History of Millvale
So I guess Millvale’s caught your interest? But where did it all start?
Girty’s Run Creek
Rewind to the 18th century. It’s the 1740’s, and what becomes Millvale is now the start of the Venango trail, which used to lead to Lake Erie. The Seneca tribe hunted and fished the lands, and upon encountering foreigners ended up killing the father of young Simon Girty. Because they then raised Simon as a Native American, he had trouble living outside of the tribe and settled instead along a creek that bears his name to this day: Girty’s Run Creek. However, the American Revolution broke out, and Simon ended up fighting first for the Colonials, and then with the Seneca and the British. After the war, he moved to Canada.
The Stone House on Evergreen Road
The revolutionary war had come to an end. Soldiers of the Continental Army were awarded land compensation. Amongst these veterans was John Sample, whose fourth son Thomas is believed to be only the second white child born west of the Allegheny river in 1791. The stone house on Evergreen was built by one of John's grandsons.
The Poor Farm
Now a city, Allegheny purchased 164 acres of Sample estate to place a Poor Farm on the site, which ran for twenty-three years. Over the years, the Poor Farm brought industry into Millvale, including an 1847 forge that became the rolling mill owned by Henry Phipps. Andrew Carnegie worked as a bookkeeper at his mill for a short amount of time before Phipps sold the mill and both went on to found Carnegie Steel. Phipps is now remembered primarily for his gift of the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Schenley Park. Some of the buildings of the Poor Farm remain standing today.
Bennett Station and Post Office
The railroad industry was ramping up. In 1857, Pennsylvania Railroad purchased the right of way from the Pennsylvania Canal System, heralding the revolution of the iron horse in Western Pennsylvania. Houses sprung up and the first public school came to be at what is now known as the 40th Street Bridge. Before long, the area was so populous a railroad station was established in the name of Bennett, one of the partners of the Graff, Bennett and Company. In 1863, Graff and Bennett also bought the mill, which was located in Old Duquesne, from Phipps and established the first post office.
February 13, 1868. With the help of schoolteacher M.B. Lyon, Millvale Borough is incorporated from parts of Shaler Township and Duquesne Borough and named after its industry and location—mill and valley. With a population of 668 in 1870, it quickly expanded after the Civil War and prospered upon connection with Lawrenceville via Ewalt Covered Bridge and a narrow gauge railroad that would become part of Pittsburgh’s famous trolley system. By the turn of the century, Millvale had annexed the Third Ward from the Shaler Township and had three schools, three breweries, an opera house, a grocery store, a candy store, and a Masonic lodge.
Turn of the Century
It’s 1900. Graff, Bennett Mill has burned to the ground. It is now used as a car barn for the trolley system, and not too far away is the first water and electric company in Pittsburgh. Thanks to the Lippert Saw Works and Vero Sand, Gravel and Coal businesses, Millvale has an architect, an auto garage, eight hotels, four attorneys, six bakers, eight barbers, three blacksmiths, twenty-eight grocers and four nickelodeons (early movie theatres). The Lincoln Pharmacy opened doors for the first time in 1926.
Depression, War, Decline
Millvale took advantage of the government initiated Works Progress Administration to fortify Girty’s Run Creek and assisted the war efforts proudly with through both its manufacturing businesses and its residents. Many businesses still seen today come from this era, including Daniels’s Electric, Esther’s Hobby Shop, Haser Trucking, Grant Bar, Lincoln Pharmacy, Vecenie’s Beer Distributor and Jerry Kitman’s Fine Furniture.
Alas, though Millvale underwent a fantastic boom after the war, expanding the police force and fire department we know, America’s energy crisis and the downfall of both the manufacturing and steel industries hit home. As Millvale Centennial came and went, the number of residents began dwindling down to the few but fiercely proud of Millvale.
Gearing Up For a New Millenium
Millvale’s streets were redone and a riverfront park that gave residents access to Allegheny River and featured a pavilion, a bike trail, a boat launch and a skate-park. With development of the riverfront for recreation as well as business, Millvale surpasses similar peers in its county. Although Girty’s Run left parts flooded in fall of 2004, the community survived and grew closer and continues to strive on to a prosperous future today.