Troy Hill: A Homeland in Allegheny
Geography and tradition, key elements in the growth of any community, contributed significantly to the unique development of Troy Hill. Long before 1877, when Pennsylvania legislature approved the annexation of Troy Hill into Allegheny City, hundreds of German-speaking families trekked up the wagon and footpaths to establish their homes on the plateau overlooking the town of Allegheny, the Allegheny River, and across the river, Pittsburgh. On this relatively flat hilltop there emerged a village reminiscent of the old world: a heimat or homeland, in Allegheny. By the time of the Civil War, German Catholic immigrant families, settling in what was at the time a rather rural area beyond the borders of Allegheny City, gathered to sing “Grosser Gott, wir loben dich” (Holy God, We Praise Thy Name). Within a few decades, German Lutherans added their great chorale, “Ein feste Berg ist unser Gott” (A Mighty Fortress is our God). By the end of the 19th century, on the westernmost section of the plateau known as Bohemian Hill, Czech immigrants blended their ancient Hussite hymns into the chorus of the Troy Hill community.
Tracing property ownership provides considerable insight into community development patterns. Such is the case with Troy Hill. Early in the 1780’s the government of Pennsylvania, anticipating the removal of British authority in the thirteen colonies, was confronted with the economic dilemma of raising the funds necessary to pay the troops who had served the Commonwealth in the war for American Independence. The Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, in March 1783, set aside a little over 3,000 acres of land opposite Fort Pitt as a “reserve tract.” Land in this tract, one of several similarly designated areas of the state, was to be sold as a revenue raising measure to pay the troops. The “Reserve Tract across from Fort Pitt” included all of the land north of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers between the mouth of Wood’s Run, on the west and of Girty’s Run on the east. The northern boundary was an irregular line connecting the points where the two creeks flowed into the rivers. From within this three thousand acre wilderness, Allegheny Town and numerous other municipalities would emerge throughout the 19th century. By the century’s end almost all of these villages and boroughs would be annexed by Allegheny City. In 1907 it all was swallowed up by the annexation of Allegheny City into Pittsburgh. Present-day Troy Hill was a densely forested section of the Reserve Tract in the late 18th century when it was acquired by Captain George Wallace. Following his service in the war with Britain, Wallace was appointed by Benjamin Franklin, in 1788, as the first Common Pleas Court Judge in the newly formed Allegheny County. The following year, Wallace, who was becoming a prominent landholder in the area, purchased Farm #5 (402 acres) in the Reserve Tract, and in 1791 he obtained Farm #6, adding an additional 276 acres to his holdings. These two “farms” were undeveloped land stretching from the present-day East Street valley to the border of Millvale. These purchases were clearly of a speculative nature in that Wallace, his wife Jane, and their eight children resided at their plantation “Braddock Fields” located at the present site of the Edgar Thompson Works in Braddock. Riverfront property, of greater value than that in the hinterland, enabled Wallace to sell 55 acres of land fronting the Allegheny River to Joseph and Margaret McFerran in 1906 for $1,214. Following Wallace’s death, however, his properties were divided among his children. In 1813, the Court awarded his daughter, Arabella Wallace Beltzhoover, the wife of Daniel Beltzhoover, the remaining Reserve Tract property. At that time, Allegheny Town, a small settlement located in the very center of the tract, had a population of fewer than fifty families. By 1828 the population had grown to 4,000, which was enough to raise the political identity and status of Allegheny from a town to a borough. The population expansion along Allegheny’s eastern border and the adjoining sections of the Reserve Tract set the stage for several property transactions culminating in the summer of 1833 with plans for the development of a town called New Troy which was to be located on the plateau overlooking the Allegheny River. Judging from the surnames of New Troy’s owner developers in the 1830’s and 1840’s, it would seem that the ethnic composition of the village was destined to be families with English, Scots, or Irish backgrounds. In fact, one such family, that of Thomas and Susan Lonsdale, provided an acre of land to the Christ Episcopal Church of Allegheny to be used as a burying ground for, among other factors, “any persons who shall have been born in England.” (This cemetery was located beside the present location of the Mt. troy Fire Department.) Lonsdale also sold property, nearby the Episcopal cemetery, to the Bes Almen Society for use as the first Jewish cemetery in the region. It was the demographic developments along the riverfront in the eastern sections of Allegheny City, however, that would play the determining role in the settlement of New Troy.
