Miniature Railroad & Village cements Donora into its visual history

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The Carnegie Science Center Miniature Railroad & Village has been capturing the interest of Pittsburghers both young and old since 1919. And on Nov. 15, the railroad reopens to the public with its newest model: Cement City.

Cement City, which is located in Donora, Pa., an hour south of Pittsburgh, was created by Thomas Edison as an answer to the slum-like conditions created by housing shortages common to industrial boomtowns. Edison dreamed “to see the day when a workingman’s house can be built of concrete in a week,” according to Brian Charlton of the Donora Historical Society and Smog Museum.

Edison’s goals were speed, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and altruism (Charlton says Edison was worried his philanthropy would pale in comparison to Andrew Carnegie’s). His idea won hearts and minds, and 120 cement-poured houses were ordered for completion between 1916 and 1917. Only 80 houses were built before unforeseen costs curbed construction. But the houses and the history remain strong, and Cement City landed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Historic District in 1996.

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