Tamaqua, Pennsylvania

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W. Broad St., Tamaqua, PA.JPG
W. Broad St., Tamaqua. July 2013.
Official name: Borough of Tamaqua
Name origin: Corruption of Native American word "Tankamochkhanna" meaning "Little Beaver Stream"[1]
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Schuylkill
Elevation 870 ft (265.2 m)
Coordinates 40°47′55″N 75°57′59″W / 40.79861°N 75.96639°W / 40.79861; -75.96639Coordinates: 40°47′55″N 75°57′59″W / 40.79861°N 75.96639°W / 40.79861; -75.96639
Area 10.0 sq mi (25.9 km2)
 - land 9.8 sq mi (25 km2)
 - water 0.1 sq mi (0 km2), 1%
Population 7,107 (2010)
Incorporated 1832 [2]
Mayor Christian P. Morrison
Timezone EST (UTC-5)
 - summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 18252
Area code 570 Exchanges: 668,952
School District Tamaqua Area School District
Location of Tamaqua in Schuylkill County
Location of Tamaqua in Pennsylvania
Location of Pennsylvania in the United States
USGS Map showing Tamaqua, the confluence of the Schuylkill Rivers, showing Tamaqua Gap separating Nesquehoning Mountain to the east and Sharp Mountain across the gap to the west.

Tamaqua is a borough in eastern Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, United States. The borough, located in Central Eastern Pennsylvania's Southern Coal Region, had a population of 7,107 as of the 2010 U.S. Census,[3] a drop of less than 1% from 2000. Tamaqua is part of the Pottsville, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Tamaqua, (pronounced tuh-MAH-qwah) was taken from the territory of West Penn and Schuylkill Townships, named for the Tuscarora king of the Turkey Clan, Chief Tahkamochk, or Tam-a-kwah. The name is unique because Tamaqua is the only community in the world with this name.[citation needed]


Tamaqua is located in a valley basin at 40°47′55″N 75°57′59″W / 40.79861°N 75.96639°W / 40.79861; -75.96639 (40.798600, -75.966498)[4] situated within the Pennsylvania Southern Coal Region section of the Appalachian Mountains in the Schuylkill River drainage basin. Tamaqua's valley is just off the western end of the Pocono Mountains, just on the edge of the neighboring Lehigh watershed. Because of the dominant terrain the town is typical of medium towns in Ridge-and-valley Appalachians—low lands and flats were historically given over to business, rail transport, and industries, with dwellings located upon the slopes above.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 10.0 square miles (26 km2), of which, 9.8 square miles (25 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (1.31%) of it is water. Three streams pass through Tamaqua. The Little Schuylkill River runs through the town from the north through the gap separating the folds of what would be an unbroken ridgeline but are now the separated ridges known as Sharp Mountain on the west and Nesquehoning Mountain. Panther Creek, flows southwest from Lansford, 5 miles away, and joins the Little Schuylkill in Tamaqua. The Wabash Creek joins the Little Schuylkill from the west.

In the Tamaqua area, coal mining was a vital economic activity throughout the 20th century but with the diminished use of coal as a power plant fuel and the demise of steam powered traction, has since experienced a decline. The town also gained recognition as a railroad center. In addition, the 1885 Edison Electric Illuminating Co. of Tamaqua is said to have furnished the town with the nation's second incandescent municipal lighting system, a feat accomplished through the involvement of Thomas Edison.

Tamaqua is located 15 miles (24 km) east of Pottsville, 14 miles (23 km) southwest of Jim Thorpe, approximately 60 miles (97 km) south of Scranton, approximately 95 miles (153 km) northwest of Philadelphia, and approximately 100 miles (160 km) southwest of New York City.

Tamaqua's average elevation is 870 feet (270 m) above sea level. Elevations can reach up to 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level.


Until the late 1960s, Tamaqua was a hub of railroad activity, namely the Reading Company (RDG) and Lehigh & New England (LNE). A large rail yard existed in the southern part of town that actually extended through downtown; at one time eight tracks passed by the passenger station. An engine house, turntable, and car shop were located across the street from the passenger station in what is now the Family Dollar parking lot. The collapse of the anthracite coal industry in the early 1960s, the Penn Central merger, and Hurricane Diane all led to the railroad's demise. Today, all that remains is a single track line through town operated by the Reading and Northern Railroad.


