Friday, March 15, 2013

History of Sheraden

William Sheraden and family in front of the original farmhouse, still standing today on Bergman St.
Photo taken sometime in the late 1800s (maybe)

Sheraden has a really neat history going back to the 1850s. Starting out as farmland and vineyards, it's hard to imagine what life in Sheraden was like before developing into the moderately dense Pittsburgh community it is today. Although if you happen to tour the neighborhood in the warmer months, remnants of this humble agricultural legacy is continued on today by many proud homeowners who tend to their thriving flower and vegetable gardens.

In 1995, residents Dede Palombini and Diane Smihal put together a remarkably comprehensive article detailing Sheraden's beginnings. Continue reading below for a bit of a history lesson!



History of Sheraden

How many know that Sheraden has had a centennial of sorts? That's right, in 1894 the Borough of Sheraden was incorporated. However, Sheraden's history started 37 years before that. Although not one of the older communities in Allegheny County, Sheraden has a rich history it can be proud of.

The town's namesake is William Sheraden, a truck farmer and gardner. Mr. Sheraden invested in 122 acres of farmland in 1856, extending from what is now Hillsboro street (at the bank building) to Allendale Street, and from Sheraden Terrace to Old Tunnel Street (near the mouth of the tunnel,) and settled here in 1857. Willaim Sheraden's original homestead, still standing at 2803 Bergman Street, was first in the middle of Bergman facing Hillsboro Street but was moved to make way for a through street. Mr. William Bockstoce, was a grandson of Mr. Sheraden, and an internationally known horticulturalist famous for his expertise with peonies who lived in the house until his death. This home is well known for the two trees which grow together to form an arch, a legacy from Mr. Bockstoce.

Mr. Sheraden died in 1901. His relatives were: W.J. Sheraden, Mrs. John Hall, Mrs. Margaret Bockstoce, Mrs. Anna M. Smith and Mrs. George Moore. The only surviving relative of Mr. Sheraden, Mrs. Gaynell Sheraden-Hall, still lives in the Sheraden homestead at 2600 Middletown Road. The original barn still stands, in use today as a garage.

Although a farmer and not much interested in urban developments, Mr. Sheraden did sell parts of his farm from time to time for development by others, most notably the Panhandle Railroad. When the railroad and tunnel were being built, a task requiring many "pick and shovel" men at the site, a station was located near the Sheraden farm and called "Sheridan" station by the railway company. The name clung to the community even though the names of the railroad station and post office were changed to Corliss Station in 1918 since there was already another Sheraden in Pennsylvania, and in fact the Post Office began calling the settlement Sheridanville. Thus we had the distinction of being a town with three names!

Nathaniel P. Sawyer was the first developer to attempt the sale of lots in Sheraden. In 1869 [Sheraden Borough was laid out in 1859 ?] he produced a plan for lots which he called "The Borough of Aschenaz". In commemoration of an Indian chief, the name comes from the Bible (Jeremiah, 51st chapter, 24th verse) where it is mentioned as the name of a Kingdom and means 'pleasant land'. This "Borough of Aschenaz" plan adjoined the Sheraden Farm just north of Allendale Street. Ten years later, Mr. Sawyer went bankrupt and sold the land to Mr. Patterson who created his own plan in 1880.

Still called Ashchenaz after Mr. Sawyer died, when Andrew Patterson became influential and took possession of the settlement he called it Sheraden, in tribute to the early settler. There were 15 houses at the time and these original tenants were the nucleus of what later developed into the town of Sheraden. Mr. Patterson bought a part of Sheraden Farm which extended west of Township Road (now called Chartiers Avenue) and subdivided it into lots for homes. This began the development of the west side of Chartiers Avenue.

However, the real expansion of our community began with the development of Sheraden Terrace by Wood Harmon and Company in 1891 and ended when the remaining 64 acres of Sheraden Farm (situated between Chartiers Avenue and Sheraden Terrace) were developed. We know these areas as Bergman, Landis and Ashlyn Streets. The final construction was planned by the Pittsburgh Realty Company in 1900.

The principal highway leading into Sheraden was the old Township Road (Corliss Street to the station). It crosses the railroad tracks at the grade approximately 7700 feet east of the present bridge at Corliss Station. During 1886 a bridge was erected at the site of the present bridge to eliminate the grade crossing.

The first streetcar service came to Sheraden in 1897, three years after the community was designated a borough. The line was built by the Pittsburgh, Crafton and Mansfield Railways Company. The original ordinance provided for a line "beginning at the intersection of the Robinson Townshiop Turnpike [now West Carson Street] and Corks Run Public Road, thence along the viaduct on said road, to and through an underground crossing beneath the tracks of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railrway Company, thence along said public road [Corks Run Road, now Corliss Street] to the intersection of the same with the public road known as Sheraden Road" (now Chartiers Avenue).

