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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.

The beginning. August 24, 2009

Posted by krbradford in Blog Stuff.
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Dear Readers,

Welcome to the beginning of my new blog. I love blogging, and many of you may already be aware that I have two themed blogs – one that chronicles my self-improvement project, 101 Things in 1001 Days, and another that explores the four corners of the world through my postcard collection. I still exchange postcards through the website Postcrossing.com, and I have often lamented the fact that I have no easy place to direct my international friends to learn more about the beautiful city where I live – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Homestead Grays Bridge

Homestead Grays Bridge

My days of complaining are over. I have decided to explore Pittsburgh on my own two feet and create a blog that follows my explorations. I’ve spent countless minutes and hours trying to decide on the best way to attack this project – how do I organize my exploration of one of the most confusing, meandering cities on the entire planet? At first I considered exploring Pittsburgh by neighborhood – the city is divided into 90 official neighborhoods, with many more just outside the city limits or too small to be counted officially. Neighborhoods in Pittsburgh are very important – the people of Pittsburgh identify very strongly with their particular neighborhood, and everyone thinks their own neighborhood is the best. When you meet a fellow Pittsburgher and ask where they live, they don’t tell you what suburb or street they live on – they tell you what neighborhood they live in, and you can tell a lot about that person by their answer.

Me at Point State Park Fountain with city skyline in back.

Katie at Point State Park Fountain with city skyline in back.

I have lived in Pittsburgh for over two and a half years now, but I still feel like a newcomer – the city is confusing, divided into counterintuitive sections by its bizarre geography. Often you must drive miles out of your way to go around a hill or a park, or to find a bridge to cross one of the three rivers. There are still neighborhoods I’ve never heard of, and at least once a week I find myself driving through a section of town I’m completely unfamiliar with. Every time I think, “Why haven’t I been here before?” And yet it happens… all the time. That being said, I decided the exploration of Pittsburgh by neighborhood wouldn’t be sufficient… neighborhoods, in some cases, can be huge – sprawling, confusing, and too rich in history to be lumped into a single category. That’s when it struck me – the United States National Park Service has already done the organizational work for me. The United States has a wonderful network of interesting, historically significant places listed on their National Register of Historic Places, and the list grows every day. Each of these places has a plaque with information about the site, and each is guaranteed to be worth a visit. There are over 200 sites in Pittsburgh alone – through my exploration of these sites, I’m almost certain to see almost all of the important areas of Pittsburgh. While I visit these sites, I will explore the areas where they are located, take photos, and share with you everything that I have discovered. So I hope you’ll follow along with my adventures and discover Pittsburgh with me! 🙂

With love,

Katie