South First Street

From Pittsburgh Streets
South First Street
Neighborhood South Shore
Origin of name Sequential numbering up the Monongahela River
First Street (until 1881)
Origin of name Sequential numbering up the Monongahela River

This street appears as First Street in the 1852 map of R. E. McGowin in the easternmost part of the borough of South Pittsburgh.[1] These original numbered streets along the south bank of the Monongahela River, First through Fifth Streets, were the seed of the sequence of numbered streets that today runs from South First Street to South 33rd Street (and formerly as far as South 36th Street).


First through Fifth Streets were laid out between 1835 and 1845, probably in the first half of the 1840s. These streets do not appear in the 1835 map of Lewis Keyon, which labels this tract of land "Ormsby"[2] (meaning the heirs of Oliver Ormsby, 1767–1832, one of the sons of John Ormsby; see Ormsby Street for more information). Fourth Street appears at the edge of a plan of lots laid out in April 1845,[3] and First, Second, and Third Streets appear at the edge of a plan of lots laid out in November of that year.[4] Samuel Fahnestock's 1850 Pittsburgh directory includes "Millinger [sic] James, planing mill, c[orner] First & Carson, Bir[mingham]."[5] This was the Monongahela Planing Mill, which was established in 1847[6] and appears in McGowin's 1852 map.[1]

Eastward extension of numbered streets

The borough of South Pittsburgh was incorporated on March 6, 1848; it included First through Fifth Streets.[7] Directly to the east of South Pittsburgh lay the boroughs of Birmingham and East Birmingham. In 1869, the two borough councils continued the pattern by numbering their streets: Birmingham from Sixth to Seventeenth, and East Birmingham from Seventeenth to Twenty-Seventh.[8][9][10] In 1871 the borough of Ormsby was laid out, extending the sequence as far as Thirty-Sixth.[11][12][13]

Ken McFarland says that these streets were numbered in order to eliminate duplicate street names after the South Side boroughs were annexed by Pittsburgh,[14] but he is mistaken: they were actually numbered a few years before the annexation. (And First through Fifth had been numbered decades earlier.)

Annexation and the "South" prefix

The South Side boroughs were incorporated into the City of Pittsburgh in 1872.[15][16][17] In May 1873, City Councils appointed a committee for changing street names to fix duplicates.[18]:43,50 By September it had been proposed to add the prefix "South" to the numbered streets in the South Side to distinguish them from the ones in the old city; a competing proposal was to letter these streets A, B, C, and so forth.[19] The committee presented its report at the last Council meeting of the year, December 29, 1873: they found there were 128 duplicated street names, not counting alleys.[18]:129 The committee also proposed an ordinance renaming streets, which included adding the prefix "South" to the South Side numbered streets.[18]:129[13][20]

But the new year brought new Councils, and the work of 1873 seems to have been mostly forgotten. Another committee was formed to continue the work,[21]:15,43 but apparently nothing was achieved.

In the meantime, South Side streets were distinguished by saying "South Side" afterward, as in "Thirteenth Street, South Side."

