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Altoona, Pennsylvania

Altoona, Pennsylvania
City of Altoona
Skyline of Altoona, Pennsylvania
Nickname(s): The Mountain City, Railroad City, A-Town, Toona Town[1]
Location of Blair County in Pennsylvania
Location of Blair County in Pennsylvania
Location of Altoona in Blair County
Location of Altoona in Blair County
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Blair County
Founded 1849
Incorporated (borough) February 6, 1854
Incorporated (city) 1868
 • Mayor Matt Pacifico (R)[2][3]
 • City 9.8 sq mi (25.3 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 1,206 ft (368 m)
Population (2010)
 • City 46,320
 • Density 5,069/sq mi (1,957.1/km2)
 • Urban 100,000 (est)
 • Metro 127,089
 • Demonym Altoonian, Altoid
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 16601, 16602, 16603
Area code(s) 814
School District: Altoona Area School District
Designated April 01, 1947[4]

Altoona is a city in central Pennsylvania Blair County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is the principal city of the Altoona Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The population was 46,320 at the time of the 2010 Census, making it the tenth most populous city in Pennsylvania. The Altoona MSA includes all of Blair County and was recorded as having a population of 127,089 at the 2010 Census,[5] around 100,000 of which live within a 5-mile (8.0 km) radius of the Altoona city center according to U.S. Census zip code population data. This includes the adjacent boroughs of Hollidaysburg and Duncansville, adjacent townships of Logan, Allegheny, Blair, Frankstown, Antis, and Tyrone, as well as nearby boroughs of Bellwood and Newry.

Having grown around the railroad industry,[6] the city is currently working to recover from industrial decline and urban decentralization experienced in recent decades. The city is home to the Altoona Curve baseball team of the Double A Eastern League, which is the Double A affiliate of the Major League Baseball team Pittsburgh Pirates. It also houses the 75+ year-old Altoona Symphony Orchestra,[7] under the direction of Teresa Cheung. Prominent landmarks include the Horseshoe Curve, the Railroaders Memorial Museum, the Juniata Shops of the Altoona Works, the Mishler Theatre, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Jaffa Shrine Center.


  • History 1
    • Altoona 1.1
    • Growth 1.2
      • Horseshoe Curve 1.2.1
    • Tornado 1.3
    • Current 1.4
  • Geography 2
    • Climate 2.1
    • Adjacent municipalities 2.2
  • Sections 3
    • Downtown 3.1
      • Architecture 3.1.1
      • Industry 3.1.2
    • Center City 3.2
      • Little Italy and Gospel Hill 3.2.1
    • Logantown 3.3
    • Fairview 3.4
    • Dutch Hill 3.5
    • Juniata 3.6
    • East End 3.7
    • Pleasant Valley 3.8
    • Eldorado 3.9
      • Toy Town 3.9.1
    • Lakemont 3.10
    • Greenwood 3.11
    • Wehnwood 3.12
    • Mansion Park 3.13
      • Columbia Park 3.13.1
    • Highland Park 3.14
      • The Knickerbockers 3.14.1
    • 6th Ward 3.15
    • Westmont 3.16
      • Curtin 3.16.1
    • Hileman Heights 3.17
    • Llyswen 3.18
    • Garden Heights 3.19
    • Calvert Hills 3.20
    • 5th Ward 3.21
      • Newburg and Red Hill 3.21.1
  • Transportation 4
  • Economy 5
  • Emergency services 6
    • Police 6.1
    • Fire 6.2
    • EMS 6.3
  • Parks 7
  • Sports 8
    • Mansion Park Stadium 8.1
  • Education 9
  • Media 10
    • Newspapers 10.1
    • Radio 10.2
    • Television 10.3
  • Demographics 11
  • Notable people 12
  • Sister cities 13
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • External links 16


Altoona in 1895: a Pennsylvania Railroad town. Lithograph by Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler.

As a major railroad town, Altoona was founded by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) in 1849 as the site for a shop and maintenance complex. Altoona was incorporated as a borough on February 6, 1854, and as a city under legislation approved on April 3, 1867, and February 8, 1868.[8]


One explanation of the city's name is that the word "Altoona" is a derivative of the Latin word altus, meaning "high".[9]

This explanation is contradicted by Pennsylvania Place Names.[10] Although Altoona, in Blair Country, is popularly known as "the Mountain City," its name has no direct or indirect etymological relation to the Latin adjective altus, signifying "elevated, lofty." Two very different explanations of the origin of this name are current. The one which seems to be most natural and reasonable runs as follows: "The locomotive engineer who ran the first train into Altoona in 1851 was Robert Steele, who died several years ago, aged nearly ninety years. He was then the oldest continuous resident of the city. He was much respected, and had long been one of the private pensioners of Andrew Carnegie. Mr. Steele is authority for the statement that Colonel Beverly Mayer, of Columbia, Pennsylvania, who, as a civil engineer of what was then the Pennsylvania Central Railway, had laid out the tracks in the yards of the newly projected city, named the place Altoona after the city of Altona in Holstein, which became part of Germany in 1864." The German Altona, which is today a district of Hamburg, lies on the right bank of the Elbe, immediately west of Hamburg city center, and is an important railway and manufacturing centre with a population of nearly 200,000. The etymological derivation of the name Altona is not known with certainty, but widely believed to be Low German all to na, meaning "all too near" (sc. Hamburg).

The popular explanation derives the name of Altoona from All Tuna, said to be a Cherokee Indian name. In 1849 David Robinson sold his farm to Archibald Wright of Philadelphia, who transferred the property to his son, John A. Wright, who laid it out in building lots, became one of the founders of Altoona, and was responsible for the naming of the town. According to his own statement, he had spent considerable time in the Cherokee country of Georgia, where he had been especially attracted by the beautiful name of Allatoona, which he had bestowed upon the new town in the belief that it was a Cherokee word meaning "the high lands of great worth." In the Cherokee language there is a word eladuni, which means "high lands," or "where it is high"; but to a Cherokee, Allatoona and eladuni are so different that the former could hardly be derived from the latter.

