Fancourt Street

From Pittsburgh Streets
Fancourt Street
Neighborhood Central Business District
Fate Vacated in 1952
Hay Street (1784–1868)
Origin of name David Hay
Fourth Street (1868–1910)
Origin of name Sequential numbering up the Allegheny River

One of the streets in George Woods' original 1784 plan of Pittsburgh was Hay Street, between Marbury Street (today's Commonwealth Place) to the west and Pitt Street (today's Stanwix Street) to the east.[1]

In 1901, William G. Johnston wrote, "Respecting the original names of streets at right angles with the Allegheny river, it was a shame when numerical ones were substituted, that provision was not made for their retention in connection with the numerals; for they were forcible reminders of the city's past history, being those of officers of the Revolution, most of whom served in Fort Pitt,—Marbury, Hay, St. Clair, Hand, Wayne, and O'Hara. But Young America in reaching out for the future has little reverence for the past."[2] Earlier, in 1893, Julia Morgan Harding had included "Hay" in a list of Pittsburgh streets named for "the soldiers and commandants who won the West."[3] These suggest that Hay Street may have been named for Captain David Hay, who was the commandant at Fort Pitt in 1764.[4]

George T. Fleming suggested in 1914 that Hay Street may have been named because it led "from Wood street to the old hay market on Duquesne way" (today's Fort Duquesne Boulevard).[5] This explanation does not make sense: Hay Street was nowhere near Wood Street, and Duquesne Way was laid out in 1839, 55 years after Hay Street, on fill that was entirely outside the limits of Woods' original plan.[6] Two weeks later Fleming quoted Johnston and commented, "If Hay street was named for an officer of Fort Pitt, as William G. Johnston states, it does away with the presumption the name arose from the nearby hay market."[7]

In 1868, Pittsburgh's modern sequence of numbered streets was created by renaming all the streets perpendicular to the Allegheny River; Hay Street became Fourth Street. The name was transferred from Fourth Avenue, which the same ordinance "promoted" to an avenue.[8][9][10] In 1910, over 900 streets were renamed to eliminate duplicates, and Fourth Street became Fancourt Street.[8][11][12] The street was vacated in 1952 as part of the construction of Gateway Center.[8][13]

The origin of the name Fancourt is obscure. In 1948, Mayor David L. Lawrence received a letter from a man named Fancourt, who claimed he was the only person by that name in the United States. When Mr. Fancourt had visited Pittsburgh, he had been surprised to see the name on a street sign, and asked where the name had come from. Rose Demorest, the Pennsylvania Room librarian at the Carnegie Library, tried to discover the source of the name but was unsuccessful.[14] William A. White devoted a newspaper column to the question in 1955, but again, despite extensive searching, neither he nor Demorest was able to discover any information about the name. "There is no such historical name so far as Miss Demorest and I have been able to learn," he wrote. "There was no early family of that name in Pittsburgh on record."[15]

Not long after Fancourt Street was closed, a local horticulturist named an iris variety "Fancourt," saying that the street's name sounded romantic.[14]

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. 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
  3. 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
  4. Charles Morse Stotz. "The Fort Pitt Museum: The story of Western Pennsylvania before 1800 as portrayed in the museum exhibits," part II. Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 53, no. 1, Jan. 1970, pp. 33–56. [view source]stotz
  5. 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
  6. Charles W. Dahlinger. "Fort Pitt." Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 5, no. 2, Apr. 1922, pp. 87–122. [view source]dahlinger
  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. 8.0 8.1 8.2 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
  9. 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
  10. "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
  11. 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
  12. "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; 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
  13. "An ordinance vacating Fancourt Street from a line one-hundred (100) feet South of Duquesne Way to Liberty Avenue as laid out in the Woods Plan, abandoning the existing water line and sewer located on Fancourt Street between said points and providing certain terms and conditions." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1952, no. 265. Passed July 21, 1952; approved July 24, 1952. Ordinance Book 58, p. 189. Reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 25, 1952, p. 21 ( 88656390). [view source]ordinance-1952-265
  14. 14.0 14.1 Mary Shine. "Fancourt St. gone but new iris strain perpetuates name." Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, Sept. 4, 1952, p. 23. 524017536. [view source]shine
  15. William A. White. "Fancourt Street." Pittsburgh Press, Feb. 4, 1955, p. 19. 148887387. [view source]white