Beechview in Pittsburgh

A historical journey through Beechview, a unique neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, unveils the story of a region that evolved from a remote coal mining village to an economically stable neighborhood. Beechview, the area that once bore the name ‘Orvilla,’ and was briefly known as ‘Beechwood,’ is a quintessential example of the city’s growth and transformation.

The Early Days: From Orvilla to Beechview

In the 1870s, a remote section of Union Township, bordering West Liberty Borough, was known as the Borough of Espey. This small hamlet nestled near the coal mines, became an organized village by the name ‘Orvilla’ along the route of the Little Saw Mill Run Railroad by the 1890s.

However, in 1905, with an ambitious vision of annexation into Pennsylvania’s second-largest city, Pittsburgh, Orvilla seceded from Union Township and was officially renamed ‘Beechview.’ The reasons for the name change remain speculative, but one thing was certain – Beechview was now a borough in its own right.

Beechview Pittsburgh

Beechview Borough: A New Beginning

Beechview’s early days as a borough were marked by the establishment of a local government structure and the creation of necessary public amenities. The borough’s first election saw Henry Vetter rise to the position of Burgess, while Albert Beach became the Constable. The borough council and a school board were also formed around this time.

Beechview’s first school was situated within the Beechview United Methodist Church. However, the borough soon identified the need for a dedicated educational institution. In 1906, Henry H. Fisher, a West Liberty land broker, facilitated the purchase of six lots for the construction of a borough school. This two-story, four-room brick structure, equipped with advanced heating and ventilation systems, was dedicated on January 1, 1907.

The Emergence of Beechwood

While Beechview was finding its footing as a borough, the neighboring Beechwood area of West Liberty Borough was also gearing up for annexation into Pittsburgh. The region was so named due to the abundance of Beech trees in the area. This part of what would later become Beechview stood on the hills west of West Liberty Avenue, the main borough road.

The Role of Beechwood Improvement Company

The Beechwood Improvement Company, formed in 1902 by influential partners including former State Senator William Flinn, played a pivotal role in the development of Beechwood. This company had a significant impact on the landscape of Beechwood, including the construction of the traction line and three large bridges.

The company’s primary goal was to expedite the construction of the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel, which would connect Carson Street with West Liberty. Interestingly, the contract for the tunnel’s construction was awarded to Booth and Flinn, Ltd, owned by none other than William Flinn himself.

Beechview Coffee Mug
The Beechview Coffee Mug. Get yours HERE!

West Liberty Borough: The Road to Annexation

The completion of the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel was a turning point for West Liberty Borough. Property development began rapidly, and the borough’s land valuation skyrocketed. By the time of annexation in 1908, West Liberty Borough had transformed into a prosperous municipality with a population of 10,000 and a treasury balance of $8,000. The borough had fifteen miles of modern sewers, and three and a half miles of paved roads, making it a lucrative area for further development.

The Transition from Beechwood to Beechview

After annexation, the Beechview and Beechwood communities were united into one city neighborhood under the official name ‘Beechview.’ The community of Beechwood ceased to exist after a brief existence of just 363 days. The name still lives on, though, in the name of Beechview’s public school, Beechwood Elementary, which was built in 1909.

Beechview Joins Pittsburgh

Beechview officially became part of Pittsburgh on January 4, 1909. This annexation was a significant milestone for the borough, which had been striving towards this goal since its inception. The Beechwood Improvement Company had already been active in the newly annexed area, developing housing plans in what was now Beechview Borough.

Beechview Today: A Vibrant Neighborhood

Beechview Pittsburgh

Today, Beechview stands as a vibrant neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s southwestern side. It has a zip code of 15216 and is represented on Pittsburgh City Council by both the council member for District 4 (South Neighborhoods) and for District 2 (West Neighborhoods).

Despite some economic downturns in the late 20th century, Beechview has managed to stabilize economically, thanks to its proximity to downtown Pittsburgh, convenient access to light rail transit, and the establishment of new businesses.

Geography and Surroundings

Beechview’s geography is as unique as its history. Despite its hilly terrain, its streets follow a grid pattern, giving rise to some extremely steep roads. The neighborhood is bordered by several Pittsburgh neighborhoods including Duquesne Heights to the north, Mt. Washington to the northeast, Brookline to the south and southeast, Banksville to the west, and Ridgemont to the northwest.  It is also home to Canton Avenue, regarded as the steepest street in America.

Transportation in Beechview

Beechview’s transportation system is quite robust. It is served by the Pittsburgh Light Rail Red Line stations – Dawn, Westfield, Fallowfield, Hampshire, Belasco, and Shiras.

The evolution of Beechview is a testament to the growth and transformation of Pittsburgh. From a remote mining village to a bustling neighborhood, Beechview represents the city’s resilience and adaptability. It is a clear example of how strategic planning, determined effort, and community participation can turn any region into a thriving, prosperous area.

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