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

The history of US Route 80 and Interstate 8 in California

The historic corridor of US Route 80 and Interstate 8 through the borderlands of southern California share a largely mutual history.  Both highways originated in the city of San Diego and departed the state at the Colorado River into Yuma, Arizona.  Both highways share numerous famous geographical components such as the Mountain Springs Grade and Algodones Sand Dunes.  This article serves as a comprehensive history of the combined US Route 80/Interstate 8 corridor in California from the tolled stage route era of the nineteenth century to the development of the modern freeway.   The blog cover photo features US Route 80 along the Mountains Springs Grade through In-Ko-Pah Gorge during late 1920s.  This photo is part of the Caltrans McCurry Collection. Part 1; the history of US Route 80 and Interstate 8 in California US Route 80 and Interstate 8 in California share a largely mutual history.  The backstory of both highways is tied heavily to the corridors of the Old Spanish Trail, Legisl

The Central Freeway of San Francisco (US Route 101)

The Central Freeway is a 1.2-mile elevated limited access corridor in the city of San Francisco.  As presently configured the Central Freeway connects from the end of the Bayshore Freeway to Market Street.  The Central Freeway carries the mainline of northbound US Route 101 from the Bayshore Freeway to Mission Street. The Central Freeway has origins with the establishment of Legislative Route Number 223 and is heavily tied to the history of the once proposed Panhandle Freeway.  The Central Freeway between the Bayshore Freeway and Mission Street was completed during 1955.  The corridor was extended to a one-way couplet located at Turk Street and Golden Gate Avenue in 1959 which served to connect US Route 101 to Van Ness Avenue.  The Central Freeway was damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and has since been truncated to Market Street.   The Central Freeway as pictured on the blog cover was featured in the May/June 1959 California Highways & Public Works.  The scan below is fro

The Bayshore Freeway (US Route 101)

The Bayshore Freeway is a 56.4-mile component of US Route 101 located in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Bayshore Freeway connects the southern extent of San Jose to the Central Freeway in the city of San Francisco.  The corridor was originally developed as the Bayshore Highway between 1923 and 1937.  The Bayshore Highway would serve briefly as mainline US Route 101 before being reassigned as US Route 101 Bypass in 1938.  Conceptually the designs for the Bayshore Freeway originated in 1940 but construction would be delayed until 1947.  The Bayshore Freeway was completed by 1962 and became mainline US Route 101 during June 1963.   Part 1; the history of the Bayshore Freeway Prior the creation of the Bayshore Highway corridor the most commonly used highway between San Jose and San Francisco was El Camino Real (alternatively known as Peninsula Highway).  The  American El Camino Real  began as an early example of a signed as an Auto Trail starting in 1906.  The era of State Highway Mainte