"ECONOMY - HARMONIST EPOGEE" Ambridge by mtncorg

Ambridge Travel Guide: 26 reviews and 54 photos

Ambridge is a town of less than half of its 1940 population set about 16 miles north from Pittsburgh on the east bank of the Ohio River. The town was founded by the Harmony Society as members of this communal group led by George Rapp returned to their Pennsylvanian roots from the wilds of malarial-infested southwestern Indiana. Celibacy, schism and the refusal to accept new members eventually did the Harmony Society in. When the Society eventually dissolved, the real estate holdings were sold to the American Bridge Company, a 1900 J. P. Morgan consortium of 28 bridge and structural steel companies. Economy was totally transformed by American Bridge - the town was renamed for the company - and thousands of new immigrants came to Ambridge, just like in the many other towns you find in this area, attracted by the work provided by the steel mills. American Bridge’s list of construction projects it was associated with is very impressive including at least 81 different bridges - like the Verrazano-Narrows in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Mackinac Bidge in Michigan, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa bay, the 25th of April Bridge in Lisbon, the Orinoco Bridge in Venezuela, the New River Gorge Bridge in west Virginia and the Astoria Bridge, here in Oregon; buildings like the Sears Tower, Aon Center and John Hancock Center in Chicago; the Empire State Building, Woolworth Building and Chrysler Building in New York City; the U.S. Steel Tower in Pittsburgh among many other vast buildings like stadia (both the Superdome and the Astrodome), space launch pads, etc.. The list is truly impressive. But all good things come to an end, at least here in Ambridge. As steel production left the U.S., American Bridge closed shop here in 1983 with even the headquarters moving across and upriver to the Pittsburgh suburb of Coraopolis. The town from the fast hurried glance of this tourist, is till in the process of rediscovering itself.

The American Bridge years did not totally submerge the Harmonist past as the new town grew up on lands away from the old town for the most part. That allowed the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to develop the Old Economy Village a development that maintains some 17 buildings and garden built by the harmonists between 1824 and 1830, the peak of the Society’s years here in Ambridge/Economy. There are some 60+ other surviving structures from the Harmonist era that you can wander past with a little knowledge and imagination - imagination, because the buildings have undergone many renovations from succeeding owners in the intervening years since the Harmonists lived here.

  • Last visit to Ambridge: Sep 2008
  • Intro Written Oct 5, 2008
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