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Squirrel Hill North (Pittsburgh)

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Squirrel Hill North (Pittsburgh)

"Squirrel Hill" redirects here. For the archaeological site east of Pittsburgh, see Squirrel Hill Site.

Squirrel Hill North
Neighborhood of Pittsburgh

Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill in 2005.
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Allegheny County
City Pittsburgh
 • Total 1.222 sq mi (3.16 km2)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 11,363
 • Density 9,300/sq mi (3,600/km2)
Squirrel Hill South
Neighborhood of Pittsburgh
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Allegheny County
City Pittsburgh
 • Total 2.671 sq mi (6.92 km2)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 15,110
 • Density 5,700/sq mi (2,200/km2)
Murray Hill Avenue Historic District
City of Pittsburgh Historic District
Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation Historic Landmark
Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill (1937)
Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh)
Location: 1010–1201 Murray Hill Avenue (Squirrel Hill), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Coordinates: -79.928119|region:US-PA_type:landmark name=


City designated: April 3, 2000[3]
PHLF designated: 2004[4]

Squirrel Hill is a residential neighborhood in the east end of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. The city officially divides it into two neighborhoods, Squirrel Hill North and Squirrel Hill South, but it is almost universally treated as a single neighborhood.


Squirrel Hill is located at 40°26′17″N 79°55′23″W / 40.438072°N 79.922972°W / 40.438072; -79.922972Coordinates: 40°26′17″N 79°55′23″W / 40.438072°N 79.922972°W / 40.438072; -79.922972. Squirrel Hill has zip codes 15217 and 15232, and is bordered on the west by Oakland and Schenley Park,[5] on the north by Shadyside and Point Breeze, on the east by Frick Park, and on the south by Greenfield and the Monongahela River. Most of Squirrel Hill lies in Pittsburgh's 14th Ward.[6]


As of the 2010 Census,[7] Squirrel Hill North has a population of 11363, having grown 9% since 2000. Squirrel Hill North's population is 75% White, 17% Asian, 4% Hispanic, and 3% black. Of the 3892 housing units in Squirrel Hill North, 93% of those are occupied.

Squirrel Hill South has a population of 15110, up 4% since 2000, of whom 82% are White, 11% are Asian, 3% are Hispanic, and 3% are Black. There are 7514 housing units which have a 95% occupancy rate.

In 2010 about 40% of Squirrel Hill's residents were Jewish.[8] According to a 2002 study by the United Jewish Federation, 33% of the Jewish population of greater Pittsburgh lives in Squirrel Hill and another 14% lives in the surrounding neighborhoods.[9] The report states that "The stability of Squirrel Hill, a geographic hub of the Jewish community located within the city limits, is unique in North America."



The name "Squirrell Hill" may have been given to the area by the Native Americans that lived in its vicinity.[10]

The growth and development of Squirrel Hill was initially focused on the riverfront along the Monongahela River. The first recorded house was built by a soldier at nearby Fort Pitt, Colonel James Burd, at a place called Summerset on the Monongahela River in 1760. Squirrel Hill's next house was built by Ambrose Newton in the 1760s. This house is still standing and is located in Schenley Park along Overlook Drive (near the ice skating rink). Its first "business district" was the intersection of Brown's Hill Road and Beechwood Boulevard.

In 1778, John Turner built his estate of Federal Hill nearby (along what is now Beechwood Boulevard). He later established the Turner cemetery in 1838 inside his state, which he donated it to the local community when he died in 1840.[10] This cemetery holds the remains of many of the original settlers of Squirrel Hill. The Mary S. Brown Memorial Methodist church was also built on adjoining lands donated by Turner. The church was rebuilt several times, and the latest building, which dates from 1908, is the oldest standing church in Squirrel Hill[11]

The third house in Squirrel Hill was built by Robert Neill around 1787 in what is now Schenley Park. This house still exists and is occasionally open to the public. The Neills owned 262 acres (1.06 km2) of land in the northern section of Schenley Park. In 1795, the Neills moved from this house to a location in what is now Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh. After they died, the house was handed down to two different people before it was sold to General James O'Hara. O'Hara's granddaughter, Mary Schenley, gave the property to the city of Pittsburgh in 1889. For a time, in the house was rented out by the city to vacationers. However, by 1969, the house was in such poor condition that it was dismantled and rebuilt by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. It still exists and is only open for tours during the Vintage Grand Prix in July.

Around 1820, William "Killymoon" Steward built one of the first tavern/inns in the area. His tavern, located near the intersection of Beechwood and Brown's Hill Road, survived for over 100 years. Slowly, Squirrel Hill became a prosperous and affluent suburb. By the 1860s, the area along Fifth Avenue near Woodland Road had several mansions, including Willow Cottage. The cottage was built by the industrialist and civic leader Thomas M. Howe, a bank president and member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1851 to 1855. Though neglected for many years and almost torn down, Willow Cottage has recently undergone a $2.2 million restoration and renovation into a Chatham University gatehouse and guesthouse.

