Pittsburgh Neighborhoods: History of Oakland

History of Oakland

Oakland : A Vibrant Hub of Education and Culture

Located in the eastern part of Pittsburgh, Oakland is a vibrant, bustling area known for its academic and healthcare prowess. This cultural hub thrives with its universities, museums, historic districts, and recreational activities. This article explores the rich tapestry of this historic Pittsburgh neighborhood, its historical roots, the neighborhoods within, and the unique attractions that contribute to its distinct identity.

Oakland: An Overview

Oakland, a former township, is renowned for its academic and healthcare establishments. It is a significant cultural center in Pittsburgh, boasting a rich array of universities, museums, shopping venues, and recreational activities. This part of the city is also home to two city-designated historic districts – the predominantly residential Schenley Farms Historic District and the institutional Oakland Civic Center Historic District. The locally-designated Oakland Square Historic District is another notable element of the community.

Academic and Healthcare Excellence

Oakland is home to prominent academic institutions such as the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Carlow University. These universities contribute significantly to the high student population, making Oakland Pittsburgh’s second-most populated neighborhood.

In terms of healthcare, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is a renowned institution in Oakland, pioneering modern organ transplant surgery and developing the first effective polio vaccine in 1955.

The Neighborhoods of Oakland

The neighborhood is divided into four distinct sections: North, West, Central, and South Oakland. Each section exudes a unique identity, offering a variety of venues and housing options.

North Oakland

North Oakland, situated between Neville and Bouquet Streets, houses the Cathedral of Learning, the engineering section of the University of Pittsburgh campus, and the Craig Street business district. This area is home to the Schenley Farms Historic District and many mid-rise condominium and apartment buildings.

Central Oakland

Central Oakland is bordered by Schenley Park, the Boulevard of the Allies, Fifth Avenue, and Halket Street. This neighborhood is a popular choice for University of Pittsburgh students seeking off-campus residence. Its homes are historic masonry structures dating back to the turn of the century. The main business district runs along Forbes and Fifth Avenue, offering a variety of dining and retail options.

South Oakland

South Oakland runs along the Monongahela River, forming a triangular area between the river, the Boulevard of the Allies, and the western bank of Junction Hollow. Major landmarks include the Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC and the Pittsburgh Technology Center.

West Oakland

West Oakland, the smallest of the Oakland districts, is a bouquet of commercial and residential establishments. It is home to Carlow University and most of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Historical Overview of Oakland

Oakland’s name first appeared in 1839 in a local paper, Harris’ Intelligencer, owing to the abundance of oak trees in the farm of William Eichbaum, who settled there in 1840. The area developed rapidly after the Great Fire of 1845 in Downtown Pittsburgh, with many people moving to this suburban territory.

The township of Oakland, just two years after seceding from Pitt Township, was annexed to the City of Pittsburgh in 1868. Twenty-one years later, Mary Schenley gifted the city 300 acres in the area for a park. An additional 100 acres were purchased for Schenley Park, and she also donated land for Schenley Plaza.

In 1917, Teddy Roosevelt visited the neighborhood. Oakland has long been considered Pittsburgh’s university center. The University of Pittsburgh, heir to the Pittsburgh Academy incorporated in 1787, relocated to Oakland in 1909 from its campus in Allegheny.

Architectural Marvels in Oakland

The neighborhood is a showcase of impressive architecture, mostly on the University of Pittsburgh campus. In 1925, construction began on what was then the world’s tallest educational building, the 42-story Cathedral of Learning. Although it now ranks fourth in the world, it remains the tallest educational building in the Western Hemisphere and the second tallest gothic-styled building in the world.

In addition to the Cathedral of Learning, the campus houses the French-Gothic revival Heinz Memorial Chapel and St. Paul Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. The main branch of the Carnegie Library, the Carnegie Museum, and Phipps Conservatory are also located in Oakland.

Sporting Legacy and Entertainment

Oakland has been home to many professional Pittsburgh sports teams including the hockey Pittsburgh Pirates (NHL), Pittsburgh Steelers, and the baseball Pittsburgh Pirates. These teams played at now-defunct venues such as the Duquesne Gardens, Pitt Stadium, and Forbes Field.

The Decade nightclub was a staple of the neighborhood in the 1970s and 1980s. The neighborhood also hosted the Pittsburgh Symphony and many touring plays and musical acts at the Syria Mosque. The Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera also performed in the neighborhood, showcasing at the Pitt Stadium until 1961. The Pittsburgh Playhouse was founded in the neighborhood.

Museums and Galleries

Oakland is a treasure trove for art and history enthusiasts, with numerous museums and galleries. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Museum of Art, both located in the neighborhood, offer a wealth of knowledge and cultural experiences.

The neighborhood also houses the Nicholas Lochoff Cloister and University Arts Gallery, the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, the Nationality Rooms, and the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial.

Notable People

The neighborhood has been home to many notable personalities. Lester Goran, a writer and professor at the University of Miami, and Dan Marino, a former Miami Dolphins quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, both hail from this vibrant neighborhood.

This wonderful neighborhood in Pittsburgh offers a blend of rich history, academic excellence, cultural diversity, and urban vibrancy, making it a must-visit destination. Whether you’re a student, a history buff, a foodie, or an art lover, this great area has something to offer everyone. Its unique blend of old-world charm and modern amenities make it a captivating neighborhood, reflecting the dynamic spirit of Pittsburgh.



2 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Neighborhoods: History of Oakland”

  1. Marilyn Merrill

    Love Pittsburgh.. Live in Columbus Ohio now. It can’t old a candle to Pittsburgh. Besides, they talk funny. Not like the people in Pittsburgh do. I really miss the strip.

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