Commonwealth Place

From Pittsburgh Streets
Commonwealth Place
Neighborhood Central Business District
Origin of name Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Marbury Street (1784–1868)
Portion North of Liberty Avenue
Origin of name Joseph Marbury
Short Street (1784–1958)
Portion South of Liberty Avenue
Origin of name Its short length
Third Street (1868–1910)
Portion North of Liberty Avenue
Origin of name Sequential numbering up the Allegheny River
Barbeau Street (1910–1958)
Portion North of Liberty Avenue
Origin of name Jean Barbeau

The two halves of Commonwealth Place, on either side of Liberty Avenue, were originally two distinct streets. George Woods' 1784 plan of Pittsburgh included Marbury Street, from Liberty Street (today's Liberty Avenue) to the Allegheny River, and Short Street, from Liberty Street to Water Street (today's Fort Pitt Boulevard). These two streets were almost opposite each other across Liberty Street.[1]

Marbury Street was just east of the site of the east-facing wall of Fort Pitt. In Woods' plan, this was the westernmost street perpendicular to the Allegheny River. Woods' assistant Thomas Vickroy (eponym of Vickroy Street) recalled in 1841 that they were unable to survey the land below Marbury Street (that is, closer to the Point) because of the presence of the fort.[2][3] The street was named for Major Joseph Marbury, commander of Fort Pitt in 1783 and 1784, during the time that Woods and Vickroy were making their survey.[4][5][6][7][8][2][9][10][3][11][12][13] Neville B. Craig wrote in 1847 that Vickroy often talked about playing ball against the wall of the fort, perhaps in the location where Marbury Street was laid, and speculated that Marbury may have joined him, or that the two men had formed a friendship in another way.[14] The name Marbury has sometimes been spelled Marburg.[2]

The name Short Street was probably just a literal description: it was one of the shortest streets in Woods' plan (though Eighth Street, West Street, and Plum Alley—later Ogle Way—were shorter).[1]

Pittsburgh's modern sequence of numbered streets was created in 1868 by renaming all the streets perpendicular to the Allegheny River; Marbury Street became Third Street. The name was transferred from Third Avenue, which the same ordinance "promoted" to an avenue.[5][15][16] In 1910, over 900 streets were renamed to eliminate duplicates, and Third Street became Barbeau Street.[17][18][19][20][5] It was named for Jean Barbeau, an early Pittsburgh mapmaker.[21][20][22] Some locals interpreted it instead as a tribute to Jap Barbeau, third baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1909,[23][21][2] but he was an unimpressive player who was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after just a few months.