Deutschtown and the “Swiss Hole”
Henry Rickenbach Sr., a native of the Basel region of Switzerland first arrived in Allegheny Town in 1808. Recognizing the commercial potential of the region, Rickenbach acquired a piece of property along the north bank of the Allegheny, (nearby the present location of the 16th Street Bridge). On this land he built a log house. Returning to Switzerland several years later he convinced his family, which included the family of Nicholas Voeghtly Sr. to migrate to America. The Rickenbach and Voeghtly families played a very significant part in the development of the easternmost section of Allegheny as well as the communities on Spring Hill, Spring Garden, and New Troy. In 1823 the Voeghtly and Rickenbach families bought a sizeable piece of property from the estate of James O’Hara. Fronting on the river and extending far back into the interior, this property became the center of the business enterprises of the families. These Swiss families were among the first developers of cotton mills in the area. The job markets created by their investments encouraged German-speaking immigrants to settle on or nearby their property. Eastern Allegheny was becoming the Germantown (Deutschtown) of the region. The neighborhood in the vicinity of Voeghtly and Rickenbach Streets became known as the “Swiss Hole.” Within a decade or so after the arrival of the Rickenbachs and Voeghtlys the commercial and manufacturing developments along the river, which was being enhanced by the construction of the Pennsylvania Canal system, created a major stimulus to population growth. By the 1840’s the farming hinterland beyond the original borders of Allegheny Borough was divided and developed into residential sites for working class families. In 1840 with a population over 10,000, Allegheny Borough became Allegheny City. The economic expansion of the 1840’s and 1850’s created by employment in cotton factories, meat packing houses, soap and candle making companies, tanneries, and lumber mills greatly contributed to the settlement of the hillsides just beyond the flood plain of the runs and river. During these years the village of New Troy began its transformation from a sparsely settled farm community to a neighborhood of working class families. The rapidly growing population of Allegheny and Pittsburgh necessitated a relocation of burial grounds away from the city centers. In 1842, the German Catholic congregation of St. Philomena in Pittsburgh purchased land in New Troy for use as their parish cemetery. Here, (presently the site of the North Catholic High School auditorium) the parishioners of St. Philomena’s erected a small chapel – the Chapel of the Sorrowful Mother. A year later, in 1851, the German Evangelical Protestant Church of Pittsburgh, which was located on Smithfield Street and Strawberry Way, bought four acres of land (presently Gardner field) owned by one of the developers of New Troy, Peter Bates. There they relocated their congregation’s cemetery from land beside the church. A “daughter church” of the Smithfield congregation was formed in 1833 when the families in Allegheny who belonged to that church refused to contribute money for the construction of a new church building. Instead, the Alleghenians formed a new congregation, The First German Evangelical Protestant Church of Allegheny, popularly known as the Voeghtly Church. This congregation built their own house of worship at a site on East Ohio Street near the foot of Troy Hill Road on land donated by Nicholas Voeghtly Sr. In the 1860’s the congregation bought acreage on Troy Hill known as Herr’s Orchard as the site for a burying ground.
The Allegheny Water Basin
Addressing the needs of the living was of greater importance to the people of Allegheny City than a concern for the final resting place of the dead. One significant problem confronting rapidly growing urban communities of the 19th century was that of providing a constant supply of fairly healthy water. As the citizens of Allegheny City sought a solution to this new problem a significant economic and political relationship between Allegheny and the New Troy community began to develop. In June of 1847 the Allegheny City Committee on Water purchased seven acres of property on the western side of Troy Hill from Nicholas Voeghtly Sr. for $12,000. On this site, the Allegheny City Water Basin was built the following year. The reservoir was 412 feet long, 225 wide, and 15 deep. It was constructed of brick and stone. The stone was probably quarried at the westernmost end of the hill. A pumping station was built on the bank of the Allegheny across from Pittsburgh’s 22nd Street. Water from the deepest currents of the river was drawn 350 feet to the pumping well and then pumped 570 feet up the hill to the basin. There it was filtered through sand and dirt before it was sent down to the homes and businesses in Allegheny. The basin served the people of the city far longer than it should have. As the population of Allegheny City grew so did the demand for water. By 1893, in order to meet the public’s needs the basin was filled and emptied three times a day. A decade later it increased to six times a day. Eventually the reservoir was replaced by a healthier and more efficient water system. For a while the old basin was used as an ice skating rink in winter months. It is now the site of the Cowley recreational center. Many of the stones from the original basin are presently used in the Troy Hill Community parklet.
