|Neighborhoods||Bluff, Central Business District, Central Oakland, North Oakland, Point Breeze, Regent Square, South Oakland, Squirrel Hill North, Squirrel Hill South|
|Origin of name||John Forbes|
Forbes Avenue is named for General John Forbes (1707–1759), who led the British expedition that captured Fort Duquesne on November 25, 1758. He ordered the construction of Fort Pitt and gave the name Pittsburgh to the surrounding land, both in honor of William Pitt the Elder, the British Secretary of State.
Some sources say that Forbes Street, as it was originally called, dates from 1820, but it does not appear on maps from the 1830s. Forbes Street is mentioned in a newspaper advertisement from 1845, announcing an auction at which would be sold "eight very eligible situated Lots of Ground, being part of the plan of lots laid out by Mr. David Greer, near the Fourth Street Road" (today's Fifth Avenue); four of these lots fronted on Forbes Street, said to be 50 feet wide. This district was part of Pitt Township until December 4, 1846, when it was incorporated into the City of Pittsburgh as the original Eighth Ward. Forbes Street appears on maps from the 1850s, and it is listed in George H. Thurston's 1856 directory. City ordinances officially opened Forbes Street from Boyd Street to Seneca Street in 1868, from Brady Street (today's Birmingham Bridge) to Shady Lane (today's Shady Avenue) in 1871, from Shady Lane to Hutchison's Road (which ran through the middle of what is today Homewood Cemetery) in 1875, and from Hutchison's Road to the city line at Peebles Street in 1900.
The portion of modern Forbes Avenue downtown, from Liberty Avenue to Grant Street, was called Diamond Alley in George Woods' original 1784 plan of Pittsburgh; this later became known as Diamond Street. A city ordinance passed in 1816, accepting into the city the eastern addition of James O'Hara and James Ross, authorized them to extend Diamond Street east to Try Street, one block east of Ross Street.
Between Try and Boyd Streets was a stream called Suke's Run, said to have been named for a woman named Susan, nicknamed Suke, who either hanged herself in a thicket of plum trees there or drowned herself in the run. Along this run, which separated Forbes Street from downtown, was the shanty town known as Hardscrabble.
The extension of Forbes Street across Suke's Run to connect with downtown was proposed in 1873. The city council passed an ordinance the next year to extend Forbes Street, connecting with Fifth Avenue at Ross Street. Nothing was done for two years. When preliminary assessments for damages were made in 1876, there was much protest from property holders who said the planned route, cutting diagonally through a number of buildings and lots, would be unnecessarily destructive and expensive. Citizens proposed an alternative route, continuing Forbes Street straight into Diamond Street, joining that street at its intersection with Try Street (today the intersection of modern Diamond Street and Forbes Avenue). By the end of 1876, the city council had indefinitely postponed the extension.
The question was brought up again in 1883, because the planned Allegheny County Jail would front on the extension of Forbes Street to Fifth Avenue. However, the next year, the appointed viewers delivered an unfavorable report. Like the citizens eight years earlier, the viewers recommended that Diamond Street or Fourth Avenue would make a better connection point. Once again, the extension was killed by the city council.
Finally, in 1889 and 1890, new ordinances were passed to locate and open Forbes Street from Boyd Street to Diamond Street. This is the connection to downtown that exists today, passing underneath the ramps at the southern end of Interstate 579 (Crosstown Boulevard).
In the early days, the thoroughfare was most commonly called Forbes Street, but occasionally it was called Forbes Avenue, more often so as it was expanded and developed. Seemingly as a result of this confusion, a city ordinance was passed in 1889 that "changed" the name from Forbes Avenue to Forbes Street.
In 1952, the City Planning Commission recommended that Diamond Street downtown be renamed Forbes Street, but no action was taken at that time. The proposal was revived in May 1957 by the Scots Committee of the Pittsburgh Bicentennial Association in preparation for the 200th anniversary of the capture of Fort Duquesne by General Forbes, who was Scottish. An ordinance to rename the street was brought to the city council by Mayor David L. Lawrence.
