Above: A scene from last year’s German parade. (courtesy Randy Strothman)
September is a good month to be a Northsider, especially a Northsider of German-speaking heritage
Throughout the year, outsiders can see some German roots in neighborhoods with names like Deutschtown and communities with German Lutheran churches like Troy Hill.
But in the last few years, Northsiders whose ancestors came to the shores of the Allegheny River from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have celebrated the German festival Oktoberfest alongside their native countrymen throughout the month of September.
With parades, beer festivals and celebrations at the German society, The Northside remembers and celebrates its German-speaking roots.
In the early to mid-1700s, the Northside saw a steady stream of German immigrants who began making their homes in Allegheny City because the geographical features of the land reminded them of their native country.
The wave halted with the French and Indian War, but continued in the mid-1800s when the culture, language and German-speaking heritage began to institutionalize itself though organizations, events and societies.
By the 1850s The Northside had 15 German singing groups, several German parades a year, a handful of small breweries and restaurants that served German cuisine.
One of the last enduring testaments to the thriving German culture of the Northside in the eighteen and early nineteen hundreds was founded in 1854 – the German society Teutonia Mannerchor.
The society has been on the Northside since the mid-1800s. The first meetings were held in the basement of an old Lutheran Church on Canal Street, andaround 1882 the chorus practiced in Dahlingers Hall on Madison Avenue.
Under President Henry Bergman, the property of St. Peters Church on Pike Street was purchased on February 28, 1887 (Later renamed Phineas Street). The Charter of Incorporation was approved on April 9, 1887 and the present building was built,” said Teutonia Mannerchor’s website.
During World War II, German pride ceased to exist in the Northside as it did across the entire country. However in the past several years, German heritage has been increasingly visible in the Northside, and September is all but officially Oktoberfest in Deutschtown.
The festivities will begin this year with a German Parade and autoshow on September 8.
In 2009, Historic Deutschtown held its first German Parade in over 100 years. Since 2009, organizer and Priory owner Ed Graf said the popularity and size of the parade has grown.
This year, Graf said the parade will include classic German cars, local German singing societies, dance troupes, a Swiss singing group, accordian players, a Molly’s Trolley, a float, the Deutschtown United soccer team and flag bearers.
“Back in the parades in the 1800s, the mayor would ride on horseback during the parade. We brought it up to Luke [Ravenstahl], but he preferred walking with his son two years ago,” said Graf.
“We still have a lot of German activity here and it’s all boiled down into Teutonia,” said Graf who is being honored for his services by Teutonia Mannerchor.
Up Troy Hill Road, the Northside’s Penn Brewery will also celebrate Oktoberfest with beer and live music the last two weekends of September. Teutonia Mannerchor will kick off their Oktoberfest celebrations at the end of the month on September 29.
In addition to Oktoberfest, Teutonia Mannerchor will also putting on a production of “The White Horse Inn,” which is a classic Austrian musical comedy that tells the story of a love triangle at an inn in Austria.
Whether you’re German or not, September is the time to learn about the cultural history of the Northside and upper Europe as well!