An older history dated 1883 [11] favored the Cherokee derivation, stating that "Its name is not derived from the Latin word altus nor from the French word alto, as has frequently been asserted and published, but from the beautiful, liquid, and expressive Cherokee word allatoona. This is on the authority of the person who bestowed the name, Mr. Wright, of Philadelphia, who was long a resident of the Cherokee country in Georgia, and an admirer of the musical names of that Indian language."


First Presbyterian Church from a pre-1923 postcard

The town grew rapidly in the late 19th century, its population approximately 2,000 in 1854, 10,000 in 1870, and 20,000 in 1880. The demand for locomotives during the Civil War stimulated much of this growth, and by the later years of the war Altoona was known as a valuable city for the North. Altoona was also the site of the first Interstate Commission meeting to create and design the Gettysburg National Cemetery following the devastating Battle of Gettysburg. The centrality and convenience of the town's rail transportation brought these two important gatherings to the city during the war.

Horseshoe Curve

Horseshoe Curve, a curved section of track built by the PRR, has become a tourist attraction and National Historic Landmark. The curve was used to raise trains to a sufficient elevation to cross the Allegheny Ridge to the west. The Allegheny Ridge had been a major barrier and construction of the Erie Canal in New York twenty years earlier already had diverted much port traffic which had used Philadelphia to New York City instead, causing the rise of that city's commercial dominance. Because the curve was an industrial link to the western U.S., Horseshoe Curve was a primary target of eight Nazi saboteurs who had infiltrated the U.S. during World War II by being dropped off by U-boats of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during Operation Pastorius.[12]

Map of Altoona and surrounding areas

In the early 20th century, PRR's Altoona Works complex employed, at its peak, approximately 15,000 people and covered three miles (5 km) in length, 218 acres (88 ha) of yards and 37 acres (15 ha) of indoor workshop floor space in 122 buildings. The PRR built many of its own locomotives at the Works, some 7,873 in all, the last being constructed in 1946.[13] PRR had significant influence on the city, creating the city's fire departments and relocating the hospital to a site nearer to the shop's gates. Today, the fire department employs 65 personnel and is the largest career department between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.[14] PRR sponsored a city band and constructed Cricket Field (a sports complex). In 1853, the PRR built the Mechanic's Library, the first industrial library in the nation which exists today as the Altoona Area Public Library.[15] With the decline in railroad demand after World War II, things began to decline. Many historic treasures of the city's history disappeared, including the Logan House Hotel and railroad shops.[13]


On May 22, 1949, at about 6:00 pm a tornado moved through the southern part of Altoona. According to the Altoona Mirror the tornado touched down near Sugar Run Road in the Canan Station area and cut a 100-yard swath of destruction through the south western portion of Altoona. Trees over a foot in diameter were "twisted apart" and several houses were unroofed, and garages were demolished in the Canan Station and Sugar Run areas. Along 58th street large trees were uprooted, one of them left a seven-foot hole in the ground. Also on 58th street, The roof was torn off of a restaurant, as was the brand new neon sign, also a large billboard was pushed to the ground. Houses lost shingles and there was extensive tree damage in the Eldorado and Llyswin sections of town. Huge trees were blown down in Highland Park. The Adams School, which is located near the end of the tornado's path at 6th Avenue and 24th street had damage to its slate roof and several windows were blown out.

Another tornado touched down in Morrisons Cove. Houses were unroofed and barns were destroyed in the Henrietta and Millerstown Area. A 17-year-old girl was injured in Henrietta. The damage done by these tornadoes is consistent with winds of 105-110MPH.[16]

A map made by Dr. Ted Fujita, in 1974 of all of the tornadoes in the U.S between 1930 and 1974, shows these two tornadoes mapped as F1 tornadoes on the Fujita Scale.[17]


Altoona is one of the dual seats of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona–Johnstown. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was made a cathedral and rechristened from St. John's Church in 1851.

The Altoona Mirror newspaper,[18] founded in 1876 by Harry Slep, is Altoona's oldest media outlet. Today, the newspaper has a daily circulation of 32,000 and a Sunday circulation of 39,000. Approximately 13,000 people read the online edition of the newspaper each day.

Altoona serves as the corporate home to Sheetz, a rapidly growing convenience store chain in the United States. It now has over 500 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina.

Altoona is home to the world's oldest wooden roller coaster, the Leap-The-Dips, located in Lakemont Park.


Altoona lies at the base of Brush Mountain within Logan Valley and Pleasant Valley. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.8 sq mi (25.3 km²), all land. Altoona is situated in the Allegheny Mountains.


Altoona has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb) climate, with cold, snowy winters, and humid, very warm summers. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 23.8 °F (−4.6 °C) in January to 70.8 °F (21.6 °C) in July, although extremes in temperature have ranged from −25 °F (−32 °C) in 1904 to 103 °F (39 °C) in 2011. Unofficial readings in town below -30 in the cold snap of January 1977 were recorded, but the official low on that night was "only" -20.

Total precipitation is greatest in May and least in February. Snowfall averages 60.6 inches (154 cm) per season, with almost all of that total occurring from December to March, although significant falls are not unheard of in May and October.

Climate data for Altoona
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
Average high °F (°C) 31.9
Average low °F (°C) 15.6
Record low °F (°C) −29
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.64
Average snowfall inches (cm) 11.2
Source: Pennsylvania State Climatologist[19]

Adjacent municipalities

There are several townships outside of Altoona city limits that, although autonomous, use the name Altoona for postal and name-place designation. They include the townships of: Logan Township and Tyrone Township, as well as small parts of Allegheny Township and Frankstown Township.


