A Brief History of Northview Heights – 1960’s

Apr 13, 2015 | | 65 comments

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I have very fond memories of Northview Heights.  My family moved to 883 Mt. Pleasant Road in Northview Heights from Howard Street in 1968.   Lamar/Williams Street ran across our back yard leading to Penfort Street going West, and the Northside Drive-In going East.  In the fall we had a clear shot from the back windows in the bathroom and my mother’s room.  We had a big front yard with a tree, and a metal fence-like gate around it.  Next to our front door was a metal box for the milkman’s deliveries.  Around back there were a set of twin, metal in-ground garbage cans, slightly above those is the spout for the garden hose. There were two giant metal poles about 20 yards apart with 5 hooks each, for clothing lines.  About a quarter of our back yard was a down hill slop that was capped off by chain link fences.  I went to preschool behind the 3 stories on Penfort Street, kindergarten below the 3 stories on Chicago Street and attended Northview Elementary from grades 1-6. We moved away around 1990, but were there long enough to experience many of NVH’s evolutions 1st hand.  I’m normally disappointed when I do an internet search for Northview Heights because the results are mostly associated with crime.  So I decided to give a brief, crime-free rundown of the neighborhood that I called home for about 22 years.  I will eventually cover all eras, but this blog is about the beginning years.

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The area called Northview Heights was once part of Reserve Township, until it was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1931.  It’s approximately 2.5 miles from downtown and about 101.4 acres in size.  The land had a few houses and farms on it, but mostly open space.  There is also an old civil war fort located near the tower on top of the hill. I have heard that pieces of the wall are still there today, but I have yet to make visual confirmation.  Between 1955-1962 the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh built 999 units including 2 ten-story units, 7 three-story walk-ups (with incinerators), and 516 Row Units that stood isolated from surrounding neighborhoods.

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The housing unit officially opened in 1962.  The residents were an interracial mix of Black and White families and seniors.  The neighborhood had it’s own elementary school and recreation center that also hosted events.

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Northview Heights Elementary – Located at 310 Mt. Pleasant Road, Northview Elementary was opened in September of 1962.  It had 20 classrooms, 2 kindergartens, a large library and gymnasium.  The school had an enrollment of 600 students grades kindergarten to 5.

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The Vineyard – Around late 1961 two young, plain dressed Catholic Nuns from Holland named Jacinta Van Winkel & Eleanor Garritson purchased a 100 year-old mansion at 101 Hazlett Street, just outside of Northview Heights.  Their goal was offer community services and minister to the residents of Northview.  By 1963 they added 3 more members of their community.  They had weekly contact with around 350 children and their house offered classes in crafts, music and religion.

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The Bethany House – Around 1962 North Methodist Church Union purchased a 70-year old mansion located at 1500 Chicago Street, just outside of NVH’s property limits.  It was run by 30 year old, Reverend John Garvin who was also a resident of Northview.  Mrs. Joan Lotz was the Director of Educational Program and Mr. John Patak was the Youth Director.  About 800 people a week were going to the Bethany House by 1963 for Scout meetings, a well baby clinic, sewing & cooking classes, and recreation in the basement which featured a soda fountain.  The connecting chapel had over 100 members of the community in attendance weekly.

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The Northside Drive In Theater – The Drive In opened on November 15, 1963, one week before the Kennedy Assassination. Located at 3200 Williams Road (formerly Geyer Road) and Lamar Street, it had one screen an could accommodate 700 cars.  It also had a 10,000 square foot concession stand that featured 2 separate auditoriums for year round viewing.  The 1st movies shown there were “A New Kind Of Love” featuring Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward, and a movie named “Sodom & Gomorrah.”

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Northview Heights Clinic –  The clinic was opened in Northview Heights in 1964 as the result of a Federally-sponsored three-year study of the effects a small full-time medical clinic could have on the health of a huge modest-income housing project with practically no medical service.  Dr. Florence L. Marcus headed a four member team, the others were not doctors.  She quit her job with the Pittsburgh Public Health Department to work there without pay for almost a year.  In 1967 the program ran out of money.  The residents held a fundraising rally to save the clinic.  They gave money out of their own pockets until new funding was resolved.

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Bairhalter’s Grocery Store – In 1964 Ray Bairhalter a resident of West View, opened a grocery store at 1560 Chicago Street, on the Reserve Township side of the Chicago Street Cul De Sac (loop). He stated, “The 1st 4 years of the store were the best in their lives, one year they cleared $350,000,”  according to a Pittsburgh Press Story from 1978.

Food Delivery – Northview Heights is isolated on a hill.  Many services were delivered to the neighborhood by truck or bus.  There were two converted school buses that served as mobile convenience stores.  Tanney’s and Piggy Wiggy’s “Store Buses” would park in various locations throughout the neighborhood selling bread, pop, candy and more.  Mancini’s bread truck would bring fresh bread and donuts to the area, and the Vegetable Truck would have greens, corn, and more.  The milkman also delivered milk directly to the doors.  Both the store buses and food trucks offered credit to the residents based on their word.

The neighborhood’s Black population increased steadily during the civil rights struggles of the 60’s.  The loss of it’s White population was not unique to Northview Heights.  “The great White flight” as it was called, affected the entire Northside.  Coupled with the destruction of East Street Valley by Penn Dot, most of the White population moved further Northward toward Observatory Hill, West View, Bellview, Avalon & the North Hills.

