Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill: A Vibrant and Diverse Neighborhood in Pittsburgh

Nestled in the heart of Pittsburgh, PA, Squirrel Hill is a thriving residential neighborhood renowned for its cultural diversity and vibrant local businesses. Combining a rich history, an array of ethnic eateries, scenic parks, and educational institutions, Squirrel Hill offers a unique blend of urban and suburban living that is both welcoming and fascinating.

Squirrel Hill is one of the larger and most well know neighborhoods in Pittsburgh.  The communities name was most likely give to it because of the abundance of gray squirrels inhabiting all of the forestry throughout the hills in the area.

Dive into the History of Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill’s name is believed to have originated from the substantial squirrel population that inhabited the area when the first settlers arrived in the mid-18th century. The neighborhood grew in prominence over the generations, with many of Pittsburgh’s most notable residents owning sizable estates in the area, long before Pittsburgh’s urban sprawl extended eastward.

Throughout the years, several of these estates were donated to the city, and large portions were transformed into Schenley Park and Frick Park – two of the largest parks within the city limits.

Squirrel Hill is also home to a large Jewish population, which is reflected in the neighborhood’s businesses and restaurants. Moreover, it serves as an education hub with Carnegie Mellon and Chatham Universities located within the neighborhood (although Carnegie Mellon is often considered part of Oakland due to its border with Squirrel Hill).

The early development of Squirrel Hill as a vibrant Pittsburgh neighborhood was along the banks of the Monongahela River.  Colonel James Burd, a soldier stationed at Fort Pitt, reportedly built the first house in Squirrel Hill around 1760 in an area known then as Summerset.   Not long after, another home, built by Ambrose Newton, was built, and is located on Overlook Drive near Schenley Park.  John Turner then built an estate know as Federal Hill in 1778 on what is now Beechwood Boulevard.  Turner Cemetery, his family plot, was donated to the community when he passed away in 1840.  Here many of the original Squirrel Hill settlers are buried.  In 1787 Robert Neill built the Neill Log House in what is now known as Schenley Park.   This house was eventually sold to General James O’Hara.   O’Hara’s grand daughter, Mary Schenley then gave the property to the city of Pittsburgh in 1889.   It was actually rented to visitors to Pittsburgh until around 1969, when, in dis-repair, the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks foundation re-built it and it is now open for tours occassionally.

Squirrel Hill

One of the first local inns in Squirrel Hill was built around 1820 by William “Killymoon” Steward along Beechwood and Brown’s Hill Roads.  It was in operation for over a century.  Squirrel Hill was now a growing neighborhood with a commercial district.  In the 1840s, the Murdoch family founded a farm and nursery business in the northern part of Squirrel Hill.  Today, it’s known as Murdoch Farms and many large and beautiful homes are located there.

Squirrel Hill was originally part of Peebles Township.  In 1868, it was officially annexed into the city of Pittsburgh.  After the Civil War in 1869 a women’s college was established in the area of Fifth and Wilkins Avenues.   It is now known as Chatham University.  As the 19th century progressed, the development of Squirrel Hill moved toward the neighborhoods of Oakland and Shadyside.  Trolley lines contributed greatly to the area as it grew, with an electric trolley constructed in 1893.    This allowed for the construction of hundreds of houses along it’s corridor, via Forbes and Murray Avenues and Shady Avenue.  Believe it or not, Murray Avenue was still a dirt road in 1920!

Squirrel Hill

The Boulevard of the Allies connected Squirrel Hill to downtown Pittsburgh in 1927 and allowed for an even more direct link for residents to travel back and forth.  The area was now mostly populated.  By 1953, the Parkway, as it is known, and the Squirrel Hill Tunnel opened.   Thus completed the connection from the Eastern Suburbs of Pittsburgh through Squirrel Hill to down town.

Squirrel Hill

The main commercial district in Squirrel Hill is located on Murray and Forbes Avenues.   Along with many shops, restaurants, bars and coffee shops, there is also the Carnegie Library, the Children’s Institue and The Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition, to name a few.  The area also boasts several parks and other interest of natural origin, such as the Chatham University Arboretum, Schenley Park and Frick Park.

Squirrel Hill

Schenley Park, now almost 460 acres, was originally established in 1889 on donation from Mary Schenley.  Frick Park was donated by Henry Clay Frick in 1919 and was enlarged to over 600 acres through out the years with the original trust of $2,000,000 provided by Frick.   It was most recently restored in 2006.Squirrel Hill

Both Chatham University and Carnegie Mellon University have parts or all of their campus in Squirrel Hill.   Both are world-class learning institutions.   The neighborhood is a vibrant and diverse area with many sites to see and things to enjoy.  Residents of the Pittsburgh region as well as tourists flock every year to enjoy Squirrel Hill.   Here are some places to eat in Squirrel Hill that come highly recommended.

Squirrel Hill Charm

The neighborhood of Squirrel Hill is primarily residential, boasting an array of beautiful houses. However, it also has two business streets – Murray and Forbes Avenue – which are among the most vibrant in the entire city. These streets are home to a variety of shops and a plethora of restaurants, serving a range of cuisines that reflect the neighborhood’s cultural diversity.

Food and Dining in Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill is a food lover’s paradise, offering some of the most delectable ethnic restaurants in the city. From the exquisite Middle Eastern flavors of Aladdin’s Eatery, the exotic Thai dishes served at Bangkok Balcony, the delightful French pastries from Gaby Et Jules, to the spicy Thai treats at Silk Elephant, and the Mexican delicacies at Bull River Taco, this neighborhood has something to satisfy every palate.

For those less inclined towards culinary adventures, there are traditional American restaurants like the Squirrel Hill Cafe.  If you’re a pizza enthusiast, be sure to try the pies at Aiello’s and Mineo’s Pizza on Murray Ave. both considered by many to be the best pizza in Pittsburgh.

Does Squirrel Hill Have Great Parks?  Yep!

Squirrel Hill is home to not one, but two incredibly large city parks within its boundaries.

Frick Park, formerly a part of the Frick family estate, is one of the largest parks in the city. It offers numerous hiking trails that traverse the hills in a wooded environment – perfect for walkers and runners of all skill levels.

Schenley Park, another beautiful city park in Squirrel Hill, offers numerous wooded trails as well as several grassy areas with fantastic views of the Cathedral of Learning. The park also offers ample amenities such as playgrounds, a disc golf course, a swimming pool, and more.

Exploring the Neighborhood’s Shops

Shopping in Squirrel Hill is an experience in itself. From the largest full-service family shoe store, Littles Shoes, to the trendy second-hand clothing store, Avalon Exchange, and the local jeweler, Orr’s Jewelers, the neighborhood offers a range of shopping options.

Education in Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill is an educational hub, with Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham University are located within its boundaries. The neighborhood also hosts several public schools, including Taylor Allderdice High School, which opened its doors in 1927. It was named for the president of the National Tube Company, who was also a member of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education.  In addition to public schools, Squirrel Hill is home to private schools such as St. Edmund’s Academy, a private nonsectarian elementary school, and Community Day School, a co-ed, independent Jewish day school

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