Mexican War Houses – #ThursdayDoors

That had to be hard to paint. And, a lamp for Joey!

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.

71 thoughts on “Mexican War Houses – #ThursdayDoors

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    1. The owner of Randyland had been a community activist and had spent years planting gardens and cleaning up the area in and around his neighborhood. He’s an artist, and the lot is full of outdoor art that heas has painted. His studio is on the first floor of the building.

      I first learned about Randyland from The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog (don’t judge). She wrote a wonderful article about it several years ago – http://pittsburghmommyblog.com/2013/06/06/pittsburghs-beauty-off-the-beaten-path-randyland/

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Judy. As I mentioned to GP Cox, I learned about Randyland from the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog. It doesn’t seem to be active but the post is still out there – http://pittsburghmommyblog.com/2013/06/06/pittsburghs-beauty-off-the-beaten-path-randyland/

      This neighborhood has seen some bad times and is poised to priced out of its low-income housing status.. It’s a unique area.

      I love the colors that were chosen and can’t help bu be impressed with the painting. I’m not sure I’d have enough patience to correctly maintain one of these houses.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m one who loves color, Dan, yet some of these pictures just blasted my sense of harmony. Too much color at least to me …. I really looked at the porch you pointed out and I’m with you on the detail … wow! Also, being a homeowner, I can only imagine the upkeep on some of these buildings. For the most part they have been maintained very well. Another great door post and I thank you not only for the pictures but for the history involved as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Amy. I agree, I don’t think I could keep up with the maintenance (I do not enjoy painting) but these are beautiful. Victorian color schemes do tend to get excessive, especially if the mix isn’t just right. I hope the neighborhood feel can survive the next generation of owners. I fear that gentrification of this once low-income neighborhood will bring issues.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Teagan. Apparently Mr. Robinson had tried to convince the feds to go to war with Mexico years before they finally did. I don’t know why, but it was a big issue with him. whatever, I do like the colorful doors and porches.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What an interesting history lesson. This is truly a special place. The painted details on most of these buildings is amazing, but ohhhhhh, the maintenance! I like that narrow door/gate, and I wonder if the small square ground level door is a coal chute. That arched window with the stained glass is a beauty. But the firehouse is the standout building for me. Wow! What craftsmanship!! Great post. Thanks for sharing this treasure of a neighborhood.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ginger. I’m glad you enjoyed it. The maintenance would drive me crazy, because I am not a fan of painting. The firehouse really caught my eye – If I had unlimited funds, I’d buy that and move there.

      My brother spotted the narrow door. I didn’t notice the coal chute until I was cropping the image.

      Like

  3. Three things – 1, thanks for the explanation as I was trying to figure out how Pittsburgh had anything to do with the Mexican war. 2, great shots. I love the era of those buildings. 3, you are telling your age with the Lost in Space comment. lol. Not sure if any of the younger generation will get that reference. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, yes, I am giving away my age. But I was just talking about retiring so let the youngins google that 🙂

      I knew these streets existed but I never understood the connection. The houses are beautiful.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. WOW! Love these! This is why I’m a city girl. Neighborhoods. Neighborhood vibes. Yesss.
    Love the faded building in the last shot. Gorgeous color. Firehouse exquisite! Thanks for the lamp, too :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! When I look at lamps now, I think “is that Joey worthy?” I love the firehouse. I wish I had enough money to buy it. Then I could move there or have a second home in Pittsburgh. I could walk to the ballparks from there (on a good day). I’m glad you ike the faded building. I find it attractive for some reason.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ally. I’ve known about the neighborhood for a long time, but I never knew what the connection to the Mexican-American war was. I do like the houses, and I hope it doesn’t go too crazy with change going forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I knew nothing of the history behind this area. Fascinating. Let’s hope there is enough power to stop big developers from invading this charming area. Something about the colors and style remind me of the craftsman houses in Oregon. Love the doors!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I knew nothing about this area. Wonder if He-Man does? Will ask. The firehouse is wonderful. Is it empty?
    Randyland is weird, eclectic, and looks like a fun place to explore. I think #302 is cute, and #308 would charming with a little TLC.

    I love how these doorscursions lead to history lessons. I do enjoy them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The firehouse appeared to be empty but I didn’t see a for sale sign. I would have asked for permission but I’m sure the voice of reason would say no (if she ever stopped laughing).

      I’m glad you appreciate the history. It turned out to be a longer post than planned.

      Randyland might be the most colorful and eclectic city feature ever.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Dan – fascinating to see … and to know the heritage of that area is relatively secure … love the art works around … and now I know if I ever get to Pittsburgh … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The history is fascinating and the pictures are very colorful. I like the exterior colors and the old vibe it has. In some way it reminds me of the Bandra (locality) in Mumbai. Maybe someday I should cover that locality on my blog.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You should. Maybe you could have a section for people who re there on business, but don’t have tome to travel beyond the city. I know you’ve done some posts like that (waterfront, etc,) but you could always add more :-)

      Like

      1. Yeah. I did a similar post on Mumbai earlier based on your recommendation. Actually, I have an idea to cover Mumbai City after midnight. Images of the city after 1 or 2 a.m. It is risky to be on the streets that late, but I have done lot of vagabondage in my early 20s and I know the city looks completely different. My only challenge would be to tackle the cops and the anti-social elements.

        Liked by 1 person

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