William Henry Donner, founder of Donora, was never a titan in the mold of Rockefeller, Carnegie, or the Mellon brothers were, but he learned a great deal from them all. Including how to build his mills in Donora.
Most people know Donner, if they know him at all, as the founder of Donora, a town with a name unlike any other in the world. They might know that Donner was connected to the Mellons —Andrew W. and Richard B. — and that he was instrumental in creating the zinc and steel mills in Donora at the turn of the 20th Century. They might not know much else.
Donora, Pennsylvania, would likely not exist today if town founder William H. Donner hadn't finally persuaded Margaret Heslep, a surprisingly crafty negotiator, to sell her land.
If you've ever wanted to start your own town, there may be no better formula for it than the one William H. Donner used to start Donora at the turn of the 20th Century. Donner was a colleague of banking and industrial magnate Andrew Mellon, and they had decided to build a series of steel mills south of Pittsburgh. Donner found in some land along the Monongahela River the perfect spot to create a town. Let's take a look at how he did it.