Go deeper into the history of each park with scholarly articles and essays from Oxford University Press, freely available for the centennial year.
The Johnstown flood of 1889 was a natural disaster that devastated much of Johnstown, a steelmaking center in the Conemaugh River valley of southwestern Pennsylvania. In the hills above the city, the industrial elite of nearby Pittsburgh had built a private resort, including an artificial lake contained by a poorly designed and poorly maintained earthen dam. On 31 May 1889, weakened by torrential rain, the dam collapsed, sending a wall of water crashing down the valley. When it struck an unsuspecting Johnstown—having already overwhelmed four smaller towns—the deluge had risen to a height of forty feet. Some 2,200 of Johnstown’s 30,000 people died, and much of the city was leveled.