Eighth Street

From Pittsburgh Streets
For other streets that have been named Eighth Street, see Eighth Street (disambiguation).
Eighth Street
Neighborhood Central Business District
Origin of name Sequential numbering up the Allegheny River
Irwin's Alley (1810s – ca. 1875)
Origin of name James Irwin
Hancock Street (mid-1840s – 1868)
Origin of name John Hancock
Ellesmere Street (1910–1914)
Origin of name Perhaps Ellesmere Island

George Woods' 1784 plan of Pittsburgh included an unnamed alley running from Liberty Street (today's Liberty Avenue) to the Allegheny River between Irwin Street (today's Seventh Street) and Hand Street (today's Ninth Street).[1] James M. Riddle's 1815 Pittsburgh directory lists Irwin's Alley between Irwin and Hand Streets,[2] and it also appears as Irwin's Alley in the 1830 map of Barbeau and Keyon.[3]

The name may refer to James Irwin, who is listed in the 1815 directory as a carpenter on the west side of Penn Street (today's Penn Avenue) between Irwin and Hand Streets, i.e., at the location of this alley.[2] (Compare nearby Cecil Place, Barkers Place, Scott Place, and Maddock Place, which were similarly named for people living at those locations.) James Irwin was mentioned in a letter from Isaac Craig to James O'Hara, dated June 12, 1797, as the carpenter building the first glassworks in Pittsburgh.[4][5] Note that Irwin Street was named for John Irwin, a Revolutionary War hero (see Irwin Avenue), so it seems unlikely that Irwin Street and Irwin's Alley were named for the same person.

Other similar alleys (Cecil Place, Barkers Place, and Garrison Place) remained of minor importance, but Irwin's Alley was unique—its location directly across Liberty Street from Wood Street meant that it could be part of a link between the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. The portion of Irwin's Alley from Penn Street to Duquesne Way (today's Fort Duquesne Boulevard) was opened as Hancock Street in the mid-1840s to provide access to the Allegheny Wharf,[6] perhaps with such a link in mind. This street was named after John Hancock (1737–1793).[7][8][9][10][11]

In 1850, a petition signed by Pittsburgh citizens was submitted to the Pennsylvania legislature asking for the passage of an act to open Hancock Street between Penn and Liberty Streets to complete the link. The petition read, in part:

[O]wing to the unfortunate original Law of the said City, no one of its streets connects directly the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, as all of said streets might have done. This radical defect of intercommunication, although universally felt and deplored, is now beyond general remedy. But it so happens that near the middle of the City, and of course where most desirable, one thorough avenue can yet be perfected. Wood street commencing on the Monongahela, extends to Liberty st., opposite Irwin's Alley, now but twenty feet wide, for two hundred and forty feet to Hancock street, which, by the commendable liberality of the adjacent property holders, has been opened as a street. All that is now necessary, is legislative provision for opening said alley, and thus connecting Wood and Hancock streets and through them both said way by an almost direct line across, and through the heart of said City, its trade and business.[12]

This effort was led primarily by John F. Perry, a wholesale grocer who had moved his business to Hancock Street in 1849, and his lawyer T. J. Bigham.[13][14] The act was passed by the legislature, authorizing a committee of appointed assessors to determine the damages that would be caused by widening the street and to assess those damages against properties that would benefit.[12][15][16][17] However, when the report of the assessors was delivered, public opinion (including many signers of the petition) turned against the project, saying that the signatures had been obtained dishonestly and the taxes to be collected for damages had been assessed unfairly.[13][18] The act of the legislature was soon repealed, and the project was abandoned.[19]

McGowin's maps of 1852 and 1856 show Hancock Street between Penn Street and Duquesne Way, and Irwins [sic] Alley between Penn Street and Liberty Street.[20][21] These seem to be the last maps in which the name Irwin's Alley appears; later maps generally leave the alley unlabeled.

In 1868, Pittsburgh's modern sequence of numbered streets was created by renaming all the streets perpendicular to the Allegheny River; Hancock Street became Eighth Street.[9][22] The renaming ordinance did not mention Irwin's Alley.[22] (Eighth Street's origin as an alley is the reason that the Three Sisters bridges—the Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol, and Rachel Carson Bridges—are on Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Streets, even though they are equally spaced.)

