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Saxonburg and Vicinity

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Saxonburg was founded by a group of three hundred Lutheran families organized and led by John and Karl Roebling, brothers from Mühlhausen in central Germany. In 1831, John Roebling (1806–1869) purchased 1,582 acres and began to farm and manufacture bricks. As a trained architect and engineer, he took an interest in laying out the community, first called Germania, then Sachensburg, and later anglicized to Saxonburg. In 1837, John Roebling became the Pennsylvania state engineer, which included among other duties oversight of the canal system. He had witnessed the frailty and unwieldiness of the enormous hemp ropes used to pull loaded canal boats up the steep inclines in the Allegheny Mountains, and he experimented with alternatives at his shop in Saxonburg, which is preserved in a park dedicated to him at 199 N. Rebecca Street. In 1841, he developed the twisted-wire cable to be used on the Pennsylvania Canal and, later, the Brooklyn Bridge. The use of the steel cable revolutionized bridge building and enhanced Roebling's reputation, beginning with the suspension bridge-aqueduct he designed in 1844–1845 for the Pennsylvania Canal to cross the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh (demolished). Roebling moved his wire rope factory to Trenton, New Jersey, in 1848 to facilitate shipping the heavy cabling internationally.

Saxonburg's main street is lined with white frame buildings, such as the Hotel Saxonburg of 1832 (220 Main Street) and the Saxonburg Memorial United Presbyterian Church designed by Roebling in 1837 (100 Main Street). Many of these buildings dating from the 1830s and 1840s are of heavy timber construction, with brick and straw used as insulation between the framing in the Germanic manner. Unfortunately, Roebling's own house at 110 Main Street, which now serves as the office for the Saxonburg Memorial United Presbyterian Church, as well as many other frame buildings in town, has been sheathed in aluminum siding.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.

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