Built in 1854, what is now the Grand Hall used to be St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, a hub for the German, Swiss and Austrian communities. Interesting tidbit: the church was created without windows because of ‘the constant vandalism of virulent anti-Catholic partisans during the ascendancy of the Know-Nothing party.’ (Thank Professor Franklin Toker and his wonderful book, Pittsburgh: A New Portrait)
The Grand Hall was restored in 1995 and now houses banquets and weddings and fancy things like that. The adjacent Priory, is now the Priory Hotel, and that is fancy as well.
The east side of town, while featuring a few gems, has an abundance of vacant properties that have tons of potential. Spend a few minutes walking around and you’re likely to see a lot of houses that look like this:
Knock the dust off of ’em and you’ve really got something. The west side of the neighborhood features some boarded-up beauts too, but on this side of town, the eye-sores are the exception, not the rule. The East Allegheny Community Council, has undertaken ambitious restoration and preservation projects, most of which seem to be centered in the west part of the neighborhood. The Historic Deutschtown House Tour offers a glimpse of many of the restored 19th century homes. I offer you a smaller glimpse.
Teutonia Mannerchor is a “private membership club with the purpose of furthering choral singing, German cultural traditions and good fellowship.” Located on the eastern side of the neighborhood, this building was built in 1888 by George Ott in a style reminiscent of German half-timbered structures. The Teutonia Mannerchor has been around for over 150 years and is still going strong. The German ties in the neighborhood run deep; just ask club board members Graf, Gerthoffer, Benzer, Schmitt, and, of course, Club President Cornelius Von Maurik.
In 1994, Mayor Tom Murphy had the idea to clean up some of the city’s vacant lots, place picket fence around them, and showcase them as properties for sale. About a year into the program, Project Picket Fence had cleaned up 80 lots, with 19 groups pledging to maintain them. Mayor Murphy’s attempt to expand the program failed when City Council griped that most of the original 80 lots were now just tall weeds with fences around them. This lot on the east side of East Allegheny seems to be maintained ok, but it’s still there, empty, 16 years later.
Current Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has a similar program called Green-Up- “Transforming Blight into Beauty.” I haven’t passed any Green-Up sites yet, but I’m hoping his plan achieves greater success and longevity than his predecessor’s.
The Allegheny Social Hall is now abandoned in an overgrown lot on the east side of the neighborhood. All 16,000 sq ft can be yours for $460,000.
East Allegheny is a tale of two hoods. The eastern part of the ex-town of Allegheny, PA, the neighborhood was annexed with the rest of the town in 1907 and was home to a large German population. The predominance of German immigrants in the area led the neighborhood to be called Deutschtown, a moniker that’s remained in place to this day.
So the two hoods part: East Allegheny is divided by the 279 expressway- the land east of the highway is often referred to as East Deutschtown, the land west, West Deutschtown. The east side of town has few businesses, many vacant homes and buildings, and bleak, narrow streets and alleys. The west side is booming with green space, renovated homes, architectural marvels, coffee shops, bars, you name it. Let’s discuss.