Industrial Expansion Driving Out
The Decadence of Hazelwood: As an Aristocratic Section It Has Taken a Back Seat: Coke Ovens and Railroads Not Conducive to "Tone."
Demolition of Noble Old Homes: Many of the Conspicuous Landmarks Are Now Rapidly Passing Away: Wage-Earners Take Places of the Well-To-Do.
From The Pittsburg Leader, 27 January 1901.
Gradually but surely are the manufacturing interests that are now putting on such aggressive airs encroaching on the choice residence parts of the city. Districts that 15 or 20 years ago were beautiful with handsome homes, splendid lawns and fine old shade trees, are now mere ghosts of their former selves, sad pictures of decay and neglect. The former occupants have moved away to avoid the unpleasant associations which smoke or grime or the plebian air that inroads of the wage-earners' class have given the neighborhood. Such is the fate of Hazelwood, which 30 years ago was perhaps the choicest suburban section around Pittsburg. In that time a melancholy change has come over the district. Gigantic coke ovens and mills, railroads and other manufacturing enterprises have gradually encroached on the charming rural old homesteads, nestling in their green-clad environs, and in a few short years, the wiseacres predict, beautiful, quiet Hazelwood as an aristocratic residence district will be a thing of the past. Old families that gave the place its claim to social precedence are moving out daily, only a few old-time residents who cannot tear themselves away from the haunts they have known and learned to love for 30 or 40 years remain. In their stead great multitudes of wage-earners, mechanics, clerks, laboring men are moving in and occupying the rows of small but comfortable houses being erected in rows on the fine old places of some of Pittsburg's first families. Of perhaps 20 or 30 of these latter there are only a half dozen remaining. It is feared on all sides, however, that very soon even the places these families occupy will soon be untenable. The coke ovens of Jones & Laughlin already extend to Marion station, a part of Hazelwood, and within three squares of Hazelwood avenue, which bisects the very heart of Hazelwood itself. The big steel and iron firm is constantly needing more room for its ever-expanding aggregation of plants, and the manifest tendency is to spread east. In another five years Hazelwood may be given up entirely to small houses and its population be composed of wage-earners, mill employees and small tradespeople. At least the flat part of the district, or that section lying between Second avenue and the Monongahela river will be so occupied, as a large part of it is now. On top of the hills above Second avenue the better class of residences will probably remain for a while yet, although these may eventually be driven out by the increasing smoke of the coke ovens and trains. The consternation and litigation the ovens caused is well-known to all readers, as a year or so ago, when they were built. Attorney John McCleave, who has a beautiful place on Chatsworth avenue, near the ovens, filed a bill remonstrating against their construction on the grounds that they were a nuisance and menace to the residents of the district. Mr. McCleave's place was conspicuous for its beautiful flowers and shrubbery, all of which he stated in his bill, would be totally ruined were the ovens to remain. The case, however, seems to have been suddenly dropped.
Old Hazelwood residents view with unmixed sorrow and regret the havoc that time and material progress have made in the once lovely residence grounds. Twenty years ago Pittsburgers of this generation remember what noble places stretched in an unbroken line from Marion station to Glenwood. Beginning with the Woods estate on the west and ending with the vast Blair holdings at the latter place the scene was one to delight the admirer of rural or rustic scenery. The picturesque old stone habitations of the Woods family, still standing amid the aristocratic neighbors; the magnificent park-like Burgwin place, now being cut into small lots; the beautiful Hugert property; the attractive Wiley farm, with its picturesque log house, and the big mansion of the Blair family looking like a baronial castle--all these stretched in order from Marion to Glenwood. All lay on the upper side of Second avenue. On the lower side were equally picturesque, if not as imposing places. The splendid John D. Scully residence and grounds; the charming Laughlin cottages; the Robinson and McCargo houses, the Luckey mansion, and others. To be sure there were no paved streets in the districts then, save Second avenue, which, with its dilapidated vulcanite roadway, was a veritable road of horrors for vehicles. The chief charm of the place in many people's estimation lay in the multitude of great, noble trees that threw their protecting boughs over the stately, hospitable homes. The magnificent forests that at one time covered the Hazelwood bottoms were preserved almost in their entirety. On the upland ground, too, the great noble monarchs of the forests--oaks, hazel trees, wild cherry, ash, spruce and chestnut--remained unimpaired. On some of the places they are there to this day, and serve to throw an air of quiet dignity and grandeur around the premises.