Transportation technology plays a considerable role in the development of all industrialized communities. At the base of Troy Hill the technological pattern was as follows: first the river, then the plank road alongside the canal, followed by the railroad, and finally the highway. These systems of moving goods and people contributed greatly to the manufacturing and commerce along the north shore of the Allegheny. By the middle of the 19th century the economic growth in this section of the Reserve Tract reached the point for property owners and residents to establish their own municipal identity. On April 5, 1849 the Borough of Duquesne was created by act of the Pennsylvania legislature. Duquesne included all of Herr’s Island and extended northward from the narrow bank of the river up the extremely steep slope of Troy Hill to the middle of Lowrie Street. The borough was bounded on the west by the city line of Allegheny (present day Chestnut Street) and on the east by the original boundary of the Reserve Tract (Girty’s Run). Located within the borough were residential and manufacturing uses on Herr’s Island as well as the Ellsworth Fire Company, Simpson Methodist Church, a school house, and a number of businesses such as Harvey and Warner’s saw mill, Goetzinger’s tannery, and the Allegheny City water works. Several canal houses were there including those of Matthias Voeghtly and Frederick Dehtlief. These structures remain to this day. “Herr’s Orchards,” which were owned by John and Barbara Herr Croft and the Mechanics Iron Works were also in Duquesne. Clearly the center of the borough in the 1850’s was along the shoreline. Much of the land between the top of the bluff and Lowrie Street was either undeveloped or farmland. This would change rather rapidly within the subsequent years. The massive industrialization in the region that was spurred on by the Civil War would transform rural New Troy into the vibrant, flourishing, and self contained community of Troy Hill. Accompanying this period of economic boom was the expansionist interests of the Allegheny City government. On March 18, 1868, Duquesne Borough was annexed by Allegheny. In the summer of the same year, Henry Reinemann wrote from Troy Hill to his older brother Adam, who was on an extended visit to Darmstadt: “The Saengerfest commences here today, and the streets are gaily decorated with evergreens and flags, etc. Tonight torchlight procession and concert, tomorrow night Grant Concert at the Skating Rink and so on for four days.” Reinemann’s report of the Saengerfest celebrations on Troy Hill vividly illustrates that the community of New Troy, a pre-industrial settlement of farmers, artisans, and a few landed families, was becoming Troy Hill, a community of people closely tied to the industrialization taking place in Allegheny, in Pittsburgh, and throughout the region. Troy Hill, in the last quarter of the 19th century would become a neighborhood of bakers and brewers, of furnace men and firefighters, of molders and meat cutters, of railroad workers and pickle packers. The village on the hilltop overlooking the Allegheny would be reminiscent of towns in the Old World overlooking the industrial development along the Rhine and the Rhur. Along Lowrie, Hatteras, and Rialto streets a village center of shops, schools, churches, offices, and taverns would develop. Beyond the center, on the streets and alleys leading to the very edges of the hill would be the homes of hundreds of working class families tracing their ties back to Hesse, Swabia, Alsace, Bavaria, Prussia, and Bohemia. Here German-speaking immigrants and the children of immigrants would create a “Heimat” or homeland in Allegheny. This transformation is easily seen by tracing the role of significant institutions and individuals who made it happen.
Most Holy Name Parish
Henry Reinemann’s description of Saengerfest activities in the Summer of 1868 indicates the population changes occurring in the Troy Hill community in the years following the Civil War. Just as German-speaking Protestants in Allegheny City had founded their own congregation, the Voeghtly Church, in 1833, so too the German-speaking Catholics of Allegheny organized their own parish, St. Mary’s, in 1848. St. Mary’s, on Lockhart Street, served the German Catholic community in Allegheny City and the entire Reserve Tract. Father John Stibiel, St. Mary’s pastor, recognized that the growing number of German Catholic families necessitated the establishment of new parishes closer to their homes. In 1866 Father Stibiel set about the task of opening two new parishes. For the German Catholic community in Manchester, a neighborhood west of the Allegheny, he organized the St. Joseph congregation. For the families on Troy Hill and beyond a second parish, Most Holy Name of Jesus, was established. On May Day of 1866 Bishop Domenec, following the advice of Father Stibiel, purchased ten lots of property from Mrs. Eliza Seymour of Cazenovia, New York. This site, part of the original plan for the village of New Troy, was centrally located on the hill not far from the New Troy public school. (Local tradition holds that it was the Seymour connections with the area near Troy, New York that led to the name New Troy.) By summer of 1866 the congregation was organized and on August 26th the cornerstone for the church building was put in place. While the St. Joseph congregation on Locust (now Liverpool) Street in Manchester could draw from the wealth of several of its families to complete the construction of their church within one year, the Most Holy Name congregation relied more heavily on the physical labor and skills of its own working class parishioners to aid in the construction of its church. Their lovely simple building was dedicated by Bishop Domenec on June 7, 1868. This significant event must have contributed to the joyous festivities referred to in Henry Reinemann’s letter of that same summer. During the dedication ceremonies the Bishop announced the appointment of Father Suitbert G. Mollinger as pastor to the congregation of Most Holy Name Parish. In 1888, the original church building was remodeled and expanded into its present form.
