Spring Garden Avenue

From Pittsburgh Streets
Spring Garden Avenue
Neighborhoods East Allegheny, Spring Garden, Troy Hill
Origin of name Village of Spring Garden

William Darby's 1815 map of Pittsburgh prominently shows the forked stream valleys on the north side of the Allegheny River that surround what is today called Spring Hill. The stream that emptied into the Allegheny was originally called Saw Mill Run, and shortly upstream it split into two branches on either side of the hill.[1] (This is not the same as the Saw Mill Run on the south side of the Ohio River; see Saw Mill Run Boulevard.) The name of this run referred to an early sawmill located there. A letter from Major Isaac Craig to Colonel James O'Hara, dated June 12, 1797, begins: "After your departure, I furnished Mr. Eichbaum with laborers and the necessary tools for digging and probing the hills near the Saw-mill and up the run as high as the manor line; considerable time and labor were spent without any other discovery than a stratum of coal from twelve to thirteen inches only." Neville B. Craig infers that the sawmill to which this letter refers must have been up the run at the upper end of Allegheny City, because coal would have been easily and abundantly found in all other locations around Pittsburgh.[2][3]

In the nineteenth century, both branches of this run saw the establishment of numerous tanneries, slaughterhouses, soap factories, and leatherworking shops. The western branch, today the route of the Parkway North (Interstate 279), became known as Butchers Run. The eastern branch was later named Spring Garden Run; it is now the location of Spring Garden Avenue and the neighborhood of Spring Garden.[3][4][5]:31–32,62[6]

The history of the run, the avenue, and the neighborhood are closely intertwined. The earliest mention I can find of the name Spring Garden is an 1845 newspaper advertisement for an auction of a house "adjoining the handsome and thriving little village of Spring Garden,"[7] which was shortly followed by advertisements by Blakely & Mitchel for "[f]ifteen lots of ground, 40 feet by 200, near the village of Spring Garden (Vogtley's Run)"[8] and "6 Acres on Vogtly's run, (Spring Garden,) with suitable buildings."[9] These refer to Nicholas Voegtly, Sr., an early Swiss immigrant who bought land here in 1822 or 1823.[10][11][12][13][5]:12–13 The first map that includes the name seems to be E. H. Heastings' 1850 map of Allegheny County, which shows a small cluster of houses labeled Spring Garden.[14] The community also appears on Sidney & Neff's county map published the following year, which additionally shows a road along the run, though the road is unnamed and the run is labeled "N. E. Branch" (of Saw Mill Run).[15] Spring Garden Lane is labeled in R. E. McGowin's map of 1852.[16] George H. Thurston's first directory of Pittsburgh and vicinity, from 1856, includes numerous mentions of Spring Garden and Spring Garden Lane (or Road or Plank Road).[17] S. N. & F. W. Beers' map of 1862 labels Spring Garden Run and, in an inset, Spring Garden Lane.[18] This chronology suggests that the name Spring Garden was first given to the village, and the road and the run took the name later.

Historian John Canning says that the first mayor of Allegheny City (William Robinson, Jr., after whom General Robinson Street is named) owned a tract of land in the vicinity and named it Spring Garden, although he says the name may have predated this.[19] Bob Regan says that Spring Garden was named for its many natural springs.[20]

The Spring Garden Plank Road Company was incorporated in 1860 by an act of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The act authorized the company to build a plank road, starting at the end of Chestnut Street at the Allegheny city line, through Reserve Township for a mile and a half to the line of Ross Township, and to build gates to collect tolls.[21] This was part of the "plank road craze," during which many companies were set up to build roads from wooden planks. Unfortunately this road-building boom did not last long; the planks tended to decay or break relatively quickly, and most of the companies failed.[22] An Allegheny city ordinance renamed Spring Garden Plank Road to Spring Garden Avenue in 1868.[23]

The lower part of Spring Garden was annexed by the City of Allegheny in 1868.[10] The remaining part of Spring Garden was incorporated as a borough in 1883.[24] The City of Pittsburgh annexed Allegheny in 1907 and Spring Garden borough in 1910.[10]


