Mexican War Streets
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Mexican War Streets
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The Mexican War Streets neighborhood is part of the Central North Side area of the City of Pittsburgh.  While the neighborhood in general extends from Brighton Road to Arch Street and from North Avenue to the hill, the City Council, in 1972, designated that portion from Drovers Way to Sherman Avenue and from North Avenue to Sampsonia Street as a City historic district encompassing about 335 buildings.  (top)


The Mexican War Streets are located on the North Side near Allegheny Center.  Major streets, such as North Avenue, Brighton Road, Western Avenue, and Federal Street border or are close to the neighborhood.  Public transportation routes run on all of these streets, and provide convenient access to downtown and the rest of the North Side.  (top)


Among the community organizations active in the Mexican War Streets are the Mexican War Streets Society, the Central North Side Neighborhood Council, and the North Side Civic Development Council.  Also, the private Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation has played a role in the revitalization of the neighborhood.  The Mexican War Streets are almost exclusively residential in use and are zoned R4.  Nearby commercial areas include Allegheny Center and stores along Brighton Road, Federal Street, Western Avenue, and East Ohio Street.  Allegheny General and Divine Providence Hospitals are in the area.  The YMCA and three churches are located within the historic district, along North Avenue, while other churches are nearby.  Across North Avenue lies the expanse of West Park, with its playgrounds and aviary.  The Old Post Office Museum, Buhl Planetarium, and Carnegie Library can be found in Allegheny Center, PNC Park, Heinz Field and the Community College of Allegheny County are located closer to the river.  (top)


The Mexican War Streets were laid out in 1848 by General William Robinson, Jr. who later became mayor of the city of Allegheny.  Just returned from service in the Mexican War, he subdivided his land and named the new streets after the battles and generals of that war.  With the spread of a streetcar network in the 1860s, larger areas of land around the center of Allegheny City became accessible to streetcar "commuters" and new "suburban" neighborhoods (like the Mexican War Streets) were quickly settled by middle class businessmen and professionals.  (top)

A map from 1852 shows buildings already constructed along Palo Alto Street and Resaca Place.  Some of these buildings were described in early tax records as "frame cottages" and "small brick homes" that were later replaced by the more substantial structures that exist today.  A number of the original buildings have survived although some of them were remodeled in the 1880s and 1890s and the 1920s.  By 1872, the neighborhood was well settled, with the exception of Buena Vista Street, which was occupied largely by a stock yard (hence the alley named "Drover's Way").  Only in the 1890s did Buena Vista Street become fashionable for construction.  (top)

Beginning in the 1920s, the residents of these neighborhoods began to move to more fashionable suburbs made accessible by the automobile.  Single-family homes were divided into rooming houses and apartments and allowed to deteriorate to the point where proposals were made to demolish and rebuild the area completely.  Since the 1960s, though, there has been a substantial amount of renovation activity in the Mexican War Streets.  Most of the buildings in the Mexican War Streets today are two- and three-story houses that are built to the sidewalk line and form continuous rows that line the streets and provide an intimacy and unity of scale seldom found elsewhere in the city.  (top)


The Mexican War Streets is a Victorian neighborhood.  The term "Victorian", however, does not refer to a specific architectural style, but instead to the era of Queen Victoria's reign (from 1837 to 1901).  During that time, many different architectural styles were popular.  These "Victorian" styles included the Greek Revival (ca. 1825-1860); the Italianate (ca. 1860-1885) and its contemporary, the French Second Empire (ca. 1855-1885); and Richardsonian Romanesque and Queen Anne (ca. 1880-1900), which were superseded by the Classical Revival at the turn of the century.  Examples of all of these styles can be found in the Mexican War Streets.  Clearly, these styles overlap in their periods of popularity, and individual houses will often incorporate elements from more than one style.  Sometimes this combination is due to the creativity of the original designer or builder, but in many cases, it is the result of the remodeling of the facade. The identifying characteristics of all of the styles noted above are described in the walking tour narrative.  (top)


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