Donora, PA home to Baseball Legends and the Smog of 48′

Donora was incorporated in 1901 and gets its name from the combination of William Donner and Nora Mellon, banker Andrew W. Mellon’s wife. The City of was a US Steel town and quickly grew to 14K residents by 1920.  The borough’s nickname is “The Home of Champions”, because of all the famous athletes that originate from here including Ken Griffy Sr & Jr and Stan Musial. Sadly the town was made more famous as the scene of the infamous Donora Smog of 1948. An air inversion incident trapped air pollution from the American Steel and Wire plant and Donora Zinc Works causing almost 100 deaths of thousands of injuries. Donora also has an interesting historic district called Cement City. The homes were built completely out of pre-formed and poured concrete.

Similar To Charleroi, Donora has seen about a 2/3 drop in its population. It was at 14K in 1920 and now around 4,500 souls reside here. But Donora has not seem the same level and revitalization in its main street as Charleroi even with having higher overall incomes in the borough. The historic main street McKean Ave has changed much since the 60s & 70s other than deteriorating. Surprisingly most of the historic building are still in-tact, leaving a decent urban form in place, but most are empty. Residential streets are a mix of blight and stable areas. Housing is also cheaper here than Charleroi as the vast majority of homes are selling below 50K. Sadly I don’t see Donora revitalizing anytime soon and becoming a viable urban place. But at least money can be spent to stabilizing the town through an aggressive clean and green program. Commercial buildings can be mothballed or demolished when appropriate and hopefully some concerted effort can be placed into bring more live into the main street.
Click here to view my entire Donora album on Flickr


* Good street grid and connectivity.
* Poverty is still pretty high (around 20%) but income seem to be raising and is now 45K. 
* Large percentage of family households around 60%.
* Attractive but blighted commercial architecture.
* High level of “city imageability” with a well defined main street, iconic historic buildings, and strong street grid.
* Most of the historic form and fabric of the business district remains, even if much of it is blighted.
* Good tree cover helped by all the undeveloped hills and ridges. Limited street trees on the main street.


* Poor public transit and access to major employment center in the Pittsburgh Metro.
* Some racial diversity. Around 78% of population is White, 15% Black, and some Hispanic. 
* Rentals are limited but inexpensive. For sale housing is cheap. Most homes selling below 50K. Limited between 50-100K. And a select few in the 100Ks. These are mostly newer suburban homes on the edges of Donora.
* No bike infrastructure.
* Cultural amenities are very limited to only a couple bars, restaurants, and the Smog Museum.
* Some neighborhood retail along McKean Ave… a pharmacy, several banks, the post office, public library, a florist and some antiques. But no supermarket or any boutiques or creative retail.
* Really no modern infill here.
* Park amenities include several ballfields (one call Ken Griffey Field) medium size wooded park called Cascade Park, and the extensive multi-purpose Palmer park.
* No supermarkets, larger retailers, or hospitals within the borough limits.
* Lots of blight throughout most of the Borough. The main street feels stuck in time since the 60s and has received very little investment.
* Sadly no significant schools within the Donora borders. They are all in neighboring, mostly suburban municipalities.