The town's success came swiftly. Soon the mill became the world's largest rolling mill, hundreds of private homes were built, the population swelled to 11,000, and a delegation from the British Parliament came to study its success. In 1904, when a model of the town was displayed at the St. Louis World's Fair, the town's design won two gold medals. (as shown)
In 1915, Vandergrift merged with Vandergrift Heights, and in 1957 West Vandergrift was annexed. In 1988, the steel mill was purchased by Allegheny Ludlum Corporation, specialty steel makers, and is a "state of the art" mill today. Nearly a century after its founding, the town remains eighty to ninety percent intact, its Queen Ann & Victorian homes architectural treasures ideal for restoration, its awareness of its unique heritage growing, and its outlook for the second century optimistic. The town is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Click here for a 1895 map of Vandergrift.
He drifted from city to city, finally arriving in Detroit almost penniless, where he found work. He began his career in the steel business with the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company in Chicago and was transferred to Pittsburgh. After serving as a Major in the Union Cavalry during the Civil War, he became associated with the Volta Galvanizing Company. He was made president of their operation in Apollo, Pa., called the Apollo Iron & Steel Co. The company prospered and McMurtry became a significant shareholder. Lacking room to expand the plant, he convinced company directors to build a new mill and town on farmland downriver from Apollo. For ideas, he visited industrial villages in France, Germany, and Russia. He hired Frederick Law Olmsted to design his new town, where workers would be healthy and happy. His dream included clean water, parks, a cultural center and comfortable homes for his workers. Vandergrift stands a a lasting tribute to McMurtry's dream.
In 1895, Olmsted's firm designed Vandergrift near the end of his disguished career, which began with his design of New York City's Central Park. His many landscape achievements include the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, the campus of Stanford University, the Biltmore Estate and city parks from Boston to San Francisco. His master plan for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair helped bring him to the attention of Vandergrift's founder, George McMurtry.
Numerous plans and historic photos of Vandergrift are preserved in Olmsted's studio--a national historic site--in Brookline, MA, operated by the National Park Service. A collection of photos are on display in the Vandergrift Council Room.
For more information about Olmsted, see the Life of Frederick Law Olmsted at the University of Connecticut.
friends of the library have viewed this page hosted by KiskiNet. since the counter was started.
(c) 1996 Vandergrift Public Library