Barbeau Street and Short Street were together renamed Commonwealth Place in 1958. The new name, suggested by the City Planning Commission, honors the role that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania played in the redevelopment of the Point in the 1950s, in particular Point State Park, of which Commonwealth Place forms the eastern boundary.[24][25] Compare Stanwix Street, which was also originally two distinct streets, united under a common name in the 1950s.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 George Woods. 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). [view source]woods-plat
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 George T. Fleming. "Wood's [sic] plan of Pittsburgh: Thomas Vickroy's account of the survey of 1784 and parts taken in city's early life by Craig and Bayard." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Dec. 13, 1914, sec. 2, p. 2. 85908612. [view source]fleming-woods
  3. 3.0 3.1 History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: Including its early settlement and progress to the present time; a description of its historic and interesting localities; its cities, towns and villages; religious, educational, social and military history; mining, manufacturing and commercial interests; improvements, resources, statistics, etc.: Also portraits of some of its prominent men, and biographies of many of its representative citizens, pp. 481, 487–488. A. Warner & Co., Chicago, 1889. Google Books DwzYAAAAMAAJ; Internet Archive historyofalleghe1889cush. [view source]history-of-allegheny-county
  4. Neville B. Craig. The History of Pittsburgh: With a brief notice of its facilities of communication, and other advantages for commercial and manufacturing purposes, p. 182. John H. Mellor, Pittsburgh, 1851. Google Books cE0OAAAAIAAJ; HathiTrust 001263103; Historic Pittsburgh 00aee7261m, 31735056285699; Internet Archive historyofpittsbu00crai. [view source]craig
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Bruce S. Cridlebaugh. "Field notes: Changing Pittsburgh street names—from downtown to Lawrenceville." Bridges & tunnels of Allegheny County & Pittsburgh, PA, Feb. 9, 2000. [view source]cridlebaugh
  6. "Early streets." A Fact a Day About Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 9, 1927, p. 6. 89853112. [view source]fact-a-day
  7. George T. Fleming. "Great names are commemorated in the streets of Pittsburgh: Interesting history of early city and bits of biography of some of the men signally honored by its founders and first citizens." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Dec. 27, 1914, sec. 3, p. 1. 85749921. [view source]fleming-great-names
  8. George T. Fleming. "History told in Pittsburgh street names: Some commemorative designations have been lost, but others are still in use to recall the story of their selection: Haphazard municipal nomenclature." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Nov. 29, 1914, sec. 5, p. 2. 85906737. [view source]fleming-history-told
  9. Laura C. Frey. The Land in the Fork: Pittsburgh 1753–1914, p. 80. Dorrance & Co., Philadelphia, 1955. LCCN 55-10986. [view source]frey
  10. Julia Morgan Harding. "Names of Pittsburgh streets: Their historical significance." Pittsburgh Bulletin, Feb. 15, 1893. Reprinted in Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt: Early names of Pittsburgh streets, 13th ed., pp. 52–60, Fort Pitt Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, 1958 (HathiTrust 007074456). [view source]harding
  11. History of Pittsburgh and Environs, vol. 2, p. 46. American Historical Society, New York and Chicago, 1922. Google Books 3staAAAAYAAJ, TPUMAAAAYAAJ; HathiTrust 011262563; Internet Archive historypittsbur00yorkgoog, historypittsbur02socigoog. [view source]history-pgh-environs-2
  12. William G. Johnston. Life and Reminiscences from Birth to Manhood of Wm. G. Johnston, p. 298. Knickerbocker Press, New York, 1901. Google Books N-QEAAAAYAAJ; Historic Pittsburgh 00adj9508m; Internet Archive lifereminiscence00john. [view source]johnston
  13. 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. 23. Pittsburgh Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, 1924. Historic Pittsburgh 00awn8211m; Internet Archive earlylandmarksna00mill. [view source]miller
  14. "Marbury street." Pittsburgh Morning Post, Feb. 10, 1847, p. 2. 88174296. [view source]marbury
  15. Sarah H. Killikelly. The History of Pittsburgh: Its rise and progress, p. 534. B. C. & Gordon Montgomery Co., Pittsburgh, 1906. HistPgh1909M; Google Books kXmloex-vr8C, poRU0YjqrzsC; HathiTrust 100122020; Historic Pittsburgh 00adc8925m; Internet Archive historyofpittsbu00kill, historypittsbur00killgoog. [view source]killikelly
  16. "An ordinance changing the names of streets." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1868. Passed Aug. 31, 1868. In The Municipal Record: Containing the proceedings of the Select and Common Councils of the City of Pittsburgh: 1868, Pittsburgh Daily Commercial, Pittsburgh (Internet Archive pghmunicipalrecord1868_20200904_2014). Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Gazette, Sept. 2, 1868, p. 5 ( 86347563), Sept. 3, p. 3 ( 86347623), and Sept. 4, p. 3 ( 86347714). [view source]ordinance-1868-name-changes
  17. "Councils to fix names of streets: Will pass finally on new selections ordered reported favorably by surveys committee—Historical Society aids City Clerk Clark: Some changes which are recommended." Pittsburg Press, Jan. 27, 1910, p. 5. 141338336. [view source]councils-to-fix-names-of-streets
  18. "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. In Municipal Record: Minutes of the proceedings of the [Select and Common Councils] of the City of Pittsburgh for the years 1909–1910, appendix, pp. 312–328, Devine & Co., Pittsburgh, 1910 (Google Books doQzAQAAMAAJ; HathiTrust uiug.30112108223832; Internet Archive Pghmunicipalrecord1909). Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Post, Apr. 19, 1910, pp. 10–11 ( 86611990, 86612022), Apr. 20, pp. 10–11 ( 86612278, 86612297), and Apr. 21, pp. 10–11 ( 86612601, 86612625). [view source]ordinance-1910-715
  19. George T. Fleming, ed. Pittsburgh: How to see it: A complete, reliable guide book with illustrations, the latest map and complete index, p. 47. William G. Johnston Co., Pittsburgh, 1916. Google Books 02NAAAAAYAAJ; Internet Archive bub_gb_02NAAAAAYAAJ, pittsburghhowtos01flem. [view source]how-to-see-it
  20. 20.0 20.1 William A. White. "Fancourt Street." Pittsburgh Press, Feb. 4, 1955, p. 19. 148887387. [view source]white
  21. 21.0 21.1 "'Ridiculous' and 'silly,' a 'huge joke': Changes of street names bring criticism on Clerk Clark; telephones ring—sharp queries keep wires hot: Historical Society indorses the work." Pittsburg Press, July 28, 1909, pp. 1–2. 141334964, 141334983. [view source]ridiculous
  22. Jean Barbeau and Lewis Keyon. Map of Pittsburgh and Its Environs. N. B. Molineux, Pittsburgh, 1830. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0576; [view source]barbeau
  23. "Making a joke of street names: Clerks assigned to wipe out duplications choose any old titles: Hippo, Tumbo, Fortitude!: Also Divinity, Sunday, Starch, Parkhurst, Chianti, Wry and Prudence." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 28, 1909, p. 2. 85879633. [view source]making-a-joke
  24. "City to spruce up for bicentennial." Pittsburgh Press, May 13, 1958, p. 22. 149519742. [view source]city-to-spruce-up
  25. "Group backs new name for streets." Pittsburgh Press, May 7, 1958, p. 64. 149516186. [view source]group-backs-new-name