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New Kensington, Pennsylvania
New Kensington, Pennsylvania (8482184857).jpg
Location of New Kensington in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
Location of New Kensington in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.
New Kensington, Pennsylvania is located in Pennsylvania
New Kensington, Pennsylvania
New Kensington, Pennsylvania
Location in Pennsylvania
New Kensington, Pennsylvania is located in the United States
New Kensington, Pennsylvania
New Kensington, Pennsylvania
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Westmoreland
Founded 1891
 • Total 4.21 sq mi (10.90 km2)
 • Land 3.95 sq mi (10.23 km2)
 • Water 0.26 sq mi (0.67 km2)
1,110 ft (338.3 m)
 • Total 13,116
 • Estimate 
 • Density 3,112.69/sq mi (1,201.78/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (Eastern)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 724, 878
FIPS code 42-53736

New Kensington, known locally as New Ken, is a city in Westmoreland County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, situated along the Allegheny River 18 miles (29 km) northeast of Pittsburgh. The population was 13,116 at the 2010 Census.


Like much of Westmoreland County and surrounding areas, the region was a hunting ground for Native Americans of the Six Nations European-American settlement began in the mid-1700s. Continental army troops built Fort Crawford, near the mouth of Pucketa Creek, in 1777. The fort was abandoned in 1793.

Originally part of Burrell (and later Lower Burrell) Township, the city of New Kensington was founded in 1891. In 1890, the Burrell Improvement Company considered the advantages of the level land south of its home in Lower Burrell, and deemed it a prime location for a city and named the area "Kensington" (later changed to "New Kensington" for postal purposes, because Pennsylvania already had another city with that name). In an attempt to make New Kensington comparable to Pittsburgh, the streets were named with numbers. Avenues ran parallel to the river, while streets were perpendicular. The main commercial streets were 4th and 5th avenues.

Once the land was surveyed, a public sale was held on June 10, 1891. Thousands of people flooded the area and investors began bringing industry with them. The first large company was the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, which later became Alcoa. They acquired a 3.5-acre (14,000 m2) property that allowed the company to utilize the riverfront. The Alcoa facility remained operational until the 1960s.

Thaddeus M. Fowler - New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania 1896
New Kensington in 1896, seen in a lithograph by Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler

Eventually, other companies such as Adams Drilling, Goldsmith and Lowerburg, New Kensington Milling, New Kensington Brewing, Logan Lumber, Keystone Dairy, and many more were built late in the 19th century and continuing into the early 20th century. Early achievements included a railroad station, the 9th Street bridge, a passenger boat that navigated the Allegheny River, a street car line that ran to Natrona via the West Penn Railways, the Kensington Dispatch newspaper, a fire department, hotel, opera house, and a local chapter of the YMCA. New Kensington annexed the independent borough of Parnassus in 1939.

BUILDING 22 -Aluminum City Terrace, 2-3 Bedroom Unit Type, East Hill Drive, New HAER PA,65-NEKEN,3A-6
Aluminum City Terrace, Building 22

In 1941, New Kensington became the site of a modern workers' housing project—named the Aluminum City Terrace—designed by Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius, which set new standards for federal housing design. Breuer and Gropius ascribed to the famous Bauhaus School of Design in Germany. Intended for Alcoa defense workers, it was subsequently used to rehouse displaced residents from other parts of the city. In 1948, tenants from the Terrace decided to purchase the housing project from the U.S. government to form a co-op, managed by a Board of Directors, elected by representatives from the 250 units. Relatively low-cost monthly fees continue to cover the costs of running the Terrace.

Today, New Kensington contains the neighborhoods of Parnassus, Mount Vernon, Valley Heights, Valley Camp, Pine Manor, and 40 Acres.

The New Kensington Downtown Historic District, New Kensington Production Works Historic District, and Mount St. Peter Roman Catholic Church are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 4,665
1910 7,707 65.2%
1920 11,987 55.5%
1930 16,762 39.8%
1940 24,055 43.5%
1950 25,146 4.5%
1960 23,485 −6.6%
1970 20,312 −13.5%
1980 17,660 −13.1%
1990 15,894 −10.0%
2000 14,701 −7.5%
2010 13,116 −10.8%
2019 (est.) 12,292 −6.3%

As of the census of 2000, there were 14,701 people, 6,519 households, and 3,963 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,703.9 people per square mile (1,429.7/km2). There were 7,309 housing units at an average density of 1,841.5 per square mile (710.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.85% White, 9.84% African American, 0.12% Native American, 0.23% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.37% from other races, and 1.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.72% of the population.

