This winding boulevard takes the name of Beechwood, the estate of Major William N. Frew (1826–1884), which was on the south side of Fifth Avenue where Mellon Park is today (near the modern intersection of Fifth Avenue and Beechwood Boulevard). Frew became wealthy as a partner in the first oil refinery in Pittsburgh.[1, 13, 15]
In 1910 the portion of Beechwood Avenue from Schenley Park to its intersection with Fifth Avenue in Point Breeze was renamed William Pitt Boulevard, and the portion from Frankstown Avenue to the Haights Run Bridge became Washington Boulevard.[7, 12, 14] The name William Pitt Boulevard was suggested by the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. The name honored William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1708–1778), who is also the eponym of Pittsburgh itself.
There seems to have been some confusion about the name, for it was occasionally called Fort Pitt Boulevard.[4, 5, 8] (This has no relationship to the present-day Fort Pitt Boulevard downtown.)
In any case, the new name did not last long. Every resident of the street petitioned to have the name changed back (even offering to pay for new signs), and this was done by a city ordinance in 1913, overriding a veto by Mayor William A. Magee and the protests of the Historical Society.[3, 6, 9, 10, 11] The mayor and the Historical Society argued that the name Beechwood was inappropriate for the street and that the name of William Pitt should be kept in the street directory so that it would not be forgotten.[3, 6] These arguments were mocked by the opposing side, who pointed out that the city itself was named Pittsburgh and sarcastically lamented that the city founders had not had the foresight to name it William Pittsburgh or to “run out and plant a few beech trees in the primeval forest.”
William Pitt is honored today in the name of Chatham Square and, of course, Pittsburgh itself. See also Stanwix Street, the northern part of which was originally named Pitt Street.
Atlas of the cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and the adjoining boroughs. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1872. http://historicpittsburgh.org/maps-hopkins/1872-atlas-pittsburgh-allegheny; 1872 layer at http://esriurl.com/pittsburgh.
“Boulevard gets back old name: Beechwood to be restored in place of William Pitt for thoroughfare: Reports on home for girls: No action is taken regarding the Good Shepherd institution.” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Apr. 24, 1913, p. 9. Newspapers.com 85621683.
“Boulevard name measure vetoed: Mayor contends William Pitt is most appropriate for thoroughfare: Other bills in balance.” Pittsburgh Sunday Post, June 1, 1913, p. 2. Newspapers.com 87978109.
“Colonial home to face boulevard: F. G. Stieren erecting dwelling on desirable site bought from W. L. Walker.” Pittsburgh Press, Nov. 20, 1914, North Side section, p. 6. Newspapers.com 142937368.
“Council passes boulevard bill ignoring veto: East End thoroughfare to be known as ‘Beechwood,’ despite mayor’s action: ‘William Pitt’ suggested.” Pittsburgh Post, June 4, 1913, p. 2. Newspapers.com 87978505.
“Fifth avenue’s name will not be changed: Beechwood boulevard is to be called William Pitt boulevard.” Pittsburgh Post, Jan. 22, 1910, p. 14. Newspapers.com 93557559.
“Home sold in boulevard.” Pittsburgh Sunday Post, Apr. 5, 1914, editorial and financial section, p. 7. Newspapers.com 87527007.
“Mayor likes name: Vetoes ordinance making William Pitt into Beechwood boulevard.” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, June 1, 1913, first section, p. 6. Newspapers.com 85876480.
“Mayor’s veto is again overridden: Council passes ordinance giving boulevard its former name of Beechwood: New business introduced: Question of site for dog pound may be settled in the near future.” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, June 4, 1913, p. 2. Newspapers.com 85876703.
“An ordinance changing the name of William Pitt boulevard, between Putnam street and Schenley Park bridge, to Beechwood boulevard.” Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1913, no. 223. Passed May 20, 1913; veto overridden June 3, 1913. Ordinance Book 25, p. 244. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Post, June 7, 1913, p. 12 (Newspapers.com 87978845), and June 9, p. 10 (Newspapers.com 86542586).
“An ordinance changing the names of certain avenues, streets, lanes and alleys in the City of Pittsburgh.” Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1910, no. 715. Passed Mar. 31, 1910; approved Apr. 5, 1910. Ordinance Book 21, p. 342. Google Books doQzAQAAMAAJ. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Post, Apr. 19, 1910, pp. 10–11 (Newspapers.com 86611990, 86612022), Apr. 20, pp. 10–11 (Newspapers.com 86612278, 86612297), and Apr. 21, pp. 10–11 (Newspapers.com 86612601, 86612625).
Regan, Bob. The Names of Pittsburgh: How the city, neighborhoods, streets, parks and more got their names. The Local History Company, Pittsburgh, 2009, p. 64. ISBN 978-0-9770429-7-5.
“Removal of hump approved: Street widening and renaming bills also go through committees: Liggett files protest: Declares Diamond street proposition will cost city $500,000 damages: Some new appellations.” Pittsburgh Post, Jan. 27, 1910, p. 2. Newspapers.com 87647082.
Squirrel Hill Historical Society. Wilson, Helen, ed. Squirrel Hill: A neighborhood history. History Press, Charleston, S. C., 2017, p. 166. ISBN 978-1-4671-3625-9.
“What might have been.” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, June 8, 1913, fifth section, p. 4. Newspapers.com 85877015.