Monessen, Pennsylvania

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Monessen, Pennsylvania
City of Monessen
Orchard Christian Fellowship
Orchard Christian Fellowship
Official seal of Monessen, Pennsylvania
Etymology: Monongahela + Germany Essen, Germany
Location of Monessen in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
Location of Monessen in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States
Coordinates: 40°9′15″N 79°52′58″W / 40.15417°N 79.88278°W / 40.15417; -79.88278Coordinates: 40°9′15″N 79°52′58″W / 40.15417°N 79.88278°W / 40.15417; -79.88278
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
Borough incorporatedSeptember 3, 1898
City incorporatedSeptember 16, 1921
 • MayorMatt Shorraw (D)
 • Total3.02 sq mi (7.83 km2)
 • Land2.89 sq mi (7.48 km2)
 • Water0.14 sq mi (0.35 km2)
1,128 ft (344 m)
 • Total7,720
 • Estimate 
 • Density2,542.09/sq mi (981.50/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)724
FIPS code42-50344
School DistrictMonessen City School District

Monessen is a city in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 7,720 at the 2010 census. In 1940, 20,257 people lived there. In 1990 the population was 13,026. Monessen is the most southwestern municipality of Westmoreland County. Steel-making was a prominent industry in Monessen, which was a Rust Belt borough in the "Mon Valley" of southwestern Pennsylvania that became a third-class city in 1921. Monessen is part of the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, as well as the Laurel Highlands.


Monessen, named for the Monongahela River and the industrial German city of Essen, was created by land speculators fairly late in the history of the Mon Valley, after neighboring towns had already been settled. The East Side Land Company bought land from various farmers, laid out the streets, and then sold the lots to prospective residents and employers. James M. Schoonmaker, who had made his fortune in coke, owned a controlling interest in the land company. Other investors in the land company who were also immortalized in street names include Philander C. Knox, James H. Reed, H. Sellers McKee, George O. Morgan, and George B. Motheral.[3] In May 1897, National Tin Plate Company, founded by William Donner, began building its mill, thus becoming Monessen’s first employer. Sales of lots began on July 27, 1897, for the general public and other employers.[3] Monessen became a borough on September 3, 1898.[4]

Monessen experienced rapid growth in the first two decades of the twentieth century, the population increasing from 2,197 in 1900 to 11,775 in 1910 and then to 18,179 in 1920.

While there were many companies operating in Monessen, the largest employer was Pittsburgh Steel Company, later renamed Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. In a practice that is shocking by today’s standards (and not limited to Monessen), pay was determined by ethnic background. For example, a Welsh immigrant would be paid more than an Italian immigrant. A normal workweek was 84 hours (7 days times 12 hours).[5] Employers did not adopt the eight-hour workday until the 1920s.

Monessen’s status changed from “borough” to “city” on September 16, 1921.[4]

Beginning in the middle to late 1960s, the region’s manufacturers, especially the steel industry, found it harder to compete, which led to employee layoffs. In 1972, the closure of Page Steel and Wire Company was a major setback to the city. A far greater blow to Monessen occurred when its largest employer, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, closed nearly all its Monessen operations in 1986.[6] The company’s rail mill did not close until March 1987.[6] The mill’s closure marked the end of an era in Monessen's history.

View of Monessen from the north

Monessen is currently trying to revitalize itself. The city has made efforts for several years to clean up abandoned properties in hopes of revitalizing the city. In January 2010 the first female mayor, Mary Jo Smith, was sworn in at the Monessen Municipal Building. In 2013, Mayor Lou Mavrakis revealed the city has at least $8 million in long-term debt which requires the city to budget $400,000 a year of its $4 million budget to payments on its debt.[7]

The old Charleroi-Monessen Bridge

Older residents know the steel mills will not be returning to the area. Younger residents barely remember the mills or are even unaware of the city's industrial past. "I remember when they tore the blast furnaces down" in the mid-1990s, said one resident. "It was a big deal. My dad took me. I was 5."[8]

The Charleroi-Monessen Bridge was built in 1906 and demolished in 2011. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and has yet to be removed from the register.[9]


Immortalized in some of the city's streets are the names of the founders of Monessen. These men were capitalists, politicians, and land speculators who felt that the prospect of a new community along the Monongahela River was viable.


Monessen is classified as a third class city, with a city commission government, in the 58th Legislative District in Pennsylvania.


Monessen is located at 40°9′15″N 79°52′58″W / 40.15417°N 79.88278°W / 40.15417; -79.88278 (40.154271, -79.882779).[10]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.1 square miles (8.0 km2), of which 2.9 square miles (7.5 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) (4.90%) is water.

Monessen is part of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, otherwise known as the Greater Pittsburgh Region.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Monessen has a humid continental climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.[11]

Climate data for Monessen, Pennsylvania
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 39
Daily mean °F (°C) 29
Average low °F (°C) 20
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.9
Average snowfall inches (cm) 7.3
Source: Weatherbase[12]

Surrounding and adjacent neighborhoods[edit]

Monessen's only land border is with Rostraver Township. Across the Monongahela River in Washington County, Monessen runs adjacent to Carroll and Fallowfield Townships and North Charleroi (with a direct connector via Charleroi-Monessen Bridge).


