Neighborhood Development

During and immediately alter the Civil War, following the 1858 subdivision of the former Rope Walk property, the new Allegheny West neighborhood became a genteel alternative to sections of Allegheny City like the east and south commons and the Anderson Street area, which were crowded and contained mixed residential, commercial and industrial uses by 1870. Most of the original residents of the mansions and middle-class houses that line North Lincoln Avenue were manufacturers and merchants who previously lived in Downtown Pittsburgh or older sections of Allegheny City.

As Allegheny West developed. North Lincoln Avenue came to include a mixture of mansions and middle-class housing. Simultaneously, some of the region’s wealthiest families constructed mansions on Ridge Avenue and Brighton Road, most homes on Beech and Galveston Avenues were built for middle-class families, and Western Avenue developed as an unlikely mixture of mansions, homes of middle-class and working-class families and small industrial sites.

Between the late 1860’s and early 1880’s, most homes that were built on 25′ wide lots on Western, North Lincoln and Beech Avenue were worth between $11,000 and $13,000. Larger Allegheny West homes occupying double lots were worth $20,000 or more. An example is a home at 940 North Lincoln Avenue, which was sold for $20,000 in 1871. Smaller brick homes of six rooms on full single lots – prevalent in the Mexican War Streets, Lawrenceville and South Side neighborhoods – were worth $4,500 to $6,500.

Properly values in Allegheny West and Manchester climbed steadily during the 1870’s and 1850’s, with remaining undeveloped lots selling for about $1.60 to $1.80 per square foot by the late 1880’s. Before the introduction of electric streetcar lines in about 1890, the majority of middle-class families – who could not afford carriages and drivers – lived within a walking distance of employment sites. Some household heads commuted by horsecar or cable car, which were more affordable than private transportation but costlier than the electric streetcars of a few years later.

In about 1890, “streetcar suburbs” such as Friendship and Shadyside in Pittsburgh’s East End began to develop after introduction of electric streetcars. Offered the opportunity to purchase lots with 30′ to 50′ frontage for 40 to 60 cents per square foot, in neighborhoods that were further from industry, many middle-class residents of Allegheny West and Manchester moved to these neighborhoods within the next decade.

By 1900, Allegheny West property values fell, and about half of the middle-class houses on Western, North Lincoln and Beech Avenues were rented as single-family dwellings to families who were not quite as well-off as their predecessors. Allegheny West’s wealthier residents remained in their homes longer than their middle-class neighbors, possibly because they were able to escape to summer homes near Sewickley.

By the early 1920’s, when almost all of the millionaire residents of Brighton Road and Ridge Avenue fled to the Sewickley area, most of the formerly middle-class homes on Western, North Lincoln and Beech Avenues were either divided into apartments or used as rooming houses.