The proposed change sparked vigorous debate. Proponents first claimed that the street followed the route General Forbes took to the Point, and seemed to believe that Forbes Street was one of Pittsburgh's original streets (Diamond Street's relation to it being described as "a caboose at the end of a long freight train"). Both of these ideas were soon refuted by historians. The route by which Forbes reached Fort Duquesne was almost certainly not the course of the modern street that bears his name. That would have been too near the route taken by General Edward Braddock (namesake of Braddock Avenue) along the Mononghela River in his disastrous campaign three years earlier. Rather, Forbes marched overland, roughly along the path of today's U. S. Route 30, to where Point Breeze is today, and thence followed the course of modern Penn Avenue or Liberty Avenue along the Allegheny. Historians also pointed out that Diamond Street, not Forbes, was the original street.
Supporters then said Forbes' historical route was irrelevant, the name was intended only to honor the general, and the change would reduce confusion by matching the name downtown to that of the rest of the street. The main opposition came from businesses on the street, led by jeweler S. H. DeRoy, who had already been forced to change his address twice and spent considerable money to advertise his connection to Diamond Street (though that street's name had nothing to do with the gem). The merchants argued that the change would impose unnecessary costs and pointed to a radio station poll in which an overwhelming majority of respondents favored keeping the name Diamond Street. In response, Mayor Lawrence suggested postponing the effective date to the beginning of 1958 to give businesses time to prepare. Another backer of the change pointed out that there was another Diamond Street on the North Side, and the confusion between the two streets had caused some 100,000 pieces of mail to be sent to the dead letter office in the previous year.
Mayor Lawrence proposed the name Forbes Avenue because the other east–west arteries downtown were avenues. Consequently a second ordinance was required in order to change the existing Forbes Street to Forbes Avenue.
In the midst of the controversy, Charles F. Danver's "Pittsburghesque" column in the Post-Gazette featured a clever quip: "Jane L. McConnell can't understand all the uproar over city council's decision to change the name of Diamond Street to 'Forbes Avenue.' It's just a case of history repeating itself, she declares. After all, Jane points out, a good many years ago, out in Oakland, they began calling the diamond 'Forbes'!"
Both ordinances were passed, and the name changes went into effect on January 1, 1958. New street signs were posted downtown in December 1957, by which time the protests about the change had died down.
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- George T. Fleming. "Forbes' part in Pittsburgh history: 'The Head of Iron,' although sick at the time, has enviable record: Memory kept green: Important Pittsburgh street recalls end of Fort Du Quesne and starting of city: The story of the campaign." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Mar. 7, 1915, second section, p. 2. Newspapers.com 85899628. [view source] fleming-forbes
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- Gilbert Love. "What's in a name? A lot!: Titles of city streets recall persons famed in U. S. history: From Golden Triangle eastward, thoroughfares list great and near great of colonial and revolutionary days." Pittsburgh Press, Feb. 12, 1944, p. 9. Newspapers.com 147946752. [view source] love-titles
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- George Swetnam. "Diamond St. name defended by history: Forbes never touched it." Pittsburgh Press, May 7, 1957, pp. 1, 4. Newspapers.com 148045514, 148045722. [view source] swetnam-diamond
- "Which way did Forbes march into downtown?: What's difference if it was Penn Ave., Scots group asks about new change." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 8, 1957, Daily Magazine, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 87918302. [view source] which-way
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- "Eight valuable building lots: At auction." Pittsburgh Morning Post, Sept. 11, 1845, [p. 2]. Newspapers.com 88168147. [view source] auction-forbes
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- "An ordinance opening Forbes street." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1868. Passed May 25, 1868. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Gazette, May 28, 1868, p. 5 (Newspapers.com 86350224), May 29, p. 7 (Newspapers.com 86350337), and May 30, p. 7 (Newspapers.com 86350420). [view source] ordinance-1868-forbes