Civil War

Squirrel Hill and not Fort Sumter is considered the location of the first skirmish in the Civil War by some sources. On December 24, 1860, protests broke out in the streets of Squirrel Hill after news that the U.S. Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, ordered 124 cannons to be shipped from Allegheny Arsenal to two forts under construction in Louisiana and Texas.[12] Pittsburghers rightfully predicted that these weapons would be used against them if the South seceded, which occurred at Fort Sumter.[13]

During the Civil War, Squirrel Hill was the site of a small redoubt, Fort Squirrel Hill on Bigelow Street between Parade and Shields Streets, also known as Fort Chess or Fort Black.

Incorporation into Pittsburgh

Prior to 1868, the Squirrel Hill area was a part of Peebles Township. This changed in 1868 when the city of Pittsburgh annexed the land.

Following the Civil War several of Pittsburgh's richest families built multiple houses in the Woodland Road area between Fifth and Wilkins Avenues. In 1869, a woman's college, the predecessor to Chatham University, was established nearby. Today, Chatham University owns several of these large houses.

In 1869, the clubhouse of the Pittsburgh Golf Club was built at the new Schenley Park Golf Course(The present building by Alden and Harlow was constructed in 1900). In 1876, the Homewood Cemetery was established in 176 acres (0.71 km2) of land in Squirrel Hill.[10]

Over the course of the 19th century, the focus of Squirrel Hill shifted from its riverfront at the Monongahela River to the area closest to Oakland and Shadyside. Ebdy's orchard was located near Shady Avenue and Murdoch's farm, known for it's flowers, fruit trees, and vegetable trees was located on the hill above Oakland. By the late 1800s, the building of trolley lines caused a migration of wealthy executives outwards toward country estates and workers inward toward trolley lines. Farms were sold and divided for new housing developments.[14]

The growth of Squirrel Hill accelerated when an electric trolley was installed in 1893.[10] The trolley line ran via Forbes Avenue and Murray Avenue to its final destination in Homestead. The trolley line facilitated the building of hundreds of houses for the middle management of local factories, especially on Shady and Denniston Avenues near Aylesboro. Despite its trolley line, Murray Avenue remained a dirt road until 1920. Murray Avenue carried three Pittsburgh Railways trolley lines (#69 Squirrel Hill, #60 East Liberty-Homestead and #68 Homestead-Duquesne-Kennywood-McKeesport) until 1958 when the trolleys were replaced by buses. Routes 61A, 61B, 61C, 61D, 64, 67, and 69 pass through the area today.

Squirrel Hill grew even more with the opening of the Boulevard of the Allies in 1927, providing a direct link to downtown Pittsburgh. By the 1930s, most of the available land in Squirrel Hill had been filled.

In 1953, the Parkway and Squirrel Hill Tunnel were opened. They gave the area easier and quicker access from surrounding neighborhoods.[10]

Cultural life

Squirrel Hill's business area along Forbes and Murray Avenues is referred to as "upstreet" (a contraction of "up the street") by locals. In addition to the many retail businesses in the neighborhood, there are a number of longtime, non-profit organizations, including a branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh[15] the Jewish Family & Children's Service of Pittsburgh;[15][16] the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh;[15] and the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition.[17] Many annual events are hosted in Squirrel Hill by various community organizations.


Squirrel Hill contains several nature-related points of interest. They include the Chatham University Arboretum, originally belonging to Andrew Mellon; Schenley Park and Frick Park.

In 1889, Schenley Park was established on land donated from Mary Croghan Schenly, whose grandfather had been the owner of considerable amounts of land in the area. The original size of the park was 120 acres (0.49 km2), though it eventually expanded to 456 acres (1.85 km2) over the years.[10]

When The restoration was completed in 2006.

Jewish community

Squirrel Hill has had a large Jewish population since the 1920s, when Eastern European Jews began to move to the neighborhood in large numbers from Oakland and the Hill District. Many of them took up residence in rows of brick houses on the cross streets of Murray Avenue south of Forbes, such as Darlington Road, Bartlett Street, and Beacon Street. The neighborhood became the center of Jewish culture in the city, with kosher butcher shops, delicatessens, Jewish restaurants, bookstores, and designer boutiques. Several hundred Russian Jewish immigrants moved to the neighborhood in the 1990s.[8]

Most of Squirrel Hill is surrounded by a consecrated wall (an "eruv" using telephone poles and wires as the "wall") which permits orthodox Jews to carry things like books and push strollers on the Sabbath.[19] The eruv's boundaries are quite irregular and contain portions of other neighborhoods as well, with one writer noting that "an Orthodox Jew could carry something within the eruv's boundaries all the way from the north end of the Hot Metal Bridge to the intersection of Wilkins and South Dallas in Point Breeze."[20] Squirrel Hill contains three Jewish day schools, affiliated with the Chabad, Modern Orthodox and Conservative movements respectively.[21][22][23] There are over 20 synagogues.


