mon river valley. Me and my significant other recently took a drive up the Mon from belle vernon to brownsville, and discussed how an area becomes so environmentally degraded so passively.
I think the Mon river valley can attest to the true words of John Steinbeck, "why does 'progress' look so much like destruction?"

Scott Beveridge said...

Thank you Denise and Mathias.