Johnstown, Pennsylvania

From Academic Kids

Johnstown is a city located in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 23,906.



Johnstown is located at 40°19'31" North, 78°55'15" West (40.325174, -78.920954)Template:GR.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.7 km² (6.1 mi²). 15.1 km² (5.8 mi²) of it is land and 0.6 km² (0.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 4.11% water.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 23,906 people, 11,134 households, and 6,045 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,583.2/km² (4,097.0/mi²). There are 12,802 housing units at an average density of 847.8/km² (2,194.0/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 86.28% White, 10.71% African American, 0.13% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.61% from other races, and 1.92% from two or more races. 1.59% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 11,134 households out of which 22.4% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.1% are married couples living together, 15.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 45.7% are non-families. 41.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 19.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.11 and the average family size is 2.87.

In the city the population is spread out with 21.3% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 25.8% from 25 to 44, 23.0% from 45 to 64, and 22.1% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 42 years. For every 100 females there are 84.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 80.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $20,595, and the median income for a family is $28,279. Males have a median income of $26,163 versus $19,791 for females. The per capita income for the city is $13,236. 24.6% of the population and 18.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 37.5% of those under the age of 18 and 12.6% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


Johnstown, settled in 1770, is perhaps most famous for its frequent floods. The flood of May 31, 1889 occurred after the South Fork Dam collapsed 16 kilometers upstream from the city during heavy rains. At least 2200 persons died as a result of the flood and subsequent fire that raged through the debris. Other major floods occurred in 1936 and 1977.

Johnstown was founded in 1800 by the Swiss German settler Joseph Johns. The settlement was initially known as Schranzstadt, but was soon anglicized to Johnstown. From 1834 to 1854, the city was an important port along the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, located where the western branch of the canal connected to the Allegheny Portage Railroad. By 1860, iron, coal, and steel became important. Johnstown lies at the formation of the Conemaugh River. In July of 1902, Johnstown's Rolling Mill Mine was the scene of a mining accident which killed 112 miners. By 1920, Johnstown was primarily a steel producer. Johnstown's steelmaking facilities never really recovered from damage suffered in the 1977 flood and by the early 1990s, steel was no longer being produced. Johnstown has yet to find its economic footing for the 21st century. In 2003, US Census data showed that Johnstown was the city in the United States least likely to attract newcomers, demonstrating the weak opportunities provided by the local manufacturing and service economies. Recently the drug industry has been growing in Johnstown. Many illegal drugs are grown and sold to minors. The area's only drug dog has helped out for several drug busts recently. Johnstown remains a regional medical, educational, and communications center, however.

More recently, the verb "Johnstowned" has come into use within the surrounding area. The term is used to pessimistically describe when things go from good to bad in less than 50 years.

In recent years, the Pasquerilla Center, a concert/theatrical venue at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, continues to attract high-quality performers. The Johnstown Symphony Orchestra and the recently-formed Johnstown Symphony Chamber Players provide high quality classical music. The Pasquerilla Convention Center was recently constructed in the downtown area, adjacent to the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. Under construction in 2005 is a new multi-use facility to replace the aging Point Stadium. Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center is about to construct a major medical complex on the site of an abandoned industrial property very close to the downtown area. A recently-passed zoning ordinance creates an artist zone, and a traditional neighborhood zone, to encourage both artistic endeavors and the old-fashioned "Mom and Pop" enterprises that had difficulty under the previous code.

Significant (and largely successful) efforts have been made to deal with deteriorating housing, brownfields, the drug problem, and other issues. The Johnstown Fire Department has become a leader in developing intercommunication systems among first responders and is now a national model for ways to avoid the communications problems which faced many first responders on 9/11/2001. After many tumultuous and controversial years, the Johnstown Police Department has become a thoroughly professional organization. Regional issues, such as transportion, are high on the agenda, and cooperation among municipalities and authorities is becoming more the rule rather than the exception.

Johnstown in Film and Literature

Mystery novel writer K.C. Constantine currently resides near Johnstown. He has fictionalized elements of Johnstown and its culture as "Rocksburg" in his books.

Two major motion pictures were filmed in Johnstown, taking advantage of the town's blue collar atmosphere. The first was 1977's Slap Shot, a comedy featuring Paul Newman as an aging hockey player/coach. The story was based on a novel by Nancy Dowd which was in turn loosely based on the real-life Johnstown Jets hockey team. The movie changed the team's name to the Charlestown Chiefs.

The second movie was 1983's All the Right Moves, a high school football drama set in the fictional town of Ampipe featuring Tom Cruise and Lea Thompson.


Johnstown has been home to a long succession of minor league hockey franchises going back to 1940. The current team, the Johnstown Chiefs, were named for their Slap Shot counterparts. They made their ECHL debut in 1988. Johnstown has also had a history of indoor football teams; the current team is the Riverhawks of the AIFL.


Johnstown is home to the world's steepest vehicular inclined plane, the Johnstown Inclined Plane.


  • David McCullough, "The Johnstown Flood", ISBN 0671207148
  • Karl Berger, M.D., editor, "Johnstown: Story of a Unique Valley," Published by the Johnstown Flood Museum, 1984

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