Apparently the problem of the viaduct and underground crossing could not be solved and this feature was abandoned, but not forgotten. The route through Elliot and down Steuben Street furnished the only transportation to and from downtown until the Corliss Tunnel was built.

Up to its incorporation in 1894, our community was part of Chartiers Township. The petition for incorporation stated "the area contains more than 180 freeholders" (landowners). James O'Connor, John Bradely, and Peter Coll were appointed to an election board to oversee the first election of borough officers, held May 29, 1894. The first borough auditors were W. R. Bell, E. T. Whiter and A. B. Chapman. In the election, Mr. R. E. McCarty and D. E. Langdon were elected to Borough Council President and Secretary, respectively. U. E. Lippencott and John Holt received membership over three years, T. W. Crotzer and R. E. McCarty received terms of two years, and F. E. Bretch, George A. Adams, Mr. Burgess and F. P. Iams filled out the Borough Council with one-year terms. The Borough of Sheraden remained an independent community until it became part of Pittsburgh.

The Borough of Sheraden became the 43rd Wrd (later to merge with and become part of the 20th Ward) of the City of Pittsburgh in 1907. The election held to determine whether Sheraden would merge with Pittsburgh was hotly debated and contested. The final tally was 485 votes for and 256 votes against the annexation. Sheraden received many benefits as a result of its annexation to the city of Pittsburgh in 1907. The city repaved the streets without costs to adjoining property owners, built a modern fire engine house and staffed it (this became Station number 40 after the annexation), assumed the debt of the old borough (for a time Pittsburgh did levy a special tax on the residents to repay the debt), provided water services from the South Pittsburgh Water Company at city rates (which were lower), acquired a considerable tract of land for our park and playground, and built and staffed the swimming pool. Best of all was that taxes went down.

Once a part of Pittsburgh, Sheraden was ably represented by W. Y. English as city councilman. Another Sheraden resident, N. R. Criss, was appointed as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas representing Sheraden as a District of Pittsburgh. His service to the court spanned twenty two years, after which he resigned to become solicitor for the Board of Education.

With Mr. English on the City Council and Mr. Criss on the Pittsburgh Board of Education, the people of Sheraden, with the Sheraden Board of Trade and other organizations, began to work on two major mprovements, the Corliss Tunnel and a new high school. Work on the tunnel started on December 15, 1913, and was completed one year later on December 31, 1914. The Pittsburgh Railway Company started routing its cars through the tunnel on January 4, 1915. The Corliss Tunnel, the "Archway to Sheraden", is adorned with three lion faces and its opening was celebrated with an auto parade from Allendale Street through the tunnel and into downtown Pittsburgh. A banquet was held that evening at the Fort Pitt Hotel to conclude the celebration.

To show how rapidly Sheraden grew, in 1890 only 82 votes were cast. In 1899 there were 700, in 1907 there were 1300, and 100 years later in 1990 the total population of Sheraden was 6,654. Some of the early Sheraden settlers were: Abercrombie, Bailey, Boden Clark, Conrad, Criss Crooks, Degnam, Dwyer, Gehring, Genet, Graham, Green, Hall, Holt, Iams, Kohl, Lee, Lenz, Little, Lippencotte, May, McCarty, McNary, Mulherron, Murphy, Naughton, Nimick, O'Connor, Patterson, Reno, Rothar, Sawyer, Sheraden, Stahl, Sterling, Wilhere and Woods.

Still standing from the 1900s are the Murphy Building on Hillsboro, Fire Engine House #40 and the Sheraden Methodist Church on Chartiers, Holy Innocents Rectory on Landis, the Episcopal Church (now the Church of the Messiah) on Sherwood, the First United Presbyterian Church (now the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church) at the corner of Sherwood and Bergman, the Iams mansion on Tyndall near Kelvin, the U.E. Lippencotte homestead on Tybee (now owned and restored by the Harkins family), the Integra Bank building, homes near the corner of Landis and Sherwood, a 3-car garage in the alley behind the 2700 block of Bergman which was once a stable for a coal or ice company, Muellers Bakery in the 2900 block of GlenMawr, the family home of the Hershbergers, undertakers in the west end for three generations (founded in 1873), at the corner of Middletown Road and Ladoga Street,a farmhouse which once served as a roominghouse for railroad workers in the 2700 block of Toledo Street [2706], and a grocery store (now a residence) at the corner of Hammond and GlenMawr. The cliffside homes on Conestoga Street could be 100 years old and, like the houses along Glasgow and Brunot streets, offer a remarkable view of the rivers and downtown Pittsburgh.