The Rise of Hazelwood.
There is something indescribably noble and restful-looking in this house architecture of the sixties and seventies. Mansions costing as many thousands as these Hazelwood abodes cost hundreds abound in the East End and on the North Side, but notwithstanding the lavish outlay of money they do not in any way equal in inviting, home-like aspect the picturesque homes of Hazelwood. Magnificent piles of brick and mortar, finely wrought they are indeed, but with few exceptions they look cold and chilling. As a rule no rich growths of oaks, chestnuts, weeping willows surround the East End homes--beautiful as they are--to add to the rural naturalness of the picture. The air of grandeur and spaciousness cannot be imparted, as these places are built on small plots. Great closely-cropped lawns--a bare expanse of emerald carpet--a few small trees and bushes, the whole dolefully artificial--these constitute the frame in which most of the gems of modern house architecture are set. Hazelwood, of course, had not a monopoly of the inviting homes, for Point Breeze and Oakland and a few out-of-town districts also figured as desirable, beautiful residence districts. But Hazelwood vied with any of them, both in artistic surroundings and in wealth represented. The movement began there about 1870, although a number of families were already on the ground with substantial handsome homes prior to this. Among the first comers was John D. Scully, now deceased, who bought a splendid piece of woodland at Marion, extending from Second avenue to the river. On this he built a fine brick house. The grounds were laid out in noble manner and the place was deemed one of the most beautiful in Pittsburg. To-day huge unsightly coke ovens and mammoth iron stacks cover the place, the house, fence, roads, trees and flowers are all gone. Adjoining the Scully property were the Laughlin cottages, two cozy, little homes, the architecture of which harmonized perfectly with the exquisite natural surroundings. Fine, noble trees, picturesque glades and dells, were further beautified by man's horticultural art. Alas! these cottages must go the way of their noble, more dignified neighbor. The coke ovens are within a few feet of one cottage while in the rear of both huge cars of earth are being dumped into the ravines and the beautiful landscape defiled to make more room for the expanding iron and steel works.
Across Second avenue from this point and fronting on Chatsworth, a square north of Second avenue, is the old Woods house, built of stone. The Woods were among the very earliest inhabitants in Hazelwood, and owned an enormous lot of land there. They have been living there 50 years or more. To-day Mrs. Harry Woods, mother of ex-Sheriff Harry Woods, and her daughters, Mollie and Ida, live in the comfortable old homestead. The ex sheriff's father built the old house. It cuts a rather strange figure with its plain trim outline among the more recent and pretentious houses all around it. The Rankin and Swartzwelder families were pioneers in Hazelwood also.
Ex-Superintendent of City Schools George J. Luckey a cozy, comfortable home on the south side of Second avenue 30 years ago. The place has been cut up and occupied and retains nothing of its rural beauty. At Hazelwood avenue and the river stands the fine old house of Grant McCargo, late president of the Allegheny Valley railroad. The recently completed freight line of the B. & O. runs past the door of this house and spoils the fine view of the river from the front porch. Mr. McCargo, whose family still lives on the place, located there abut 30 years ago.
The building of the railroad from Marion (where it intersects with the main line) along the river bank to Glenwood has served to still further injure Hazelwood's position as an aristocratic residence section, especially as freight trains only are run along the river tracks.
This brings up a point concerning Hazelwood's development that is almost forgotten by everyone save a few old residents. Thirty years or more ago, when the B. & O. was built (it was then the Pittsburg and Connellsville road) the projectors wanted to locate it along the river banks. The large property owners would not give their consent, however, as their fine places fronted on the river, and the railroad would, of course, have spoiled the view from the porches. So it was built along the upper side of Second avenue, making the dangerous grade crossings at Second avenue and Hazelwood avenue necessary. These have been a great menace in the growth of Hazelwood, but the old property owners did not consider this phase of the matter, so the future of the town was sacrificed.
Until about ten years ago the only communication with Hazelwood was by these trains or by an old execrable bus line.
The Church family, of which Samuel Harden Church, the writer, was a member, lived here some years ago.