The main highway in the borough, Pennsylvania Route 309, connects Tamaqua with Allentown and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the south and Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in the north, continuing past there as Route 29 to the New York State line. Route 309 serves as a truck bypass for Interstate 476, since many placarded trucks are not allowed in the Lehigh Tunnel, as well as a route of choice for access to the operating coal mines and industrial parks in the region. A second important highway in the borough is U.S. Route 209 that runs along the Panther Creek and intersects with PA-309 in the borough. Route 209 runs for approximately 212 miles from Millersburg, Pennsylvania in Dauphin County to the town of Ulster in Ulster County, New York. U.S. 209 also connects Tamaqua to many nearby municipalities, including the Schuylkill County seat at Pottsville in the west and both Jim Thorpe and Lehighton to the east.

The town has a small rail yard, but its switching and geography makes it an important junction with tracks along both the Little Schuylkill River and others penetrating near the west-flowing Panther Creek and north into Hazleton. The town once hosted trackage of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Reading Railroad, the Lehigh Valley Railroad, and the Central Railroad of New Jersey.

Other highways near Tamaqua include Pennsylvania Route 54, Pennsylvania Route 443, Pennsylvania Route 895 and Pennsylvania Route 902, most of which connect the Tamaqua areas to the Poconos, the Lehigh Valley, and South Central Pennsylvania. In addition, Interstates 81, 80, 476, and 78 are not far from the town.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 465
1850 3,080 562.4%
1860 4,919 59.7%
1870 5,960 21.2%
1880 5,730 −3.9%
1890 6,054 5.7%
1900 7,267 20.0%
1910 9,462 30.2%
1920 12,363 30.7%
1930 12,936 4.6%
1940 12,486 −3.5%
1950 11,508 −7.8%
1960 10,173 −11.6%
1970 9,246 −9.1%
1980 8,843 −4.4%
1990 7,943 −10.2%
2000 7,124 −10.3%
2010 7,107 −0.2%
Est. 2015 6,829 [5] −3.9%

As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 7,174 people, 3,179 households, and 1,901 families residing in the borough. The population density was 729.9 people per square mile (281.8/km²). There were 3,602 housing units at an average density of 366.5 per square mile (141.5/km²). The racial makeup of the borough was 98.69% White, 0.18% African American, 0.08% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 0.25% from other races, and 0.57% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.30% of the population.

There were 3,179 households out of which 24.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.9% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.2% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.93.

The borough's population consisted of 21.8% under the age of 18, 6.9% from 18 to 24, 28.4% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 21.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 92.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.2 males.

The median income for a household in the borough was $27,899, and the median income for a family was $36,406. Males had a median income of $29,970 versus $20,637 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $15,752. About 11.1% of families and 14.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.1% of those under age 18 and 11.3% of those aged 65 or over.


Benjamin F. Yost Memorial.

Tamaqua was founded in 1799 Burchard Moskowitz. Originally to be named Tuscarora, the name Tamaqua was chosen after it was realized that there already was a community named Tuscarora about four miles (6 km) to the west. Roughly half of Moskowitz's original log cabin is still intact and visible behind a house on the north side of East Broad Street. The discovery of anthracite coal in the region in the early 19th century led to the town's rise as a coal-producing community. The town was incorporated as a borough in 1832.[10] Irish, Welsh, and German immigrants came to the borough in the 1840s and 1850s, followed by a large influx of Italians, Lithuanians, Russians, Ukrainians, Slovaks, and Poles in the 1890s and early 20th century. During the 1860s and 1870s, Tamaqua was the geographic center hub for the Molly Maguires. One murder commonly attributed to the Mollies was that of town policeman Benjamin Yost, who was shot to death early one morning while extinguishing a gas lamp at the corner of West Broad and Lehigh Streets.[11]

The Tamaqua Railroad Station was constructed in 1874. Arguably Tamaqua's most famous landmark, it stood idle from the mid 1880s through the late 1890s after passenger railroad service to the town was discontinued. Initially planned to be demolished in the late 1980s, the non-profit group Save Our Station (S.O.S.) eventually managed to raise enough money to have it refurbished at a cost of $1.5 million. The station reopened in August 2004, now home to a full-service restaurant and gift shop. Rail excursions leave from there during the Tamaqua Historical Society's annual Heritage Festival on the second Sunday in October.