Father Suitbert G. Mollinger and St. Anthony’s Chapel
Father Mollinger was born in Belgium in 1830 to parents who were from titled, wealthy, and prominent families. He is thought to have studied some for a career in medicine before making a decision to prepare for the priesthood. Mollinger came to America in the 1850’s where he prepared himself for ordination. In 1859 he was ordained by the Bishop of Erie and sent to serve a mission in Brookville, the Jefferson County seat. Five years later, in 1864, he entered the diocese of Pittsburgh where he served parishes in Wexford and Perrysville before being assigned as parish priest for the Most Holy Name church on Troy Hill. Seventy some families comprised the Most Holy Name Parish congregation when Father Mollinger arrived in Troy Hill in 1868. The neighborhood, still one of woods and fields, would grow rapidly during the years of his pastorate. Mollinger’s personal background of wealth and privilege contracted greatly with parishioners who were farmers, butchers, railroad men, and other blue-collar artisans. Much of the priest’s inherited wealth, however, was invested for the parish itself. Within weeks after assuming his pastoral duties Father Mollinger encouraged the parish leaders to use part of his resident, which was located in the rear of the church building, for a school. In this small space about 25 pupils comprised the first student body of the Most Holy Name School. During the following five year period the population of Troy Hill expanded rapidly. This growth caused the parish leadership to plan for a new school building that was built in 1874. At that time Father Mollinger arranged for the School Sisters de Notre Dame, who were already serving nearby at the St. Joseph’s orphanage, to take on the teaching responsibilities in the new school. In 1877 Father Mollinger paid for the construction of the magnificent parish rectory on Hazel (now Harpster) Street. This massive Second Empire structure, which continues to serve as Most Holy Name’s rectory, makes a definite statement about Father Mollinger’s own upbringing prior to becoming a priest. The rectory, along with a few other residences in the neighborhood, stands in marked contract to the hundreds of working class homes on Troy Hill. Pastor Mollinger’s inheritance was necessary to provide for the architectural style and decorative features of his residence. Throughout the rectory there is great evidence of the fine materials and excellent craftsmanship used in its construction. At present the main hall and staircase, with its beautiful stained class windows and stately grandfather clock, along with the spaces formal dining room with its cut crystal chandelier and use of gold leaf, make an indelible visual statement that this was not the home of a simple parish priest. Records show, however, that Father Mollinger was indeed very committed to his parish as well as to a larger community of devotees who came to Troy Hill seeking his prayers, advice, and medicine. Throughout his pastorate Mollinger’s reputation as a priest, doctor, pharmacist, and healer grew far beyond Allegheny City. When he immigrated to America in 1828 Father Mollinger brought along a small but valuable collection of sacred relics. His deep interest in religious relics and their power combined with his personal wealth enabled him to expand this collection. Upon returning to Troy Hill from a trip to Europe in 1880, Father Mollinger approached the parish committee with a plan to erect a new church building. This new building, he proposed, would not only serve the parish but also provide a setting for the proper display of his relics. When the lay leaders decided against Mollinger’s project, primarily because of cost factors, their pastor decided to pay for the construction of a chapel, named to honor St. Anthony of Padua, with his own funds. The chapel was built on land adjacent to the rectory. The original chapel, built in 1880, encompassed what is presently the sanctuary and the front part of the nave. Here Father Mollinger placed his ever increasing relic collection. A decade later, work was begun to expand the chapel to its present-day dimensions. This elongation of the nave was designed to accommodate the placement of hand-carved life-sized figures of the Stations of the Cross. The 1890 project also included a refurbished altar, a new organ, and new bells. All expenses were paid by the priest himself. As work neared completion, plans were made for a grand celebration. Father Mollinger received permission from the Bishop to offer a high mass in the chapel on June 13, 1892, the Feast Day of St. Anthony. On that festive day thousands of parishioners and devotees of Father Mollinger arrived on Troy Hill to worship and seek guidance from this popular and powerful priest. In the morning, after the first mass of the day, Father Mollinger suffered an attack of dropsy from which he never recovered. Two days later he died. Many of the faithful who came to participate in the opening of St. Anthony’s chapel remained for the pastor’s funeral mass and burial in Most Holy Name cemetery. Father Mollinger’s legacy had a long lasting impact on his parish as well as the entire Troy Hill Community.