  1. Wm. Darby. Plan of Pittsburg and Adjacent Country. R. Patterson and W. Darby, Philadelphia, 1815. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0197, DARMAP0198. Reproduced in John W. Reps, The Making of Urban America: A history of city planning in the United States, p. 207, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N. J., 1965 (LCCN 63023414); and in Bruce J. Buvinger, The Origin, Development and Persistence of Street Patterns in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, p. 24. Also reproduced as "Plan von Pittsburg und Umgebungen" in Bernhard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (Heinrich Luden, ed.), Reise Sr. Hoheit des Herzogs Bernhard zu Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach durch Nord-Amerika in den Jahren 1825 und 1826, vol. II, following p. 200, Wilhelm Hoffmann, Weimar, 1828 (Internet Archive reisesrhoheitdes00bern, reisesrhoheitdes00inbern). [view source]darby
  2. 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. 276–277. John H. Mellor, Pittsburgh, 1851. Google Books cE0OAAAAIAAJ; HathiTrust 001263103; Historic Pittsburgh 00aee7261m, 31735056285699; Internet Archive historyofpittsbu00crai. [view source]craig
  3. 3.0 3.1 Charles W. Dahlinger. "Old Allegheny." Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 1, no. 4, Oct. 1918, pp. 161–223. Internet Archive westernpennsylva01histuoft; https://journals.psu.edu/wph/article/view/1165. [view source]dahlinger-allegheny
  4. Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and the Adjoining Boroughs. G. M. Hopkins & Co., Philadelphia, 1872. http://historicpittsburgh.org/maps-hopkins/1872-atlas-pittsburgh-allegheny; 1872 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps (https://esriurl.com/pittsburgh). [view source]hopkins-1872
  5. 5.0 5.1 Dan Rooney and Carol Peterson. Allegheny City: A history of Pittsburgh's North Side. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, 2013, ISBN 978-0-8229-4422-5. LCCN 2012047727. [view source]rooney-peterson
  6. David S. Rotenstein. "Leather bound: Nineteenth-century leather tanners in Allegheny City." Pittsburgh History, vol. 80, no. 1, spring 1997, pp. 32–47. https://journals.psu.edu/wph/article/view/4569. [view source]rotenstein
  7. "Country residence: And valuable city property at auction, by P. McKenna." Pittsburgh Morning Post, Sept. 23, 1845, [p. 2]. Newspapers.com 88168225. [view source]country-residence
  8. "Five farms: Five farms of various sizes and prices in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio." Pittsburgh Morning Post, Nov. 14, 1845, [p. 2]. Newspapers.com 88168836. Repeated until Dec. 9. [view source]five-farms
  9. "Blakely & Mitchel." Pittsburgh Morning Post, Jan. 31, 1846, [p. 2]. Newspapers.com 88170026. Repeated until Mar. 4. [view source]blakely-mitchel
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 City of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Architectural Inventory for the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania: Planning Sector 1: Spring Garden; Spring Hill-City View: Report of findings and recommendations. 2016. https://apps.pittsburghpa.gov/redtail/images/5002_East_Allegheny_Survey_Report.pdf. [view source]arch-inv-1
  11. John Canning. "Hidden history." Northside Chronicle (Pittsburgh), Oct. 2015, p. 14. https://issuu.com/nschron/docs/oct._2015. [view source]canning-hidden
  12. Patricia Lowry. "At rest, finally: After an I-279 excavation and years of archaeological tests, a new burial site for 727 souls will be blessed." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 28, 2003, pp. D-1, D-5. Newspapers.com 89886838, 89886861. [view source]lowry-at-rest
  13. William M. Rimmel. "Old Allegheny." Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, vol. 52, no. 2, Apr. 1969, pp. 141–152. https://journals.psu.edu/wph/article/view/2998. [view source]rimmel
  14. E. H. Heastings. Map of the County of Allegheny, Pennsylvania. 1850. Historic Pittsburgh DARMAP0090. [view source]heastings
  15. Sidney & Neff and S. McRea. Map of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, with the Names of Property-Holders. Philadelphia, 1851. LCCN 2012592150. [view source]sidney-neff
  16. 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. https://collections.lib.uwm.edu/digital/collection/agdm/id/32269/. [view source]mcgowin-1852
  17. George H. Thurston. Directory for 1856–'57, of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Cities, Birmingham, East Birmingham, South & West Pittsburgh, Temperanceville, Manchester, Duquesne and Lawrenceville Boroughs, East Liberty, and Parts of Pitt and Collins Townships. George H. Thurston, Pittsburgh, 1856. Google Books HwYuAAAAYAAJ; HathiTrust 011562263; Historic Pittsburgh 31735038289074. [view source]thurston-1856
  18. S. N. & F. W. Beers. Map of Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Smith, Gallup & Hewitt, Philadelphia, 1862. LCCN 2012592151; 1862 layer at Pittsburgh Historic Maps (https://esriurl.com/pittsburgh). [view source]beers
  19. Alyse Horn. "Exploring Spring Garden, past & present." Northside Chronicle (Pittsburgh), Jan. 2017, pp. 1, 13. https://issuu.com/nschron/docs/january-2017.indd; https://www.thenorthsidechronicle.com/spring-garden-a-historic-northside-neighborhood/. [view source]horn
  20. Bob Regan. The Names of Pittsburgh: How the city, neighborhoods, streets, parks and more got their names, p. 47. The Local History Company, Pittsburgh, 2009, ISBN 978-0-9770429-7-5. [view source]regan
  21. Laws of the General Assembly of the State of Pennsylvania, Passed at the Session of 1860, in the Eighty-Fourth Year of Independence, p. 644. A. Boyd Hamilton, Harrisburg, 1860. Internet Archive lawsofgeneralas_1860penn. [view source]penna-laws-1860
  22. ASCE Pittsburgh Section 100th Anniversary Publication Committee. Engineering Pittsburgh: A history of roads, rails, canals, bridges & more, pp. 75–76. History Press, Charleston, S. C., 2018, ISBN 978-1-5402-3599-2. LCCN 2018942435. [view source]engineering
  23. "An ordinance changing the name of Spring Garden Plank Road." Allegheny city ordinance, 1868. Passed Apr. 9, 1868. Reprinted in the Pittsburgh Gazette, Apr. 17, 1868, p. 7 (Newspapers.com 86347300). [view source]ordinance-1868-spring-garden-ave
  24. A. A. Lambing and J. W. F. White. Allegheny County: Its early history and subsequent development, pp. 71–72. Snowden & Peterson, Pittsburgh, 1888. Google Books 6bY-AAAAYAAJ; HathiTrust 008957728, 100693049; Historic Pittsburgh 00aee8946m; Internet Archive centennialhistor00lamb; LCCN 18008828. [view source]lambing