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 NY 10 and Goodman Mountain in the Adirondacks

  Old highway alignments come in all shapes and sizes, as well as taking some different forms after their lifespan of serving cars and trucks has ended. In the case of an old alignment of what was NY 10 south of Tupper Lake, New York, part of the old road was turned into part of a hiking trail to go up Goodman Mountain. At one time, the road passed by Goodman Mountain to the east, or Litchfield Mountain as it was known at the time. As the years passed, sometime around 1960, the part of NY 10 north of Speculator became part of NY 30, and remains that way today from Speculator, past Indian Lake and Tupper Lake and up to the Canadian Border. At one time, the highway was realigned to pass the Goodman Mountain to the west, leaving this stretch of road to be mostly forgotten and to be reclaimed by nature. During the summer of 2014, a 1.6 mile long hiking trail was approved the Adirondack Park Agency to be constructed to the summit of the 2,176 foot high Goodman Mountain. For the first 0.9 mi

Oregon State Highway 58

  Also known as the Willamette Highway No. 18, the route of Oregon State Highway 58 (OR 58) stretches some 86 miles between US 97 north of Chemult and I-5 just outside of Eugene, Oregon. A main route between the Willamette Valley region of Oregon with Central Oregon and Crater Lake National Park, the highway follows the Middle Fork Willamette River and Salt Creek for much of its route as it makes its way to and across the Cascades, cresting at 5,138 feet above sea level at Willamette Pass. That is a gain of over 4,500 in elevation from where the highway begins at I-5. The upper reaches of OR 58 are dominated by the principal pinnacle that can sometimes be seen from the highway, Diamond Peak, and three nearby lakes, Crescent, Odell and Waldo (Oregon's second largest lake). OR 58 is chock full of rivers, creeks, mountain views, hot springs and waterfalls within a short distance from the highway. OR 58 was numbered as such by the Oregon State Highway Department in 1940. OR 58 is a del

Siuslaw River Bridge - US 101 in Florence, Oregon

  As the Oregon Coast Highway (US 101) was being completed across the State of Oregon during the 1930s, a number of bridges needed to be built to cross some of the state's finest rivers. In Florence, Oregon , the Siuslaw River Bridge was designed and constructed to help fill in the gaps between different coastal communities. Built in 1936, the Siuslaw River Bridge is a bascule bridge flanked by two reinforced concrete arches that spans across the Siuslaw River. The bridge and the river get their names from the Siuslaw tribal people who make their home along the river valleys of this part of the Oregon Coast. Today, the bridge provides a vital link connecting US 101 and the Central Oregon Coast to points north and south. The total length of the Siuslaw River Bridge is 1,568 feet, stretching across the river. But more specifically, the bridge is made up of a north approach with eight spans of reinforced concrete deck girder totaling 478 feet in length. There is a main span in three