About Beechview

Black bears, panthers, gray wolves, hares, beaver, white-tailed deer, foxes…these were the first inhabitants of the region.  For thousands of years, Woodlands Indians traversed the ridges and valleys of Western Pennsylvania, passing through, never claiming permanent possession.  Seneca, Shawnee, Delaware, and Iroquois came later and created semi-permanent villages. 

Eventually Europeans journeyed here.  Dutch explorers and British and French soldiers arrived.  Ownership of these lands was contested by the French and British during the years 1754-1763, in the conflict known as the French and Indian War.  The area was also claimed by both Virginia and Pennsylvania, and for a few years was part of Yohogania County, Virginia.  In 1780, however, Pennsylvania claimed ultimate possession and the area became part of Washington County, Pennsylvania. 

Allegheny County, formed in 1788, was composed of seven original townships.  From St. Clair Township, Beechview and other southern communities would later develop.   

Before the Revolutionary War, settlement in this area was sparse.  The onset of the Revolutionary War and troubles with the Indians discouraged migration over the Allegheny Mountains.  Soldiers, granted land here for service in the Revolutionary War, journeyed westward with their families and meager possessions to claim their new homeland.  Others sold their tracts without ever setting foot in the territory.  Beechview’s story begins with those first settlers, English and Scots-Irish pioneers, who bravely endured hardships to secure a livelihood for themselves and a future for their children.

Purportedly named for the many beech trees growing on its hillsides, Beechview was originally settled in the late 1700’s.  Although the earliest settlers were typically farmers, Irish and Welsh immigrants soon followed to toil in the many area coal mines.  The mid 1800’s saw the arrival of German truck farmers. A small German community known as Shalersville developed adjacent to Beechview; this section now forms part of the Seldom Seen Greenway.  Italian and Jewish families began arriving in the years prior to World War I.  Today the population reflects a rich diversity including descendants of the early settlers as well as the addition of African Americans, Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern residents. 

Beechview, now a neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh, lies about 2.5 miles directly south of the Point.  It stretches along a broad ridge that rises to a peak of over 1200 feet beyond the southern end of Beechview Avenue.  Its streets rise and fall steeply over the flanks of hills that plunge almost vertically down to the four valley roads that serve as the community’s boundaries: Saw Mill Run Boulevard, West Liberty Avenue, Banksville Road, and to a partial extent Wenzell Avenue.  

At the turn of the last century, this area now known as Beechview straddled sections of Union Township and West Liberty Borough.  The district sustained a quiet rural community – its farmers, miners, and shopkeepers maintaining an easy interdependency.  In 1902, the Beechwood Improvement Company began buying up parcels of land in West Liberty Borough and in Union Township.  Eventually five plans were sectioned into lots and streets.  The same developers also initiated the construction of a tunnel under Mt. Washington and undertook the placement of trolley tracks along the ridge, connecting it with the city.  The company promoted the healthful benefits of living outside of the city and the speed with which one could travel into town.  Inner city residents, tired of crowded and smoky living conditions, responded.  The completion of the trolley tracks in 1904 stimulated the community’s commercial and residential expansion as the developers had intended. 

In April, 1905, inhabitants of the tiny community of Beechwood, Union Township, petitioned the Court of Quarter Sessions of Allegheny County to separate from Union Township and to be incorporated as the Borough of Beechview.  Several landowners (Bulfords, Reeses, McGuires, and Goodspeeds) decided not to participate, so the petition was amended. 

The Borough’s incorporation papers, dated July 28, 1905, include a map of the original section of Beechview.  It is this 1905 incorporation that the community celebrated in 2005. 

The Court decreed that the first election of borough officers should be held on August 22, 1905.  The first meeting of the newly elected borough council was held on August 31, 1905 at the home of George N. Hobson.  From 1905 through the end of 1908, the council addressed numerous issues including garbage collection, sidewalk, sewer, and street light installations, the grading of streets, tax collection, and the construction of an elementary school.  

To the east of Beechview lay West Liberty Borough.  Pittsburgh annexed both communities in January, 1909, and part of West Liberty was then absorbed into Beechview.  The other portion east of West Liberty Avenue became Brookline.  The community of Shalersville was annexed by the City of Pittsburgh in 1924. 

Beechview today is a residential neighborhood replete with many amenities including a branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Beechview-Seldom Seen Greenway that spans over 90 acres of rugged undeveloped woodland.  Broadway Avenue carries a modern light rail line through the heart of the community, transporting thousands of commuters between the suburbs and Downtown daily. 

In 2004, the Beechview Centennial Celebration Committee was formed to commemorate the community’s anniversary in 2005.  The committee planned activities that included a parade, banners, an essay contest, cookbook, history book, memorial quilt, the planting of a beech tree, fireworks, and a two-day celebration spanning July 23-24, 2005.  A time capsule was placed in the Monument Park at the corner of Shiras and Broadway avenues.  The time capsule is to be opened in fifty years in July, 2055.

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One Response

  1. Hi,
    Is there a way to post a link to cleanupbeechview.blogspot.com?
    Don

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