- Associated Press - Saturday, March 1, 2014

ALIQUIPPA, Pa. (AP) - This town is a ghost of what it once was.

That’s not to say Aliquippa’s a ghost town, because beyond the shuttered storefronts of its downtown corridor remains a strong, proud populace that’s endured the decline of the steel industry that fostered its very existence.

“I can remember the traffic would be backed up to the library at shift change (of the mill),” Cindy Murphy said. “I can remember a very busy place.”

Murphy’s the coordinator of reference and circulation services at the B.F. Jones Memorial Library here, and she’s also a history buff with a fondness for the place she calls home.

“Aliquippa is still a good place,” she said.

It’s a place with a firm sense of history and has forever been tied to the late, great Jones and Laughlin Steel Co., an industrial giant that located a massive mill here on the west bank of the Ohio River.

The city is the foremost of Beaver County’s “company towns” — places that sprung up with the rise of the steel industry in the region and were populated by the mill workers who toiled at places like J&L Steel and American Bridge Co., another once-mighty company that gave Ambridge its name.

Beaver Falls is another example — starting at the industrial center of the Harmonites, a German religious sect who settled here and also founded what’s now known as Old Economy Village.

For Murphy, 60, and her husband Ed, 63, Aliquippa’s been a place they’re proud to call home.

The couple exemplifies Aliquippa’s evolution over the years, even as they help to preserve the city’s past and be a part of its future.

Benjamin Franklin (B.F.) Jones envisioned Aliquippa as a utopia, Cindy Murphy said.

The steel baron didn’t live to see the city built, but Murphy said his plan came to fruition, and in the early 1900s the city was ahead of its time.

“All homes had indoor plumbing, running water, electricity,” she said.

The sidewalks and streets were paved and the city had among the best schools in the country.

The city was arranged in 12 “plans” where people grouped by ethnicity and company rank. Although this might sound dystopic to today’s societal mores, “it wasn’t like that,” Murphy said.

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