Welcome to Allegheny City. Pittsburgh’s Northside…
Hello… My name is Bill Gandy. I run the Allegheny City Historic Gallery. I preserve and promote the history of the Northside of Pittsburgh, formerly known as Allegheny City. I have a picture of my great-grandparents and my great aunts and great uncle in a house on Armandale Street from 1922. My paternal grand-mother was raised on the Northside as well as my father. He as well as my uncles and aunts went to Allegheny High School. I was born in Allegheny General Hospital in 1967. We were living on Howard Street in East Street Valley at the time. (there is a video on YouTube about this. Search Allegheny City Historic Gallery). In 1968 we moved to 883 Mount Pleasant Road in Northview Heights. It was the last row, last unit, just up the hill from the Northside Drive-In. We could actually see the screen from our back window. I will cover what it was like to grow up in Northview Heights in a later communication.
The name Allegheny comes the Native-American tribe called Allegewi, who used to live along the river according to Lenape legend. A man named Colden created a map of the area in 1727, whom was well versed in several native languages said that he was told that their name was Tallegewi. They are believed to be descendants of the Adena people who lived in this area from 800 BCE to 100 CE. There are theories out there that say that they were a tribe of Giants. However I have to do more research on that. I will have a future writing about native culture in this region.
Allegheny City was one of three cities in the region around the late 1800’s. There was the city of Birmingham which is now called the South Side, Pittsburgh was in the middle and Allegheny City which is now the Northside. The city of Allegheny was drawn out in 1788. The original lots were sold in Philadelphia by the state government. Some were given to Revolutionary war veterans as payment. It existed as a borough since 1788 and in 1840 it was incorporated as a city.
A quick overview of what Allegheny City was like: There was a civil war prison that sat on the spot where the Aviary is today. Stones from the prison were used to make the retaining wall at the bottom of Perrysville Avenue where it meets with Federal Extension. There were 4 inclines, street cars, an observatory, a free library, and a market house. The market house area is where many local farmers sold their goods. I’ve seen photos from personal collections of farmers selling goods in front of the library. The old post office is across Federal Street from the library. The parks were common grazing grounds for local animals.
Neighborhoods were separated either according to nationality or wealth. A lot of streets also had different names at the time. Many of the Irish settled in the first ward which includes lower Federal Street, Lacock, Stockton and Arch, mostly the areas where the stadiums exist today. Near the river. German people settled in East Allegheny including areas like East Ohio Street up to East North Avenue. Just East over towards Heinz and down toward the river 161 acres became the Swiss Hole. It was a lively area with businesses and homes. African-Americans mostly populated Allegheny City’s Second Ward. Today we call it the Mexican War Streets. Lane Alley, Jefferson Street & Taylor Avenue, Jacksonia was named Jackson Street and Armandale was named Ackley. This is the area where my great-grandparents lived. I have to dig into when they got there and how. The close proximity of Allegheny to the Mason-Dixon line meant that free African-Americans were constantly in threat of being kidnapped into slavery. According to some of the trade cards that I’ve seen from 1850–1906, they also weren’t respected. I will do a future writing on the African-American experience in Allegheny City.
Many of the wealthiest citizens lived in Observatory Hill, North Avenue and the West side of Allegheny. Many of them were Scottish. Manchester originally was a borough and was populated with wealthy Jewish people and free African-Americans. I’ve seen an underground railroad safe house over there. There are a lot of interesting facts about Allegheny City and the Northside. Did you know that the world-wide religion. Jehovah’s Witnesses began in Allegheny? The City of Allegheny was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1906 and became Pittsburgh’s Northside. The Northside has a rich history which many are proud and nostalgic about. There were movie theaters, night clubs, a market house, a major department store, a mall, schools in every neighborhood and much more. I will present the wealth of knowledge that I’ve been blessed to learn about my own neighborhood. I am open to questions and insight.