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Monessen, Pennsylvania
Third Class City
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
County Westmoreland
Settled 1897
Borough incorporated September 3, 1898
City incorporated September 16, 1921
 • Total 3.02 sq mi (7.83 km2)
 • Land 2.89 sq mi (7.48 km2)
 • Water 0.14 sq mi (0.35 km2)
1,128 ft (344 m)
 • Total 7,720
 • Estimate 
 • Density 2,506.75/sq mi (967.85/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 724
FIPS code 42-50344
School District Monessen 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 southwestern-most 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. 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. Monessen became a borough on September 3, 1898.

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). Employers did not adopt the eight-hour workday until the 1920s.

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

In the 1960s and afterwards, the region’s manufacturers, especially the steel industry, found it harder to compete, leading to an employment cutbacks. 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. The company’s rail mill did not close until March 1987. The mill’s closure marked the end of an era in Monessen's history.

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.

Older residents understand that 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."

The Charleroi-Monessen Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.


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).

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) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (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.

Climate data for Monessen, Pennsylvania
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 3.9
Average low °C (°F) -6.7
Precipitation mm (inches) 74
Source: Weatherbase


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 2,197
1910 11,775 436.0%
1920 18,179 54.4%
1930 20,268 11.5%
1940 20,257 −0.1%
1950 17,896 −11.7%
1960 18,424 3.0%
1970 15,216 −17.4%
1980 11,928 −21.6%
1990 9,901 −17.0%
2000 8,669 −12.4%
2010 7,720 −10.9%
2020 (est.) 6,876 −10.9%

As of the census 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 School Districts
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. 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. 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.

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 school is Douglas Education Center. Although it only awards associate degrees, the divisions housing George A. Romero's Film School and Tom Savini's Special Effects Makeup program are very widely attended, the latter enrolling 150 students. These students also rent apartments in town, allowing agents to renovate buildings to gain income. However, most of the students graduate and move away, adding nothing to the permanent tax base.

The Monessen Public Library is located at 326 Donner Avenue.

  • 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.

Notable people

  • Christian B. Anfinsen (1916-1995), biochemist; recipient of Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1972 for his pioneering study into the structure of ribonuclease; author of Anfinsen's Dogma
  • Steve Belichick (1919-2005), NFL player and college coach, including 33-year tenure as assistant and scout at Navy
  • Tony Benjamin (1955-), football player
  • Eric Crabtree (1944-), NFL Football Player for the Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, and New England Patriots
  • Doug Crusan (1946-), NFL Football Player for the Miami Dolphins
  • Philander C. Knox (1852-1921) United States Senator, Brownsville, Pennsylvania native, one of several founders of the City of Monessen
  • Albert Lexie, shoeshiner known for donating one third of his lifetime salary to charity
  • Bill Malinchak (1944-), former football wide receiver and special teams ace in the National Football League in the 1960s and 1970s
  • Frances McDormand, Oscar-winning American actress
  • Herman Mihalich (1930-1997), former Democratic member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
  • Michael Moorer, former heavyweight boxer; boxing champion
  • Armand Niccolai (1911-1988), former NFL player for the Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers
  • Lawrence T. Persico, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie
  • James H. Reed (1853-1927), Allegheny, Pennsylvania native, United States federal judge, lawyer, founder of Reed Smith law firm, one of several founders of the City of Monessen
  • Tom Savini, makeup artist
  • James M. Schoonmaker (1842-1927) Pittsburgh native, American Civil War Colonel, vice-president of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, one of several founders of the City of Monessen
  • Blanche Thebom, mezzo-soprano singer

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