Neighborhood: Central Business District
Over the course of the city’s history, the name First Street has referred to three different streets in downtown Pittsburgh: the original First Street, also called Front Street, renamed First Avenue in 1868; a street originally called Point Street, renamed First Street in 1868, again renamed Fort Street in 1875, and vacated in 1901; and a street originally called Duquesne Street, renamed Second Street in 1868, again renamed First Street in 1875, and vacated in 1901. This entry is about the last of these three streets. For the others, see First Avenue and Fort Street, respectively.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Duquesne Street ran from Penn Avenue down to Duquesne Way (today’s Fort Duquesne Boulevard) on the bank of the Allegheny River, near the Point. It was not part of George Woods’ original plan of Pittsburgh of 1784, in which Marbury Street (today’s Commonwealth Place) was the street nearest the Point. It appears on maps from 1855 (written as “DuQuesne St.”) and 1856. It was named for either Fort Duquesne or else the Marquis Duquesne, after whom the fort was named. Fort Duquesne was built by the French at the Forks of the Ohio (the Point) in April 1754 and destroyed by them on the approach of the British expedition under General John Forbes (eponym of Forbes Avenue) in November 1758. The fort was named in honor of Ange Duquesne de Menneville, Marquis Duquesne (1700–1778), Governor General of New France from 1752 to 1755.[4, 14]
In 1868, Pittsburgh’s modern sequence of numbered streets was created by renaming all the streets perpendicular to the Allegheny River. Duquesne Street was renamed Second Street because it was the second such significant street from the Point (after Point Street, later Fort Street; apparently Point Alley, even closer to the Point, did not count).[5, 9] The same ordinance also changed the name of the original Second Street to Second Avenue.
In 1875, a plan for the improvement of streets in the Point District called for the opening of a new street between Second Street and Third Street. In order to maintain continuity in street numbering, the new street was to be called Second Street, with the existing Second Street renamed First Street, and the existing First Street renamed Fort Street.[8, 10, 11]
First Street was vacated by a city ordinance in 1901, along with Second Street and Greentree Alley, as part of a plan to build warehouses at the Point.[1, 3, 7, 12, 13] Soon Point Alley and Fort Street were also vacated, which sparked a lengthy legal and political battle between the city and property developers on one side and the Daughters of the American Revolution, who owned the Fort Pitt Block House, on the other. See Fort Street for the story of the fight to save the Block House.
“Big improvement is now assured: Common council decrees the street vacations needed by warehouse scheme: Mrs. Schenley to give bond: Assurances of this fact overcame objections and a demand for delay: Select likely to act soon.” Pittsburg Post, Oct. 29, 1901, p. 7. Newspapers.com 86383884.
The cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny, with parts of adjacent boroughs, Pennsylvania. J. H. Colton & Co., New York, 1855. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0089; 1855 layer at http://esriurl.com/pittsburgh.
“Close vote on three vacating ordinances: Surveys committee of Councils, by vote of 12 to 10, favors grants in the point district—victory for the Schenley estate.” Pittsburg Press, Oct. 26, 1901, p. 2. Newspapers.com 141915976.
Cridlebaugh, Bruce S. “Field notes: Changing Pittsburgh street names—from downtown to Lawrenceville.” Pghbridges.com: Bridges & tunnels of Allegheny County & Pittsburgh, PA, Feb. 9, 2000. http://pghbridges.com/articles/fieldnote_pghstnames.htm.
Killikelly, Sarah H. The History of Pittsburgh: Its rise and progress. B. C. & Gordon Montgomery Co., Pittsburgh, 1906, p. 534. DonsList.net HistPgh1909M; Google Books kXmloex-vr8C, poRU0YjqrzsC; HathiTrust 100122020; Historic Pittsburgh 00adc8925m; Internet Archive historyofpittsbu00kill, historypittsbur00killgoog.
McGowin, R. E. Pittsburgh: Engraved from R. E. McGowin’s map for Geo. H. Thurston. Wm. Schuchman & Bro., Pittsburgh, 1856. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0091.
“An ordinance authorizing the vacation of First street, from Penn avenue to Duquesne way.” Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1901, no. 377. Passed Nov. 25, 1901; approved Dec. 6, 1901. Ordinance Book 14, p. 251. Reprinted in the Pittsburg Post, Dec. 11, 1901, p. 7 (Newspapers.com 86389443); and in the Pittsburg Press, Dec. 11, 1901, p. 12 (Newspapers.com 141825301).
“An ordinance changing the name of Second street to First street.” Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1875, no. 107. Passed Nov. 15, 1875; approved Nov. 20, 1875. Ordinance Book 4, p. 145. Google Books QblEAQAAMAAJ. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Gazette, Dec. 11, 1875, p. 2 (Newspapers.com 86343984).
“An ordinance changing the names of streets.” Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1868. Passed Aug. 31, 1868. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Gazette, Sept. 2, 1868, p. 5 (Newspapers.com 86347563), Sept. 3, p. 3 (Newspapers.com 86347623), and Sept. 4, p. 3 (Newspapers.com 86347714).
“An ordinance locating Second street.” Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1875, no. 108. Passed Nov. 15, 1875; approved Nov. 20, 1875. Ordinance Book 4, p. 146. Google Books QblEAQAAMAAJ. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Gazette, Dec. 11, 1875, p. 2 (Newspapers.com 86343984).
“Pittsburgh councils: Regular meeting yesterday: Considering the retrenchment ordinances—legal points raised—an interesting discussion—the ordinances favorably acted upon in Select Council—the police pay reduced—the firemen not touched—the city printing—the codification of the ordinances.” Pittsburgh Gazette, Dec. 14, 1875, p. 4. Newspapers.com 86344074.
“Point district to be vacated: City will be reimbursed by Mrs. Schenley’s agents for street improvements: Great warehouses going up: Councils pass many measures for sewer work—more contracts to be made: McTighe’s death lamented.” Pittsburg Post, Nov. 26, 1901, p. 9. Newspapers.com 86389154.
“To investigate a city office: City assessors said to be doing too much political work: Busy meeting of councils: Select councils pass two resolutions over Brown’s veto: Common was quite lively.” Pittsburg Press, Oct. 29, 1901, p. 11. Newspapers.com 141918282.
Weaver, Emily M. The Fort Pitt Block House. History Press, Charleston, S. C., 2013. ISBN 978-1-60949-933-4.
Woods, George. A draught of the town plat of Pittsburgh, surveyed for John Penn, Jr., and John Penn, by George Woods, May 31st 1784. 1784. Reproduced as “Original plan of Pittsburgh” in plate 19 of Atlas of the cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and the adjoining boroughs, G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1872 (Historic Pittsburgh 1872p019).