Map of Altoona Neighborhoods

The main sections of Altoona are the Downtown, Center City, Logantown, Fairview, Juniata, Wehnwood, Calvert Hills, 5th Ward, Westmont, Eldorado, East End, Dutch Hill, Pleasant Valley, Hileman Heights, 6th Ward, Mansion Park, Llyswen, Garden Heights, and Highland Park. Some significant neighborhoods are: Little Italy, Gospel Hill, Toy Town, Columbia Park, Knickerbockers, and Curtin. Some areas within Logan Township are not within the defined City limits but still considered sections of Altoona, including: Lakemont, Greenwood, Bellmeade, Westfall, Newburg, and Red Hill. Many of the older districts consist of a mix of rowhomes and individual homes, which were a common building style in railroad towns so-as to provide for worker and manager housing, respectively.

A view of downtown Altoona from a 5th Ward hill


The downtown is the cultural and commercial center of Altoona and straddles the famous railroads. As is typical to a traditional city layout, the downtown is centrally located and contains significant development in all directions from the downtown. Much of the downtown area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Downtown Altoona Historic District.[20] Popular landmarks include the Mishler Theatre, the Penn Alto Building (formerly the Penn Alto Hotel), the Gable's Building, City Hall, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and Eleventh Avenue itself.

Altoona is notable for having several churches, such as the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at the corner of 13th Street and 13th Avenue, the building on the corner of 12th Street and 14th Avenue that used to house the First Presbyterian Church, and the First Lutheran Church on the corner of 14th Street and 12th Avenue. The Station Medical Center, formerly known as the Station Mall, was a downtown mall built during the 1970s in place of many old railroad shops. The downtown contains most of what's known as Altoona's Little Italy district.

Because of the geography of the area, exact or natural boundaries for Downtown are not present. Therefore, Downtown is generally defined by what the City has zoned as Central Business: between 13th Ave and the PRR Expressway, and from 7th Street to 16th Street. However it is common for areas within Logantown and Center City to be expressed locally as "downtown."

The Texas Hot Dog was originally created in downtown Altoona in 1918, although the Paterson, New Jersey Texas Hot Dog location, which opened in 1924, is more famous.


The commercial core of the downtown includes many multistory residential, commercial, and mixed-use facilities designed in at the turn-of-the-20th-century in a mix of Victorian, Edwardian Baroque, and Neo-Romanesque styles. This style features high ceilings, resulting in taller buildings than is typical for the number of floors. The high ceilings are typically made of either tin or plaster, although sometimes a drop ceiling is utilized.

Individual homes originally provided housing to managers and executives of the PRR and have structural similarities to Victorian or Edwardian mansions, but built very narrow and tall. These are sometimes used as double or triple family apartments or even converted into commercial space. Outside of the commercial core is a mosaic of multistory commercial structures, mixed use facilities, single story commercial structures, apartment buildings, multi-unit housing, and single-family homes.

The United States post office in Altoona contains two oil-on-canvas WPA commissioned murals painted by Lorin Thompson in 1938 titled Pioneers of Altoona and Growth of the Road.[21] Murals were produced from 1934 to 1943 in the United States through the Section of Painting and Sculpture, later called the Section of Fine Arts, of the Treasury Department.


As typical of many Rust Belt cities, the economic downturn of the railroad resulted in the closure of many of the downtown's landmark stores and industries; and the simultaneous rise in prominence of the automobile shifted commercial development to the suburbs. However, through recent revitalization efforts, Altoona's downtown maintains a significant level of economic vitality and hosts few office and residential vacancies. The downtown maintains a significant focus on pedestrian-oriented development, as evidenced by the presence of more pedestrian bridges and underpasses across the railroad tracks (connecting the two parts of downtown) than automobile crossings.

Penn State Altoona has bought several downtown buildings, including the former Playhouse Theater building, the six-story Penn Furniture building, and the former WRTA building. The University has turned them into the Devorris Downtown Center, the Aaron Building and the Kazmaier Family Building. Recently Sheetz has added another building to Penn State Altoona called The Sheetz Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence on the former site of a department store behind the Amtrak Station. The University provides a flow of resources into the downtown, aiding in revitalization efforts. As an example of the university's value to the downtown's economy, the installation of the Blue Lot near the Wolf Court Building has improved the economic attraction of downtown by offering up to three hours of free parking. A bike path connecting the Campus to Downtown Altoona has also been built.

Center City

Center City comprises industrial and commercial zones as well as urban and multiple household residential zones. Often, the Center City, Little Italy, and Gospel Hill areas (as well as Lower Fairview) are included as part of "downtown" for tourism and promotional purposes, much like how the Strip District in Pittsburgh is promoted. This is due to both the proximity and the fact that the buildings from these sections are similar to downtown buildings and blend in with the skyline. On the west side of the tracks, Center City extends around Downtown 2-3 blocks with heavy residential, industrial and commercial to the north, south and west. The eastern side of the tracks, which according to the public maps is called "East Side," runs along the length of the tracks from 1st Street to 23rd street and from the tracks to 6th Avenue west to east. However, the Altoona Area High School is considered Center City despite standing on the Dutch Hill side of 6th Avenue. The East Side of Center City is home to the High School and Junior High, the former Roosevelt Junior High School, the Altoona Railroaders Museum, Boyer Candies, the Station Medical Center of Altoona Regional Health System, as well as many current and old railroad facilities.

Little Italy and Gospel Hill

The neighborhood area known as Little Italy is the neighborhood between 7th Street and 12th Street north to south and 9th Ave to 6th Ave west to east, sometimes this is extended to include the Station Medical Center. Gospel Hill is the neighborhood in the area of 15th Street and 16th Ave and adjacent to the park of the same name.


Logantown is the area just north of the Downtown and is considered a direct extension of Downtown. It borders Fairview along 16th Ave, Willow Ave and Cherry Ave to the north, 13th Ave and Chestnut Ave to the south, and Juniata Gap Road to the east. This is where UPMC Altoona is located, which is the tallest building in Altoona at 14 Floors. This is also where Cricket Field used to be located. Logantown is zoned as a mix of commercial and residential, and contains some of the oldest houses built in Altoona that are still standing.