Troy Hill School
Until 1877, when all of Troy Hill north of Lowrie Street was absorbed into Allegheny City, that section of the Reserve Tract was considered part of Reserve Township. By the 1830’s the population on the hilltop and beyond reached the point where families requested the establishment of a public school. This request was met in 1836 when a one-room brick school house, measuring 24 by 36 feet, was built in New Troy. This simple country school, known as Mount Troy School No. 1 in Reserve Township, was eventually sold in 1860. At that time the local school board purchased land at the corner of Clark (now Claim) and Hamilton (now Hatteras) Streets. There a two room one-storey brick school house was built. With a growing population in the years following the Civil War the need for more space was met by the addition of two rooms in 1874. A decade later the student population increased to nearly 200 pupils. It was clear to the community leaders that the four room building was unable to meet the classroom space needs of the community. Troy Hill, now the Thirteenth Ward of Allegheny City, was part of Allegheny’s school system. In 1885 the old school was demolished and a new building was erected. At that time, the principal of the Troy Hill (Thirteenth Ward) School was Professor Sylvester Stotler. He had a staff of seven teachers drawn from various neighborhoods of Allegheny City. Stotler had taught in Troy Hill from 1869. In the 1885 year end report to the Allegheny City Board of School Controllers the comment was made about the Troy Hill school: Present indications point to the time in the very near future when the accommodations [of the 1883 building] will be inadequate to meet the demands of a rapidly increasing school population. This prediction was right on the mark. By the turn of the century the 1883 building was replaced by the Troy Hill School of 1907. Here Troy hill elementary age students were taught until the building was demolished and students were assigned to Schiller and Spring Garden schools. The land on which the school stood was transformed by the citizens of Troy Hill into their own community parklet.
Most Holy Name School
At the dedication of Most Holy Name Church in June of 1868, the Bishop of Pittsburgh announced the appointment of Father S.G. Mollinger as the pastoral leader of the new parish. Within weeks after assuming his new post Father Mollinger made plans for the opening of a parish school in one of the rooms set aside from his residence in the rear of the church building. This school opened in September of that year with one lay teacher and about thirty pupils. Seven years later, in 1875, a much larger school building was dedicated for the children of this growing parish. Over the next 25 year period the school building was enlarged twice, once in 1888 and again in 1898. By the turn of the century, parish leaders aware of the population explosion in Troy Hill, came to the realization that the 1875 building was no longer able to meet the needs of the parish. Under the leadership of Father Michael Mueller, plans were drawn for a new school which was dedicated in April 1907. A major expansion of this school occurred in 1923. What originated as a one room school in 1868 had grown to a three storey building of 16 rooms by the mid 1920’s. An additional structure, a two bay one storey house at the corner of Hatteras and Claim Street, was acquired by the parish in 1933 for use as classroom space for a commercial course of study. In 1941 the commercial program was discontinued, and in September 1942 the building space was transformed into the parish kindergarten. Throughout most of its history the School Sisters de Notre Dame were in charge of the Most Holy Name educational program. From 1875, when the Sisters walked over to the school from St. Joseph’s orphanage, they conducted the education of thousands of Most Holy Name students. The sisterhood, with its origins in 19th century Germany, was dedicated to work in Catholic schools throughout the world. In the United States they frequently took charge of schools in German speaking parishes. The impact of these sisters on the students of Troy Hill was quite considerable in that close to 40 young women of this one parish entered the order.
