Aiken Avenue

From Pittsburgh Streets
Aiken Avenue
Neighborhoods Bloomfield, East Liberty, Garfield, Shadyside, Stanton Heights
Origin of name Aiken family

Aiken Avenue, originally called Aiken's Lane,[1][2] is named for the Aiken family, who were early landowners in the area and played important roles in the development of the neighborhood of Shadyside.

David Aiken (or Ekin), born in County Antrim, Ireland, immigrated to Pittsburgh around 1810.[3][1][4] He married Rachel Castleman, daughter of Jacob Castleman, for whom Castleman Street is named.[3][5][1][6] They had one daughter, named Rachel Castleman Aiken in honor of her mother.[1] In 1814, David's brother George (1777–1845) also came to Pittsburgh.[1][4] George Aiken had married Sarah Thompson in Ireland, and together they had nine children.[1] Their son Thomas (1814–1873) married his cousin Rachel, daughter of David Aiken, in the 1830s.[5][1][4][6] Thomas and Rachel had one son, David Aiken (1833–1889), who married Caroline A. Jones in 1856.[1][6] David and Caroline perpetuated many of the family names; among their ten children were David Castleman Aiken and a third Rachel Castleman Aiken.[1]

The Aiken brothers who came to western Pennsylvania in the 1810s bought land that today forms much of Shadyside. David's property corresponded to the area between Neville Street and Aiken Avenue, from Fifth Avenue to Skunk Hollow (the Norfolk Southern Railway and the East Busway). George's farm lay a short distance to the east, between Ellsworth Avenue and the Roup property to the north. David's property was inherited by his daughter Rachel, and hence by marriage most of the western part of Shadyside came under the ownership of Thomas Aiken.[5][1][4][2][6] In 1854, Thomas divided this property with his son David, who received the portion west of Amberson Avenue.[5][4][6] Thomas built a home at the southwest corner of Ellsworth and Aiken Avenues, while David's home was located at modern Amberson Place.[7][6]

A road in the location of modern Aiken Avenue, between Fifth Avenue and Ellsworth Avenue, appears in an 1851 map of Allegheny County.[8]

The major impetus for the development of Shadyside was the building of the Pennsylvania Railroad through the district, opened in 1852, and especially the construction of Shadyside Station, located at the end of Amberson Avenue and completed in 1860.[5][4][6][9]:46–47 The Aiken farm had been named Shadyside or Shady Side by Thomas Aiken because of its forest cover before it was cleared, and the station was named after this estate.[1][4][2] On the other hand, some sources say that the name Shadyside was first applied to the railroad station, suggested by David Aiken's wife Caroline, either taken from a book she had been reading[6][9]:46–47 or because she had planted trees in the neighborhood as a young girl and thought the name was appropriately descriptive.[10]

Thomas Aiken and his son David began to subdivide their property and sell lots in the 1860s.[4] Thomas served as a director of the East Liberty school and organized a Sunday school in 1860. He and David were among the founders of the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in 1867; Thomas served as an elder and superintendent of the Sunday school, and David served as treasurer and one of the trustees. Thomas and David were among the congregation members who met at David's home in 1869 to begin the organization of Pennsylvania Female College, today's Chatham University.[10][1][2]

Bob Regan associates the name Aiken Avenue specifically with David Aiken, "owner of large land tracts in the vicinity of today's Aiken Avenue."[9]:62 Presumably this means the elder David Aiken, the first of the family to come to Pittsburgh, because the younger David, son of Thomas, owned land further west. However, Regan appears to contradict himself a few pages earlier, where he says, "For example, many Pittsburghers who developed patents are honored by having streets named after them. These include Aiken (brick machine) . . . ."[9]:55 This claim apparently refers to Henry Aiken, an engineer who patented a brick machine in 1891.[11] Henry was born in 1843 in County Down, Ireland, and came to Pittsburgh at the age of five. He worked as a mechanical and consulting engineer and died in 1908.[12] Whatever the merits of his brick machine, it is clear that Aiken Avenue is not named for Henry Aiken, as the street was called by that name long before Aiken's patent. (Compare Dithridge Street, Oliver Avenue, Ward Street, and Wood Street, which Regan also claims were named after inventors.)


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 John W. Jordan. Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography, vol. I, pp. 207–210. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York, 1914. Google Books K-UsAAAAYAAJ; HathiTrust 008588881; Internet Archive encyclopediaofpe01jord; [view source]ency-pa-biog-1
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Annie Clark Miller. Early Land Marks and Names of Old Pittsburgh: An address delivered before the Pittsburgh Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution at Carnegie Institute, Nov. 30, 1923, p. 53. Pittsburgh Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, 1924. Historic Pittsburgh 00awn8211m; Internet Archive earlylandmarksna00mill. [view source]miller
  3. 3.0 3.1 Margaret Pearson Bothwell. "Devereux Smith, fearless pioneer." Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 40, no. 4, winter 1957, pp. 277–291. [view source]bothwell
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Robert J. Jucha. "The anatomy of a streetcar suburb: A development history of Shadyside, 1852–1916." Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 62, no. 4, Oct. 1979, pp. 301–319. [view source]jucha
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Donald Doherty. Pittsburgh's Shadyside, p. 7. Images of America. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, S. C., 2008, ISBN 978-0-7385-5701-4. LCCN 2007938996. [view source]doherty
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance. An Atlas of the Shadyside Neighborhood of Pittsburgh 1977, p. 2. 1977. Historic Pittsburgh 31735070288067; [view source]pna-shadyside
  7. Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and the Adjoining Boroughs. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1872.; 1872 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps ( [view source]hopkins-1872
  8. Sidney & Neff and S. McRea. Map of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, with the Names of Property-Holders. Philadelphia, 1851. LCCN 2012592150. [view source]sidney-neff
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Bob Regan. The Names of Pittsburgh: How the city, neighborhoods, streets, parks and more got their names. The Local History Company, Pittsburgh, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9770429-7-5. [view source]regan
  10. 10.0 10.1 Laberta Dysart. Chatham College: The first ninety years, pp. 14–18. Chatham College, Pittsburgh, 1959. Internet Archive chathamcollegefi00dysa. [view source]chatham-college
  11. Henry Aiken. "Brick-machine." U. S. patent 459,878, Sept. 22, 1891., [view source]aiken
  12. John W. Jordan. Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography, vol. II, pp. 403–405. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York, 1914. Google Books muUsAAAAYAAJ; HathiTrust 008588881; Internet Archive encyclopediaofpe02jord; [view source]ency-pa-biog-2