with a side
The United States sang of independence at the end of the Revolutionary War, with new land to explore and a country to develop, its thick wilderness transformed, paving way for the foundation of modern cities. One such town, occupied by the Seneca Indians and war veterans who accepted land for their war services, was soon to be known as Allegheny City. Its 3,000 acres situated across the river from Pittsburgh, gradually attracted people and industries, especially with James Robinson’s 1780 ferry service that connected Pittsburgh to its north side.
While Pittsburgh was known as the “Gateway to the West,” Allegheny Town made an impression with its manufacturing. A home to leather workers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, boat builders, iron manufacturers of the Juniata Rolling Mill, paper mill workers, and workers in the blossoming cotton industry, Allegheny supplied working-class power and thrived in public solidarity.
Qualifying as a third-class city in 1840 with 10,090 inhabitants, Allegheny City experienced its Golden Years. It hosted prominent companies such as McKinney, Westinghouse, and H.J. Heinz, alongside some of the greatest visionaries of the time – Andrew Carnegie, Martha Graham, Alexander Cassatt, Gertrude Stein, and John Pitcairn. Its residents created libraries, observatories, banks, and invented and secured patents for toys, slippers, razors, chairs, metallic kegs, anchors and hinges, among others. Allegheny City once and always was a city of innovation.
At the turn of the century, there was a push for a “Greater Pittsburgh,” and the 67-year-old city was annexed by Pittsburgh on December 9, 1907. Economy stabilized and public works projects provided residents with a safer, cleaner city. The legacies and mansions of Allegheny City’s Golden Age remained, but the North Side started to experience change.
With WWII straining the country and suburbia extracting prominent families from the cities, the city needed to adjust with the times. A flood that shocked the North Side opened the door for rebuilding and redesign. The first Sears was erected, alongside the Buhl Planetarium and Allegheny General Hospital. Then, ALCOA saw an opportunity to restyle the North Side.
ALCOA’s Allegheny Center Mall opened in 1966, attracting visitors and providing premier shopping for a little less than 20 years. Albeit a short-lived venture, the 1.5 million sq. ft. location hosted a multitude of companies in the years after the mall and bordered a block of successful apartment buildings and townhomes. Modernization of the North Side continued with baseball and football stadiums, a casino and new bars and restaurants that drew people back to Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Nova Place is one of the largest mixed-use, urban renewal projects in the country. Rich with potential, much of the original city plan remains, connecting residences and businesses through walkable green space.