Fairview is a mostly residential area North and West of Downtown and Logantown. It borders Calvert Hills to the south at 12th Street, Downtown and Logantown to the east along 16th Ave and Willow Ave and then along Cherry Ave after 5th Street, and borders Juniata Gap Road to the north. Fairview is zoned as multiple household residential in the areas directly bordering Downtown, and transitions to single household residential after 21st Avenue, and eventually to suburban after 24th Ave. Many houses in the part of downtown near Fairview and lower Fairview are the middle-density mansions originally owned by managers and executives of the PRR. The most striking example of this is the Penn Alto residential hotel on the corner of 13th Avenue and 12th Street, which has two single-unit houses next to it. Conversely, there are several multistory residential and commercial buildings on 17th Avenue. One of the sections of the downtown is called "Lower Fairview" due to its transitionary nature. The houses between 14th and 15th avenues (with two commercial buildings included) on 12th street are designed based on an architectural pattern used in Philadelphia's urban neighborhoods.

Dutch Hill

Dutch Hill district contains an abundance of historic neighborhoods and traditional "corner markets". This section gets its name from the abundance of Germans who moved into this area when the City was still expanding. Dutch Hill is the area that borders the City Center to the East and is zoned as multiple household residential. The boundaries are generally considered 4th Street to 17th Street north to south, and 6th Avenue to Walton Avenue from west to east. However, as the Altoona Area High School and Junior High are considered City Center, the border is around 4th Ave (or 3rd Ave if the entire school zone is included) when between 11th Street and 17th Street.


Juniata is defined as north of Juniata Gap Road, east of East 25th Ave and on the west side of the railroad line. The area is zoned as mostly residential limited, but also uniquely has a significant area of light and heavy industrial as well as a central business area. This is because Juniata was once its own city, and was incorporated into Altoona in the late 19th century. Because of this, the section's street names had conflicting numbers with the rest of the City, and had to be given a North prefix. The commercial area is sometimes nicknamed "downtown Juniata." The most important street in Juniata's L-shaped commercial district is North Fourth Avenue. The J.L. Noble School was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.[22] The original Thompson's Pharmacy was on 2nd Street in Juniata before moving a few blocks to a larger main store and branching out to become a small, local chain.

East End

The East End is defined as the area on the east side of the railroad line north of 4th Street. It is called the East End because it borders the north end of the tracks where trains would depart east towards Philadelphia. Because of this, most streets have an East prefix. The East End is mostly single household residential and suburban, but has small areas of residential-commercial and neighborhood business along Kettle Street and Lloyd Street, as well as highway business along Pleasant Valley Blvd.

Pleasant Valley

Pleasant Valley is the area that centers on Pleasant Valley Boulevard, which is a massive stretch of highway business that runs the entire length of Altoona. The Sheetz store known locally as "Supersheetz" is located here along 17th Street and was the first of its kind ever built. The area is defined as southeast of Walton Ave and extends from 1st Street til 22nd Street and defined by Polk Ave to the east. As well as the large highway business area, Pleasant Valley also has an even amount of single household residential and suburban along with some small stretches of residential commercial and urban.


Eldorado (pronounced locally as "El-doe-ray-doe") is the southern section of Altoona, south of Logan Boulevard and west of 6th Avenue as well as a small section south of 57th Street all the way to Rhode Island Avenue (Goods Lane) in the east. Eldorado is zoned as almost entirely suburban, with small areas of light industrial and neighborhood business. The Sheetz Headquarters is located in this area. At one time, this section was also known as the "West End" because trains leaving the south end of town head west towards Pittsburgh. Some parts of Eldorado are actually outside of incorporated Altoona and located in Allegheny Township and Logan Township.

Toy Town

Toy Town is the neighborhood in between 31st and 33rd Streets and centered on Race Street.


Lakemont is located southeast of Garden Heights between Frankstown Road and Logan Boulevard. While residing within Logan Township just outside of the official border of the City and designated as the "Village of Lakemont," it is commonly accepted as a section of Altoona. In fact, Peoples Natural Gas Field the home of the Altoona Curve resides in Lakemont. Also in Lakemont is Lakemont Park and Galactic Ice. Lakemont is zoned as single household residential, residential commercial and highway business.


Greenwood is the area north of the East End and begins around a block north of Grant Street. While mostly residing within Logan Township just outside of the official border of the City and designated as the "Village of Greenwood," it is commonly accepted as a section of Altoona, especially since a 3 block by 4 block zone lies within the city limits. Greenwood is zoned almost entirely as suburban with a section of highway business along Route 220. Greenwood Road is a lone exception with a more urban residential zoning. Ward Trucking's headquarters are located in this section of Altoona.


Wehnwood is the area west of 25th Ave between Wehnwood Road to the north and 1st St to the south. This is part of where Penn State Altoona is located. Wehnwood is mostly zoned as suburban or single residential with an area of neighborhood business along 25th Ave and Juniata Gap Road. There is a fair amount of student housing surrounding the campus, and therefore a small pocket of urban residential next to it.

Mansion Park

Mansion Park is named for the Baker Mansion, one of its prominent houses. There are several streets surrounding the old plantation where mansions built in the early 20th century still stand. Mansion Park Stadium is also located here, which is the 10,000 seat stadium where the Altoona Mountain Lions play. The Mansion Park area is located east of 6th Ave, with Logan Blvd and Ward Ave to the south, 27th Street to the north and a block past Union Ave to the east.

Columbia Park

Columbia Park is the neighborhood adjacent to Tuckahoe Park between 6th Ave and Union Ave with Crescent Road to the south. The area is single and suburban residential.