Troy Hill Presbyterian Church
The constantly expanding job market which was part of the country’s industrial boom in the late 19th century drew large numbers of immigrants from central Europe to the mills, rail yards, and workshops in America’s cities. Allegheny City was no exception to this pattern. By the 1890’s many working class families from central and eastern Europe settled in those sections of Allegheny nearby the mills, factories, rail centers and stock yards. The eastern neighborhoods of Allegheny City became home to Czech immigrants from the Bohemian region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many of these Czech immigrants were bilingual, speaking both Czech and German. It is not surprising that they would settle nearby or among German-speaking people. In the 1890’s a Czech settlement developed on the westernmost bluff of Troy Hill, what came to be known as Bohemian Hill, as well as in Spring Garden valley and the Deutschtown community in eastern Allegheny City. In the old world the official religion of Bohemia was Roman Catholic. Many Czech families faithful to Catholicism and their ethnic identity organized a congregation in Allegheny City and constructed a church on Progress Street named in honor of St. Wenceslaus, the patron saint of Bohemia. There was, however, within the Czech community a deeply rooted Protestant heritage going back to the 15th century reformer Jan Hus. Czech Protestants of Allegheny City, finding a society free of a state controlled religion, gathered into a congregation where they would carry on their Hussite traditions. In 1901, under the leadership of the Reverend William Brichita, the Czech Protestants of Bohemian Hill dedicated a small chapel on the site of an abandoned stone quarry at the westernmost point of Troy Hill. This worship site was named Bethlehem Chapel, the name of Hus’s church in 15th century Prague. Worship here was conducted in Czech. Before long the chapel took on the function of a social gathering place for many Czech families. Early in the 20th century Presbyterian congregations of Allegheny supported the Czech congregation as their program and the building expanded. In February 1908, the congregation dedicated a larger church building as the First Bohemian Presbyterian Church. Ten years later the congregation oversaw the building of a parsonage adjacent to the church. Gradually the use of the Czech language was replaced with English as the next generation of church members found themselves less fluent in the language of their parents and grandparents. From the 1920’s to the 1960’s the congregation grew in size, mission, and independence. Since then the movement to suburban neighborhoods has taken a great toll on the congregation’s vitality.
Grace Lutheran Church
Considering the German background of Troy Hill residents, it is rather surprising that a Lutheran congregation was founded quite late in the 19th century. One probable reason was the location of the First German Evangelical Protestant Church (Voeghtly Church) at the foot of Troy Hill Road. From its founding in 1833, this congregation sought to unite German-speaking Protestants both of Lutheran and Reformed traditions. On Madison Street, not far from the Voeghtly Church, the St. John’s German Lutheran Church was established in 1837. In all likelihood many of the German-speaking Protestants of Troy Hill belonged to one of these congregations. However, in 1889, the Home Mission Committee of the Trinity Lutheran congregation on Stockton Avenue selected Troy Hill as a neighborhood for mission work. After surveying the community for interest, a Lutheran Sunday School was organized in early 1890. It met weekly in Reinemann’s Hall at the corner of Claim and Lowrie Streets. By the next summer, Trinity congregation gave financial support for a supply pastor who would set about the task of gathering a congregation. The Grace Mission, formally organized in November 1893, began making plans to secure property for a church building. Within a six month period a site at Tinsbury and Hatteras Streets was selected and purchased. The size of the congregation grew rapidly in the mid 1890’s resulting from a totally non-religious factor. During those years the Pennsylvania Railroad shops were moved from Blairsville to the Allegheny/Pittsburgh area. The company provided a caller for trainmen only in one community – Troy Hill. This decision made it almost imperative for railroad workers to live in the community. Many railroad men and their families who moved into the neighborhood joined Grace congregation. In February 1899 the present church building was dedicated with the second floor sanctuary filled to capacity. The Lutheran commitment to a strong musical tradition, prompted congregational leaders to set about the task of installing a pipe organ for their new church. Andrew Carnegie committed to half the cost of the new organ when it was installed in 1906. For over a century Grace Luther congregation has played a vital role as a good neighbor to thousands of families in Troy Hill.