Some of the Early Settlers
Among the first comers in Hazelwood was Captain William Robinson of Hazelwood avenue and Lafayette street, who settled there in 1866. The captain's place is famous all over the city for its flowers. They are arranged in pots, stumps, vases and in beds all around the house, the effect being very artistic. All river men know Captain Robinson, who has been one of Pittsburg's best known pilots and river captains for 40 years or more. In summer his cozy home makes a charming picture, surrounded by the flowers and shrubbery. William J. Lewis, the iron and steel manufacturer, and father of W. J. Lewis, Jr., of the late Linden steel company, moved to Hazelwood in 1868 and built a fine home on what is now called Chatsworth avenue, a street running parallel to Second avenue and about a half square north of it. Along this same street, one of the most fashionable in Hazelwood, are the Oliver, the Woods and the Anderson properties. Henry W. Oliver, father of David B., George T. and Henry W. located there about 35 years or more ago, building a stately brick dwelling. The Olivers have all departed from the district, however, and taken up their abodes in the East End and Sewickley. Mr. J. M. Shields lives in the house now. It is one of the finest of the old-time mansions in the neighborhood. The Anderson place was until 12 years ago the abode of George H. Anderson, secretary of the chamber of commerce, but he recognized that manufacturing interests would soon encroach on the residency district, so he moved away. Attorney John McCleave now lives in the house. Across Hazelwood avenue from the Oliver property is the once magnificent country seat of Hill Burgwin, Sr., deceased. Here, on a wooded expanse, diversified with hill and lowlands, the noble old family mansion reared its head. The Burgwins, too, have all gone. The sons of Hill Burgwin, Sr.--A. P., George T., Henry A. and Hill, Jr.--are all living in the East End. The old house is rented for club purposes. In the spring the mansion will be torn down, as plans have already been laid to cut the big place into lots. Excavations have begun on the Second avenue front for a row of bricks. By spring over 200 houses of a cheap renting but substantial variety will occupy the grand old estate. Of course, the superb old forest trees and the shrubbery and walks will all be done away with, and soon not a vestige of the most spacious residence place in Hazelwood will be left.
Hill Burgwin, Sr., was one of the earliest of the city's wealthy men to locate homes in that part of the city. The place has a triple frontage as it were--Second avenue in front and Hazelwood and Flowers avenue on either side. Across the latter street lies the large, comfortable house of Captain James Nixon, who for many years made his home there. The family's residence, in fact, dates back over 20 years. Fifteen years ago the Nixon place was a bower of beauty with its shrubbery. All this has disappeared. The Nixons vacated the place long ago. It now presents a sorry appearance as compared to its glory of other days. Near here is the mansion of William Barker, built about 30 years ago by President Hugert, of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and called "The Grove." Grove station, on the railroad, was built just across Second avenue from the big place. The railroad runs only a square block back of the avenue. When Mr. Hugert selected this spot for a house there was a grove of beautiful trees on the place, and so entranced was he by them that he called his mansion after them. Time and the caprice of man have played sad havoc with the once noble, dignified place. In stead of numerous superb oaks towering to vast heights and affording great masses of shade in front of the house, there are now only a few sparse trees. In lieu of rose bushes, picturesque weeping willows and other beauties of nature, only a few shrubs are to be seen. A great lawn has taken the place of the once uncultivated forest carpet and a prim stone wall girts the big place. The place has had several owners or tenants, among them being a man named Converse and the late George H. Phelps, of the firm of Phelps & McKee, saddlers and harness makers, that 20 years ago did business on Wood street.
Adjoining the great Hugert place was the Wiley estate, now owned by the family of the late Simon Johnston, the druggist. Johnston built a fine brick house where the picturesque old Wiley log and frame house stood on the brow of the hill. Farther east and stretching to Glenwood was the big Blair estate, the mansion which was almost hidden from view by the large trees and shrubbery. Near there also was the lovely house and grounds occupied by Thomas Bedillion, the jeweler, 20 years ago. Lakes, rustic bridges, charming ravines, pools, flowers in abundance and trees made this one of the most beautiful residence seats in the city. The ravages of encroaching industrial expansion, however, have changed the whole face of nature, no pretense being made to keep up the pristine loveliness of days gone by. The mills and car shops of Glenwood also are encroaching on the residences, so that Hazelwood is between two fires.