The Knickerbocker and Tavern

Highland Park

Highland Park is the area south of Logan Blvd, east of 6th Ave, north of 57th Street and west of Ruskin Drive. The name comes from the hill that the area is centered on is the only significant highland in southern Altoona. The actual Highland Park is located on top of the hill. Highland Park is zoned entirely suburban.

The Knickerbockers

The Knickerbockers are a unique collection of homes along 6th Ave between Burgoon Road to the north and 41st Street to the south. The Knickerbocker Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.[22] This collection of extremely closely built together homes are a local landmark, and the Knickerbocker Tavern is one of the most popular bars in the area.

6th Ward

6th Ward is the area south of Dutch Hill, west of Pleasant Valley, east of Curtain Neighborhoods and north of Mansion Park. It is between 17th and 27th Streets north to south, and 6th Ave and Michelle Drive west to east. This area consists of multiple and single residential. There are several streets in the 6th Ward where mansions from the early 20th century still stand.


Westmont is the area on the east side of the tracks south of 21st street and between the 5th Ward and the tracks to the west and the 9th Ave tracks to the east. The area is zoned as multiple, single and suburban residential as well as residential commercial and light industrial. This is probably one of the more varied and diverse areas of the city architecturally.


Curtin is the neighborhood where the Jaffa Mosque is located. As well as the Broad Avenue Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.[22]

Hileman Heights

Hileman Heights is a suburban area south of Pleasant Valley. The heights are from South 25th Street south to South 27th Street and are between Wren Ave to the west and Robin Ave to the east. There is also a small section of residential commercial.

Llyswen Station


Llyswen is a small section west of Union Ave, east of Ruskin Drive, south of Ward Ave and north of Plank Road. This low lying area is almost entirely suburban, with small areas of multiple residential, residential commercial, neighborhood business and highway business. The Llyswen Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.[22]

Garden Heights

Garden heights is the area east of Plank Road, northwest of Lakemont and south of Frankstown Road. Garden Heights is mostly single residential, but is highway business along Plank Road, residential commercial along parts of Frankstown Road and Logan Blvd, and light industrial south of Logan Blvd. This is the only section of the defined city limits that Interstate 99 actually passes through.

Calvert Hills

Calvert Hills is a small area between 12th Street and 16th Street north to south and 17th Ave to the east. This is the area of multiple, single and suburban residential on the hills around the former Keith Junior High School, which is now an apartment complex.

5th Ward

The 5th Ward and Westfall is the area on the west side of the tracks south of Calvert Hills and north of the Curtain Neighborhoods. It borders a park to the west also called Westfall.

Newburg and Red Hill

The northwestern corner of 5th Ward is known as Newburg, with Red Hill being farther north up Route 36. The boundaries for the southern area are 20th Street to the north and 10th Ave to the south. The 5th Ward is a mix of single and suburban residential.


Altoona is a major center on the Norfolk Southern Railway's (NS) Pittsburgh Line. In Altoona, helper engines are added to heavy trains to give them extra power up and over Horseshoe Curve west of town. The Juniata Heavy Repair Shop Complex, originally built by the PRR, is the primary repair and maintenance facility on NS. On an average day, 60 to 80 trains pass though Altoona. The historical importance to the railroad industry and the current high level of railroad activity has made Altoona a mecca for railfans for over 60 years, with the Railroaders Memorial Museum and the Horseshoe Curve being popular spots.

Amtrak's Pennsylvanian stops at Altoona station once daily in each direction.

Local bus service in the city is provided by AMTRAN. In 2007, AMTRAN customers suffered a major loss in service due to cuts in state funding. In May of that year, Governor Rendell visited Altoona to discuss plans intended to rectify this situation.

Roadway service primarily consists of Interstate 99, which provides access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the south and Interstate 80 to the north; and U.S. Route 22, which provides east-west service and direct access to Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Local roadways in Altoona tend to be given numerical names, and Streets are aligned northwest-southeast and Avenues are aligned northeast-southwest.

The Altoona–Blair County Airport provides commercial air service for Altoona, offering daily flights to Pittsburgh International Airport.


Historically, the sole economic force driving the growth of Altoona into a City was the Pennsylvania Railroad. While the various local railroad shops still employ over a thousand people, they are no longer the driving economic engine of the area.

The top field of employment in Altoona and the metro area is healthcare. Facilities include: UPMC Altoona with its many local facilities that employ thousands, Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital and its several local facilities, James E. Van Zandt Medical Center (Veterans Hospital), dozens of doctors offices, and over 20 nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Another massive employer is retail and service industries. Altoona is the linchpin of Tri-City Region. Its location along I-99 draws from a large trade area over a wide geographic area that extends to State College and Johnstown and over 40 miles (64 km) south along I-99 past I-70. Altoona draws the most retail customers in the region due to its centralized location and to the fact that it has the best complementary retail of the three markets with 2,800,000 square feet (260,000 m2) of retail space.[23] A new shopping center, Convention Center Commons, is slated to open in 2015. The new shopping center will house a Carmike Big D Movie Theater, a Holiday Inn Express, and other stores and restaurants. This is expected to bring 800 jobs to the area.[24]

The scale and diversity of retail within the City of Altoona and the surrounding area is not paralleled within the region. The areas of retail include:

  • Downtown (including Little Italy)
  • The 17th Street corridor including what remains of the Station Mall.
  • Certain large zoned sections along Logan Blvd and 6th Ave.
  • The Logan Valley Mall which is a major retail staple of the area.
  • Essentially the entire length of about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of Pleasant Valley Blvd and Valley View Blvd as they converge into Plank Road, consisting of numerous stores and shopping centers. This area plus Route 764 which runs through Altoona and the northern and southern suburbs is known as the "Green Banana".
  • The Walmart and Target shopping centers.
  • The Logan Town Centre which is the newest and arguably the best and most diverse shopping center that sits directly next to I-99.
  • As well as several more plazas and centers just to the North and South of the city as well as the western suburbs of Cresson and Galitzin.

