There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way, a downloadable walking tour is ready to explore when you are.
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Open a copy of the Information Please Almanac and turn to the chapter on famous people. 4000 names and you won't know hardly any. But what about names everyone knows? Pillsbury, Maytag, Kellogg. Nowhere to be found. How many names are more famous than Howard Johnson or Oscar Mayer? But who were these folks? Let’s look at the men behind the…
Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
Zachariah Connell was already 65 years old when he laid out the town that would be his namesake in 1806. Connell was born in Virginia in 1741 and came to Fayette County after 1770 as a surveyor and land agent. He was known as an able and highly respected judge of land. Seeing this area as a natural stopping place for travelers who wanted to build rafts and float them down the river, Connell surveyed a tract of land on the east bank of the Youghiogheny River for himself containing 147 acres which he called "Mud Island." The Bill for the Incorporation of Connellsville became law by The Act of Assembly passed March 1, 1806 and the founder died in 1813; he is buried on a hill overlooking East Francis Avenue.
For fifty years, Pennsylvania's steel industry depended to an amazing extent on a skinny strip of land, scarcely two or three miles wide and about 50 miles long, called the Connellsville Coalfield. Here, a seven-foot-thick seam of the finest metallurgical coal in the world lay exposed and ready to burn. Connellsville coal was eighty-nine percent composed of carbon, a major source of heat, and sulphur, undesirable, made up only one percent. Actual coking of the coal, a process whereby the raw material was baked into a valuable industrial fuel in a beehive oven, was first tried near Connellsville in the 1840s. The first coal to be coked in an oven here was hauled from the Plumer mine, a local pit. The first successful beehive oven was built only 300 feet from the old stone house erected by Zachariah Connell. After the Civil War a beehive coke industry gained a foothold in the region.
One of the biggest players in the game was Henry Clay Frick, who would parlay the 200 beehive ovens he owned by the age of 24 in 1873 into one of the world's greatest fortunes. In fact for a spell during the heyday of the coke days from the 1880s to the 1920s, Connellsville was said to have more millionaires per capita than any other place in the country. At its peak in 1913, the Connellsville district's 38,000 ovens provided fully half the entire nation's supply of metallurgical coke. It took 2,000 railcars each day to haul it away. Most of the coke was used in blast furnaces to smelt iron ore into molten pig iron, the raw material for steel.
The demand for coke pushed many other emerging industries out, making the city along with Fayette County almost entirely dependant on both coal and coke. When better heating processes were developed, Connellsville coke was no longer needed and the industry went bust — along with the economy of Fayette County. A few ovens remain in operation at spots throughout the region, but the industry no longer belongs to Connellsville. The coal today goes into by-product ovens where every ingredient is captured and used.
Our walking tour will begin at the Carnegie Free Library, a gift from the man whose fantastic wealth sprang from what Connellsville gave him...