Photo by Alyse Horn
Historic homes on Liverpool Street in Manchester.

By Neil Strebig

With five city-recognized historical districts, the Northside has more historical zones than any other neighborhood in the city.

The Northside is home to five historical districts: Allegheny Commons Park, Allegheny West, Deutschtown, Manchester and the Mexican War Streets.

Each zone is mapped out in accordance to historically relevant properties. In 1971 the city instituted a Historical Review Ordinance, granting approval rights through the city’s Historical Review
Commission (HRC). According to the City’s Preservation Plan, the HRC’s mission is to preserve the heritage, community character and the livability of said communities. The purpose of such designations is to increase economic, environmental and cultural sustainability. In simplified terms, a historical designation often will increase property values while maintaining a distinct connection with a community’s past and present culture. The historical tag is applied to any building with significant cultural relevance to the city of Pittsburgh; this could be due to a renowned architect of the
building, notable persons who lived in the building or even just a substantial role in the history of Pittsburgh.

The guidelines between each of the Northside’s districts varies slightly, but majority of the focus
towards preservation in terms of construction are broken into three facets: preservation, restoration and reconstruction. While all three of those terms are relatively self-explanatory, the difficulty for new historical property owners is understanding exactly what needs to be worked on in accordance to HRC guidelines.

For starters, only the outside aesthetic matters with HRC’s official wording being, “Anything visible and within view from public streets and right of ways.”

Despite minor differences between districts, a majority of the key structural components are a property’s windows, facades, fences, and awnings; each of these aspects of the building need to be identified, reviewed and treated.

Meaning, once the building is identified as a historically relevant property in need of preservation,
an owner must get a Certificate of Appropriateness (CoA) from the city before any work is done. The HRC must review any intended work and will demonstrate to an owner how the building’s construction should be handled; materials, style, and authenticity are all considerable factors in this process. Yet, owners must be aware that they should discuss any possible changes to a property with the HRC before going about construction, otherwise injunctions may happen. The best rule of thumb to keep is that anything visible from the street may need to be corrected or renovated and no work can happen without a CoA.

The HRC meets monthly on the first Wednesday of every month to review the CoA
proposals. Property owners are encouraged to bring detailed photographs of their property with an explanation of the before and after process and how they will go about persevering the historically relevancy of said properties.
How to determine if a property falls within a designated district:

 

Allegheny Commons Park
Designated Nov. 26, 1990 and encompasses majority of the Allegheny Park. Allegheny Center and Foster Square are not included in the district, but portions of Merchant Street, Western Avenue and to the intersection of Ridge Place and Brighton Road are. Notable landmarks: The Aviary.
Allegheny West
Also designated in 1990 and covers the 700-913 block of Brighton Road, 930-956 block of Allegheny Avenue, and 915 and 901 of Ridge Avenue until the intersection at Brighton Road. The 800s and 900s blocks of Beech, Western, and Lincoln Avenue are all within this district. Notable landmarks: Emmanuel Episcopal and Calvary Methodist Churches.
Historic Deutschtown
Designated on February 12, 1997. Majority of this district is formed off of Cedar Avenue including the over 706-1010 blocks until North Avenue. The 400-604 block on Cedar Avenue until Pressley Avenue is also included, although East Ohio is excluded.  Meaning everything from The Priory to Avery Street is within the district.  Notable landmarks: The Priory and Allegheny Inn.
Manchester
Designated on July 30, 1979 and is one of the more confusing districts due to abrupt cuts in the historical boundaries. The majority of Chateau Street is covered including blocks 1000-1522, 1616-1626, and 1800-2010. Only three portions of Allegheny Avenue are marked including blocks 1015-1207, 1305-1313, and 1501-1513. Portions completely covered include: Baliff Way, Divine Street, Decatur Street, George Alley, Haines Way, Riggo Way and Siggsbe Way. Notable sections: 1100-1118 Fontella Street, 1415-1443 Hoffman Street and 1300-1442 Pennsylvania Avenue (both odd/even number properties).
Mexican War Streets
The oldest section in the Northside designated on December 28, 1972 includes everything from North Avenue to Sampsonia Way stopping at Buena Vista Street (1201-1247, 1200-1306) and Wolfrum Street.
For more information visit the Historical Review Commission page at www.pittsburghpa.gov
Information provided by Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning, Historical Preservation Guidelines