Story and photo By Kristin Douty
For the eighth consecutive year, the Progressive Dinner event on Feb. 22 pulled residents out of their homes to enjoy the company of their fellow neighbors in the historic district of the Mexican War Streets.
Northside native David McMunn started the dinners after living in Edgewood for many years, where there is a 20-year history of Progressive Dinners to raise money for the community.
After years of Edgewood fundraising dinners, McMunn wanted to bring the event to Northside, especially during the coldest months. “The dinners help people get out of their homes, meet new people and break the monotony of winter,” McMunn said.
The Northside Progressive Dinner organizers divide registered participants into different groups that begin the festivities at a designated historic home for appetizers.
One of these homes was the house of George Ferris, the inventor of the famous ferris wheel amusement attraction, who lived in Northside in the late 1800s. Ferris resided in Pittsburgh while working on designs for cable suspension bridges.
Fast forward to 2014 on a Saturday night and you will find a group of 10 diverse strangers – originating from Chicago, Ohio, Argentina, England and North Carolina, aged 22 to 80 years old – mingling in the same residence as George Ferris.
The festivities migrated to the next home only two blocks away for the main course, where the same group of people enjoyed homemade ravioli and a kale salad. For the toast, McMunn set the mood with an insightful comment.
“We don’t take grant money. We produce our own money for our own neighborhood. We’re out to make the best neighborhood that Pittsburgh has.”
Following dinner, the group moved on to dessert at the Inn on the War Streets at 604 W. North Avenue. The groups – noticeably no longer strangers- convened at the Inn for homemade tiramisu. The party continued past midnight.
Northside events like the Progressive Dinner are organized by the Mexican War Streets Society – a non-profit organization that strives to preserve the historic character and community of Central Northside.
Progressive Dinner main organizer Susan Kosy is a member of the Mexican War Streets Society and Women of the War Streets, groups that fund numerous local projects including the maintenance of Allegheny Commons Park and the popular annual house tours through the Northside historic district.
When asked to share her favorite aspect of the Progressive Dinners, event organizer Susan Kosy immediately said, “The people – definitely the people. Northside has the most interesting and eclectic group of people who all work together.”
Kosy discussed some of the other projects that are currently underway at the local
organizations. She is helping to organize the Guided Historical Walking Tour on May 18 at 2 p.m. There will be another walking tour on June 22nd about ways to capture the architecture of the Northside neighborhoods with photography.
To get involved with the Mexican War Streets Society and to register for upcoming events, visit www.mexicanwarstreets.org.