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20187,277[2]−5.7%

As of the census[14] of 2000, there were 8,669 people, 3,916 households, and 2,451 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,986.8 people per square mile (1,154.2/km²). There were 4,468 housing units at an average density of 1,539.4 per square mile (594.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 83.71% White, 13.99% African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.23% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.33% from other races, and 1.63% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 0.82% of the population. 27.9% were of Italian, 8.4% Slovak, 7.5% German and 7.0% Polish ancestry according to Census 2000.

View of downtown towards the coke works in Monessen, 2008

There were 3,916 households out of which 21.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.9% were married couples living together, 15.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 34.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 22.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.19 and the average family size was 2.80.

In the city, the population was spread out with 19.6% under the age of 18, 5.3% from 18 to 24, 23.3% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 29.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,686, and the median income for a family was $37,269. Males had a median income of $34,773 versus $21,508 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,627. About 11.5% of families and 15.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.7% of those under age 18 and 8.2% of those age 65 or over.


Map of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania public school districts

Residents of Monessen may attend the local public schools operated by Monessen City School District, which provides taxpayer-funded preschool, full-day kindergarten, and grades through 12th. The district's enrollment declined to 875 students in preschool through 12th grade in 2013. Monessen City School District ranked 475th out of 500 public schools for academic achievement in 2013.[16] The district was ranked 97th out of 104 western Pennsylvania school districts in 2013 by the Pittsburgh Business Times.

Monessen residents may also apply to attend any of the commonwealth's 13 public cyber charter schools at no additional cost to the parents. The residents public school district is required to pay the charter school and cyber charter school tuition for residents who attend these schools.[17][18] By commonwealth law, if the district provides transportation for its own students, then it must provide transportation to any school that lies within ten miles of its borders. Residents may also seek admission for their school-aged child to any other public school district. When accepted for admission, the student's parents are responsible for paying an annual tuition fee set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In 2012, the tuition fees for Monessen City School District were: elementary school - $10,109; high school - $11,837.[19]

Westmoreland Intermediate Unit #7 provides a wide variety of services to children living in its region, which includes Monessen. Services including early screening, special educations services, speech and hearing therapy and driver's education are available. Services for children during the preschool years are provided without cost to their families when the child is determined to meet eligibility requirements.

Monessen City residents have access to Agape Day Treatment Program and the Westmoreland County Community College. Another promising school is Douglas Education Center. Although it only awards associate degrees, the division housing George A. Romero's Film School and Tom Savini's Special Effects Makeup program are very popular, the latter enrolling 150 students. These students also rent apartments in town, allowing agents to renovate buildings to gain income. However, most of them graduate and move away, adding nothing to the permanent tax base.[20]

The Monessen Public Library is located at 326 Donner Avenue.[21]

  • The Valley Independent was a newspaper based in Monessen, under the Tribune Review Publishing Company. After a failed attempt to sell the Valley Independent, Trib Total Media ceased publication. The final edition of the Valley Independent, which ran consecutively for 113 years, was published on December 31, 2015, from its office building, in the Eastgate portion of Monessen.
  • The Mon Valley Independent has since replaced the Valley Independent.[22]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "2017 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Mar 24, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Vivian, Cassandra (2002). Monessen: A Typical Steel Country Town. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 0-7385-2383-6.
  4. ^ a b "Westmoreland County (Dates of incorporation of municipalities)" (PDF). Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  5. ^ Vivian, Cassandra (2002). Monessen: A Typical Steel Country Town. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 0-7385-2383-6.
  6. ^ a b Vivian, Cassandra (2002). Monessen: A Typical Steel Country Town. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 143–145. ISBN 0-7385-2383-6.
  7. ^ Richard Gazarik (January 21, 2014). "Mayor: Monessen $8M in hole".
  8. ^ Apelbaum, Binyamin (July 4, 2016). "Struggles in a Steel Town Highlighted by Donald Trump". New York Tines. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  9. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  10. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  11. ^ Climate Summary for Monessen, Pennsylvania
  12. ^ "". Weatherbase. 2013. Retrieved on January 30, 2018.
  13. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  14. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  15. ^ "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Resident Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 11 June 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  16. ^ Pittsburgh Business Times, Statewide Academic Ranking 2013, April 5, 2013
  17. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2013). "Charter Schools".
  18. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2013). "What is a Charter School?".
  19. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (May 2012). "Pennsylvania Public School District Tuition Rates".
  20. ^ Keppler, Nick: "A Creepy Mill Town: How a special effects program is breathing life into depressed Monessen." Pittsburgh Quarterly Winter 2018, retrieved 12/23/2017 from
  21. ^ Library website Archived 2002-02-13 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^
  23. ^ Shoe shiner donates $200K in tips to children in need, WTAE-TV, February 21, 2013

External links[edit]