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 dropout, 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 when 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.

Site Navigation:
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

Horace Wilkinson Bridge (Baton Rouge, LA)

Standing tall across from downtown Baton Rouge, the Horace Wilkinson Bridge carries Interstate 10 across the lower Mississippi River between West Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parishes. Unusually, the bridge is actually named for three separate people; three generations of Horace Wilkinsons who served in the Louisiana State Legislature over a combined period of 54 years. Constructed in the 1960s and opened to traffic in 1968, this is one of the largest steel bridges on the lower Mississippi. It’s also the tallest bridge across the Mississippi, with its roadway reaching 175 ft at the center span. Baton Rouge is the northernmost city on the river where deep-water, ocean-going vessels can operate. As a result, this bridge is the northernmost bridge on the river of truly gigantic proportions. Altogether, the bridge is nearly 2 ½ miles long and its massive truss superstructure is 4,550 ft long with a center main truss span of 1,235 ft. The Horace Wilkinson Bridge is one of the largest

Veterans Memorial Bridge (Gramercy, LA)

When we think of the greatest engineering achievements and the greatest bridges of North America, we tend to focus on those located in places familiar to us or those structures that serve the greatest roles in connecting the many peoples and cultures of our continent. Greatness can also be found in the places we least expect to find it and that 'greatness' can unfortunately be overlooked, due in large part to projects that are mostly inconsequential, if not wasteful, to the development and fortunes of the surrounding area. In the aftermath of the George Prince ferry disaster that claimed the lives of 78 people in October 1976 in nearby Luling, LA, the state of Louisiana began the process of gradually phasing out most of its prominent cross-river ferry services, a process that remains a work in progress today. While the Luling-Destrehan Ferry service was eliminated in 1983 upon completion of the nearby Hale Boggs Memorial Bridge, the ferry service at Gramercy, LA in rural St.

Sunshine Bridge (Donaldsonville, LA)

Located about halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in southern Louisiana, the Sunshine Bridge spans the lower Mississippi River near the city of Donaldsonville as part of the longer Louisiana Highway 70 corridor, which connects Interstate 10 and Airline Highway (US 61) with US 90 in Morgan City. In the years following World War II, the only bridges across the lower Mississippi River in Louisiana were located in the area of the state’s two largest cities – Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Postwar agricultural and industrial development along the river in this region led to the planning of a series of infrastructure projects in southern Louisiana that were aimed at spurring this development and modernization of the Delta region. One of these projects was known as the Acadian Thruway and was developed in the 1950s as a toll road intended to connect greater New Orleans with Lafayette and points west while providing a high-speed bypass of the Baton Rouge metro area. The Thruway, which