John Murphy, an early settler and resident of Zephyr Avenue, served as a U. S. Congressman and ran for Vice President of the United States in 1895 on the Democratic ticket with James Buchanan. The Murphy Building on Hillsboro Street was named after him, and was the original site of the Sheraden National Bank, the Sheraden Municipal Building, and the borough jail at the turn of the twentieth century.

Langley High School was built in 1923, on a vinyard donated by William Sheraden, and named for Samuel Pierpont Langley, an inventor. It is designed after Warwick Castle in England and is one of the most beautiful school buildings in Pittsburgh. Dick's Pharmacy at the corner of Allendale and Chartiers was the oldest continuously operating store in Sheraden, established as a pharmacy in 1903 and closing finally in 1994. The railroad that separated Sheraden from McKees Rocks was called McGunigle in William Sheraden's time, and the playground and ballfields now overlooking the old railroad lines at the end of Allendale street have been respelled as McGonigle. The Hollywood Cemetery at 3500 Clearfield Street was dedicated in 1893, and Sheraden Park was established in 1914.

Points of interest which were torn down were: the Aplin apartment building and storefronts now occupied by the Foodland parking lot on Sheraden Boulevard, the First Methodist Church and Harwood grade school which stood on opposite corners of Hammond and GlenMawr, an undertaker, a Real Estate & Insurance Company where the Memorial is now, the site of the first Catholic church in Sheraden where a barn called Clement's Hall once stood, at 3104 Adon street below Chartiers (only the brick entrance remains), and a large apartment building with store rooms where the Veteran's Memorial now stands.

Sheraden once had 5 pharmacies, tailors, cleaners, 8 smll grocery stores, 3 meat markets (including the Sheraden Fish & Poultry Co.), 2 pool halls (one on Hillsboro and one on Chartiers), 2 hardware stores, a 5 & 10 cent store, a theatre, 4 bakeries, a fruit market, an appliance store, a bowling alley, an engineering company, the Heckler furnace company, now razed, beauty and pizza shops, a Dairy Queen, a restaurant, a skating rink, a jewelry store, a coal company, a grain elevator, several confectionary stores, a cigar smoke shop, Haddon Hospital (at Faronia and Ladoga, since razed), dentists, doctors, 3 funeral homes, 3 auto dealers, 6 gas stations, auto repair shops, 4 shoe repair shops, 5 taverns, several manufacturing plants, 4 schools (including American Avenue grade school, now Sheraden Elementary) and a streetcar barn (now the Ascension Church) at Berry and Ladoga.

In 1905 the Sheraden Elks Lodge was founded and met in the Murphy Building, then the center for meetings, dances and gatherings. Their Lodge at 612 Hillsboro Street, built in 1925, was razed in early 1980 to make way for the Goodwill Plaza Senior Citizens apartment building.

The Sheraden Women's Club, which met monthly until 1995, was founded in 1907 by Mrs. Charles Banker. They awarded a yearly scholarship to a worthy Langley High school student. For younger women the Sheraden Civic Club was founded in 1954, and presented a nursing scholarship to a worthy Langley student every year until their funds ran out, and took over the Halloween parade until they disbanded in 1987 for lack of membership. The Golden Age Club, originally sponsored by the Civic Club, still meets at the Lutheran Church.

Sheraden's Borough Council (now the Community Council) has been active since its inception in the late 1800's. In 1930 a local businessmen's Board of Trade planned improve- ments and activities such as fireworks on the 4th of July, a Halloween parade. The Council also had the bridge in Sheraden repaved. Carl Lenz, the owner of a local meat and grocery store, organized Kennywood picnics and, with the Board of Trade and local churches, was responsible for fixing up the old swimming pool building as a youth center during winter months.

In 1963 the Sheraden Citizen's Improvement Council was organized and two of its first officers, Paul Anderson and Vincent Lackner, still live in Sheraden. In 1973 they began a parade and Community Day picnic celebration. The Council was instrumental in building the new Sheraden Pool in 1974, rebuilding McGonigle Field, planting trees on many streets, refurbishing Sheraden Park, widening the football field, bulding basketball and tennis courts, placing tot lots around the community, and designing a community building. The Halloween parades were started again and the Council cooperated with the Sheraden Football Association to put up a Christmas Tree. Their name was changed to the Sheraden Community Council. 

Compiled by Mrs. Sam (DeDe) Palombini and Mrs. Diane Smihal in 1995.

Sources: History of Sheraden 1907, News Publishing CompanyWeekly News Souvenire Edition of 1907, Sheraden Recorder 1908, Southwest Journal, 1976 Bicentennial Newspaper(published through the Sheraden Improvement Council), Holy Innocents Parish 75th Jubilee booklet

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