Let's Learn From the Past: Bloomfield

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Known as Pittsburgh's "Little Italy," Bloomfield today comprises a variety of specialty Italian shops and traditions. But more than 100 years before the first wave of Italian immigrants, another ethnic group laid claim to this city neighborhood.

Located about three miles east of Downtown Pittsburgh, Bloomfield encompasses less than one square mile bordered by Shadyside, Oakland and Friendship.

Its name originated in the mid-1700s, when George Washington described the area as a "field of many blooms." In 1771, German immigrant Joseph Conrad Winebiddle turned the blooms to farmland with cattle and a variety of cash crops. During the Revolutionary War, Winebiddle supplied beef to soldiers at Fort Pitt and used the profits to buy more land, creating a 648-acre farm that spanned what is today Bloomfield, Friendship, Garfield and East Liberty.

Eventually, Winebiddle's descendants divided his land and sold the lots to fellow German immigrants. These German Americans created the Bloomfield business district and built closely knit row homes throughout the community. By World War I, waves of Italian Americans began to lay claim to Bloomfield. Many came from the Abruzzo region in central Italy in search of a better life.

Bloomfield provided economic opportunity through factory work and, eventually, the growing health care industry.

As Bloomfield became more ethnically concentrated, Italian-American specialty shops and community traditions thrived.

Today, Donatelli's Italian Food Center, Tessaro's Restaurant and the green, white and red-striped parking meters help to showcase Bloomfield's Italian pride.

Visitors to the Heinz History Center can learn more about the people and events that have shaped Pittsburgh's eclectic neighborhoods as part of the long-term exhibition "Pittsburgh: A Tradition of Innovation." For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.

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