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Rolling Hills and Rolling Mills

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The southwestern counties (Beaver, Butler, Armstrong, Indiana, Westmoreland, Fayette, Greene, and Washington) surrounding Pittsburgh and Allegheny County share the topography of the Allegheny Plateau. Rolling hills created by erosion from thousands of streams reach to approximately 1,500 feet above sea level. Until 1769, the southern portions of Washington and Fayette counties and all of Greene County were the northwestern counties of Virginia. Settlers arrived as early as the 1750s, although after the territory was officially declared part of Pennsylvania in 1786, many slave-owning Virginians migrated farther west to Kentucky. All these southwestern counties sit atop one of the largest coal veins in the world, and share some of the most intensely industrial landscapes anywhere in the nation. Although iron and steel making did not originate here, these industries flourished and grew to international scale.

Building techniques and styles in this region are a true synthesis of the cultures that crossed it, from southern plantation houses to the modest homes of Quakers, German religious denominations, and Scots-Irish Presbyterians. The building types that originated here and became popular were exported westward to sites along the rivers, the early turnpikes, and the National Road (now U.S. 40). The areas closest to urban and suburban Pittsburgh have experienced considerable pressure for development and change in the course of the twentieth century. For those farther away, change has been less intense and their historic layers of growth are more evident, especially in the architectural styling of churches and monuments.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.

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