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Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh)

Squirrel Hill North
Neighborhood of Pittsburgh
Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill in 2005.
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
Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh) is located in Pittsburgh
Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh)
Location 1010–1201 Murray Hill Avenue (Squirrel Hill), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
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.


  • Geography 1
  • Demographics 2
  • History 3
    • Origins 3.1
      • Civil War 3.1.1
      • Incorporation into Pittsburgh 3.1.2
  • Cultural life 4
  • Parks 5
  • Jewish community 6
  • Education 7
    • Public schools 7.1
    • Private schools 7.2
    • Higher education 7.3
  • Local government 8
  • Notable people 9
  • See also 10
  • Notes and references 11
    • Further reading 11.1
  • External links 12


Squirrel Hill is located at . Squirrel Hill has ZIP codes 15217 and 15232, and is bordered by Shadyside and Point Breeze to the north, Regent Square and Swisshelm Park to the east, Oakland to the west, and Greenfield, Hazelwood, Glen Hazel and Homestead to the south.


As of the 2010 Census,[5] 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% 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.[6] 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.[7] 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."


Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill, looking north near Darlington Road (1937)


The name "Squirrel Hill" may have been given to the area by the Native Americans who lived in its vicinity.[8]

The growth and development of Squirrel Hill was initially focused on the riverfront along the Monongahela River. The first recorded house was built in 1760 by a soldier at nearby Fort Pitt, Colonel James Burd, at a place called Summerset on the Monongahela River. Squirrel Hill's next house was built by Ambrose Newton some time in the 1760s. This house is still standing and is located in what is now 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 estate, which he donated it to the local community when he died in 1840.[8] 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. This church was rebuilt several times, but the current building, which dates from 1908, is the oldest standing church in Squirrel Hill[9]

The third house in Squirrel Hill, Neill Log House, was built by Robert Neill around 1787, also 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, but 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 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.

Around 1840,[10] the Murdoch family started[11][12] a farm and nursery business in the part of Squirrel Hill North which is known today as Murdoch Farms.[13][14][15] Today, this quiet area contains many upscale homes.

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 arrived that the U.S. Secretary of War, John B. Floyd had ordered 124 cannons to be shipped from Allegheny Arsenal to two forts under construction in Louisiana and Texas.[16] The inhabitants of Pittsburgh predicted that these weapons would be used against them if the South seceded, and this did indeed happen at Fort Sumter.[17]

Incorporation into Pittsburgh

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

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 women'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 on 176 acres (0.71 km2) of land in Squirrel Hill.[8]

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 its 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.[18]

The growth of Squirrel Hill accelerated when an electric trolley was installed in 1893.[8] The trolley line ran via Forbes Avenue and Murray Avenue, terminating 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. Bus 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.[8]

Cultural life

Squirrel Hill's business area along Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh[19] the Jewish Family & Children's Service of Pittsburgh;[19][20] the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh;[19] and the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition.[21] The Tango Café was a center of a range of cultural activities through the 2000s. 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 Schenley, 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.[8]

When Henry Clay Frick died in 1919, he bequeathed 150 acres (0.61 km2) of undeveloped land to the City of Pittsburgh for use as a public park. He provided a $2 million trust fund to assist with the maintenance of the park. Frick Park on the eastern border of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood opened in 1927. Between 1919 and 1942, money from the trust fund was used to enlarge the park, increasing its size to almost 600 acres (2.4 km2). In February 2004, Frick Park grew with the addition of the Nine Mile Run stream restoration area which flows to the Monongahela River. The United States Army Corps of Engineers managed the restoration funded with $5 million in federal money and $2.7 million raised by the city.[22] 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.[6] In more recent years, the community has begun to shift toward a more Orthodox bent, with many Conservative and Reform congregations shrinking as a result of emigration to Israel, secularization, population movement, and deaths.

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.[23] 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."[24] Squirrel Hill contains three Jewish day schools, affiliated with the Chabad, Modern Orthodox and Conservative movements respectively.[25][26][27] There are over 20 synagogues. The Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Squirrel Hill is much like the YMCA in many other neighborhoods, providing services to all residents of Squirrel Hill while respecting the needs of the neighborhoods Orthodox members. The JCC has the only gym with an indoor pool in the neighborhood.


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.[28] 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.[29][30]

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.[30]

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.[31]

Squirrel Hill’s Taylor Allderdice High School opened in 1927.[32] 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.[30]

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 Dan Gillman (District 8, Squirrel Hill North).

Notable people

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Pghsnap
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ The 2002 Pittsburgh Jewish Community Study
  8. ^ a b c d e f The Development of Squirrel Hill By Michael Ehrmann, Squirrel Hill Magazine Winter 2009
  9. ^ Brief History of the Turner Cemetery, Retrieved October 29, 2012.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Guns for the Union, by Jim Wudarczyk. Lawrenceville Historical Society website, retrieved November 8, 2012.
  17. ^ Squirrel Hillʼs Part in the Civil War By Helen Wilson, Squirrel Hill Magazine Winter 2011
  18. ^ Connections to the Past: Farming—Right Here in Squirrel Hill By Helen Wilson, Squirrel Hill Magazine Fall 2011
  19. ^ a b c Serving One and All: A History of Social Services in Squirrel Hill By Emily Leon, Winter 2011
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ ) to Frick Park2Project to enliven Nine Mile Run, add 550 acres (2.2 km By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 29, 2004
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Yeshiva Schools and Lubavitch Center of Pittsburgh
  26. ^ Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh
  27. ^ Community Day
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ a b c The Education of Squirrel Hill By Helen Wilson, Squirrel Hill Magazine Spring 2011
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^

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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