Brownsville

Brownsville is a borough in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, United States, officially founded in 1785 located 35 miles (56 km) south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River. The borough was an industrial center, transportation hub, outfitting center, and river boat building powerhouse acting as a gateway city for emigrants heading west to the Ohio Country, Northwest Territory and beyond on the various Emigrant Trails to the far west from its founding until well into the 1850s. Founded about the same time, industrious bustling Brownsville early on easily eclipsed both by size and dynamism the nearby city of Pittsburgh until well into the 1850s when the Railways through to Kanesville, Iowa in the Midwest left Pittsburgh with the better transportation system, and made Kanesville the newest and best gateway city to the far west. Brownsville’s Flat Boats couldn’t cross Nebraska, Wyoming and the Continental divide either, but by 1869 the trains could.

Even while emigrant outfitting began to decline steadily from 1853′s completion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to the Ohio, the nascent steel industry was building and adding capacity, giving the borough a new growth spurt as a Railroad Yard and Coking center. It gradually lost its diverse mix of businesses and became more fragile as a result, but in general prospered. Like the rest of the country, Brownsville tightened its belt during the slim years of the Great Depression, but managed well enough, and then resurge again as steel demand picked up and World War II drove the world economy.

In 1940, 8,015 people lived in Brownsville, and it experienced a postwar growth spurt which allowed it to develop cross-county-line suburbs like Malden, Low Hill, and Denbo Heights which were mainly bedroom communities within commuting distance, but a bit flatter too being farther out of the foothills. After the boom-bust-boom of the fifties and sixties, the borough went into a third and more severe decline again in the mid-1970s along with much of the Rust Belt so that population was just 2,804 at the 2000 census. Now in the 2011 Brownsville still has a handful of buildings condemened or just boarded up. Some abandoned buildings are the Union Station, some banks, and other random buisnesses. The sidewalks around the town are still intact and usable. Slowly, Brownsville is fixing itself up.

Geography

Brownsville is located at 40°1′12″N 79°53′22″W (40.020026, -79.889536) situated on the east (convex) side of a broad sweeping westward bend in the northerly flowing Monongahela River at the westernmost point of Fayette County. Erosion undercutting action by the river on the surrounding characteristically steep-sided sandstone hills has created several shelf-like benches and connecting sloped terrain and thereby given the borough lowland areas adjacent to or otherwise accessible to the river shores. Much of the borough’s residential buildings are built above the elevation of the business district arrayed upslope to either side along the connecting slopes and shelves cut by the geological action of long ago when the river bed moved gradually westward leaving the lowered shelves and slopes behind.

Concurrently, the opposite river shore of Washington County is, uncharacteristically for the region, shaped even lower to the water surface and is generally flatter and more plain-like than the more diverse geology of the borough’s lands. That shore holds a tightly bound mirror community of about a fifth the size, a small hamlet called West Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Historically the low height of the concave shore of the river have made the river banks at the locii of two communities attractive as a natural river crossing, ferry, bridge, and boat building site. When the nascent United States government first appropriated funds for its first ever road building project, Brownsville, was an early intermediate target destination along the new National Road when construction began in 1811. Until a bridge was built, it was the western terminus.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough has a total area of 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2), of which, 1.0 square mile (2.6 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (9.91%) is water. Lester Ward was elected Mayor in 2009.

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