Neighborhood: Central Business District
This short street, between Fourth Avenue and Liberty Avenue just west of Market Square, was part of George Woods’ original plan of Pittsburgh of 1784, though that plan did not give it a name. In the 1830 map of Jean Barbeau and Lewis Keyon, it is labeled Jail Alley. James M. Riddle’s 1815 Pittsburgh directory lists “Chancery lane, (called in this work Jail alley).” Chancery Lane (today Chancery Way) originally extended to Fourth Avenue (then Fourth Street), almost opposite Jail Alley, so apparently the two were originally viewed as parts of the same street. Perhaps this is why Jail Alley is not labeled in Woods’ 1784 map, though in Barbeau and Keyon’s 1830 map the two are labeled separately. Jail Alley was so called because Pittsburgh’s first jail was located there; it was a stone building, built about 1790, facing the Diamond (today’s Market Square).[2, 3, 4, 6, 7]
Jail Alley was renamed Decatur Street in 1842. It was probably named for Stephen Decatur (1779–1820).
In 1910, over 900 streets were renamed by a city ordinance to eliminate duplicates; Decatur Street was renamed Delray Street to avoid confusion with Decatur Street in Manchester on the North Side. Like many of the new names introduced by this ordinance, the origin of Delray is obscure, beyond the fact that it begins with the same letter as Decatur. Perhaps it refers to Delray, Michigan, now a neighborhood of Detroit, which was an industrial city and the terminus of the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad. Compare Xenia Way, which may also have been named for an important railroad city.
Barbeau, Jean, and Keyon, Lewis. Map of Pittsburgh and its environs. N. B. Molineux, Pittsburgh, 1830. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0576.
Craig, Neville B. The History of Pittsburgh: With a brief notice of its facilities of communication, and other advantages for commercial and manufacturing purposes. John H. Mellor, Pittsburgh, 1851. Google Books cE0OAAAAIAAJ; HathiTrust 001263103.
Fleming, George T. “History from an old map: Fourth chapter of the story evolved from Masson’s map of Pittsburgh of 1805—lot owners on Fourth and Fifth streets, now avenues—the Diamond Square lots and the old jail: The rugged, broken topography of the era depicted—Craig’s recollections quoted—some noted realty owners’ names, Samuel Jones, Ephraim Blaine, Ephraim Douglass—Alexander Fowler, patriot and orator.” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Aug. 6, 1922, sixth section, p. 10. Newspapers.com 85915679.
“Home affairs.” Daily Morning Post, Dec. 19, 1842, p. 3. Newspapers.com 88169320.
Lambing, A. A., and White, J. W. F. Allegheny County: Its Early History and Subsequent Development. Snowden & Peterson, Pittsburgh, 1888, p. 90. Google Books 6bY-AAAAYAAJ; HathiTrust 008957728, 100693049; Historic Pittsburgh 00aee8946m; Internet Archive centennialhistor00lamb; LCCN 18008828.
Mulkearn, Lois, and Pugh, Edwin V. A Traveler’s Guide to Historic Western Pennsylvania. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 1954, p. 40. Historic Pittsburgh 31735057894978.
“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).
Riddle, James M. The Pittsburgh Directory for 1815: Containing the names, professions and residence of the heads of families and persons in business, in the borough of Pittsburgh, with an appendix containing a variety of useful information. James M. Riddle, Pittsburgh, 1815. Internet Archive pittsburghdirect00ridd. Republished by the Colonial Trust Co., Pittsburgh, 1905 (Google Books 9ihRAAAAYAAJ; Historic Pittsburgh 00ach3238m); and by Duquesne Smelting Corporation, Pittsburgh, 1940 (Internet Archive pittsburghdirect00repu).
☞ List of streets, p. 130 (Google Books 9ihRAAAAYAAJ; Historic Pittsburgh 00ach3238m; Internet Archive pittsburghdirect00ridd, pittsburghdirect00repu).
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).