The Reinemanns of Troy Hill
If most present-day residents of Troy Hill examined the deeds for the property on which their home stands, more likely than not the name Reinemann would appear. In the middle of the 19th century several Reinemann and Reinemann-related families began moving to Allegheny City and to Troy Hill in particular. Two brothers, Eckhard and George Reinemann, emigrated to America from Hesse-Cassel in 1849. Although they resided for a time in Allegheny City both brothers owned and operated “restaurants” in Pittsburgh. Eckhard’s Duquesne Eating House was located for a while on Smithfield Street and then later moved to Wood Street. Eckhard Reinemann’s brother, George was also his competitor. George Reinemann’s Excelsior Eating House, specializing in oysters and seafood, was located on Diamond (now Forbes) Street. By the 1870’s both brothers had moved from homes in Allegheny City to Troy Hill where they lived next door to each other. Witnessing a growing demand for housing in the area, Eckhard and George Reinemann also invested in real estate ventures on the hill. In the time period 1860 to 1875, five cousins of Eckard and George: Adam, Louis, Henry, Caroline (Mrs. Victor Scriba) and Catherine (Mrs. Reinhold Siedle) also moved from various sections of Allegheny City and Spring Garden to new residences on Troy Hill. Of these seven Reinemann households that of Adam Reinemann, more than any other, dominated the real estate market of the community. A young Adam Reinemann, along with his parents and siblings arrived in America in 1832, and the family settled in Chambersburg. In 1843 Adam traveled to Allegheny City to visit his sister and brother-in-law, Caroline and Victor Scriba. While there, he met and married Elizabeth Rickenbach, a daughter of Henry Rickenbach, Jr. and Verena Voeghtly Rickenbach. After a brief return stay in Chambersburg, Adam and Elizabeth Reinemann returned to Allegheny City. Within a year or two Adam opened a jewelry and watch business – the family trade – in Pittsburgh. By the 1860’s, however, Adam’s personal investments along with Elizabeth’s inheritances from her Rickenbach and Voeghtly connections enabled Adam to move from his retail involvement into the world of banking, insurance, and real estate development. In 1865, at age 45, Adam Reinemann was president of the German Trust and Savings Bank of Pittsburgh as well as the Third National Bank in Allegheny. He also founded and was a major stock holder of the German Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh and the Teutonic Insurance Company of Allegheny. In 1873 he helped found the German National Bank. During these same years, the 1860’s and 1870’s, Reinemann bought major land tracts, mostly in Troy Hill, that gave him almost uncontested control of real estate development at the precise time there was an increased demand for homes by hundreds of workers and their families. Between 1860 and 1899, when he died, Adam Reinemann was the major property owner, house builder, landlord, and mortgager on Troy Hill. In those years he made over 750 real estate transactions, mostly from his real estate office located in an addition to the Reinemann house on Lowrie Street. Originally a wooden Greek revival house, the residence is presently located at 1523-27 Lowrie Street. Success in the worlds of finance and real estate enabled Reinemann to travel abroad. Following a two year stay in Darmstadt, during which is brother Henry managed his business affairs, Adam returned to America and made plans for a larger, more magnificent home. In 1876 their wooden house was moved to the east of its original location to make room for a grand double brick house that was built close by the corner of Lowrie Street and Troy Hill Road. The western half of this imposing Second Empire residence was given to Adam’s son, Augustus, and his young bride, Emma Hartje Reinemann. Adam and Elizabeth and their children lived in the other half. In their later years the Reinemanns spent summers at their seaside cottage in Atlantic City and traveled extensively in Europe, throughout America, and even to Egypt and Palestine. Adam Reinemann died in 1899. Shortly thereafter his wife and children moved from Troy Hill to Pittsburgh’s East End. One Reinemann biographer commented: “Their exodus was observed and bitterly resented by their neighbors and tenants as the real estate office continued to function for many years.” Two of Adam Reinemann’s younger brothers, Louis and Henry, also resided and invested in real estate ventures on Troy Hill. Louis, a partner in the jewelry and watch making firm of “Reinemann, Meyran, and Siedle” followed Adam’s lead in making a number of successful real estate investments. The Louis Reinemann home at the intersection of Ley and rialto Streets is perhaps the one Reinemann residence on Troy Hill that has the same external appearance as it did in the 1870’s. Henry Reinemann, Adam’s youngest brother, attempted unsuccessfully to follow in his brother’s footsteps. Even with considerable help from his family, Henry’s attempts in the world of retailing and real estate came to naught. By the 1880’s he moved from Troy Hill to Lawrenceville where he died penniless. Caroline Reinemann Scriba, an older sister of Adam, Louis, and Henry, was married to Victor Scriba, editor and owner of Der Freheits Freund (The Friend of Liberty), the major German newspaper in Western Pennsylvania. The Scribas were the very first of the Reinemann-related families to move to Allegheny City, when several rather prosperous German businessmen encouraged Scriba to move the publication of his newspaper from Chambersburg to the Allegheny/Pittsburgh community. Scriba, a Free Mason, founded the Jefferson Lodge for the German-speaking Masons of Allegheny. Most of the Reinemann men were members of the Jefferson Lodge. Victor and Carline Reinemann Scriba lived in a large Italianate mansion – Scriba Place – located on a hilltop just above the Troy Hill community. From their home the Scribas could look over the village, Allegheny City, Pittsburgh, and a portion of the Allegheny River valley. The city line, separating Allegheny City and Reserve Township went through the Scriba mansion. This handsome structure still remains nicely positioned on its original three acre tract. Catherine, the youngest of the Reinemann siblings, married Reinhold Siedle, a native of the Black Forest region of Baden, in 1849. Siedle was a partner in the jewelry and watch business with Henry and later with Louis Reinemann. He was also significantly involved in real estate ventures with his brother-in-law, Adam. The Siedles lived on Troy Hill for a time in the 1870’s. They were the first of the family to move across the river to the eastern neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. By the turn of the 20th century the direct involvement of the Reinemann family in the Troy Hill community diminished rapidly. The last of the family to live on the hill was Marie Hall Reinemann, Louis’s daughter-in-law. She died at Scriba place in 1946.