Irwins [sic] Alley was still listed in Thurston & Diffenbacher's 1875 street directory,[23] but it no longer appeared in the 1876 edition.[24] At some point, Eighth Street was extended to Liberty Avenue: Diffenbacher's 1881 street directory lists "Eighth, from Penn ave. to Duquesne way, 4th ward,"[25] while the 1882 edition lists "Eighth, from Liberty ave. to Duquesne way, 4th ward."[26] In the Hopkins atlases of 1889, 1900, 1903, and 1910, both parts of the street, on either side of Penn Avenue, are labeled "8th St."[27][28][29][30] But as late as 1903, "Irwin alley" was still in use at least occasionally.[31]

In 1910 a city ordinance renamed over 900 streets, including Third through Ninth Streets. Eighth Street, "from Liberty av. to Duquesne way," was renamed Ellesmere Street.[9][32] George T. Fleming, writing in 1914, had a low opinion of this apparently arbitrary name, asking, "Who the (word deleted) is Ellsmere [sic]?" He suggested that it might be "a chilly place near the North Pole" (Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic, visited by Robert Peary in his 1906 expedition) or "a novel" (Robert Elsmere by Mrs. Humphry Ward, published in 1888).[9]

In any case, the name Ellesmere Street lasted only four years. In 1914, it was changed back to Eighth Street.[33]

In the late 1990s, the portion of Eighth Street between Penn and Liberty Avenues (i.e., the old Irwin's Alley) was named Tito Way for Tito Capobianco, artistic director of the Pittsburgh Opera.[34]