- "An ordinance authorizing the opening of Forbes street, from Brady street to Shady Lane." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1871. Passed July 10, 1871. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Gazette, July 15, 1871, p. 1 (Newspapers.com 86353221), and July 17, [p. 4] (Newspapers.com 86353243). [view source] ordinance-1871-forbes
- "An ordinance authorizing the opening of Forbes street from Shady lane to Hutchison's road." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1875, no. 23. Passed Mar. 29, 1875. Ordinance Book 3, p. 546. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Gazette, Apr. 12, 1875, [p. 4] (Newspapers.com 86352080), Apr. 13, [p. 4] (Newspapers.com 86352107), and Apr. 14, [p. 2] (Newspapers.com 86352127). [view source] ordinance-1875-23
- "An ordinance authorizing the opening of Forbes street from what is known as the Hutchison Road, being distant eastwardly about twelve hundred and eighty (1280) feet from Dallas avenue to the city line, and the assessment of damages caused by the grade of the same." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1900, no. 440. Passed Mar. 12, 1900; approved Mar. 17, 1900. Ordinance Book 13, p. 91. Reprinted in the Pittsburg Post, Mar. 24, 1900, p. 6 (Newspapers.com 86431891), Mar. 26, p. 7 (Newspapers.com 86432931), and Mar. 27, p. 7 (Newspapers.com 86433131). [view source] ordinance-1900-440
- 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
- "An ordinance respecting sundry new streets in the eastern addition to Pittsburgh." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1816, no. 22. Passed Sept. 28, 1816; re-enacted by ordinance no. 114, passed Apr. 14, 1828; recorded Mar. 13, 1828. Ordinance Book A, p. 125. In By-Laws and Ordinances of the City of Pittsburgh, and the Acts of Assembly Relating Thereto: With notes and references to judicial decisions thereon, and an appendix, relating to several subjects connected with the laws and police of the city corporation, pp. 127–128, Johnston and Stockton, Pittsburgh, 1828 (Google Books sfxOAAAAYAAJ, 3n9hAAAAcAAJ). [view source] ordinance-1816-22
- "Interesting reminiscences: West Pennsylvania at the beginning of the century: Pittsburgh fifty-five years ago." Pittsburgh Post, Mar. 22, 1862, [p. 3]. Newspapers.com 87580278. [view source] interesting-reminiscences
- "A visit to Pittsburg: Observations in this city early in the present century: More of Cuming's sketches: Believed this an unexcelled place for trade and manufacture: Noteworthy people and places." Pittsburg Post, June 9, 1895, p. 19. Newspapers.com 86400199. [view source] visit-to-pittsburg
- George T. Fleming. "Old highway is now great avenue: Historic Fourth Street road plays prominent part in story of early Pittsburgh: Opened years ago." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Jan. 9, 1916, fifth section, p. 2. Newspapers.com 85762432. [view source] fleming-highway
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- "The extension of Forbes street." Pittsburgh Commercial, Aug. 8, 1873, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 85643841. [view source] extension-of-forbes-street
- "Important improvements." Pittsburgh Commercial, Aug. 9, 1873, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 85643854. [view source] important-improvements
- "Our thoroughfares: Important meeting of the Street Committee last evening." Daily Post (Pittsburgh), Aug. 2, 1873, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 86533247. [view source] our-thoroughfares
- "Streets and sewers: Monthly meeting of the Street Committee—an immense amount of business disposed of—the streets at the Point ordered to be paved as a sanitary measure—Duquesne Way to be paved—large number of contracts awarded—pay-rolls approved—routine of business, etc." Pittsburgh Gazette, Aug. 2, 1873, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 86342393. [view source] streets-and-sewers
- "An ordinance authorizing the opening of Forbes street Extension, from Boyd street to intersection of Fifth avenue and Ross street." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1874, no. 73. Passed May 1, 1874. Ordinance Book 3, p. 480. In The Municipal Record: Containing the proceedings of the Select and Common Councils of the City of Pittsburgh, together with the ordinances, &c.: With an index, vol. VII, pp. 46–47, Pittsburgh Daily Gazette, Pittsburgh, 1874 (Internet Archive pghmunicipalrecord1874, pghmunicipalrecord1872). [view source] ordinance-1874-73
- "Pittsburgh councils: Adjourned meeting of the Select Branch yesterday—disposing of the unfinished calendar—the desk, for once, clear of unfinished business." Pittsburgh Daily Gazette, May 2, 1874, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 86347415. [view source] pittsburgh-councils-1874-05-02
