From Carnegie Magazine, November 1972, by Jerry Vondas.
The story of Hazelwood is the story of people: ranging from the
Indians who built their burial mounds near what is now Second Avenue, to
the Scotch who settled there, and later to the Irish, Hungarians, and
Italians who came to work in the mills and on the railroads.
Under the Stanwix treaty made with the Indians in 1758, a large tract of woodland in western Pennsylvania was purchased for $10,000, and this purchase included what is now the 15th ward of the City of Pittsburgh, of which Hazelwood is a part. George Washington made many notes in his early journals when he toured the area around the Monongahela River, especially commenting on its natural beauty.
Where Mansion Street now stands is where the Indians built their burial mounds to such heights that, when the first settlers finally demolished them, there were enough stones to pave the old Indian trail that was later to become Second Avenue.
Immigrants from Scotland were the first settlers in this Indian territory, and the area from Four Mile Run to the Six Mile Ferry (four and six miles respectively from The Point) was called Scotch Bottom.
When the B & O Railroad was built in 1860, the names of Glenwood,
Marion, Elba, Grove, Frankstown, Linder, Copper Works, Soho, and
Birmingham were given to the stations along the line.
In 1850 the Wiley family cleared and farmed the land from Tecumseh Street to the Glenwood Bridge. Where Johnston Avenue now stands was where the Wileys raised their sheep, and it was known in those days as the Old Fields.
Also at this time a hotel was built near the Wiley Farm, called the Glen Hotel. For many years it was a stopping-off place for travelers and soldiers, who stayed overnight before continuing on their trip to Pittsburgh. A few years later the hotel was to become St. Michael's Seminary, no longer in existence.
A wooden plank road was laid along the old Second Avenue with a tollgate at Brady Street. And in the 1880s, travel by horse-drawn buggies along Second Avenue into the city flourished. A trip to the city could also be made by boat, but it cost 50 cents--a lot of money at that time.
The Bennetts and the Golvashes were two families from eastern Europe.
Andy Bennett, a prominent sports figure in the area for many years,
recalls the events that brought his father. The elder Bennett had been
working for National Tube in McKeesport when the men went out on strike.
He heard of the opening of the beehive ovens and decided to move to
Hazelwood. There he raised his family of five boys and six girls. Louis
Golvash's family came in 1888, and Lou is still a well-known civic and
fraternal figure in the area.
Both Bennett and Golvash can recall many prominent families in Pittsburgh who got their start, so to speak, in Hazelwood. There were the Burgwins, who lived where Burgwin School and pool are situated. And the Woods family in Glenwood, where it is reputed that Stephen Foster offered his first rendition of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair. And there was Mike Donahue, first foreman of the Monongahela Connecting Railroad, and the Beaner family, which operated a large feed business.
Because of Hazelwood's proximity to the Monongahela River, it soon
became the residence of many of the river captains. Well-known names were
those of Kennedy, Brown, and Elsey. For many years before J & L
bought the homes below Hazelwood Avenue, mansions of riverboat captains
were showplaces of the area.
Because of the varied ethnic background of early Hazelwood residents, the area developed many churches of different religious denominations.
There is St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church, whose first building in 1870 was located at the Grove Station. Because of the great influx of Catholics, Irish and Italian, into the area, the present structure at the corner of Second Avenue and Elizabeth Street was built.
The Ames Methodist Episcopal Church was early in the area. The congregation's first quarters were at the corner of Second Avenue and Lowrie Street. The congregation built a frame structure on Flowers Avenue, and in 1923 built the present building on Trenton (now Tipton Street).
Hazelwood Presbyterian Church was organized in 1869 in the old schoolhouse at the corner of Second Avenue and Tecumseh Street. The congregation made several moves and at one time met on the third floor of the Hazelwood Savings & Trust Building. In January, 1921, the present edifice was built.
Hazelwood Christian Church is an offshoot of families who came to Hazelwood in 1868 from the First Christian Church of Allegheny. The present church on Glen Caladh Street was dedicated in 1923.
