Irwin Avenue

From Pittsburgh Streets
Irwin Avenue
Neighborhood Perry South
Origin of name John Irwin
Pasture Lane (until ca. 1870)

Irwin Avenue began as Pasture Lane in David Redick's 1788 plan for the Reserve Tract, which laid out the town of Allegheny and surrounding out lots.[1] This name was given on December 12, 1788, by the Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, along with the names of the other lanes dividing the out lots. The names were proposed by a committee consisting of "Mr. Woods, Mr. Redick and Mr. Dennison."[2]

By 1872 Pasture Lane had been renamed Irwin Avenue.[3] The name honors John Irwin (1752–1808),[4][5][6][7] a Revolutionary War hero and early Pittsburgh settler. He was born in Donaghmore, County Monaghan, Ireland. He emigrated to Philadelphia in 1772 and worked as a carpenter there until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. He joined the First Pennsylvania Regiment as a lieutenant; he rose to the rank of captain over the course of the war. In January 1777 he was ordered to Quebec. There he became seriously ill but was nursed back to health by Catholic nuns, one of whom left the sisterhood to marry him but died of smallpox before the end of the war. Irwin was present at the Battle of Paoli in September 1777, where he received 22 bayonet wounds but was saved by a book in his breast pocket, containing his military orders, that stopped three thrusts of the weapon. Upon his recovery he was appointed to the staff of General George Washington, in which capacity he participated in the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781.[6][8][9]

After the war he returned to Ireland, where he met a woman named Mary Pattison at a St. Patrick's Day ball in Dublin in 1784. They married and sailed back to the United States. After one year in Philadelphia and another in Chester County, they moved to Pittsburgh in 1786 to take possession of land John had been granted for his service in the war. They settled there and had four children. In 1794, Mary founded a rope factory, called John Irwin and Wife, that became one of Pittsburgh's first major industries (see Rope Way). John died in 1808 at the age of 56.[10][11][6][8][9]

Irwin was also the eponym of Irwin Street (today Seventh Street) and the borough of Irwin.[11][6][12]

See also

  • Brighton Road, the straight southern end of which was once part of Irwin Avenue
  • Irwin Street, for other streets that have been named Irwin


  1. Reserve Tract of Land Opposite Pittsburgh. L. J. Richards & Co., 1863. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0084. Reprinted in Dan Rooney and Carol Peterson, Allegheny City: A history of Pittsburgh's North Side, pp. 2–3, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2013, ISBN 978-0-8229-4422-5 (LCCN 2012047727). A variation entitled City of Allegheny 100 Years Ago is reprinted in Walter C. Kidney and Arthur P. Ziegler, Jr., Allegheny, p. 2, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, 1975 (LCCN 75-43276), and in Allegheny City Society, Allegheny City, 1840–1907, pp. 10–11, Images of America, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, S. C., 2007, ISBN 978-0-7385-5500-3 (LCCN 2007927944). [view source]reserve-tract
  2. "Old state body laid out town of Allegheny: Executive council in 1788 fixed lot prices and furnished names for streets and alleys: Origin of the present parks." Pittsburg Press, Dec. 1, 1907, p. 32. 142120163. [view source]old-state-body
  3. Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and the Adjoining Boroughs. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1872.; 1872 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps ( [view source]hopkins-1872
  4. 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
  5. George T. Fleming. "Old Allegheny families are honored: Pioneer rope makers' name given to prominent North Side street: Others on the list." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 2, 1916, sec. 5, p. 2. 85766180. [view source]fleming-old-allegheny
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 George T. Fleming. "Our revolutionary sires: Additional biographies of Pittsburgh soldiers of the Revolution—John Irwin, Stephen Bayard, George Wallace, the Guthrie brothers and Adamson Tannehill—graphic story of Capt. Irwin's services—his narrow escape from death at Paoli massacre: Lists of soldiers of Revolution reprinted from D. A. R. Magazine—Allegheny County's list added to—Butler County patriots enumerated—'Mackeys' distinguished—James Mackaye and Aeneas Mackay—turbulent times of notorious Connolly." Pittsburgh Gazette Times, May 11, 1924, sec. 5, p. 6. 85854858. [view source]fleming-sires-4
  7. Gilbert Love. "How names came." Pittsburgh Press, Aug. 11, 1952, p. 11. 141584890. [view source]love
  8. 8.0 8.1 John W. Jordan, ed. Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania: Genealogical and personal memoirs, vol. 3. Lewis Publishing Co., New York and Chicago, 1911. Google Books 9NQ4AQAAMAAJ; HathiTrust 011529041; Internet Archive colonialrevolutiv3jord. [view source]jordan-colonial-3
  9. 9.0 9.1 Leon J. Pollom. "Dead two centuries, Mary Irwin inspires today's women." Now Then, Pittsburgh: Interesting historical bits. [view source]pollom-dead
  10. "John Irwin & the Rope Walk." Allegheny West Civic Council. [view source]allegheny-west
  11. 11.0 11.1 Katie Blackley. "Rope magnate Mary Irwin operated one of the city's largest industries." 90.5 WESA, Mar. 19, 2019. [view source]blackley
  12. 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