Altoona is the home of the Sheetz headquarters. Sheetz is one of the largest convenience store and gas station chains in the country, with 500 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Approximately 20 Sheetz stores[25] are located in and around Altoona.

Emergency services

Altoona and the Altoona Area are serviced by several companies for emergency services. Given that Altoona is entirely encompassed by Logan Township, and some small areas within the city are belonging to the Township, City and Township services often intermingle. Given the close proximity to Hollidaysburg and Duncansville Boroughs as well as Allegheny and Blair Townships, City, borough and township services will often assist or be called in place of each other.


The Altoona Police Department (APD) services the City. APD is about 67 strong, and the precinct is located on 12th Ave downtown.

Logan Township Police Department services all areas of Logan Township. However, since the Township encompasses the City, in order to be centrally located the precinct is located in the City on 7th Ave. LTPD is 16 strong.


Altoona Fire Department Station 4 and Engine 314

The Altoona Fire Department (AFD) supplies fire and Quick Response Service (QRS) to the City, as well as Haz-Mat response for Blair County. The Department is also a part of the IAFF, local 299. The AFD is composed of 64 line personnel, over 4 "tricks" (a.k.a. shifts), A, B, C, and D. Each shift works two 10-hour daylight shifts, then two 14-hour night shifts, followed by four days off. Within the city, there are five firehouses, four of which are manned 24/7. The fifth station is the old AMED (Altoona's Ambulance Service building) located across from AFD Headquarters.

The department operates under the number 300. Like all county fire apparatus, the city still follows the standard unit numbering to distinguish fire engines from ladder trucks to fire chiefs. The AFD has 21 pieces of apparatus that service the residents of Altoona. Amongst these pieces of equipment are manned and reserve apparatus. At all times, the city maintains 4 engines, 1 ladder truck, 1 heavy-rescue truck, plus an assistant chief on duty. Also, all 4 main engines carry the AMKUS Jaws of Life equipment.

Station Apparatus Number Apparatus Type Status
310 311 Rescue-Engine/Pumper In service
351 Aerial/Ladder Truck In service
320 312 Rescue-Engine/Pumper In service
331 Rescue/HAZ-MAT Reserve
362 Hazardous Materials Response Reserve
363 Hazardous Materials Response Reserve
330 313 Engine/Pumper In service
315 Engine/Pumper Reserve
332 Heavy Rescue In Service
333 Technical Rescue Trailer Reserve
340 314 Rescue-Engine/Pumper In service
316 Engine/Pumper Reserve
350 341 Squad Vehicle Reserve
352 Aerial/Ladder Truck Reserve
361 HAZ-MAT Command Unit/Mass Transit Reserve
Number Rank Name Shift
300 Fire Chief Tim Hileman n/a
301 Assistant Chief Scott Douglas A
302 Assistant Chief Ed Barstow B
303 Assistant Chief Matt Detrich C
304 Assistant Chief Dan Drumm D
305 Deputy Chief Mike Tofano n/a
391 Fire Investigator Time Hughes n/a

The four stations are located throughout the city. Headquarters at Station 1 (310) is at 1319 Washington Avenue. This is where the department chief, deputy chief, and assistant chief are housed. Station 2 is located on N. 2nd Street and N. 6th Avenue in Juniata. Station 3 is located on Crawford Avenue and 6th Street in Pleasant Valley. Station 4, in Eldorado, is on 6th Avenue and Burgoon Road.

There are also several Volunteer Companies located just outside the city limits on all sides. They, however, do not run calls inside the city or in tandem with the City Fire Department. Logan Township United just north of Juniata, Allegheny Township just south of Eldorado, Newburg just north of Westfall, Greenwood, Pinecroft, and Lakemont. The only time that both the AFD and a surrounding volunteer company will respond together on calls is for motor vehicle accidents on I-99.


AMED or the Altoona Mobile Emergency Department provides EMS services for both Altoona and Logan Township as well as many surrounding areas in Blair County including: Bellwood, Tyrone and Roaring Spring. AMED has several online and several offline ambulances on duty at the main station 430 on 7th Ave and 10th Street as well as an additional online ambulance at 480 in Lakemont.


Altoona has many, various types of parks for a variety of public uses within the city limits. They range from simple green areas with perhaps some benches and a few swings to full athletic fields for the public use and enjoyment.

  • Booker T Washington - on 13th Ave and 19th St: Fitness Park, Basketball Court and playground
  • Fairview Park - on the corner of 2nd St and 25th Ave
  • Focus Park - 23rd Avenue and 9th Street
  • Garden Heights - Tennyson Avenue & Lowell Avenue
  • Garfield Park - 25th Street and 11th Avenue
  • Geesey Park - in between Grant and Bell Avenues along 3rd St
  • Gospel Hill Park - on the hill above the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Greenwood Park - Chief Logan Way
  • Hamilton Park - East Cherry Avenue and Kettle Street
  • Highland Park - along 4th Ave in between 44th and 49th Streets
  • Iuzzolino Park - Maple Avenue and 26th Street
  • Jefferson Park - 4th Avenue and 2nd Street
  • John Robertson Park - 7th St and 7th Ave on both sides of bridge
  • Juniata Memorial Park - 12th Avenue and Park Blvd
  • Lakemont Park - between Logan Blvd and Frankstown Road, amusement park with the world famous Leap the Dips
  • Leopold Park - off of Kittanning Point Road/ 40th Street
  • Locust Hills Park - West Chestnut Avenue and Greenway Drive
  • Mansion Park - along Logan Blvd and 5th Ave
  • Newburg Park - Washington Avenue and 28th Ave
  • Orchard Park - Beech Avenue and 2nd Street
  • Prospect Park - in between 13th and 15th Streets along 1st Ave
  • Tuckahoe Park - along Union Ave near 29th Street
  • Veteran's Field - Maple Avenue and 24th Street
  • Westfall Park - 23rd Street and 17th Avenue


Team Sport League Championships Venue
Altoona Curve Baseball Eastern League; Western Division
Peoples Natural Gas Field

In the early 20th century, the Pennsylvania Railroad constructed a large sports complex at the intersection of Chestnut Avenue and Seventh Street.[26] It was named Cricket Field in an attempt to appeal to Cricket-loving British investors. Cricket did not catch on with the Altoona populace, so its close relative baseball became the choice for Cricket Field. Well known baseball players as Babe Ruth and Josh Gibson played at Cricket Field, and the stadium was also the venue for numerous other sporting events, musical competitions, marching units, and activities.[15] A plaza that's home to; Wendy's, Rite Aid Pharmacy and the Pennsylvania State Parole & Probation, stands today on the site of Cricket Field.