Eberhardt and Ober
One of the many crafts transferred from the Old World to the New World was that of brewing. With the large number of German-speaking families in the eastern wards of Allegheny and on Troy Hill it is not surprising that a number of small family-owned breweries were founded in those communities. Two families, the Eberhardts and the Obers were among the owners of the earliest breweries at the base of Troy Hill and along Spring Garden valley. In 1870 John Ober, and Alleghenian by birth, went into partnership with his brother-in-law William Eberhardt, a native of Strassburg in Alsace, thus forming the Eberhardt and Ober Brewery. Both partners lived in stylish residences located on Troy Hill. In 1883 Eberhardt and Ober absorbed the J.N. Straub and Company Brewery and by so doing became the major beer-making company in Allegheny. In 1899 the Eberhardt and Ober Company affiliated with the Pittsburgh Brewery but the company continued producing top quality Eberhardt and Ober lager from their state of the art brewery at the corner of Vinial Street and Troy Hill Road. Both founders of the Eberhardt and Ober Brewery represented the people of Troy Hill on the Common and Select Councils of Allegheny City. John Ober was most generous to the city by establishing the Ober Foundation that transformed the Haymarket Square in Allegheny’s town center into the formal Ober Park. He also took the lead in the acquisition of Riverview Park. Today the Penn Brewing Company, owned by the Pastorius family, continues the fine brewing traditions of Eberhardt and Ober at the original site.
Engine Company No. 11
A walk through Troy Hill produces ample evidence of why a firehouse was needed in this neighborhood. Most residences which were built in the 19th century were constructed of wood and positioned very close to each other, often sharing common walls. With heating stoves in almost every room and kitchens equipped with wood burning ranges, it is understandable why the citizens placed high priority on establishing a local force of fire fighters. Fire Station No. 39 presently located in the very center of the hill, rests on part of the foundation of an earlier firehouse established in the 1850’s. When troy Hill became the 13th Ward of Allegheny City, this community fire fighting force was identified as Engine Company No. 11. The present building was erected by Allegheny City in 1901 making it the oldest fire station in the entire city of Pittsburgh. In 1907, following Allegheny’s absorption into Pittsburgh, the official name was changed to Fire Company No. 51. A later renumbering resulted in the present No. 39 designation. At its location at Ley and Forman Street this fire company continues as an integral part of the Troy Hill community. In the mid 1990’s firefighter Donald Dorsey, along with his colleagues throughout the city, led a campaign for constructing a memorial to firefighters who sacrificed their very lives in the line of duty. The Western Pennsylvania Firefighters Memorial, located in Voeghtly Cemetery in Troy Hill was dedicated on September 2, 1995.
A Contemporary Treasure: Mary Wohleber
To many fans of Rick Sebak’s “The Northside Story,” a favorite scene is Mary Wohleber excitedly leading the filmmaker to the very brink of Troy Hill for a breathtaking view of the city beyond. To Northsiders, that scene is akin to Julie Andrews in the opening of “The Sound of Music.” But Andrews was acting and Wohleber was totally authentic in her excitement for and pride of her home neighborhood. Mary is a staunch Northsider, but first and foremost she has been the guardian of Troy Hill’s history. As the kindergarten teacher at Most Holy Name School, Mary talked and walked the history of Troy Hill with at least two generations of youngsters. As a community activist, Mary has long advocated programs such as the creation of Alte House and the Troy Hill parklet to continue the high quality of life for Troy Hill residents. As a historic preservationist Mary Wohleber took a leading role in restoring St. Anthony’s Chapel and in telling its story. As an author, Mary penned numerous articles about Troy Hill, its institutions, and its people. As a guide, she strolled (No! Mary does not stroll!) – she hustled tourists of all ages from far and near around “the hill.” Filled with a life-long wanderlust and limitless energy, Mary has seen much of the world, but she always returns to her home on Lowrie Street. In many ways, Mary Wohleber, who is a fourth generation resident of Troy Hill, is the epitome of a neighborhood historian, an oral historian, a folk historian. As much as Mary loves Troy Hill, the people of Troy Hill love and admire her. Mary Wohleber is, indeed, the personification of gemutlichkeit.
This text originally taken from a booklet written and produced by John and Ann Canning. c. 1999 John Canning