Because of its easy access into the city of Pittsburgh, Second Avenue soon became the main street of Hazelwood. Some of the first buildings still stand, such as the Nixon Building at the corner of Second and Flowers Avenues. Harness shops and blacksmith shops lined the busy thoroughfare. The Hazelwood Dairy, Cook and Parsons Lumber, Culley Sanitary, Deutsche Apotheke, and Jones & Stiefel, pharmacists, were some of the well-known businesses. Henry Stahl sold groceries at 4749 Second Avenue, and the Acropolis Theater, which billed itself as 'the Cleanest House in Hazelwood and the Most Seats' played to capacity crowds at 4829 Second Avenue.
Two of the major employers in Hazelwood in the early days and today
are the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation and the Baltimore &
Ohio Railroad. J & L dates its beginning to 1853, when B. F. Jones, a
youngster from Claysville, with several partners and 25 employees, opened
his first plant on the South Side. The Eliza Plant between Bates Street
and Greenfield Avenue, built in 1861, brought sudden prosperity to the
residents of Scotch Bottom. As more workers were needed to man the new
plants, families moved into the Hazelwood area, convenient because of its
proximity to the J & L plants. And in 1884, when J & L added 54
beehive ovens near Longworth Street, immigrants poured into the area,
mostly from eastern Europe.
The B & O purchased the Pittsburgh & Connellsville Railroad early in 1871, gaining access into the city of Pittsburgh, and its expansion attracted more immigrants. Business boomed, and in 1883 a roundhouse for repairing the locomotives was built at the foot of Lytle Street. Seven years later the Glenwood backshop was added.
The community was divided between the railroaders and the millworkers, with the railroaders living in Glenwood and the millworkers in Hazelwood. Many an old-timer can recall what it was like in Hazelwood when payday for both J & L and the B & O fell on the same weekend!
As the Scotch moved out of Scotch Bottom, the Slavs and Hungarians
moved in, and even today there is a large Slavic community around the
Three Mile Run in Greenfield.
St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church was built in 1924 for an estimated price of $100,000 and for many years provided Hungarian families a Hungarian language school for their youngsters. First Hungarian Lutheran Church on Hazelwood Avenue, built in 1925, provided Hungarian immigrants the opportunity to worship in their native tongue.
Other churches are also active in the area: Johnston Avenue Baptist Church, First Hungarian Reformed Church, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Morningstar Baptist Church. The First Hungarian was, literally, the first Hungarian church in America (1890), the original building still standing on Bates Street in what is now known as Oakland. The Church of the Good Shepherd (Episcopal) was established in Glenwood in 1868 with many prominent Pittsburghers as members of the congregation, such as the Burgwins, Pauls, Macrums, Coxes, and Cowens. During the term of the Reverend Mr. A. D. Heffern in 1889 the present building at the corner of Johnston and Second Avenues was built.
Last but not least, the civic and fraternal lodges of Hazelwood played
an important part in the development of the community. In this group are
the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Lodge No. 1043; Knights of Pythias,
Hazelwood Lodge No. 130; Joppa Lodge, F & AM; Hazelwood Moose Lodge
No. 486; American-Hungarian Association; Kiwanis Club of
Hazelwood-Greenfield; Martin-O'Donnell Post 274, VFW; Hibernian Building
and Loan Association; and Fort Black Post 538, American Legion.
Many an old-timer can recall Saturday nights--which was meeting night for the Odd Fellows. The wives of the brothers would gather outside the Odd Fellows temple at the corner of Flowers and Second Avenues and wait for their husbands to come out of the meeting. This gave the women a chance to visit and talk over the events of the past week.
This writer can recall the Memorial Day parades when the veterans organizations would turn out in full strength, parade down Second Avenue and make their way up Hazelwood Avenue to Calvary Cemetery. This was an era when the Gladstone School band's rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever still brought a lump to a youngster's throat.
The files of the old Hazelwood Envoy, a weekly paper that flourished for many years, provided much of the information for this article. Mr. Vondas is a feature writer on the Pittsburgh Press who was born in Hazelwood and has lived there ever since.
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