Butler is a city in the Greater Pittsburgh Region. It had its glory days in the 20th century as an industrial town making railroad cars, and it celebrates its role in the creation of the Jeep. Today, it has fallen on hard times, but it is home to several National Historic Sites, and may be of interest to those who want to explore America's industrial history.
Butler is the county seat of Butler County. In 2010, the city population was 14,000. Butler was named the 7th best small town in America by Smithsonian magazine in May 2012.
Butler was named for Maj. Gen. Richard Butler, who died at the Battle of the Wabash, in western Ohio in 1791.
In 1803 John and Samuel Cunningham became the first settlers in the village of Butler. The first settlers were of Irish or Scottish descent and were driving westward from Connecticut. In 1802, German immigrants began arriving, with Detmar Basse settling in Jackson Township in 1802 and founding Zelienople the following year. After George Rapp arrived in 1805 and founded Harmony, more settlers followed. John A. Roebling settled Saxonburg in 1832, by which time most of the county was filled with German settlers.
In its heyday, the city of Butler was a "Steel Belt" manufacturing and industrial area. It remains home to an AK Steel factory. In 1902, the Standard Steel Car Company opened one of its largest railcar manufacturing facilities in Butler. About 2,500 workers produced 60 steel-bed railroad cars per day in 1902. Eastern European immigrants were lured to the area in the early 20th century with the promise of reliable jobs, which offered company housing and a company store. The company constructed a baseball park which was the home of a New York Yankees farm team. The steel workers of Butler made artillery and naval shells during World War II. The Pullman-Standard plant closed in 1982, and was demolished in 2005.
The American Austin Car Company/American Bantam Car Company was headquartered in the area. Bantam was an early producer of small fuel-efficient vehicles through the 1930s. In 1940, Bantam created the iconic World War II Jeep. A monument stands near the courthouse commemorating Bantam's "creation of the Jeep".
Like most of the region, by the end of the 1970s, the local economy changed dramatically. Manufacturing virtually ended and good-paying jobs became scarce. The city now accepts state and government money to sustain itself.
It is 35 miles (56 km) north of Pittsburgh.
Five major highways run through or near the city, providing links to other areas throughout Western Pennsylvania. The south terminus of Pennsylvania Route 38 is just north of the city at U.S. Route 422. Route 422 skirts the city, to the north, on the Butler Bypass. PA 68 and PA 356 go straight through downtown, where they intersect with PA 8 (Butler's Main Street).
- Butler County Airport is used for general aviation, and may accommodate large aircraft such as corporate jets.
Butler is served by The Bus, run by the Butler Transit Authority.
- East Side Taxi Co, ☏
- Ridgecrest Taxi, 502 W. Jefferson St, ☏
- 1 Butler County Courthouse, 124 W Diamond St, ☏ . The current structure is the third courthouse to have been built for the county. The plaza across the street, Diamond Park, displays various war memorials.
Other sites listed in the National Register of Historical Places:
- The Butler Armory is a National Guard armory on Washington Street. Built in 1922, it was designed by architect Joseph F. Kuntz with W.G. Wilkins, Co. and expanded in 1930.
- The Butler County National Bank, also known as the Lafayette Building and Butler Branch Mellon Bank, it is considered the first "skyscraper" in Butler. It was built in 1902–1903, and is a six-story, five bay by five bay, brick and stone building in the French Renaissance Revival style. A two-story addition was built in 1929. The building housed Butler's post office from 1903 to 1913. The building was rehabilitated into an apartment building in 1992–1993.
- The Butler Historic District is a national historic district which includes 128 contributing buildings, 1 contributing site, and 4 contributing objects in the central business district of Butler. It includes primarily commercial and institutional buildings, with some residential buildings, built between about 1828 and 1952 in a number of popular architectural styles including Late Victorian. Located in the district and listed separately are the Butler County Courthouse, the Butler County National Bank, and the Sen. Walter Lowrie House.
- The Senator Walter Lowrie House was the home of United States Senator Walter Lowrie, built in 1828, and is the headquarters of the Butler County Historical Society.
- Elm Court, often referred to as Phillips Mansion, is a historic Tudor-Gothic mansion designed by architect Benno Janssen and built in 1929-1930 for Benjamin D. Phillips, son of T.W. Phillips, founder of T.W. Phillips Gas & Oil Co. Tucked away and hidden from view, it resides in the northeast corner of the city and is privately owned by one of the Koch Brothers.
- The Butler Little Theatre has been running productions continuously since 1941.
- The Musical Theater Guild produces an annual musical production.
- Hobnob Theatre Company produces several plays, including an annual production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
- The Maridon Museum is the only museum in the Western Pennsylvania region with a specific focus on Chinese and Japanese art and culture.
- The Little Red School House is a former one-room schoolhouse that taught students from 1839 to 1874. Throughout its history, it has been a post office, library and Red Cross headquarters. It is now a museum.
- The Butler County Symphony Association performs at the Butler Intermediate High School auditorium.
- The Associated Artists of Butler County and the Butler Arts Council, which host galleries and live events at the Art Center, on Main Street.
- The Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, the largest jeep festival in the US, is held annually in June with off-road trails, a Jeep playground obstacle course, and the "original" Jeep Invasion street party.
- Butler Public Library.
- Comfort Inn, 1 Comfort Lane, ☏ .
- Fairfield Inn & Suites, 200 Fairfield Lane, ☏ , fax: . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: Noon.
- Police Headquarters, 200 W New Castle St, ☏ .
- Meadowood, a small town south of Butler
|Routes through Butler|
|Cleveland ← Youngstown ←||W E||→ Ebensburg → END|
|Erie ← Franklin ← Jct W E ←||N S||→ Jct W → Jct W E → Pittsburgh → Wilkinsburg|