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Lawrenceville: History


What are the boundaries of Lawrenceville?

Lawrenceville is made up of the 6th, 9th and 10th wards. "If you think of Butler Street like a ruler, the wards run this way: 6th from 34th to 40th and Arsenal School; 9th from the school to Allegheny Cemetery at 49th Street; 10th from cemetery to 62nd Street." (1)

What native Americans first settled the area now known as Lawrenceville?

It was settled by Delaware Indians and known as Shannopin's Town. (2)

When and where did George Washington cross the Allegheny River?

George Washington, accompanied by Christopher Gist, crossed the Allegheny on December 29 or 30, 1753 near Wainwright or Herrs Island. The exact date and location are open to debate. (3)

Who was an early owner of the land that is now known as Lawrenceville?

George Croghan in the eighteenth century acquired land that included what is now "Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Garfield, East Liberty, Squirrel Hill, Oakland, Hazelwood". (4)

When was Lawrenceville established?

William B. Foster, father of composer Stephen Foster, established Lawrenceville in 1814. (5)

For whom is Lawrenceville named?

Lawrenceville is named for Captain James Lawrence, hero of the War of 1812, famous for his dying words, "Don't Give Up The Ship!" (6)

In what year did Lawrenceville become a borough?

Lawrenceville was incorporated as a borough in 1834. (7)

What is the origin of the old Allegheny Arsenal?

In 1814 William Barclay Foster "sold 30 acres (between today's 39th and 40th streets) for $12,000 to the U.S. Government for an arsenal." (8)

What made Lawrenceville a good site for an arsenal?

"The area's accessibility to river transportation and its proximity to what was then the nation's only iron producing district." (9)

How many people worked in the Arsenal?

"At the peak of its activity [during the Civil War], 1200 workers were employed there." (10)

How many were killed in the great explosion at the Arsenal in 1862?

"79 workers, mostly young girls." (11)

How is it believed the disastrous explosion at the Arsenal occurred?

"It was during the second year of the Civil War and during the second engagement of the battle of Antietam that Sept. 17, 1862, the War Department sent a hurry order to the superintendent of the Arsenal for a supply of ammunition. Col. Simonton, who was commandant at the arsenal, had just completed a new ballast driveway leading from the Butler St. entrance to the magazine house.
A team hauling a wagonload of powder was the first vehicle to use the road. As it rumbled over the new road it is thought that fire struck by the horses' shoes ignited some scrappings of powder that littered the driveway. Then followed one of the worst catastrophes in the history of the city.
The driver of the wagon and a small boy who accompanied him were blown to atoms. The magazine house in which were employed 83 persons, mostly girls, was demolished and some of the bodies were never found.
The force of the explosion wrecked houses, tore down ceilings and shattered windows in dwellings for miles around. The detonation was heard from the forks of the road to the Sharpsburg bridge and many persons thought they were in the midst of an earthquake. For more than a week the entire city was plunged in mourning." (12)

What industries flourished in the Lawrenceville area before the Civil War?

"Prior to the Civil War and the massive industrialization that came with it, the big industries were lumber, boatbuilding, army equipment and, at the heart of it all, was the Arsenal." (13)

Over the years, what plants have been located in Lawrenceville?

"Heppenstalls, Crucible Steel, the Schiffler Plant of U.S. Steel, McConway/Torley" among others. (14) The Pittsburgh Brewing Company, a consolidation of a number of old Pittsburgh breweries, including Iron City Brewery, is still there.

Who are among the notable dead buried in Allegheny Cemetery?

Opened in 1844, Allegheny Cemetery is the final resting place of Pittsburgh's first mayor (15), Ebeneezer Denny; the actress, Lillian Russell Moore; composer, Stephen Foster; Civil War veteran, General Alexander Hays; and victims of the Allegheny Arsenal explosion. (16)

When did Lawrenceville become part of the city of Pittsburgh?

Lawrenceville was annexed to Pittsburgh in 1868. (17)

Over the years what ethnic groups have settled in Lawrenceville?

"Most of Lawrenceville's growth occurred in the last few decades of the 19th century. People could live on the hillsides, close to their work, free of the smoke of the river valley. Germans came to the community during this time, to be followed by Poles, Croatians, Slovenes and Slovaks." (18)

How is Lawrenceville changing today?

"In the bad old days, a bulldozer would have razed questionable housing. Now, however, massive renewal projects are not considered cost-effective or smart. Rehabilitation and reuse is the game now, and Lawrenceville has learned to play it extremely well." (19)


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