Altoona was the site of a 1.25-mile (2.01 km) board track called Altoona Speedway from 1923 to 1931.[27] On June 15, 1929, just two weeks after winning the 1929 Indianapolis 500, Ray Keech was killed in an accident at the Altoona Speedway.

Mansion Park Stadium

Altoona Area School District's Mansion Park Stadium has long been recognized as one of the finest athletic complexes in Pennsylvania. The stadium, which has a seating capacity of 10,400, is a source of community pride and regularly serves as the site of a variety of events which benefit the economy of the Altoona-Blair County area.

In the summer of 2009, Sports Construction Group, LLC installed “Trophy Turf,” which has a 48-ounce face weight and inlaid football and soccer lines.

Mansion Park's first artificial surface was installed in 1989. Omniturf provided a way to maximize the use of the facility throughout the year and at the same time, save taxpayer dollars through reduced maintenance costs. AstroTurf 12-2000 was installed in 1999. The eight-lane polyurethane running track was installed in 1989 and has been resurfaced several times.

For 22 consecutive seasons, the playing surface has received rave reviews from players and coaches as athletes have experienced controlled footing regardless of the weather conditions. Most importantly, there has been a significant decrease in serious injuries since the artificial turf was installed.

During a typical fall season, more than 60 events take place on the turf. Altoona High varsity and junior varsity teams, Altoona Area Junior High School ninth grade teams, and Bishop Guilfoyle High School all play home football games at Mansion Park. The stadium is also the site of AAHS boys and girls soccer matches and countless practice sessions. District and interdistrict football and soccer playoffs are held each year at Mansion Park, the home of the PIAA Football Championships from 1992 through 1997. The Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East West High School All Star Game was played at Mansion Park from 2001 to 2010.

Numerous high school and junior high school track meets, including the District 6 Class AA and AAA championships and the West Central Coaches Meet, are held at the stadium each spring. The track is also used extensively on a daily basis by hundreds of community residents who enjoy walking and jogging.

Mansion Park has also been the site of a 1992 Pittsburgh Steeler intrasquad scrimmage, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference men's and women's college soccer championships, University of Pittsburgh preseason football practices and the 1995 PIAA Soccer Championships.

Music events have also been well received. Appearances by The Beach Boys, Up With People, the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Penn State Blue Band, the Ohio State Pride of the Buckeyes Band, the University of Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, the University of Illinois Marching Illini and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Marching Band have attracted huge crowds. Drum Corps International competitions were held in 1998 and again in 2000.

Altoona Area High School's Commencement is scheduled at the stadium each year. Mansion Park is also the home of the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life.

In early 2010, a new scoreboard featuring a video display board with an improved stadium sound system was erected thanks to the generosity of local sponsors.[28]


Altoona has an education system that contains three high schools, two parochial, one public. Bishop Guilfoyle High School is one of the private parochial school having grades 9–12, located at 2400 Pleasant Valley. Blvd. Great Commission Schools is the second private parochial school having grades K–12, located at 1100 6th Ave. Altoona Area High School[29] houses grades 10–12, and is located at 1415 6th Ave. Altoona High is much larger than Bishop Guilfoyle, graduating around 600 students annually, while Guilfoyle graduates around 100. Most athletic teams at Bishop Guilfoyle are the smallest classification within the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), which is Class single A. In contrast, those at Altoona Area High School are the largest classification within the PIAA, which is AAAA. These high schools occasionally compete against each other in basketball, volleyball, tennis, cross country and softball.

It also contained two junior high schools, named D.S. Keith Junior High and Theodore Roosevelt Junior High, but both closed and merged in 2008 to become the Altoona Area Junior High School. Roosevelt was torn down and the ground on which it stood was constructed into the new field for the new junior high. Keith, however, was turned into residential apartments.

Altoona is also home to the Pennsylvania State University, Ivyside Park campus, also known as Penn State Altoona. This is the third largest of the Pennsylvania State University Commonwealth campuses. The college has approximately 3,903 students as of the 2014–15 school year.[30]

Altoona also is home to several technical schools. The Greater Altoona Career and Technology Center (GACTC) is located on 16th Street next to the high school and offers a variety of technical classes for both Junior High and High School students throughout Blair County, as well as high school graduates seeking a technical degree. YTI Career Institute has a campus in Logan Hills on Fairway Drive. South Hills Business School has a campus located on 58th Street.




