I know, it seems like I’ve been anchored in Pittsburgh lately. Last week’s doors and this week’s doors had been planned for weeks. The #WATWB post was opportunistic, and yesterday’s #1LinerWeds post was necessary.
After visiting Heinz Chapel and Phipps Conservatory in September, Faith wanted to tour the National Aviary’s new exhibit. My brother and I didn’t really feel like walking around another set of exhibits, so we dropped her off and promised to stay within roughly a 10-minute drive, so she could call us instead of Uber.
The Aviary is a few blocks south of the Mexican War Streets historic district, so is was easy to add a unique doorscurrsion to our afternoon. What does the north side of Pittsburgh have to do with the Mexican-American war? I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with the surface history and then go a little deeper. If you get tired of digging, skip to the gallery. The following excerpts have been altered a little, for length. The first is from the wonderful folks at VisitPittsburgh.com:
The Mexican War Streets are a beautiful and historic neighborhood with plenty to offer. The name comes from the 1840s development of the land which was then called Buena Vista.
The surrounding streets were named from people and places of the Mexican-American War, hence the current name, the Mexican War Streets. From the architecture to the artistic attractions, a whole day can be spent exploring this North Side neighborhood.
The architecture of the homes and businesses on the Mexican War Streets is one of the most charming parts of the historic neighborhood. Victorian architecture is seen throughout the neighborhood’s 19th century crafted homes. The architecture may have lacked in grandeur at the time, but craftsmanship and style made up for this.
The next excerpt is from Pittsburgh CityPaper, and is taken from a somewhat light-hearted article describing William Robinson (no, not the Lost in Space guy) who laid out the neighborhood, in what was then Allegheny, where he served as mayor.
Robinson’s father had been given a tract of land in the heart of the North Side for his service in the Revolutionary War. Up until the 1840s, it had been used to house livestock, but Robinson saw opportunity to capitalize on Allegheny’s burgeoning population. He laid out the street grid for a new housing development in 1848, just as the Mexican-American War was ending. In a burst of patriotism, he named the new streets after famous battle sites and generals. Palo Alto Street is named after the first battle of the Mexican War; Resaca Place after the second — the battle of Resaca de la Palma. Monterrey and Buena Vista were battle sites as well, the latter being perhaps the decisive conflict of the war.
The Mexican War Streets, in other words, commemorate a dream of empire and territorial expansion — no matter what the people living in those territories thought of it. So perhaps it’s fitting that in 1907, the neighborhood Robinson laid out — along with the entire city he once presided over — was itself annexed by the city of Pittsburgh against its will.
Finally, it seems that a new battle might be brewing. As the city expands and prospers, this area of the north side is once again prime territory for real estate speculation. This final excerpt is from the Pittsburgh Historic Landmarks Foundation website (PHLF).
PHLF began working with the Mexican War Streets area in the mid-late-1960s, but they took a unique approach. PHLF began purchasing and renovating houses in the Mexican War Streets, then utilizing the residences as low-income housing. In 1969, when PHLF bought their first property at 1220 Monterey Street, this was the first time this low-income restoration technique had been used in the United States.
Almost 50 years later, the Mexican War Streets is one of Pittsburgh’s most well-known and sought out historic neighborhoods…
The downside to this neighborhood appeal is the increased incentive for development. While there are a number of developers who are interested in doing small-scale historically-appropriate construction, there are worries about calls to demolish large swaths of buildings in order to replace them with modern anachronistic buildings. The area within the City Historic District is safe from this kind of development, but there are a large number of historically-significant but vacant properties in the adjacent neighborhoods that are under threat.
I’ve run over my limit, but I do need to thank Norm Frampton for hosting Thursday Doors, a fun weekly blogfest featuring doors from around the world. To see Norm’s doors, and the doors from other participants and to share your doors, if you’re so inclined, visit Norm’s historic district and look for the blue frog. Click on him, he’ll take care of the rest.
The gallery includes some of the photos we took. They needed a lot of adjustment. It was a rainy day and there was no way to avoid the cars. I hope you enjoy.