Saw Mill Run Boulevard

From Pittsburgh Streets
Saw Mill Run Boulevard
Neighborhoods Beltzhoover, Bon Air, Brookline, Carrick, Duquesne Heights, Mount Washington, Overbrook, West End
Origin of name Saw Mill Run, named for a sawmill built there in 1759

Saw Mill Run Boulevard is named for Saw Mill Run, the stream alongside which the boulevard is built. The stream, in turn, is named for a water-powered sawmill that was built at its mouth in 1759, used in the construction of Fort Pitt.[1][2][3][4][5]

James Kenny, a Quaker storekeeper, traveled to the new settlement of Pittsburgh in 1759, arriving at Fort Pitt on April 30, just five months after the capture of Fort Duquesne by the British army under General John Forbes. His journal entry from August 24 of that year includes a mention of the sawmill: "They have set to build a saw mill on ye other side of ye main river, down in sight of ye Fort, being on ye South side & there are 9 saws going in one pit at ye old fort."[6]

Hugh Henry Brackenridge (eponym of Brackenridge Street), who moved from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in 1781, wrote an article describing Pittsburgh and its vicinity for the very first issue of the Pittsburgh Gazette on July 26, 1786. He noted Saw Mill Run and two sawmills: "As you ascend the river from these rocks [McKees Rocks] to the town of Pittsburgh, you pass by on your right hand the mouth of a brook known by the name of the Saw-mill run. This empties itself about half a mile below the town, and is overlooked by a building on its banks, on the point of a hill which fronts the east, and is first struck by the beams of the rising sun. At a small distance from its mouth is a saw-mill about twenty perches [330 feet] below the situation of an old mill built by the British, the remains of some parts of which are yet seen."[7]

Daniel Elliott was operating a sawmill one mile below the Point in 1788,[8][9] probably at Saw Mill Run. In 1966, Margaret Carlin wrote that at one point there were ten lumber and grist mills along Saw Mill Run.[10][11]

Many streams in the Pittsburgh region are called "runs." This sense of the word has a long history in English. The early European settlers of western Pennsylvania used the word for a creek or stream, and this became the established term.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Katie Blackley. "Why are there so many 'run roads' in the Pittsburgh region?" 90.5 WESA, June 21, 2019. [view source]blackley-why
  2. Dan Gigler. "The Neighborhood Answer: How did Saw Mill Run get its name?" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 6, 2019. [view source]gigler
  3. Chris Potter. "You had to ask." Western Pennsylvania History, vol. 87, no. 1, spring 2004, pp. 50–51. [view source]potter-saw-mill-run
  4. Bob Regan. The Names of Pittsburgh: How the city, neighborhoods, streets, parks and more got their names, p. 73. The Local History Company, Pittsburgh, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9770429-7-5. [view source]regan
  5. E. Kenneth Vey. "Rivers powered the early saw mills." The Kids' Corner. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dec. 4, 2002, p. E-6. 90164196. [view source]rivers-powered
  6. James Kenny. A Journal to ye Westward. Reprinted in John W. Jordan, ed., "James Kenny's 'Journal to ye Westward,' 1758–59," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 37, no. 4, 1913, pp. 395–449 ( [view source]kenny
  7. H. H. Brackenridge. "On the situation of the town of Pittsburgh, and the state of society at that place." Pittsburgh Gazette, July 26, 1786. Reprinted in H. H. Brackenridge, Gazette Publications, pp. 7–19, Alexander & Phillips, Carlisle, Penna., 1806 (Internet Archive gazettepublicati00bracrich); and in Neville B. Craig, The History of Pittsburgh: With a brief notice of its facilities of communication, and other advantages for commercial and manufacturing purposes, pp. 189–203, John H. Mellor, Pittsburgh, 1851 (Google Books cE0OAAAAIAAJ; HathiTrust 001263103; Historic Pittsburgh 00aee7261m, 31735056285699; Internet Archive historyofpittsbu00crai). [view source]brackenridge
  8. History of Pittsburgh and Environs, vol. 2, p. 48. American Historical Society, New York and Chicago, 1922. Google Books 3staAAAAYAAJ, TPUMAAAAYAAJ; HathiTrust 011262563; Internet Archive historypittsbur00yorkgoog, historypittsbur02socigoog. [view source]history-pgh-environs-2
  9. Sarah H. Killikelly. The History of Pittsburgh: Its rise and progress, p. 111. 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. Margaret Carlin. "How our streets got their names." Pittsburgh Press, Feb. 6, 1966, Pittsburgh's Family Magazine, p. 10. 149098376. [view source]carlin
  11. Joe Browne. "Streets are index of local history." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 28, 1983, p. 37. 89790718. [view source]browne-streets