- "Select Council proceedings: Deferred business transacted—ordinances adopted—Sixth street and the passenger railway." Pittsburgh Commercial, May 2, 1874, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 85479459. [view source] select-council-proceedings
- "Another job on Forbes street: Proposed extension from Boyd street to Fifth avenue—the 'improvement' needless and extravagant." Daily Post (Pittsburgh), May 6, 1876, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 86511187. [view source] another-job
- "The Forbes street abomination: What taxpayers think of it—the sufferers protest en masse." Daily Post (Pittsburgh), July 10, 1876, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 86511692. [view source] forbes-street-abomination
- "The Forbes street opening: Meeting of citizens—opposition to extension to Fifth avenue." Pittsburgh Commercial, July 10, 1876, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 85536293. [view source] forbes-street-opening
- "Forbes street: The property holders put in another protest against extending the street to Fifth avenue." Daily Post (Pittsburgh), Oct. 4, 1876, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 88172527. [view source] forbes-street-property-holders
- "Forbes street: Protest of property holders against the proposed extension." Pittsburgh Commercial, Oct. 4, 1876, p. 1. Newspapers.com 85537429. [view source] forbes-street-protest
- "Local affairs: The new Forbes street job: Dissatisfaction of property holders—cost of the proposed extension—people interested watching the officials." Daily Post (Pittsburgh), May 16, 1876, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 86511284. [view source] local-affairs
- "Forbes street: The question of a terminus—meeting of property holders—report of the committee appointed at a former meeting." Pittsburgh Commercial, Sept. 27, 1876, p. 1. Newspapers.com 85537331. [view source] forbes-street
- "Forbes street extension: Adjourned meeting in the Ann street School House last evening—report of the committee appointed at the former meeting read, accepted and endorsed—another meeting to be held next Tuesday evening." Daily Post (Pittsburgh), Sept. 27, 1876, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 88172474. [view source] forbes-street-extension
- "Pittsburgh councils: Regular meeting—the Nation Trust proposition accepted—full claim to be settled by Christmas—ordinance passed in one branch for suppression of waiter girl saloons: The Forbes street extension job laid on the shelf, etc., etc." Daily Post (Pittsburgh), Dec. 5, 1876, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 88173315. [view source] pittsburgh-councils-1876-12-05
- "An old project revived: The scheme to unite Fifth avenue and Forbes street: A re-assessment ordered by Select Council—the general business of Councils yesterday." Daily Post (Pittsburgh), Dec. 11, 1883, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 87567806. [view source] old-project-revived
- "The statesmen: A breezy day in Select Council: Mr. McBane's position on suspending the rules—Forbes street extension—rents from city property." Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, Dec. 11, 1883, p. 8. Newspapers.com 85616224. [view source] statesmen
- "Extending Forbes street." Pittsburgh Daily Post, Nov. 24, 1884, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 87569175. [view source] extending-forbes-street
- "Opening Forbes street: The expense thereof and row occasioned thereby." Evening Penny Press (Pittsburgh), Nov. 22, 1884, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 141138520. [view source] opening-forbes-street
- "The viewers' report: Why the Forbes street opening is to be delayed." Evening Penny Press (Pittsburgh), Nov. 25, 1884, p. 1. Newspapers.com 141138525. [view source] viewers-report
- "Councilmanic conclave: Doc Magee's gas report laid over—other business." Pittsburgh Daily Post, Mar. 24, 1885, [p. 4]. Newspapers.com 86360811. [view source] councilmanic-conclave
- "Pittsburgh councils: Common Council gets no quorum—Select Branch transacted routine business." Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette, Jan. 17, 1885, p. 2. Newspapers.com 85453414. [view source] pittsburgh-councils-1885-01-17
- "An ordinance locating Forbes street, from Boyd street to Diamond street." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1889, no. 191. Passed Dec. 30, 1889; approved Jan. 6, 1890. Ordinance Book 7, p. 228. Reprinted in the Pittsburg Dispatch, Jan. 16, 1890, p. 8 (Newspapers.com 76217045), Jan. 17, p. 8 (Newspapers.com 76217072), and Jan. 18, p. 12 (Newspapers.com 76217088); and in the Pittsburg Press, Jan. 16, 1890, [p. 3] (Newspapers.com 141320514), Jan. 17, [p. 6] (Newspapers.com 141320950), and Jan. 18, [p. 3] (Newspapers.com 141321175). [view source] ordinance-1889-191