FM stations
call letters frequency format location Owner
WHHN 88.1 Religious Hollidaysburg Radio Maria, Inc.
WRXV 89.1 Christian Contemporary State College Invisible Allies Ministries
WUFR 91.1 Religious Bedford Family Radio
WJSM 92.7 Religious Martinsburg Martinsburg Broadcasting, Inc.
WHPA 93.5 Oldies Gallitzin Vernal Enterprises, Inc.
WBXQ 94.3 Classic Rock Patton Sherlock Broadcasting
WBHV 94.5 Top 40 State College Seven Mountains Media
WBRX 94.7 Adult Contemporary Cresson Sherlock Broadcasting
WKYE 96.5 Adult Contemporary Johnstown Forever Broadcasting
WOWY 97.1 Classic Hits State College Seven Mountains Media
WFGY 98.1 Country Altoona Forever Broadcasting
WWOT 100.1 Top 40 Altoona Forever Broadcasting
W274BE 102.7 Christian Contemporary Altoona Invisibile Allies Ministries
WLAK 103.5 Oldies Huntingdon Seven Mountains Media
WALY 103.9 Hot AC Bellwood Forever Broadcasting
WRKY 104.9 Rock Hollidaysburg Forever Broadcasting
WQCK 105.9 Rock State College Magnum Broadcasting
WDBF-FM 106.3 Country Huntingdon Seven Mountains Media
W294AE 106.7 Public Radio Altoona Pennsylvania State University
WBVE 107.5 Classic Rock Bedford Cessna Communications Inc
WMES 107.7 Religious Altoona Lay Stewardship Educational Association
AM stations
call letters frequency format location Owner
WHUN 1150 Sports Huntingdon Forever Broadcasting
WRTA 1240 News/Talk Altoona Handsome Brothers, Inc.
WFBG 1290 News/Talk Altoona Forever Broadcasting
WKMC 1370 Nostalgia Roaring Spring Handsome Brothers, Inc.
WVAM 1430 Sports Altoona Forever Broadcasting


The Altoona television market is part of the regional Johnstown/Altoona/State College market.


As of the 2010 census, the city was 93.8% White, 3.3% Black or African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.4% Asian, and 2.0% were two or more races. 1.3% of the population was of Hispanic or Latino ancestry.[34] The 2000 Census reported the following predominate ancestry/ethnicities: German (35%), Irish (17%), Italian (12%), English (7%), Polish (4%), Black or African American (2%), Dutch (2%), Scotch-Irish (2%), French (2%), Scottish (1%), Pennsylvania German (1%), Welsh (1%), Swedish (1%), Slovak (1%).

As of the census[35] of 2000, there were 49,523 people, 20,059 households, and 12,576 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,069.7 people per square mile (1,957.1/km²). There were 21,681 housing units at an average density of 2,219.5 per square mile (856.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.01% White, 2.49% African American, 0.10% Native American, 0.32% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.24% from other races, and 0.83% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.74% of the population.

There were 20,059 households out of which 28.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.6% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.3% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the city the age distribution of the population shows 22.9% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 22.0% from 45 to 64, and 16.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 88.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,248, and the median income for a family was $36,758. Males had a median income of $28,851 versus $21,242 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,213. About 12.9% of families and 17.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.1% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people


Sister cities

Altoona is a sister city with:

See also


  1. ^ "Explore The Altoona Railroad Museum". Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  2. ^ "Altoona City Council". City of Altoona, Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2015-09-21. 
  3. ^ Kibler, William (2 November 2013). "Altoona mayoral candidates newcomers to politics". Altoona Mirror. Retrieved 2015-09-21. Two political newcomers - and Altoona natives - are vying for the city mayor's chair in Tuesday's election: Republican Matt Pacifico and Democrat John Pentland. 
  4. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers Search" (Searchable database). Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  5. ^ "Altoona Metro Area". World Media Group LLC. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  6. ^ "City of Altoona History". Altoona, PA. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  7. ^ "Altoona Symphony Orchestra". Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  8. ^ "History of Altoona". I Love Altoona. Retrieved 2013-09-08. 
  9. ^  
  10. ^ Espenshade, A. Howry: Pennsylvania Place Names, Page 175-176. Genealogical Publishing Co, Inc., Baltimore, Maryland, 1970
  11. ^ Africa, J. Simpson: History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, Pennsylvania, page 135. J. B. Lippincott & Co. Philadelphia, 1883.
  12. ^ "Event to revisit Nazi plot that ratcheted up security at Horseshoe Curve - - Altoona, PA | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information - The Altoona Mirror". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  13. ^ a b "History of the Altoona Railroad Shops: The Creation And Coming Of The Pennsylvania Railroad". National Park Service Special History Study. United States National Park Service. 2004-10-22. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  14. ^ "Altoona Firefighters Local 299". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  15. ^ a b "Historical Society of Pennsylvania". 
  16. ^ "Access Newspaper Archive Institutional Version | Unauthorised User". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  17. ^ "Image: us-tornado-map-1930-74-9x12.jpg, (3600 × 2709 px)". 2013-07-15. Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  18. ^ "Altoona Mirror". Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  19. ^ "Monthly Averages for Altoona, PA". psac.met.psu. 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  20. ^ "National Register of Historic Places - Blair County". 
  21. ^ "U.S.Post Office/Altoona". Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation. Retrieved 19 January 2015. 
  22. ^ a b c d "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  23. ^ "Shopping Centre Overview". Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  24. ^ "Convention Center Commons project kicks off - - Altoona, PA | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information - The Altoona Mirror". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  25. ^ "Sheetz® Official Site :: Find a Sheetz Near You!". Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  26. ^ "RootsWeb Blair place names". 
  27. ^ Motorsport Memorial: Ray Keech, Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  28. ^ "Altoona Area School District, Altoona PA". Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  29. ^ "Altoona Area School District". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  30. ^ "Penn State Fact Book". Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  31. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved 2015-06-04. 
  32. ^ "Census of Population and Housing: Decennial Censuses".  
  33. ^ "Incorporated Places and Minor Civil Divisions Datasets: Subcounty Resident Population Estimates: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2012". Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-12-11. 
  34. ^ "Census 2010: Pennsylvania". Usatoday.Com. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  35. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  36. ^ "Ripper Collins - BR Bullpen". Retrieved 2012-07-09. 

External links

  • The History of Llyswen
  • Forever Free: Blair County's Civil War.
  • City of Altoona, official website
  • Historical Photos of Altoona and the Pennsylvania Railroad
  • Blair County Historical Society
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