1880 - 1900

Later, in the two decades between 1880 and 1900, the infrastructure and amenities that would guide the future development of the neighborhood were put into place. During this period, Pittsburgh became the center of the newly-consolidated iron and steel, glass, and oil industries. The expansion of these industries drew masses on immigrants and other workers to Pittsburgh, more than doubling its population between 1880 and 1990. New industrial plants and the influx of workers put pressure on the older residential neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, at the same time that industrial consolidation and expansion created a class of white-collar administrators who were looking for greater amenities in their living arrangements. The most important event in the development of the city and of the Highland Park Historic District was the electrification of the streetcar system between 1890 and 1896, and the extension of the streetcar lines through the neighborhood to a car barn (no longer in existence) at the corner of Mellon and Bunker Hill Streets. Electric streetcar service cut travel time to the center of the city in half, and the accessibility of the East End of Pittsburgh increased dramatically. Consequently, since middle- and upper-class Pittsburghers could now live comfortably at a distance from their jobs in the center of town, the wholesale residential abandonment of downtown Pittsburgh ensued and residential growth in the East End exploded. Downtown Pittsburgh lost thirty-seven per cent (37%) of its residents in the 1890s, while the population in East End wards increased from 103,000 to 169,000 during the same decade. This explosive growth caused the abrupt development of the Shadyside and Friendship neighborhoods, which lie just to the west and south of Highland Park, as well as the Highland Park district itself. Another major improvement was the founding of Highland Park in 1889, by public works director Edward Bigelow, around the water reservoir that was completed in 1879. In 1898, the park was enhanced by the opening of the Pittsburgh Zoo, a gift of Christopher Magee, a former mayor who headed the streetcar company whose line ended at the park. The Board of Public Education, foreseeing increased growth in the area, built the Romanesque Revival-style Fulton School (photograph #18; already listed in the National Register of Historic Places) on what was then the edge of the developed area in 1893. These developments, along with the perception of the area as a fashionable place to live, laid the foundation for Highland Park’s spectacular growth after 1900. During these decades, a “millionaires’ row” of mansions was constructed along N. Highland Avenue. The building of the mansions shows that the neighborhood was becoming increasingly fashionable at that time. One of these large houses was the home of William Flinn, a contractor and state senator who was one of the bosses of the Republican Party machine in Pittsburgh, at the corner of Highland Avenue and Bunker Hill Street at the entrance to Highland Park. Another was built in 1901 by Alexander Peacock, one of Andrew Carnegie’s steel industry lieutenants, who became a millionaire when Carnegie sold out to U. S. Steel earlier that year. Peacock’s house was called “Rowanlea”; it was designed by the most famous architecture firm in Pittsburgh at the time, Alden & Harlow, and occupied the entire block on the east side of Highland between Jackson and Wellesley. Both of these houses were demolished in the 1920s, but some of the mansions survive, though usually on shrunken lots. The oldest of these survivors was the home of Edward Bigelow at 837 N. Highland, built in 1885 (photograph #6). Others include 931 N. Highland, from 1900 (photograph #7); machine politician Robert Elliott’s house at 935 N. Highland (photograph #8), and the home of Oswald Werner (owner of a laundry and dying business on Bryant Street) at 830 N. Highland (photograph #4), both built in 1891; and the house of foundry owner Newton Hemphill at 1305 N. Highland (photograph #30), constructed in 1899. At the same time, more modest houses were filling out the neighborhood between the main streets, mostly on the level ground between Negley and Highland Avenues. This development was part of the overall growth of East Liberty, which was spurred on by the presence of both the railroad and the streetcar lines that ran out from the center of Pittsburgh. Many of the houses were built on speculation, for rental or sale, often in short rows of identical buildings, such as in the 5600 block of Jackson (photograph #31) and the 800 block of N. St. Clair (photograph #32). The architecture of these last two decades of the 19th century was dominated by the Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque styles. In general terms, the Queen Anne style emphasized the irregular and the picturesque. Typical elements included complex roofs, bays, and turrets; variations in surface materials, especially when shingles were used; and a high degree of ornamentation. The larger houses in the district provide the most elaborate examples of the style, including at 837, 931, and 1300 N. Highland Avenue (the last [photograph #33] displays classical ornaments often found on later Queen Anne buildings) and 5509 (photograph #34) and 5540 Hays Street (photograph #35). The smaller, speculative houses in the 5600 block of Jackson and the 800 block of N. St. Clair are also examples of the Queen Anne. At roughly the same time, the Richardsonian Romanesque style was enjoying a brief period of popularity. Boston architect H. H. Richardson himself introduced this style to Pittsburgh with his design for the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail (1884-1888). The style is characterized by rough stonework, large round arches, squat columns, and medieval ornament. Highland Park has two good examples, both by Pittsburgh architect Frederick Sauer, in large houses at 830 N. Highland Avenue (1891, photograph #4) and 5906 Callowhill Street (1893, photograph #5). Sauer was a prolific if not fashionable German-immigrant architect in Pittsburgh, best known for his designs of ethnic churches throughout the region (including the Polish St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and St. Nicholas Croatian Church). [Text adapted from Mike Eversmeyer's final nomination documents for the Highland Park Residential Historic Distict. Mike has given explicit permission for its inclusion on the Highland Park web site.]