The "South" prefix was finally added to the numbered South Side streets (and duplicate names fixed) by an ordinance in 1881, which established the names of all streets in the city.[22] This ordinance does not directly indicate that it is changing the names of the numbered South Side streets, but evidence demonstrates that it did: J. F. Diffenbacher's 1881 directory (presumably published before the ordinance was passed) lists the South Side streets without the "South" prefix,[23] and the old practice of saying, for example, "Twenty-Fifth Street, South Side," continued in City Councils right up to the final passage of the 1881 ordinance.[24]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 R. E. McGowin. Map of the Cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny and of the Boroughs of South-Pittsburgh, Birmingham, East-Birmingham, Lawrenceville, Duquesne & Manchester etc. Schuchman & Haunlein, Pittsburgh, 1852. [view source]mcgowin-1852
  2. Lewis Keyon. Map of Pittsburgh and Its Environs. Johnston & Stockton, Pittsburgh, 1835. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0577; 1835 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps ( [view source]keyon
  3. "Plan of Lots Situated on the South Side of the Monongahela River: Being a part of the Coal Hill Lots Tract in the plan of the Manor of Pittsburgh, now 17th & 18th Wds., laid off for C. Ihmsen." Laid out Apr. 16, 1845; recorded Aug. 31, 1847, Plan Book 1, p. 122. Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds 3778222. [view source]ihmsen-coal-hill-lots-plan
  4. "Plan of Building Lots Situated on Carson Street and Brownsville Turnpike Road Near the Southern End of the Monongahela River Bridge: Being a part of the Coal Hill Lots Tract in the Manor of Pittsburgh, now 17th & 18th Wards, laid off for the heirs of Sidney Gregg at the request of O. O. Gregg." Laid out Nov. 7, 1845; recorded Oct. 5, 1846, Plan Book 1, p. 111. Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds 3778212. [view source]gregg-coal-hill-lots-plan
  5. Samuel Fahnestock. Fahnestock's Pittsburgh Directory for 1850: Containing the names of the inhabitants of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, & vicinity, their occupation, places of business and dwelling houses; also, a list of the public offices, banks, &c. Geo. Parkin & Co., Pittsburgh, 1850, p. 69. Historic Pittsburgh 31735055723096; Internet Archive fahnestockspitts00unse; LCCN ltf91000003. [view source]fahnestock
  6. "Another borough: Monongahela Planing Mill, &c." Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh), Dec. 4, 1847, [p. 2]. 88168811. [view source]another-borough
  7. Laws of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Passed at the session of 1848: In the seventy-second year of independence: With an appendix, pp. 106–108. J. M. G. Lescure, Harrisburg, 1848. Internet Archive lawsofgeneralass1848penn. [view source]laws-pa-1848
  8. "Birmingham Council." Daily Post (Pittsburgh), Mar. 3, 1869, [p. 1]. 86522458. [view source]birmingham-council
  9. "An ordinance for changing the name of certain streets of the Borough of East Birmingham." East Birmingham borough ordinance, 1869. Approved Mar. 13, 1869. In Ordinance book of the Borough of East Birmingham, 1849–1872 ( [view source]ordinance-1869-east-birmingham
  10. "Street nomenclature." Pittsburgh Commercial, May 6, 1869, [p. 4]. 85540423. [view source]street-nomenclature-1869-05-06
  11. "Ormsby Borough." Laid out Mar. 1871; recorded Apr. 13, 1872, Plan Book 4, pp. 204–205. Allegheny County Recorder of Deeds 3778970. [view source]ormsby-borough-plan
  12. Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and the Adjoining Boroughs, p. 114. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1872.; 1872 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps ( [view source]hopkins-1872
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Street nomenclature: The changes proposed by the committee." Pittsburgh Commercial, Dec. 30, 1873, [p. 4]. 85549642. [view source]street-nomenclature
  14. Ken McFarland. "What's in a name?" Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 68, no. 3, July 1985, p. 276. [view source]mcfarland
  15. History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: Including its early settlement and progress to the present time; a description of its historic and interesting localities; its cities, towns and villages; religious, educational, social and military history; mining, manufacturing and commercial interests; improvements, resources, statistics, etc.: Also portraits of some of its prominent men, and biographies of many of its representative citizens, part I, p. 626. A. Warner & Co., Chicago, 1889. Google Books DwzYAAAAMAAJ; Internet Archive historyofalleghe1889cush. [view source]history-of-allegheny-county
  16. Bob Regan. The Names of Pittsburgh: How the city, neighborhoods, streets, parks and more got their names, p. 11. The Local History Company, Pittsburgh, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9770429-7-5. [view source]regan
  17. Mark A. Connelly. "Pittsburgh City 1872 Borough Mergers." Local Geohistory Project. [view source]lgeo-south-side-annexation
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 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. V. Pittsburgh Daily Gazette, Pittsburgh, 1873. Internet Archive pghmunicipalrecord1872. [view source]municipal-record-1873
  19. "Street nomenclature." Pittsburgh Commercial, Sept. 20, 1873, [p. 4]. 85644399. [view source]street-nomenclature-1873-09-20
  20. "Notice—the following ordinances relative to Street Improvements is [sic] published for information, in accordance with the provisions of Section 6 of an Act of Assembly, entitled 'a further Supplement to an act entitled an act concerning Streets and Sewers in the City of Pittsburgh,' approved March 20th, 1873." Pittsburgh Gazette, Jan. 5, 1874, [p. 4]. 86344686. [view source]ordinances-relative-to-street-improvements
  21. 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. Pittsburgh Daily Gazette, Pittsburgh, 1874. Internet Archive pghmunicipalrecord1874, pghmunicipalrecord1872. [view source]municipal-record-1874
  22. "An ordinance establishing the names of avenues, streets, lanes and alleys of the City of Pittsburgh." Pittsburgh city ordinance, 1881, no. 33. Passed Feb. 28, 1881; approved Mar. 4, 1881. Ordinance Book 5, p. 212. In Municipal Record: Minutes of the proceedings of the Select and Common Councils of the City of Pittsburgh, for the year 1880, pp. 213–234 (Internet Archive pghmunicipalrecord1880). [view source]ordinance-1881-33
  23. J. F. Diffenbacher. J. F. Diffenbacher's Directory of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Cities, 1881–82: Embracing a general directory of residences of citizens, full classified business directory, register of public institutions, benevolent societies and city government; directory of the streets, secret societies, schools and churches. Diffenbacher & Thurston, Pittsburgh, 1881, pp. 36–42. Historic Pittsburgh 31735038317693. [view source]diffenbacher-1881
  24. Municipal Record: Minutes of the proceedings of the Select and Common Councils of the City of Pittsburgh, for the year 1880, p. 170. Internet Archive pghmunicipalrecord1880. [view source]municipal-record-1880