Skip to main content

The William Flinn (not Flynn) Highway - Pittsburgh's Misspelled Street

For decades if you traveled along PA Route 8 in Pittsburgh's North Hills suburbs, you would have noticed signs that read "William Flynn Highway" at every intersection.  Even today, many businesses and residences have their addresses listed as XXXX William Flynn Highway.  However, it's not William Flynn Highway, it is William FLINN Highway - and the gentleman who it is named for has a long and storied past in Pittsburgh's infrastructure history.

William Flinn was born in England in 1851; however later that year, his family emigrated to the United States and would settle in Pittsburgh.  A 10 year-old school drop out, Flinn grew interested in politics and would join the Allegheny County Republican Party in 1877 as a ward commissioner and a seat on the Board of Fire Commissioners.  Flinn would serve in the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives and Senate from 1877 to 1902. (1)

Flinn along with James J. Booth would found the Booth and Flinn construction firm in 1876.  In a time where political power brokering was commonplace, Flinn would partner with Christopher Magee to further their ambition of wealth and power.  As a result of his political connections with Magee, Flinn would see his company be awarded major infrastructure projects within the Pittsburgh region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Booth and Flinn constructed three of Pittsburgh's major tunnels - the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel (1904), Liberty Tunnel (1924), and Armstrong Tunnel (1927) - among many other projects. (2)  The firm also built the Holland Tunnel that links New York City and New Jersey.

Flinn died in 1924 in Florida at the age of 72.  Flinn would be buried in Homewood Cemetery.  Hartwood Acres, the Allegheny County park known for its Christmas festivities, was formerly the estate of his daughter, Mary. The highway that bears his name was dedicated one decade after his death in 1934.  However, in 2001, the state legislature dedicated the Allegheny County segment of the highway after former PA State Representative, Rick Cessar.  In 2013, PENNDOT finally corrected the spelling of Flinn's last name on street signs in Allegheny and Butler Counties.

William Flinn Highway Monument - Bruce Cridlebaugh, 2000.
The William Flinn Highway is better known in Pittsburgh's North Hills.  However, it was named such throughout Allegheny County.  South of Pittsburgh, it is better known as Old Washington Pike which at one time was US 19 and prior to that part of PA Route 8.  Along the Old Washington Pike at the Allegheny/Washington County Line there is a now nearly 85 year old stone monument honoring William Flinn and the highway that bears his name.

William Flinn Highway Monument - Bruce Cridlebaugh, 2000.
There are two readable plaques facing travelers:

The plaque facing northbound travelers reads:
WILLIAM FLINN
1851 - - - 1924
BUILDER FOR AND AMONG MEN
PATRIOT AND STATESMAN
A GREAT MARSHALL OF MEN IN THE
ADVANCEMENT OF OUR CIVIL LIFE
A GREAT BUILDER
OF EARTHLY CONSTRUCTION
A GREAT BUILDER OF HUMAN CHARACTER

The plaque facing southbound travelers reads:
WILLIAM FLINN
1851 - - - 1924
THIS MARKER WAS
CARVED FROM LIGONIER STONE
TAKEN FROM
THE QUARRIES OPERATED BY
WILLIAM FLINN
BEGINNING IN THE YEAR 1881.

Sources & Links:
  • Bruce Cridlebaugh
  • Larsen H. Flinn, Great-Great Grandson of William Flinn.
  • Jeff Hartzell
  • William Flinn Obituary. Butler Eagle, February 20, 1924
  • (1) Pennsylvania State Senate. "Historical Biographies - William Flinn." Accessed via Web December 22, 2017. 
  • (2) Cridlebaugh, Bruce. "William Flinn." Bridges and Tunnels of Allegheny County.
  • PA 8 @ PAHighways.com ---Jeff Kitsko

Comments

Good article. My great grandfather was William Flinn. I published a book about Hartwood and I cover Booth and Flinn in good detail. My book can be seen here: http://www.reflectionsofhartwoodbook.com

Popular posts from this blog

Old California State Route 140 and California State Route 120 entrances to Yosemite National Park

This past October I sought out the original Yosemite National Park entrance alignments of California State Route 140 and California State Route 120.


Presently CA 120 enters Yosemite National Park in Tuolumne County via the modern Big Oak Flat Road.  Originally CA 120 entered Yosemite National Park via the Old Tioga Pass Road and CA 140 a entered via the Old Big Oak Flat Road.  Previously the history of the Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Pass Road were discussed on Gribblenation.  Articles pertaining to the Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Pass Road within the boundary of Yosemite National Park can be found below.

History of the Big Oak Flat Road (Yosemite National Park) 

The Tioga Pass Road


Part 1; early highways into Yosemite and Legislative Route 40

The Big Oak Flat Road is the second oldest highway into Yosemite just behind the Old Coulterville Road  Much of the alignment of CA 120 is presently incorporated by the path set out by the Big Oak Flat Road.  The history of the Big Oak Flat Road …

California State Route 60/Former US Route 60/70 through the Moreno Valley Badlands west to Riverside

This past month I drove California State Route 60 through the Moreno Valley Badlands westward towards the City of Riverside.  CA 60 through the Moreno Valley Badlands was once part of the corridors of US Route 60 and US Route 70.


The present route of CA 60 is a 70 mile (76 counting multiplex) slice of former US 60 between downtown Los Angeles east to I-10 near Beaumont.  The vast majority of CA 60 aside from a small section in the Moreno Valley Badlands is presently a freeway grade.



For me CA 60 holds some personal history as it was the route I used most frequently accessing work sites in the Inland Empire circa 2011-2013.  Despite what many others probably would say I always really enjoyed the Moreno Valley Badlands portion of CA 60.  Considering I frequently worked on US 60 through Arizona and New Mexico the route holds even more appeal.  I even have a CA 60 shield hanging up in my garage.




Part 1; History of Roadways in the Moreno Valley Badlands

CA 60 between Beaumont and Riverside…

Box Canyon Road (former US 60, US 70 and the second California State Route 195)

This past month while visiting Riverside County I drove Box Canyon Road from Interstate 10 near Chiriaco Summit southwest to Mecca in Coachella Valley.  Box Canyon Road is mostly known for being the original alignment of US 60/70 when they were expanded into California.


Box Canyon Road is an approximately 15.8 mile road between I-10/Cottonwood Springs Road near Chiriaco Summit which travels southwest through the Mecca Hills to Coachella Valley where it becomes 66th Avenue. 


Box Canyon Road follows a naturally cut wash through the terrain of the Mecca Hills.  The path of Box Canyon Road has been a known route of travel from Coachella Valley to the Colorado River and eastern Sonoran Desert for centuries.  During the California Gold Rush a wagon route known as the Bradshaw Trail was plotted through the Sonoran Desert by William D. Bradshaw.  The Bradshaw Trail was plotted in 1862 through the Sonoran Desert east over the Colorado River to a new mining strike found in La Paz, Arizona.  B…