See also


  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 James M. Riddle. 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). [view source]riddle
  3. Jean Barbeau and Lewis Keyon. Map of Pittsburgh and Its Environs. N. B. Molineux, Pittsburgh, 1830. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0576; https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/36c3ab00-57aa-0136-8f4f-08990f217bc9. [view source]barbeau
  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. John H. Mellor, Pittsburgh, 1851. Google Books cE0OAAAAIAAJ; HathiTrust 001263103; Historic Pittsburgh 00aee7261m, 31735056285699; Internet Archive historyofpittsbu00crai. [view source]craig
  5. George T. Fleming. "Isaac Craig is honored by city: Street name recalls deeds of revolutionary hero, patriot and pioneer: His stirring story." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Aug. 29, 1915, sec. 5, p. 2. Newspapers.com 85764563. [view source]fleming-isaac-craig
  6. "Pittsburgh lots for sale." Pittsburgh Daily Gazette and Advertiser, Apr. 7, 1845, [p. 2]. Newspapers.com 95768716. [view source]pittsburgh-lots-for-sale
  7. Bruce S. Cridlebaugh. "Field notes: Changing Pittsburgh street names—from downtown to Lawrenceville." Pghbridges.com: Bridges & tunnels of Allegheny County & Pittsburgh, PA, Feb. 9, 2000. http://pghbridges.com/articles/fieldnote_pghstnames.htm. [view source]cridlebaugh
  8. 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. Newspapers.com 85749921. [view source]fleming-great-names
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 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. Newspapers.com 85906737. [view source]fleming-history-told
  10. Gilbert Love. "How names came." Pittsburgh Press, Aug. 11, 1952, p. 11. Newspapers.com 141584890. [view source]love
  11. 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, pp. 23–24. Pittsburgh Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, 1924. Historic Pittsburgh 00awn8211m; Internet Archive earlylandmarksna00mill. [view source]miller
  12. 12.0 12.1 T. J. Bigham. "In the matter of opening Hancock street, City of Pittsburgh." Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh), Apr. 6, 1852, [p. 2]. Newspapers.com 86643432. [view source]bigham
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ballinahinch [pseudonym]. "Hancock street." Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh), Apr. 10, 1852, [p. 3]. Newspapers.com 86643483. [view source]ballinahinch
  14. John F. Perry. "Removal." Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh), Mar. 27, 1849, [p. 2]. Newspapers.com 86641141. This advertisement was repeated in every issue for over a year. [view source]perry
  15. "City intelligence: Hancock street." Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh), Sept. 12, 1851, [p. 3]. Newspapers.com 86642522. [view source]city-intelligence
  16. "Local matters: Court of Common Pleas." Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh), Dec. 14, 1850, [p. 2]. Newspapers.com 86643176. [view source]local-matters-court
  17. "Local matters: Decision." Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh), Jan. 6, 1851, [p. 3]. Newspapers.com 86642615. [view source]local-matters-decision
  18. James M'Cully, Henry Sterling, J. & R. Floyd, and Samuel M'Clurkan. "Hancock street again." Daily Pittsburgh Gazette, Apr. 16, 1852, [p. 1]. Newspapers.com 86449509. [view source]mcully
  19. "Expense of opening streets in Pittsburgh." Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh), Feb. 7, 1854, [p. 2]. Newspapers.com 86658936. [view source]expense
  20. R. E. McGowin. Map of the Cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny and of the Boroughs of South-Pittsburgh, Birmingham, East-Birmingham, Lawrenceville, Duquesne & Manchester etc. Schuchman & Haunlein, Pittsburgh, 1852. https://collections.lib.uwm.edu/digital/collection/agdm/id/32269/. [view source]mcgowin-1852
  21. R. E. McGowin. Pittsburgh: Engraved from R. E. McGowin's map for Geo. H. Thurston. Wm. Schuchman & Bro., Pittsburgh, 1856. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0091. [view source]mcgowin-1856
  22. 22.0 22.1 "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 (Newspapers.com 86347563), Sept. 3, p. 3 (Newspapers.com 86347623), and Sept. 4, p. 3 (Newspapers.com 86347714). [view source]ordinance-1868-name-changes
  23. George H. Thurston and J. F. Diffenbacher. Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny for 1875–76: Embracing a general directory of the residences of citizens; a full classified business directory; a register of public institutions, benevolent societies and city governments; a directory of the streets, secret societies, schools and churches. Thurston & Diffenbacher, Pittsburgh, 1875. Historic Pittsburgh 31735056286960. [view source]thurston-diffenbacher-1875
  24. George H. Thurston and J. F. Diffenbacher. Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny for 1876–7: Embracing a general directory of the residences of citizens, full classified business directory, register of public institutions, benevolent societies and city governments, directory of the streets, secret societies, schools and churches. Thurston & Diffenbacher, Pittsburgh, 1876. Google Books 8dkCAAAAYAAJ; Historic Pittsburgh 31735038288480. [view source]thurston-diffenbacher-1876
  25. J. F. Diffenbacher. J. F. Diffenbacher's Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Cities, 1881–82: Embracing a general directory of residences of citizens, full classified business directory, register of public institutions, benevolent societies and city government; directory of the streets, secret societies, schools and churches. Diffenbacher & Thurston, Pittsburgh, 1881. Historic Pittsburgh 31735038317693. [view source]diffenbacher-1881
  26. J. F. Diffenbacher. J. F. Diffenbacher's Directory of Pittsburgh & Allegheny Cities for 1882–'83: Embracing a general directory of residences of citizens, full classified business directory, register of public institutions, benevolent societies, and city government; directory of the streets, secret societies, schools and churches, twenty-sixth [sic] annual issue. Diffenbacher & Thurston, Pittsburgh, 1882. Historic Pittsburgh 31735051650889. [view source]diffenbacher-1882
  27. Atlas of the City of Pittsburgh, vol. 1. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1889. http://historicpittsburgh.org/maps-hopkins/1889-volume-1-atlas-pittsburgh; included in the 1890 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps (https://esriurl.com/pittsburgh). [view source]hopkins-1889-vol-1
  28. Real Estate Plat-Book of the City of Pittsburgh, vol. 3. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1900. http://historicpittsburgh.org/maps-hopkins/1900-volume-3-plat-book-pittsburgh. [view source]hopkins-1900-vol-3
  29. Real Estate Plat-Book of the City of Pittsburgh, supplement to vol. 3. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1903. http://historicpittsburgh.org/maps-hopkins/1903-volume-3-supplement-plat-book-pittsburgh-central. [view source]hopkins-1903-vol-3-supp
  30. Atlas of Greater Pittsburgh. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1910. http://historicpittsburgh.org/maps-hopkins/1910-atlas-greater-pittsburgh; 1910 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps (https://esriurl.com/pittsburgh). [view source]hopkins-1910
  31. "Proposals: Department of Public Works, Pittsburg, Pa., June 6th, 1903." Pittsburg Press, June 16, 1903, p. 17. Newspapers.com 141843224. [view source]proposals
  32. "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 (Newspapers.com 86611990, 86612022), Apr. 20, pp. 10–11 (Newspapers.com 86612278, 86612297), and Apr. 21, pp. 10–11 (Newspapers.com 86612601, 86612625). [view source]ordinance-1910-715
  33. "An ordinance changing the name of Ellesmere street, in the Second ward, between Liberty avenue and Duquesne way, to 'Eighth street.'" Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1914, no. 223. Passed June 30, 1914; approved July 1, 1914. Ordinance Book 26, p. 161. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Post, July 9, 1914, p. 8 (Newspapers.com 86509927), and July 10, p. 10 (Newspapers.com 86509947). [view source]ordinance-1914-223
  34. Nicholas Lane. "Eighth Street is deep-sixed: Let us sing a song of regret for a little piece of city history whose number was up." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Apr. 11, 1998, p. A-15. Newspapers.com 90667844. [view source]lane