Chicken Alley

From Pittsburgh Streets
Chicken Alley
Neighborhood Central Business District
Origin of name Slaughtering location for chickens sold in Market Square
Chicken Alley highlighted in a map from the 1889 Hopkins atlas.[1]

Chicken Alley was the unofficial name of a narrow alley and small courtyard off Diamond Street (today Forbes Avenue) just east of Market Square.[2][3][4] It earned this name from its use as a location for the slaughter of countless chickens to be sold at the meat stands in the nearby market houses in the late 19th century.[2] It was evidently a remarkably disgusting place. According to a newspaper column from 1889, "The court is laid in brick, but the drainage is faulty, and stagnant pools of water and offal stand around." The description continued, "everything around [is] stained black with dried blood, in which soiled feathers are sticking."[2]

The alley rarely appeared in the newspapers in a good light. It was the location of fights,[5][6] an illegal speakeasy,[3] gambling,[7] and robbery.[8]

It was used as a symbol of wretchedness, in opposition to Schenley Park, in a satirical 1903 newspaper article suggesting that readers celebrate the Fourth of July at Snyder's Park.[9] This park was located in the Strip District, bounded by Liberty Avenue, Spring Alley (today Spring Way), 29th Street, and 30th Street.[10]

A 1909 newspaper column related the supposedly true story of a cat that was so frightened by a ferret that it jumped out a 20th-story window. The story ended in Chicken Alley, where the cat ate a fish it had stolen from the market house.[11]

Also in 1909, a drunken constable attempted to arrest a man for shooting in a shooting gallery. An angry mob chased the constable into Chicken Alley, where he was arrested by a policeman. The next morning the constable was fined $25.[12]

The end of Chicken Alley came in 1929 when the area was turned into a parking lot for Donahoe's food store. Five buildings around Chicken Alley were razed, including the old Merchants Bank and the Diamond Light and Power building.[4]


  1. Atlas of the City of Pittsburgh, vol. 1, plate 4. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1889.; included in the 1890 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps ( [view source]hopkins-1889-vol-1
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Persons and things." Pittsburgh Post, Mar. 25, 1889, p. 4. 86437613. [view source]persons-and-things
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Speak-easies raided: Beer and other liquors found in three different places." Pittsburg Post, July 29, 1895, p. 6. 86379666. [view source]speak-easies
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Food shoppers' park: On old bank site." Pittsburgh Sunday Sun-Telegraph, Apr. 28, 1929, part 6, p. 8. 523072927. [view source]food-shoppers-park
  5. "Police docket pointers." Pittsburg Dispatch, Dec. 8, 1891, p. 9. 76229791. [view source]police-docket-pointers
  6. "No formality when they met: Fleming and Miller had no trouble in getting acquainted: Battle in Chicken alley: Disorderly houses in Greasy alley raided last night: Women heavily fined." Pittsburg Press, Apr. 10, 1903, p. 12. 141926076. [view source]no-formality
  7. "Three paid fines: Arrested because they did not have a good lookout." Pittsburg Press, Jan. 26, 1898, p. 8. 141918744. [view source]three-paid-fines
  8. "Williams in a lively scene: There was trouble galore at Lorraine place last night: Mrs. Williams knocked out: Black Kate's return nearly caused a tragedy: The woman used a knife." Pittsburg Press, Aug. 2, 1904, p. 3. 141845711. [view source]williams-in-a-lively-scene
  9. "A park bulging with patriotism: Put your Fourth in at Snyder's park, which makes Schenley look like Chicken alley." Pittsburg Post, July 4, 1903, p. 11. 86396954. [view source]park-bulging
  10. Atlas of the City of Pittsburgh, vol. 2, plate 8. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1889.; included in the 1890 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps ( [view source]hopkins-1889-vol-2
  11. "May not have nine lives, but are tough: A true story of the skyscrape, the cat, the ferret and the market house fish." Pittsburgh Post, Feb. 27, 1909, p. 11. 86416816. [view source]may-not-have-nine-lives
  12. "Police court sketches." Pittsburg Press, Oct. 6, 1909, p. 3. 141357415. [view source]police-court-sketches