There were 6,519 households, out of which 23.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.3% were married couples living together, 12.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.2% were non-families. 34.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the city the population was spread out, with 21.8% under the age of 18, 6.4% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 21.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,505, and the median income for a family was $37,952. Males had a median income of $32,692 versus $21,683 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,152. About 8.5% of families and 13.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.1% of those under age 18 and 11.9% of those age 65 or over.

Usage in popular culture

New Kensington is featured in P.O.D.'s "Youth of the Nation" music video. The PA 56 Arnold directional sign is visible as the car in the video travels eastbound over the 9th Street Bridge (C.L. Schmitt Bridge).

The city was also one of the filming locations for the movie Dogma, starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.


The city is served by the New Kensington–Arnold School District, with facilities at Valley High School, Valley Middle School, H. D. Berkey Intermediate School; and Greenwald Memorial, Fort Crawford, and Martin elementary schools. Budget shortfalls forced the closure of Greenwald Memorial and Fort Crawford in 2015. Valley Middle School was renamed Roy A Hunt Elementary. Greenwald Memorial, sold by the school district to the Roman Catholic diocese of Greensburg, became the new location of St. Josephs School.

Parochial schools include Mary Queen of Apostles and Harvest Baptist Academy (K–12). Former Catholic parochial schools, now consolidated, include: Mount St. Peter, St. Mary, and St. Joseph.

A branch campus of Pennsylvania State University was established in New Kensington in 1958. Since 1966, it has been located in suburban Upper Burrell Township, but retains the name Penn State New Kensington. In 2008, a satellite campus of Westmoreland County Community College opened in downtown New Kensington.

Infrastructure and organizations

Parnassus PA Presby PHS445
Parnassus Presbyterian Church on an old postcard

New Kensington maintains its own public works, fire department, police force, emergency rescue team, and water authority. Recreational facilities operated by the city include Memorial and Masa Harbison parks. People's Library of New Kensington offers public library services. Public transportation is provided by the Port Authority of Allegheny County and Westmoreland County Transit Authority. The Westmoreland County Housing Authority administers the Kensington Manor, East Ken Manor, and Valley Manor public housing projects within the city limits.

There are over thirty churches representing several denominations throughout the city.

Two radio stations, WMNY and WBZZ, are both licensed to New Kensington, and serve the Pittsburgh radio media market.

Since the 1970s, the city's downtown has been plagued by high vacancy rates. Starting in 2008, the New Kensington Redevelopment Authority moved to condemn and demolish abandoned commercial and residential properties. The city has also instituted a Weed and Seed urban renewal program, and provided tax abatement to businesses located or opened in designated Keystone Opportunity Zones.

Notable people

  • Eddie Adams – photographer
  • Anthony Breznican – journalist and writer
  • Toney Clemons – professional football player
  • Ray DiPalma – poet
  • Carmen Gentile – Journalist, Author, and Public Speaker
  • Corey Graves – WWE commentator and former wrestler
  • Jeffrey A. Hart – academic
  • Stephanie Kwolek – inventor
  • Lenita Lane – stage and film actress (1901-1995)
  • William Thomas McKinley – composer
  • Greg Meisner – University of Pittsburgh; LA Rams (1982–91); Kansas City Chiefs (1992–93)
  • Louie Pessolano – Villanova University; Staten Island Stapletons (1929–30)
  • Fannie Sellins – Trade Union and Workers' Rights Leader (Funeral)
  • Sam Tamburo – NFL player
  • Willie Thrower – Michigan State University; Chicago Bears (1953–54), first African American QB to be in the NFL since shunning of black players in 1928.
  • Charles Haskins Townsend – zoologist
  • Andrea Velis – operatic tenor with the Metropolitan Opera (1961–94)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: New Kensington para niños

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