Exploring California Kirkbride
Enveloped in history and culture, California-Kirkbride is a charismatic neighborhood tucked away in Pittsburgh. Its unique topography and architectural heritage make it an intriguing corner of Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Strategically located between the railroad tracks at the northern edge of Manchester and a steep hill at the southern edges of Brightwood and Perry Hilltop, California-Kirkbride presents a fascinating mix of urban and natural landscapes.
The neighborhood’s primary borders are defined by the bustling California and Allegheny Avenues on the West; Pennsylvania Avenue on the South; Brighton Road on the East; and Island Avenue on the North.
The roots of California-Kirkbride can be traced back to the late 19th century when it developed as an extension of Manchester. It would likely be considered part of Manchester, but for the railroad tracks that form a border between Manchester and California-Kirkbride.
Demographics and Cultural Shifts
Historically, California-Kirkbride underwent a significant demographic shift. The African-American population surged from a mere 3% in 1960 to about 35% in the 1970s, and then soared to a staggering 80% by 2000.
The architectural landscape of California-Kirkbride is dominated by rowhouses that were built predominantly between 1870 and 1900 to accommodate the burgeoning industrial workforce. These rowhouses, while intended for industrial workers of modest means, were designed to be beautiful and to offer amenities.
A significant portion of the neighborhood’s rowhouses were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, as the Old Allegheny Rows Historic District.
Economic Challenges and Criticisms
Since the 1970s, California-Kirkbride has faced economic challenges, with a significant portion of the neighborhood’s buildings owned by absentee landlords. Critics argue that these landlords listed the neighborhood as a historic district to gain federal funding while neglecting the maintenance of these structures.
Despite the challenges, the neighborhood has seen some positive changes. Some structures have been demolished, allowing for the creation of vacant lots, which some residents view as opportunities for urban renewal.
The Iconic City Steps
One of California-Kirkbride’s unique features is its nine distinct flights of city steps, which provide easy access to public transportation and serve as a convenient way for pedestrians to navigate the neighborhood.
The Great Depression brought plight to the neighborhood that continued through the 1960’s and into the 1970’s. Many of the older homes not designated historically significant have since been demolished to create more green space. There are some initiatives currently in place to bring redevelopment back to this significantly historic neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
With its rich history, architectural heritage, and unique city steps, California-Kirkbride is a neighborhood that’s truly worth exploring. Despite its challenges, it continues to evolve and adapt, offering a fascinating glimpse into Pittsburgh’s past and a promising vision of its future.