Public schools

The Free Public School Act of 1834 ordered school districts not only to establish free schools but also to establish them in townships outside city limits.[24] This affected Squirrel Hill, since it was part of Peebles Township at the time.

John Turner, who never learned to read or write but became a wealthy landowner, left land and money to the community to build a school when he died in 1844 at the age of 83. It was called Squirrel Hill School and was located on Bigelow Street at Hazelwood Avenue in the Greenfield neighborhood. Its successor closed in 1915 and was replaced by Roosevelt School, named for then-president Theodore Roosevelt. It closed in 1957. It was replaced by John Minadeo Elementary School, named for a ninth-grade school crossing guard who gave his life to save a group of young students in the path of a runaway car near Gladstone School.[25][26]

After Peebles Township was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1868, Squirrel Hill became the Colfax School District, named for Schuyler Colfax, who was Vice President of the United States under President Ulysses S. Grant. The district had five numbered schools. Colfax No. 1 was located at Phillips Avenue and Beechwood Boulevard. Today, it is the Pittsburgh Colfax K-8 Accelerated Learning Academy. Colfax No. 2 was on Beechwood Boulevard near the intersection of Saline Street and Hazelwood Avenue near Browns Hill Road. It closed in 1907 but was reopened in 1916 as the Roosevelt School Annex when Roosevelt became overcrowded. The annex closed in 1939. Colfax No. 3, on Forward Avenue, became Forward Avenue School and was named after Walter Forward, who was appointed U.S. Secretary of the Treasury by President John Tyler. The school was torn down in 1923, but its retaining wall still exists under the Parkway East bridge over Saline Street. Colfax No. 4, at Whipple and Commercial streets, became Swisshelm School and was named for Jane Swisshelm, a writer and abolitionist. Colfax No. 5, at Solway and Wightman streets, became Wightman School and was named for Thomas Wightman, owner of the Thomas Wightman Glass Company. Wightman operated as a school from 1897 to 1980 and since then has been used as a community center building. It underwent extensive restoration and remodeling to make it one of only two older buildings in Western Pennsylvania to have LEED Gold certification.[26]

Two other public elementary schools existed in Squirrel Hill. Brown School was built near the Monongahela River in 1888 on land donated by the Brown family. It closed in 1932. H.B. Davis School, named for a principal of the Frick Training School for Teachers, was located on Phillips Avenue. It opened in 1931 and closed in 1980.[27]

Squirrel Hill’s Taylor Allderdice High School opened in 1927.[28] It was named for the president of the National Tube Company, who was also a member of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board of Education, which was created in 1911 and given jurisdiction over all the public schools in the city, including those in Squirrel Hill.[26]

Private schools

Some private schools located in Squirrel Hill are St. Edmund's Academy, a private nonsectarian (formerly Episcopalian) elementary school, and a number of Jewish schools, such as Hillel Academy, Yeshiva School, and Community Day School. The Day School at the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh serves children with a wide range of special needs.

Higher education

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and Chatham University are located in Squirrel Hill. However, CMU also borders Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood, while Chatham borders Shadyside.

Local government

The neighborhood is represented on Pittsburgh City Council by Corey O'Connor (District 5, Squirrel Hill South) and Bill Peduto (District 8, Squirrel Hill North).

Notable current and former residents

Although never a Squirrel Hill resident, actor, singer, and dancer Gene Kelly taught dance classes on Munhall Road at his family's dance studio, which was renamed The Gene Kelly Studio of Dance in 1932.[56][57]

See also

Pittsburgh portal

Notes and references

Further reading

  • History of the JCC Pittsburgh
  • The Corner Where You Are: A Sesquicentennial History of Sixth Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh by David W. Miller

External links

  • City of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill page
  • Interactive Pittsburgh Neighborhoods Map
  • Visitor's Guide to Squirrel Hill
  • Historic Pittsburgh Map Collections
    • 1872 – Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny and Adjoining Boroughs: Plate 12
    • 1872 – Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and the Adjoining Boroughs: Plate 10
    • 1876 – Atlas of the Cities of Pittsburgh, Allegheny, and the Adjoining Boroughs: Plate 76
    • 1904 – Volume 1 – East End of Pittsburgh (South): Wards 13, 14, 22, and 23
    • 1923 – Volume 2 – East End (South): Wards 7 and 14–15
    • 1939 – Volume 2 – East End (South): Wards 7, 14 and 15
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