Tamaqua remained a thriving community throughout the heyday of coal production in the United States in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Certain sections of the borough, such as Polish Hill and the South Ward, had a reputation for "toughness"; those sections were also densely populated by immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. However, it began declining, along with many other anthracite communities, in the 1950s as coal mines began tapering off. Hurricane Diane caused tremendous damage to Tamaqua's railroad yards to the extent that they never fully recovered. In 1971 the borough annexed neighboring Rahn Township[12] and its Owl Creek section, home to the world's first fish hatchery.

In 1945 John E. Morgan established a knitwear manufacturing industry in Tamaqua. The company, Morgan Knitting Mills, Inc, grew into one of the largest employers in the area, second only to the Atlas Powder Company. In the mid 1950s, Morgan, working from a design developed by his wife (Anna Hoban Morgan) patented the widely known Thermal Underwear product lines. Since Morgan's death in 2000, the Morgan Trust has donated money to various worthwhile causes in Tamaqua. The Morgan Trust also established the John & Dorothy Morgan Cancer Center at the Lehigh Valley Hospital.

In the fiction of John O'Hara, a product of nearby Pottsville, Tamaqua appears as "Taqua."

Dial telephone service arrived in Tamaqua in 1961. The new exchange (668) still exists. Operators who worked the switchboards on the top floor of the Tamaqua National Bank at West Broad and Berwick Streets were transferred to Bell Telephone's Hazleton and Pottsville Toll Centers.

The 55-block Tamaqua Historic District, Anthracite Bank Building, George Ormrod House, and Tamaqua Railroad Station are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[13]

The borough of Tamaqua passed an unprecedented law giving ecosystems legal rights. The ordinance establishes that the municipal government or any Tamaqua resident can file a lawsuit on behalf of the local ecosystem.[14] Other townships, such as Rush, followed suit and passed their own laws.[15]


Since 1965 Tamaqua has had an FM station, beginning as WSVB, later WZTA and WCRN, now WMGH Magic 105.5. The Bud Angst Little League Field in "Thomas Walsh Park" is adjacent to the original studios and transmitting tower in the Dutch Hill section of the borough. The studios are now with co-owned WLSH (AM 1410), 7 miles east of Tamaqua on Route 209 in Summit Hill. The station's tower is in Tuscarora, 4.5 miles west of Tamaqua on Locust Mountain.

Tamaqua is located in the Scranton DMA and receives television signals primarily from that area. Depending on cable providers, it is sometimes possible to receive signals from Philadelphia and New York City, because Tamaqua lies on the boundary lines of those two markets. The main television stations broadcasting to Tamaqua are:

  • WNEP-TV, an ABC affiliate in Scranton, PA
  • WBRE-TV, an NBC affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, PA
  • WVIA-TV, a PBS member station in Scranton, PA
  • WLVT-TV, a PBS member station in Bethlehem, PA (licensed to Allentown)
  • WOLF-TV, a FOX affiliate in Plains, PA (licensed to Hazleton)
  • WFMZ-TV, an Independent station in Allentown, PA
  • WYOU-TV, a CBS affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, PA (licensed to Scranton)

Tamaqua receives broadcasts of the CW Network from New York City (WPIX-TV) and Wilkes-Barre (WSWB-TV).


  • St. John XXIII (formerly St. Jerome's) Roman Catholic
  • SS. Peter & Paul Roman Catholic (Lithuanian)
  • Primitive Methodist Church
  • First United Methodist Church
  • St. John's Evangelical Lutheran
  • Zion Evangelical Lutheran
  • Trinity United Church of Christ
  • St. John's United Church of Christ
  • Bethany Evangelical Congregational
  • Jehovah's Witnesses
  • New Life Assembly of God
  • The Salvation Army
  • New England Valley Mennonite Church


Students in Tamaqua attend schools in the Tamaqua Area School District. There are seven schools, five public and two private, located within the geographic area of the district:

  • Tamaqua Area (Senior) High School - Grades 9-12
  • Tamaqua Area Middle School - Grades 6-8
  • Tamaqua Area Elementary School - Grades 2-5
  • Rush Elementary School - Grades K-2
  • West Penn Elementary School - Grades K-5
  • St.John XXIII Regional School - Grades PreK - 8
  • Marian Catholic High School - Grades 9-12

Tamaqua also houses the Morgan Center branch of the Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC), a community college based in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania.


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