- "An ordinance authorizing the opening of Forbes street, from Boyd street to Diamond street." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1890, no. 297. Passed Feb. 24, 1890; approved Feb. 27, 1890. Ordinance Book 7, p. 320. Reprinted in the Pittsburg Dispatch, Mar. 21, 1890, p. 10 (Newspapers.com 76219456), Mar. 22, p. 10 (Newspapers.com 76219510), and Mar. 24, p. 7 (Newspapers.com 76219661); and in the Pittsburg Press, Mar. 22, 1890, [p. 7] (Newspapers.com 141340997). [view source] ordinance-1890-297
- "An ordinance changing the name of Forbes avenue to Forbes street." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1889, no. 262. Passed Feb. 27, 1889; approved Mar. 7, 1889. Ordinance Book 6, p. 605. Reprinted in the Pittsburg Dispatch, Mar. 18, 1889, p. 5 (Newspapers.com 76226643), Mar. 19, p. 6 (Newspapers.com 76226665), and Mar. 20, p. 7 (Newspapers.com 76226679). [view source] ordinance-1889-262
- "Planners back street battle." Pittsburgh Press, June 5, 1957, p. 52. Newspapers.com 148025286. [view source] planners
- "Battle shapes up on plan to change Diamond St. name: Merchants oppose Scots' proposal to rename street for Gen. Forbes." Pittsburgh Press, May 8, 1957, p. 6. Newspapers.com 148049213. [view source] battle
- "The diamond in the rough is a street: Jeweler opposes change of name; mayor is for it." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 21, 1957, pp. 1, 6. Newspapers.com 87919613, 87919643. [view source] diamond
- "History, economics recited to uphold Diamond St. name." Pittsburgh Press, May 21, 1957, p. 2. Newspapers.com 147947870. [view source] history
- "Scots want Diamond renamed Forbes St.: Let's honor the general." Pittsburgh Press, May 5, 1957, p. 2. Newspapers.com 148027388. [view source] lets-honor
- "Diamond Street's name faces change to Forbes: Downtown thoroughfare believed part of route taken by British Army in 1758." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 6, 1957, p. 6. Newspapers.com 87917945. [view source] diamond-streets-name
- "Diamond St. battle still rages with cries of 'free publicity': Bicentennial Scots Committee jousts with merchants who insist adequate reason for name change yet unpresented." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 4, 1957, sec. 2, p. 1. Newspapers.com 89456142. [view source] diamond-st-battle
- "Mein Herr rallies Scotsmen in battle of Diamond Street: Himmel! He backs change to 'Forbes.'" Pittsburgh Press, June 4, 1957, p. 42. Newspapers.com 148021703. [view source] mein-herr
- "Diamond is good as gold: Name-changing controversy taken to merchants: Forbes St. extension idea snorted at by business people." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 9, 1957, p. 5. Newspapers.com 87918317. [view source] name-changing
- "Diamond St. name to become Forbes: Historic street to take general's title next January, City Council decides." Pittsburgh Press, July 9, 1957, pp. 1, 5. Newspapers.com 148031465, 148031687. [view source] diamond-st-name
- "Forbes Ave. bill ready." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 17, 1957, p. 10. Newspapers.com 89458535. [view source] forbes-ave-bill
- "Forbes Avenue plan given City Council." Pittsburgh Press, Dec. 16, 1957, p. 2. Newspapers.com 147892112. [view source] forbes-avenue-plan
- Charles F. Danver. Pittsburghesque. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 15, 1957, Daily Magazine, [p. 1]. Newspapers.com 90544172. [view source] danver-1957
- "Council OKs 'Forbes Ave.'" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 30, 1957, p. 17. Newspapers.com 90545097. [view source] council-oks-forbes
- "Diamond Street switch assured: Final action on Forbes Avenue title expected at July 29 meeting." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 10, 1957, p. 1. Newspapers.com 90543473. [view source] diamond-street-switch
- "Forbes name applied to Diamond Street." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Aug. 3, 1957, sec. 2, p. 1. Newspapers.com 89440592. [view source] forbes-name
- "An ordinance changing the name of Diamond Street, between Stanwix Street and Forbes Street, to Forbes Avenue." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1957, no. 267. Passed July 29, 1957; approved Aug. 2, 1957. Ordinance Book 61, p. 263. Reported in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, Aug. 10, 1957, p. 10 (Newspapers.com 524005035), and Aug. 12, p. 20 (Newspapers.com 524019331). [view source] ordinance-1957-267
- "Forbes Avenue signs." Pittsburgh Press, Dec. 13, 1957, p. 31. Newspapers.com 148074818. [view source] forbes-avenue-signs