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An Overview of Historic Pittsburgh

Historical Pittsburgh began when the Native Americans, the French and the British fought for control of the Ohio Valley. Since the French explorer La Salle’s expedition through this area in 1669, the French wanted to control the area as a way to access French Louisiana via the Ohio River. They built Fort Duquesne as a means to reinforce their hold here.

The British became alarmed at this and saw the French’s assertiveness as the potential loss of a highly prized strategic region of the New World. They seized Fort Duquesne and built their own fort, Fort Pitt, in what became known as the French and Indian War. Then they named the area between the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers “Pittsborough”. The Native Americans were involved too, fighting from this area as far north as the Great Lakes. Turmoil continued in the area until General Bouquet defeated Chief Pontiac of Ottawa, in the Battle of Bushy Run.

The early 1700s brought an influx of Germans and Scotch-Irish to the Pittsburgh region. The Germans were quick to settle in the area, and the Scotch-Irish – who came here to escape religious persecution and economic strife – soon joined them to bring their culture to historical Pittsburgh.

In the years following the American Revolution, the boat building industry prospered in the Pittsburgh area and the city grew. But one of the most significant causes of area growth might have been the War of 1812. During this time, Britain cut off supplies to this area, forcing our region to manufacture for itself. This caused an enormous amount of growth, and a great deal more independence from Britain. Pittsburgh was producing iron, glass, tin and brass.

By the 1840s, Pittsburgh had grown into one of the largest cities west of the Alleghenies, and Pittsburgh saw its first major influx of Jewish immigrants. Initially they swept into the Hill District, but soon began moving instead to the Oakland and Squirrel Hill areas where a large Jewish community remains today.

An Overview of Historic Pittsburgh

In the 1860s, the American Civil War increased the country’s demand for iron and armaments – a tremendous economic boon for Historical Pittsburgh and its metals industry. Pittsburgh became the Steel City in 1875 with the first production of steel here, and by the early 1900s Pittsburgh was supplying steel for as much as half the country.

Opportunity to work in the steel mills brought more immigrants to the area. Slavs, Ukrainians, Russians, Hungarians and Afro-Americans all came to the Pittsburgh area to take advantage of the steel and tin industries located here. The Poles too came to the area, settling in Polish Hill (Herron Hill) and Lawrenceville. The city’s population was booming – right along with our steel industry.

Unfortunately, the production of steel came with tremendous ecological ramifications. Our air and rivers began to become polluted. The second World War saw an increase in steel production again, and the need for wartime steel. Great for the economy; tragic for the ecology.

The Pittsburgh Renaissance was launched after WWII, and the city began the process of cleansing. Its air, its water, even its industry was given higher standards to meet in terms of ecological well-being for the city. It didn’t take long to clean Pittsburgh and show what a beautiful city this oddly topographical region had made. The Steel industry cooled in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and ’80s (further cleaning the environment), and Pittsburgh turned its focus to the high-tech sector and service industries. The interesting mix of old and new, and the emphasis on neighborhood and proud ethic cultures makes historical Pittsburgh an extremely appealing city to call home. Due to its attention to family, ethnic cultures and the affordable housing costs, Pittsburgh has recently been voted Most Livable City (twice), and also Best Family City.