Fineview Citizens Council seeks historic designation for incline


A plaque on the Fidelity Bank building in Troy Hill, formerly the upper station of the Troy Hill Incline, details the history of the neighborhood’s incline. (Photo by Ethan Cohen)

The Fineview Citizens Council on Feb. 15 met with Pittsburgh City Council to discuss a proposal for historic designation for what remains of the Nunnery Hill Incline.

All members present at the meeting, including representatives from the Department of City Planning, the Historic Review Commission and the Pittsburgh History and Landmark Foundation, were in favor of the proposal, saidFCC Program Director Ed Lewis.   

A supporting wall and a landing house is all that remains of the once well-traveled incline.

The Nunnery Hill Incline, designed by engineer Samuel Deischert, ran from 1887 to 1899 and was one of the first inclines in the world to be built with a curved track, making it one of Pittsburgh’s most famous inclines, according to “Pittsburgh Railways” by Ronald L. Beal.

A ride on the incline cost five cents and carried passengers and freight up the hill where Henderson Street is today, according to “A Century of Inclines.” 

The proposal is part of the Gateway Improvement Project, a community initiative by the FCC to create a welcoming atmosphere to the Fineview neighborhood.

“We would like to see our historic buildings repainted, the brush covering the wall on Henderson cut, as well as a ‘Welcome to Fineview’ sign,” Lewis said.

“Receiving an historic designation will highlight the importance of keeping the entrance to our community well maintained.”

The only other Northside incline, the Troy Hill Incline, was named a historic landmark in 1987.

The Troy Hill Incline’s landing house at 1733 Lowrie Street, now a Fidelity Bank, was also designed by Diescher. It ran from East Ohio to Lowrie Street and carried passengers, freight and wagons up and down the hill where Rialto Street is today.

Because the trip only took one minute, the Troy Hill Fire Department, located at the top of Troy Hill, used the incline to quickly reach fires on East Ohio Street. Employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad, many of whom lived on Troy Hill, also used the incline to travel to and from work. 

According to the Historic Review Commission guidelines, once a building has been deemed an historic landmark, the organization has to approve any plans to alter or demolish the exterior of the building.

By receiving a historic designation for the Nunnery Hill landing house on Federal Street and the wall on Henderson, FCC will have the support of the commission in improving the gateway to the Fineview neighborhood.

“What remains of the Nunnery Hill Incline is an important part of the community’s history. The preservation of the incline’s landing house and supporting wall will create a welcoming gateway to the Fineview neighborhood,” Lewis said.  

FCC introduced its proposal to the commission last summer. The review process normally takes eight months to complete.

Ethan G. Cohen is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in English Literature and Philosophy and currently interns with The Northside Chronicle.

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