Western Pennsylvania

Western Pennsylvania
Clockwise from top left: Pittsburgh, Erie, Altoona, and Johnstown

American Indian villages were located throughout Western Pennsylvania. Kittanning still uses its American Indian name, while the town of Sawcunk lies on the site of present-day Rochester, Pennsylvania.
Coordinates: 41°03′N 79°03′W / 41.05°N 79.05°W / 41.05; -79.05Coordinates: 41°03′N 79°03′W / 41.05°N 79.05°W / 41.05; -79.05
Country United States
Commonwealth Pennsylvania
Largest city Pittsburgh
Other cities
Population (2010 Estimate)
  Total 4,000,000
Time zone ET (UTC-5)
  Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)

Western Pennsylvania refers to the western third of the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. Pittsburgh is the region's principal city, with a metropolitan area population of about 2.4 million people, and serves as its economic and cultural center. Erie, Altoona, and Johnstown are its other metropolitan centers. As of the 2010 census, Western Pennsylvania's total population is nearly 4 million.

Although the Commonwealth does not designate Western Pennsylvania as an official region, since colonial times it has retained a distinct identity not only because of its geographical distance from Philadelphia, the beginning of Pennsylvania settlement, but especially because of its topographical separation from the east by virtue of the Appalachian Mountains, which characterize much of the western region. In the 18th century, this separateness caused some to rally for the formation of a 14th state in this region named Westsylvania. The strong cultural identity of Western Pennsylvania is reinforced by the state supreme court holding sessions in Pittsburgh, in addition to Harrisburg and Philadelphia.


Since at least the early 20th century, scholarly books such as Guidebook to Historic Western Pennsylvania, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press (1938), formally define the region as the 26 counties west of the Appalachian divide, a meridian from the north at McKean County down and along McKean's eastern border and ending in the south at Bedford County.

In alphabetical order those counties are:


Long recognized as a powerhouse of American industry, Western Pennsylvania is a large geophysical and socio-economic entity. It encompasses that portion of the state to the west of the Appalachian divide and included within the Mississippi drainage system of rivers.

The largest rivers in this area are the Allegheny River, which flows southward from the New York border, and the Monongahela River, which flows northward from West Virginia. These two rivers meet in Downtown Pittsburgh and join to form the Ohio River, which from that point flows an additional 981 miles (1,579 km) southwest to the Mississippi River. The juncture of the Allegheny and Monongahela was historically regarded as strategic and the gateway to the interior of the continent from the east. At various times this juncture has been called the Forks of the Ohio, Fort Duquesne, Fort Pitt, the Golden Triangle, and today, at its apex, Point State Park. Incredibly, after several decades of border war and 150 years of high-rent city-center urbanization, the original 1764 blockhouse from Fort Pitt still stands here and is one of the oldest buildings in the region.

Other notable rivers are the Youghiogheny River, flowing north from West Virginia and western Maryland to join the Monongahela just upriver of Pittsburgh, and which was the early route of penetration into Western Pennsylvania, the Kiskiminetas River, French Creek, a major passageway between Lake Erie and the Allegheny River for the Indians and early French explorers and traders, and the small Oil Creek in Crawford and Venango counties, where slicks gave an indication of petroleum reserves and in whose watershed the first oil well in the United States was drilled.

The highest point in Pennsylvania, Mount Davis, reaches 3,213 feet (979 m), and is located near the southern border of the state in Somerset County, approximately 100 miles (160 km) east of the southwestern corner, where the Appalachian Mountains enter Pennsylvania from the south.[1] To the west and north of this point lies the Allegheny Plateau, a dissected plateau so eroded that it appears to be an interminable series of high hills and steep valleys. The peaks in the area are among the lowest in the East Coast highlands, but what they lack in height they make up in wide extent of land covered, which forms a vast formidable barrier for mile upon mile to overland travel from the coast.


Western Pennsylvania is home to more than two dozen institutions of higher learning, including those listed below. (Seminaries are not listed)


Western Pennsylvania is distinctive from the rest of the state due to several important and complex factors:


Pittsburgh boasts three major league sports teams: the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League, the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball, and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Panthers is a NCAA Division I college team. Erie and Johnstown both have junior ice hockey teams as well. The Erie Otters play in the Ontario Hockey League and the Johnstown Tomahawks play in the North American Hockey League.

See also


  1. "Mount Davis". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  2. US Corps of Engineers, Waterborne Commerce by Tonnage, 2002
  3. "Chapter 7: Glass: Shattering Notions" (PDF). Senator John Heinz History Center. Senator John Heinz History Center. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  4. Generic Names for Soft Drinks, by county


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