Let's Learn From the Past: Lawrenceville

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As one of Pittsburgh's largest city neighborhoods, Lawrenceville has its roots in industry but today is being revitalized as a hot spot for shopping, dining and art.

Located less than three miles northeast of Downtown Pittsburgh, Lawrenceville borders the Allegheny River, Polish Hill, Bloomfield, the Strip District and Stanton Heights.

The community was founded in 1814 by William Foster and named for Captain James Lawrence, who gained fame during the War of 1812 for his last words to his crew: "Don't give up the ship!"

Lawrenceville was incorporated as a borough in 1834 and annexed into the City of Pittsburgh in 1868.

The same year Lawrenceville was founded, Foster sold 30 acres of land to the U.S. government for what would become the Allegheny Arsenal. The government chose the Arsenal's location on Butler Street because it was near both river transportation and the area's rich iron ore deposits. The Arsenal was a supply and manufacturing center for the Union Army during the Civil War and, in 1862, was the site of a disastrous explosion that killed more than 70 people.

Lawrenceville's most famous 19th-century resident was founder William Foster's son, Stephen Foster, the composer of classic American songs such as "Oh! Susanna" and "Camptown Races." Stephen Foster was born in Lawrenceville in 1826, and after his death at age 37 in New York, he was buried in Lawrenceville's Allegheny Cemetery.

As the nation and the City of Pittsburgh industrialized following the Civil War, Lawrenceville became a center for manufacturing and industry, including the Schiffler Plant of U.S. Steel and Iron City Brewing, which was headquartered in Lawrenceville from 1866 until 2009.

Over the past decade, Lawrenceville's main street storefronts have attracted young artists and designers. Even The New York Times has taken notice, spotlighting the quirky independent shops that call Lawrenceville home. Today, Lawrenceville blends tradition with modernity and is a prime example of Pittsburgh's renaissance spirit.

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


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