A Brief History of Mt. Washington

history of Mt. Washington

Mount Washington is a neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s South Side. It is best known for its steep hill that overlooks the whole Pittsburgh skyline. In its early days, the neighborhood was known as “Coal Hill,” however Coal Hill was actually on the south bank of the Monongahela River. Several mines operated at the base of Mt. Washington and rock was quarried from the hill (including gray sandstone for the Allegheny County Courthouse. In 1876, the name of Mt. Washington was officially born and just one year later, the first drawing of the majestic view of Pittsburgh was made. The hairpin trails that wound around the steep mountain were hardly passable to horses lugging loaded wagons. Mostly German immigrants settled on Mt. Washington and eventually grew fed up with hiking home after work every day. They thought of the inclines (Seilbahns) from back home and they soon constructed the Monongahela Incline in 1870 and later the Duquesne Incline. Those inclines carried horses and wagons as well as pedestrians.

Mt. Washington Coffee Mug
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Facts About Mt. Washington

history of Mt. Washington

The Castle Shannon incline was a third incline that closed in 1964. The majority of photos of the Pittsburgh skyline are taken from Mt. Washington due to its perfect view of the city. It was rated the most beautiful vista in America by USA Weekend. Mt. Washington is the home of Autumn House Press, one of the leading literary publishers in the U.S.  The history of Mt. Washington is as crucial as any neighborhood to the history of Pittsburgh.

9 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Neighborhoods: History of Mt. Washington”
  1. Thank you so very much — from 2 people who grew up in Pittsburgh. We so appreciate pictures and articles about the city.

  2. Thank you for the article from Mt. Washington, my neighborhood for over 16 yrs. It’s hard not to fall in love with this area and a prime tourist location. The view from Mt. Washington is priceless!!

  3. I am from Pittsburgh, when I bring my family &friends to visit I make sure we ride the incline and watch the city. They are always so scared at first and amazed at the view
    Thank you for sharing this article.

  4. Best place in the US to watch fireworks on Fourth of July! Used to go to the carnival at ST Mary’s! Miss my hometown.

  5. We lived on Grandview Ave., husband graduated from Duquesne University, we were married at St. Mary’s of The Mount, Feb. 1961, we loved Mt. Washington, the incline, looking out our window at the city, Tambellinis Restaurant and many dinners at the Point View overlooking the city. Thank you for the beautiful pictures of Pittsburgh.

  6. I grew up on Greenleaf St. in the 1950s. My dad, like most Mt. Washington people worked downtown for the Pgh Press. He took the incline every day. I still remember the stables behind houses that were mostly abandoned then but our neighbors had one and kept horses then. Because of the inversions it didn’t show always good and so it had a community of people who knew each other for generations. It was a real neighborhood. I don’t think this is the case today. The feeling then was, study hard, do good and earn enough money to move to the suburbs.

    1. I too grew up in Duquesne Heights (Sweetbriar St) in the 50-60’s, and moved in the early 70’s. I barely remember the “other” incline that was located by Greenleaf St. to the West end. And I’ll be darned if I can find any pictures or proper references to that incline. What do you remember about it?

      1. If you lived on Sweetbriar St you must have went by the Duquesne Incline all the time. It was by the LeMont Restaurant which in the 1950s was a movie theatre. Across the street in the 1950s was the A&P and a drug store and a soda fountain and a bakery. It was downtown Duquesne Heights. The incline goes from Mt. Washington to what was the North pole Ice Cream plant by the Monongahela river and close to the Ft. Pitt Bridge. A picture of it is below. My Aunt Mary Rectenwald lived on Virginia Ave. Were you related to her?

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