Monday, December 18, 2006

elastic Pittsburgh

Here is a question.. does anyone know the last major annexation by the City of Pittsburgh?

I was thinking about that question because of the news recently about how Pittsburgh will be providing garbage collection for Wilkinsburg. I think this is actually more important than the passing media attention it got. That's not to blame the media, who really wants to read about garbage collection. Nonetheless, it represents a concrete example of cooperation among municipalities, and there are few examples like it to go around.

Just for the record, I can't really see this happening in my lifetime, but as a thought experiment it is worth asking whether Wilkinsburg would ever merge with the City of Pittsburgh. If you take the quotes in that article at face value, some in Wilkinsburg think it could be a stepping stone toward the City providing other services.

but back to the question. If you ignore the mostly vacant riverfront land northwest of Hays which the City acquired in the 1950's and a few other smaller parcels of land.... the last major annexation that expanded the city came in 1931 when it annexed parts of Mifflin Borough which would become the neighborhood of Homewood Heights and some other sections of the 31st ward. I have put the history of Pittsburgh's growth online here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every few years someone raises the possibility of the Pittsburgh Public Schools merging with the Wilkinsburg School District, given that Wilkinsburg has essentially taxed itself into oblivion to support its failing school system. Politically it seems to be a nonstarter for numerous reasons, not the least of which being the city schools don't have anywhere close to the resources needed to turn around the Wilkinsburg schools, even if you factored in an infusion of state aid.

There were numerous school district consolidations in the 60s and 70s, the final, I believe, the federally mandated creation of Woodland Hills. (The others if memory serves were the result of state mandates. We once had more than 2,000 districts in this state.)

Monday, December 18, 2006 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the map, by the way.

Where does one get the info on what parts of the city constituted places like Pitt Twp and Peebles Twp and the like?

Monday, December 18, 2006 3:22:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Duquense is a little closer to being functionally alligned with the Pittsburgh SD these days.. but the history of school district consolidation is it's own huge topic which I am loathe to touch. School consolidation happened throughout the US through the first half of the 20th century and was essentially done by the 60's. I think the factoid of note is something like number of school districts went down more than 90% from their peak. A lot was endogeneous as the one room schoolhouse went away.. states certainly got involved and encouraged the process to different degrees everywhere and then there was Brown induced integration/consolidation changes near the end of that trend. The Woodland Hills consolidation here was one of the last federally mandated consolidation of major school districts.

on the Pgh history question. I have a working file that indexes each neighborhood and when it became part of Pittsburgh but its not perfect. I don't have anything that shows the actual borders as they were annexed so the map here is at best representational. I did get a call once from a PhD student looking at historical spatial maps of local muni's but I lost his contact info. A lot of my working file comes from the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Atlas which the center here helped put together for the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance in the 70's and so we have a complete set
of here.

Monday, December 18, 2006 9:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some old maps of Allegheny County in the conference rooms on the 1st floor of the Courthouse. It's been a while since I've been in there, but I seem to remember they showed the old twps and boroughs dating from the early 1800s.

Would that be the soruce of the info used in the neighborhood atlas? Is there a way to get a hold of copies of those maps? Maybe the Heinz History center?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I'm sure there are old muni maps around. Depends just how accurate you wanted to get. A lot of these partial annexations would be hard to sort out. The Neighborhood Atlas is a little more general so that detail may not matter. It has a page of history per neighborhood which typically includes each neighborhood's provenance, but not any detailed historical map if that is what you are asking.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 5:21:00 PM  
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