Notes:Ross Street

From Pittsburgh Streets

1884-08-29, "Owns the court house" ( 141138269): a bit about the history of ownership of the land.

Source:Digby (1905-01-01):

The first court held in Allegheny county was on December 16, 1788. At that time James Ross, Hugh Henry Breckenridge, John Woods, Robert Galbraith, George Thompson, Alexander Addison, David Bradford, David Reddick, James Carson, Daniel St. Clair and Michael Huffnagle were admitted to the practice of law in Allegheny.

Mr. Ross was born in York county, educated in Canonsburg, read law in Philadelphia, where he was first admitted, then in Fayette and Washington counties in 1784, and in Westmoreland in 1785. He was soon recognized the leader of the Allegheny county bar, being a great lawyer, especially in cases involving title to lands. He helped frame the State constitution of 1790, was a United States senator from 1794 to 1805, was president of the Senate in 1795 and 1797. He was a candidate of the Federal Party for governor three times and defeated each time. He was president of Select Council in Pittsburg from 1816 to 1833. He was extremely wealthy. Ross street, Pittsburg, and Ross township, this county, were both named in his honor. He died November 27, 1847, and his body was buried in the Allegheny cemetery.

Archibald Blakeley in his history of the Allegheny county bar says: "Mr. Ross was not a stranger to the mutations of political life, which will be more apparent by a statement which legend and tradition tell us, that in one of his campaigns for governor he was defeated in this way: Mr. Ross owned the square where our court house now stands, on which there was a dwelling house. He leased it to a French family for a boarding house, and in the course of time they purchased the property on small payments and long time. Afterward the Frenchman left his wife, and she was unable to make the payments. After waiting a long time he foreclosed the mortgage and then let it rest for a while, he was finally compelled to take legal steps to oust her, and did so. His political adversaries got up a picture of Mr. Ross and the bailiff, driving the 'poor widow,' as they called her, out of the house and off the premises. Mr. Ross was conspicuously represented, whip in hand, and the subject otherwise distorted to misrepresent him. The picture in papers and hadbills [sic] was published and posted over the State, which turned the tide against him and defeated him.

"In another campaign, Simon Snyder was his opponent. There were marching clubs in those days and the supporters of Ross marched to the words, "James Ross, he's a hoss." The supporters of Snyder improved on this by adopting and using the following: "James Ross, he's a hoss, Simon Snyder, he's the rider." The new catch words took like wild fire and were largely, if not actually, the cause of his defeat."

Source:Fleming-woods (1914-12-13): "Yet one has no trouble in pronouncing Ross street with three ss, named for James Ross, statesman and attorney, the new street passing his mansion. We also have Ross township and had Ross Grove, where a later mansion of James Ross stood, now the property of the estate of the late Robert C. Hall."

Source:Fleming-great-names (1914-12-27): Brief biography of James Ross.

Source:Fleming-growth (1916-03-12): "Select Council consisted of James Ross, James Irwin, William Lecky, John Rosebergh, Mark Stackhouse, Richard Geary, William Hays, George Stevenson and Samuel Douglass. James Ross was president and James Riddle clerk. ¶ . . . ¶ We have . . . , Ross street . . . ."

Source:Miller (1924): "Ross Street, named for United States Senator James Ross, the first enrolled member of the Pittsburgh Bar and long foremost in its practice. The site of the present Court House was Senator Ross's apple orchard. His country seat is still known as Ross's Farm, near the City filtration plant at Aspinwall. The homestead is popularly called to-day Sander's Road House. ¶ James Ross's only daughter married George Aspinwall, ship owner in the Aspinwall Lines from New York to Liverpool. After her husband's death she returned to Pittsburgh, built a house of a peculiarly quaint shape in a secluded woodland (part of her father's estate) where she lived as a recluse the remainder of her life. This secluded woodland afterwards was known as 'Luna Park.' Today it is the center of the automobile industry, and every moment of the day, swift motor cars on the Bigelow Boulevard speed by this once peaceful spot."

Source:Miller-chronicles (1927), pp. 27–30

Source:Street-names (1936): "Ross street—for United States Senator James Ross, the first enrolled member of the Pittsburgh bar, whose apple orchard once covered the ground where the Court House now stands."

Source:Love-titles (1944): "Ross St. was so called because it went through the apple orchard of James Ross, an early U. S. Senator."

Source:Carlin (1966): "Ross St. went through the apple orchard of James Ross, a U. S. senator, . . . ."

Source:Delaney (1967): "Ross Street—So called because it was laid out through the apple orchard of James Ross, an early U. S. senator."

Source:Browne-streets (1983): "Ross Street once went through the apple orchard of James Ross, an early politician . . . ."

Source:Regan (2009): "Ross Street ¶ This street was laid out through the apple orchard of U. S. Senator James Ross, the first member of the Pittsburgh bar. The apple orchard eventually became the location of the county courthouse."

To do

  • More about James Ross.
  • More about this street, which is one of the oldest streets in Pittsburgh outside the original 1784 plan (see also Try Street).