From Pittsburgh Streets

"Signs for streets: With the names in big letters, to be placed at every corner: Following the Paris style: An attempt to label the city that proved a sad failure: How some streets were named." Pittsburg Dispatch, Aug. 10, 1892, p. 2. 76578361.

With the Names in Big Letters, to Be Placed at Every Corner.
An Attempt to Label the City That Proved a Sad Failure.

The Public Works Department is preparing to make a long needed improvement on the city streets. Signs are to be placed on every street corner designating the names of the streets in large letters that can be read nearly a square away. Chief Bigelow has already provided for making the improvement out of his appropriation. Shortly before leaving on his European trip the Chief gave orders to ascertain how many signs would be required. Superintendent Andrews, of the Highways Bureau, says the work is nearly finished and he estimates that from 2,500 to 3,000 will be needed.

The style of sign Chief Bigelow has adopted is the same as has been used in the city of Paris for many years. They are made of wrought steel, in strips three or four inches wide, an eighth of an inch thick and as long as the name of the street requires. The letters are painted in white on a dark blue background. The whole surface is heavily enameled and guaranteed not to be affected by any kind of weather.

A Rather Expensive Improvement.

It will cost at least $1,500 to pay for the signs alone, and considerable more to put them up. The manner of placing them has not been fully determined. Several plans are under consideration. One which will probably be adopted for many of the street corners will be a contrivance for which the old and unused lamp posts will be utilized. A socket is made which fits into the top of the post, and the signs, arranged in a hollow square or crossed at right angles, are placed above in the place of the lamp globe. At corners where there are no old posts and where such an arrangement would be particularly desirable, cheap post will probably be erected.

To put signs at every street intersection in the city will be a big contract. It has not yet been determined whether to employ men to do the work or let it by contract. The great difficulty at many corners will be to find a place for a sign, unless the post system is adopted, particularly in the East End, where the majority of dwellings are set back from the streets and where in many places there is not even a fence upon which a sign could be fastened.

An Attempt That Failed.

The last attempt to place appropriate signs on the streets here was a big failure. A contract was let eight years ago to Samuel Tate, then an alderman of the Southside. The signs were somewhat similar in appearance to those Chief Bigelow intends to use, but a few months after they were placed the paint scaled off many of them, leaving only a strip of rusty iron. Previously there had been several efforts to label streets, but none of them ever amounted to much.

Owing to the irregularity of the street system this city has always been an enigma to strangers as well as many of her own citizens. It is not unusual to hear the remark that there is only one city in the country in which it is easier to get lost on the streets. The exception oftenest mentioned is Boston, but sometimes Baltimore is given the palm. But as if the irregularity was not confusing enough the city fathers about 12 years ago changed the names of many of the old streets, adopting more modern titles and thereby wiping out some of the historic old names which should have been preserved.

Washington's Friend and Guide.

Even yet a study of the street nomenclature, particularly of the old part of the city, is highly interesting, and few people know whence many of the names were obtained. Gist street was named after an Englishman who settled in this country long before the Revolutionary War. When George Washington made his first journey to the far West, as this section was then known, Gist was his guide and intimate companion. He went back East with Washington and returned with him on his second trip. Gist was prominently associated with the early history of this settlement. His home was a few miles up the Monongahela river and his nearest neighbor was Alliquippa, the queen of a large tribe of Indians whose territory extended from the Youghiogheny river down to Beaver. Alliquippa street as well as the station down the river of that name were named in her memory. Washington offended her on his first trip here by failing to call on her, but on his second visit placated her wounded feelings by giving her presents, one of which was a quart bottle of good English whisky. Gist and Washington made a trip down the Allegheny river in a skiff from the mouth of French creek, where the city of Franklin is now located, and it is said were upset and nearly drowned at Six-mile island, above Sharpsburg, whence they made their way to the Point on a raft. Gist afterwards published a book on his experiences with Washington.

Devilliers Knew a Good Thing.

Devilliers street took its name from the French General Devilliers, who was commandant at the French Creek fort. When Washington suggested to the English the necessity for erecting a fort at the Point the advice was not taken. Devilliers saw the importance of the position and one day came down the Allegheny river with an armed force, surprised the English settlers and ordered them away. They obeyed, and he built and occupied Fort Duquesne, from which Duquesne way got its name. General Forbes, in command of the English forces, returned here a few years later, after Braddock's disastrous defeat, and recaptured the fort, which he then named Fort Pitt. Forbes street was named for the English General and this great city got her name from the new name of the fort.

Van Braam street took its name from an accomplished German who acted as interpreter for Washington on his second trip to this place. When Washington was defeated at Fort Necessity, 12 miles from Uniontown, Van Braam interpreted the terms of the surrender, and it was afterward claimed sold the Father of his Country out for a consideration, giving the French a good deal the best of it. Shingiss street was named after an Indian chief whose territory extended from Beaver to Tarentum. Chatham street was so named in memory of Lord Chatham, of England, who was a friend of the American colonists and worked in their interest in Parliament.

Half Moon Would Not Accept.

The street known as Jumonville got its name from a French captain under General Devilliers. He was a resident of what is probably now the Fourteenth ward. It is said he was an interpreter, and at a peace conference between the French, English and the Indians, attempted by bribes to entice from Washington's staff an Indian chief called Half Moon. Jumonville's grave is still pointed out on the eastern slope of Laurel Ridge. Stobo street is so named in memory of a brave, courageous soldier, a lieutenant in the English army. At the battle of Fort Necessity he was captured by the French and held as a hostage at Fort Duquesne for a long period.

Dinwiddie is a name applied to that street formerly known as Shafer's lane, then Lippincott's lane. The name is in memory of Governor Dinwiddie, who ruled the territory of which this was a part, prior to the Revolution and known as Virginia. It was called Lippincott's lane until 12 years ago, that name being given because of Lippincott's big shovel and saw factory located where the Lockhart dwellings are now.

Marion and Pride streets both take their names from Miss Marion Pride, daughter of a large owner of property in the city. She was very popular, but died a maiden. Miltenberger, Price, Tustin and Stevenson streets, and many others in the city, were named after large property owners. Magee street was named after the father of Judge Magee, and not for the political leader of the present day, as many believe. Vickroy street got its name from the civil engineer of that name, who made the first city district plan in 1835. Bluff street was formerly called Ayres street, after a big land owner.