Allegheny City

allegheny city

Allegheny City: A Historic Municipality Annexed by Pittsburgh

Allegheny City, formerly an independent municipality in Pennsylvania, stood as a testament to the rich history and development of the region. From its founding in 1788 to its annexation by Pittsburgh in 1907, Allegheny City played a vital role in the growth of the area. This article delves into the remarkable journey of Allegheny City, exploring its establishment, industrial significance, notable landmarks, and the controversial annexation that forever changed its landscape.

Foundation and Growth

In 1788, Allegheny City was meticulously planned by John Redick, with its lots sold by Pennsylvania’s state government or given to Revolutionary War veterans. Initially incorporated as a borough in 1828, Allegheny City gained city status in 1840. During the mid-19th century, the area transformed from farmland into residential lots, attracting a growing German population and later Croat immigrants. The city’s German influence was evident in its nickname, “Deutschtown,” derived from the German word for “German.”

Allegheny City expanded its borders through the annexation of neighboring municipalities such as Manchester, Spring Garden, Duquesne, and areas that eventually became Brighton Heights, Observatory Hill, Perry Hilltop, Summer Hill, Spring Hill, and Troy Hill. This growth solidified its position as a thriving industrial city, boasting commercial areas, churches, and various social organizations.

Industrial Significance

Allegheny City’s industrial prowess was fueled by its diverse manufacturing sectors. The city housed numerous packing houses, tanneries, soap factories, and glue factories, providing employment opportunities for the primarily German immigrant population. Notable companies, such as the H.J. Heinz Company and Heyl & Patterson Inc., also made their mark in Allegheny City. The former established its factory near the Chestnut Street bridge, while the latter specialized in manufacturing railcar dumpers and ship unloaders.

The city’s industrial output was extensive, encompassing a wide range of products. The “Made in Allegheny” label adorned items such as iron, rope, plows, cotton cloth, wool, food, paper, paint, steam engines, wagons and carts, meat, soap, candles, lumber, linseed oil, furniture, and more. Railroad lines, including the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago, and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railroad, further facilitated the transportation of goods.

Notable Landmarks

Teutonia Männerchor Hall

Teutonia Männerchor Hall

The Teutonia Männerchor Hall, located in the East Allegheny (Deutschtown) neighborhood, stands as a testament to Allegheny City’s German cultural traditions. Constructed in 1888, the building serves as a private membership club dedicated to choral singing, German heritage, and camaraderie. The Teutonia Männerchor hosts various heritage activities, celebrations, and performances, including German choral singing and folk dancing.

The Priory

The Priory Pittsburgh

The Priory comprises two historic landmarks: the 1852 St. Mary’s German Catholic Church and the adjacent 1888 home for Bavarian Benedictine priests and brothers. Once a predominantly German parish, the church later merged with nearby Italian and Polish congregations. Although the church and rectory have closed, the buildings are now repurposed as a banquet hall and a bed-and-breakfast, preserving their historical significance.

Penn Brewery

Penn Brewery

Penn Brewery, established in 1987, finds its home in the former Eberhardt & Ober Brewery buildings (1882–1906). Renowned for its award-winning Penn Pilsner and other specialty beers, Penn Brewery also features a brewery-owned restaurant, offering a full German menu and live music. It serves as a testament to Allegheny City’s brewing heritage and its contribution to the local economy.

Saint Nicholas Church

Saint Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church

Saint Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church, the first Croatian church built in the United States, once stood nestled above the Allegheny River. Regrettably, the structure was razed in January 2013, marking the end of an era for the Croatian community in Allegheny City.

Ridge Avenue Neighborhood

Ridge Avenue, known as “Millionaires’ Row” between 1890 and 1910, gained prominence as an area of stately homes owned by wealthy families. However, after two decades, the neighborhood experienced a decline as residents moved further out. The annexation of Allegheny City by Pittsburgh in 1907 further impacted the community’s cohesion.

Mexican War Streets

One of Allegheny City’s renowned areas, The Mexican War Streets, emerged in the late 19th century. Laid out in 1847 by William Robinson Jr., the streets were named after battles and generals from the Mexican-American War. This neighborhood became synonymous with stately homes and attracted some of the region’s affluent families.

Carnegie Free Public Libraries

Allegheny City benefited from the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie, who contributed to the financing and construction of the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny. The library, established with the aim of promoting education and knowledge, became a valuable resource for the local community.

St. Anthony Chapel

St. Anthony Chapel in Pittsburgh

Built on Troy Hill between 1880 and 1892, St. Anthony Chapel houses the largest collection of religious relics outside of the Vatican. The chapel’s intricate design and life-sized Stations of the Cross statues make it a remarkable testament to Allegheny City’s spiritual heritage.

Ball Parks

Allegheny City hosted Exposition Park, the home field of the professional baseball team originally known as the Pittsburgh Alleghenies and later the Pittsburgh Pirates. Today, the North Side of Pittsburgh houses PNC Park, the current home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Heinz Field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. These modern sporting facilities replaced the iconic Three Rivers Stadium, which was once shared by both teams.

Felix Brunot Mansion

The Felix Brunot mansion on Stockton Avenue played a significant role as a station on the Underground Railroad. Fugitive slaves seeking freedom stopped at this mansion for shelter and sustenance during their journey. The mansion stands as a testament to Allegheny City’s role in the abolitionist movement.

Allegheny Observatory

allegheny observatory

Founded in 1859 near Perrysville Avenue, the original Allegheny Observatory was a collaborative effort by prominent citizens forming the Allegheny Telescope Association. In 1867, the association donated the observatory to the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh) for astronomical research and education. The observatory provided a successful subscription time service to railroads through telegraph communication. A new Allegheny Observatory was built between 1900 and 1912 in today’s Riverview Park, continuing the city’s commitment to astronomy and public engagement.

Annexation Controversy

The annexation of Allegheny City by Pittsburgh was a contentious event that forever altered the city’s course. Initiated in 1906 and authorized by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark decision Hunter v. City of Pittsburgh, the annexation faced significant opposition from Allegheny City residents. Despite a resounding 2:1 margin of opposition in Allegheny City, the annexation bill was approved due to the overwhelming support from more populous Pittsburgh residents. Allegheny City residents tirelessly fought to overturn the annexation in court to no avail.

The population of Pittsburgh experienced a substantial increase from 321,616 in 1900 to 533,905 in 1910, including the 132,283 residents of Allegheny City. The merger between the two cities led to the abandonment of the old ward systems, with a new ward system established, consisting of 27 wards. Allegheny City was divided into wards 21 to 27 in the new system. The enduring impact of the annexation can be observed by examining the city ward maps.

allegheny city

Allegheny City, with its rich history, vibrant industries, and notable landmarks, played a pivotal role in shaping the region’s development. The annexation by Pittsburgh in 1907 may have altered its landscape, but the remnants of Allegheny City’s past still stand as a testament to its significance. Today, the North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh carries the torch of Allegheny City’s legacy, blending the old and the new to create a vibrant and thriving community.

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