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Pittsburgh Neighborhoods: Mexican War Streets August 25, 2009

Posted by krbradford in Neighborhoods.
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Mexican War StreetsI just visited the Mexican War Streets this weekend by accident on a trip to The Mattress Factory. What a gem of a neighborhood! These lovely Victorian-era homes represent every popular style of Victorian architecture, including Italianate, Gothic Revival, Richardson Romanesque, Empire and Queen Anne. Beautiful flowering trees line the sidewalks, and homes are accented with vibrantly-painted doors, wrought iron railings, and pretty flower boxes and planters. As it turns out, this neighborhood has a fascinating history and was saved from demolition only a few decades ago.

In 1848, General William Robinson, Jr. returned to Pittsburgh triumphant from the Mexican-American War, which annexed Texas and California to the United States. Awash with patriotism, Gen. Robinson set to work plotting the streets in this Victorian-era neighborhood, and consequently, the names are all related to the Mexican-American War. Buena Vista, Resaca, Monterey, and Palo Alto refer to important battles during the war; Sherman, Taylor, and Jackson were the names of military leaders. The land was originally obtained as payment to General Robinson’s father for serving in the Revolutionary War.

Located in the heart of what used to be Allegheny City, the area that became the Mexican War StreetsMexican War Streets House & Garden Tour 2009 was originally used as an area to stable horses and raise pigs, chickens, and cows. The first houses in the neighborhood were tenant homes for people who maintained the livestock. Growth slowed during the Civil War, but quickly resumed after the war ended, and by the late 1800s, the Mexican War Streets looked pretty much as they do today. Because the neighborhood existed before the advent of cars or refrigeration, all the necessary amenities were located right in the neighborhood – groceries, pharmacies, a doctor, firehouse, and police station. But with the coming of the automobile and the national trend of moving out to the suburbs, many of the single family homes were divided into rooming houses and apartments, and the neighborhood fell into disrepair.

By the late 1960s, the area was in such terrible condition that the city made plans to demolish the whole neighborhood. An uproar ensued: individual residents and organizations such as the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Association and the Mexican War Streets Society campaigned to save the neighborhood. The city eventually abandoned their plans to raze the neighborhood, and over time the beautiful Victorian homes have been renovated and the streets beautified. Now it is one of Pittsburgh’s most elite neighborhoods. On September 13, the Mexican War Streets Society is hosting a House & Garden Tour from 11am to 5pm, tickets are $18 in advance. Visit the link for more information about the tour and the Preservation Ball.

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