Monongahela grew around a ferry crossing on the Monongahela River. By the 1780s, the town was situated on a direct overland route to Washington, Pennsylvania, via what today is PA 136. One of its earliest settlers was Joseph Parkinson, who operated a ferry and an inn, and hosted several meetings during the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s. For brief periods, the locality was called Parkinson's Ferry. Parkinson laid out the town in 1792, naming it Williamsport for his son William. Due to the Virginia–Pennsylvania title disputes, the first public sale of lots was unsuccessful. But four years later, in 1796, twenty-four lots were sold in an area between what is now 1st and 3rd streets. In 1838, a bridge across the Monongahela boosted the city's status as a major commercial center and important boat-building site that rivaled Brownsville and Pittsburgh. Political pressure from these rivals delayed railroad service into Monongahela until 1873. The town as it looks today reflects the building boom that accompanied the rail connection and the founding of large-scale industry in the Monongahela River valley.
Architects well known in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, as well as local architects, were hired to design buildings in Monongahela, testifying to the community's aspirations. John Chislett of Pittsburgh laid out a portion of the Monongahela Cemetery in 1863. Joseph C. Hoxie of Philadelphia designed the First Methodist Church of Monongahela (now altered; 430 W. Main Street) between 1864 and 1873 in a German Romanesque style. Nearly a dozen brick Italianate and Second Empire houses and three Gothic Revival churches on Monongahela's Main Street were designed by local architect John Blythe. Contracting-building firm Yohe Brothers supplied the valley with talented designers and carpenters from the 1880s through the 1920s. And architect Frank Perry Keller designed several handsome houses in Monongahela between 1894 and 1911, before migrating to Los Angeles. Since it was never dependent on a single industry, unlike many other Mon Valley (as the river valley is locally known) towns, Monongahela did not experience a precipitous decline at the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s. A notable feature of the modern city is the Aquatorium constructed of Flexicore concrete slabs and corrugated metal. This riverside auditorium seats 3,000 people and was built in 1969 by the Frank Irey Construction Company.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.