The 1970’s was another Golden Age in the memories of most of the residents, myself included.  Next time I will cover NVH in the 1970’s.

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65 Responses

    1. I remember the days I went to Northvirw school when it first opened Remember all those people from the article They were finishing up the houses when I move iin We had a lot of fun and new beginnings there We could see the drive in from our bathroom window I became s nurse and worked 40 YEARS NORTHVIEW DID ME GOOD

    2. Great article, thanks for the great memories. I am proud to say that I am from NVH. We moved to NVH in 1967. We lived at 1481 Chicago street for years. I remember everything in this article. My mother was a member Church of our Savior until 2011. I attended the Bethany House on a daily basis. I want to say the lady we had a class with was Ms Clemmons. I remember Rev Garvin and his daughter Margaret. I went to NVH elementary school, Latimer Middle and I graduate from Allegheny High School in 1980.

  1. I found this article very interesting. Attended McNaugher and Perry High ca 1953. Moved away from Pgh in.1962, this article gave me a better understanding of NVH. The Bairhalters had a store at the top of Maple Ave when I was a kid.

    1. Hi, I am the granddaughter of Vera Elizabeth Dunn who went to McNaugher in 1917 and lived in a brownstone home on 2518 Maple Ave. My father told me it was a special house but was torn down to make way for a road. I am wondering if anyone in the area has memory of what happened sometime after 1945 or if there are any pictures. Thank you. Writing some family histories.

  2. I remember when we (Parker Family) lived at 328 Mt. Pleasant Rd. in 1962-63 Northview Heights School wasn’t even built, also their was still dirt roads….It was a Lovely Place to Live and peacefull…had a Beauitfull childhood, went to the Bethany House, Church of Our Savior, also had a summer job at the Recreation Center,also the Harambee House…Great Times!

  3. Barbara Johnson from 105 Penfort st, we moved in NVH from maple ave on Nov 1968 they said our house use to be the rent office My dad was Ralph Comunale an white Italian man whom fell madly in love with a strong black woman named Annie Johnson with 11 children whom he also loved like we were his own.My dad worked down the Vien yard as we called it with Ms Gardner NVH was one big happy family back then how I wish we could bring back that love we all had growing up in NVH. .

  4. We moved to NVH in 1964 – six kids. It was ok for a little while. My brother and I delivered the Press and Post-Gazette. We were mugged at least three times in a year. Obviously it served us for awhile and then we had to be part of the “white flight” because it was unsafe.

  5. Awesome, my family was one of the original families that moved to NVH in 1962-1963. I was a little tiny something. I remember the store buses, the church, the Vineyard, the Dr. Office, the baseball games played on the one and only ball park. I attended all three schools from k-12. There were big parades with drill teams and beauty queens. Those were the days. Thanks for the walk down memory lane

        1. Hi Tomlin family! I am Barbara Garvin (one of Rev. Garvin’s daughters). When I read the April 2015 comment from Rod, I said to myself I wonder if that is Marcus Tomlin’s brother? Well sure enough it was–hi all! My dad & family moved to Alaska in 1975 and most of us have been here ever since. So nice to read history and comments from some who remember “the good old days in the Heights”.

      1. Hi Bonnie Streyle….I’m John Dougherty, Dede’s son…I remember you and your family quite well….has this article been a sentimental journey, or what!

  6. I never lived in NVH but had lots of friends from there. I knew Rev Garvin John Patak and there was a Dr Zigler that worked at Bethany House. My mother was Ruth Garrity. She worked as the secretary for these men and did the church bulletin. Does any one remember her or Rev McMann?

  7. My family the Harris’s moved to NVH in 1961 – I was 4 yrs old. We lived on the corner of Mt Pleasand and Hazlette. I think the address was 721 Mt Pleasant Rd. I went to NVH elementary starting in kindergarten thru the 6th grade. We moved the summer I turned 13. I still came back to visit my cousins The Pinkstons for several years up until 1974 or so. Great memories of the Heights and quarter socials!!!

  8. Thanks,Bill bill as you were known to our family.The write up was excellent, had nothing but great memories. Great neighbors and friends that became family.Don’t remember much crime at all.I use to go skating every Saturday and had to get of bus late coming home had to walk down hill and all the way to end of court, and never a problem! Had a wonderful childhood there. We were neighbors and we had a blast 881 Mt.Pleasant Rd. Gerry Bellamy

  9. Great article! I was born and raised across the bridge in the Perry hilltop area in the 60’s and 70s and watched the evolution of the neighborhood. A much simpler, time. Thanks

    1. Hi Rosemary, I am John Dougherty. You and I were in many of the same classes at Northview Elementary…I remember you lived right across the street from the school.

  10. Dennis patsilevas my family also was one of the first families to move to nvh we lived at 520 mt pleasant rd at the corner of mt pleasant and hazlett st I remember the two men who ran the recreation center. there names were lenny wade and russel mary two really good people this artclel has really got me thinking about living in nvh

  11. Totally brought back many memories! I’m Cindy (Gaertner) Tivey. We lived at 1320 Chicago Street and the day we moved in they hung our front door! I’m sure it was 1962 as NVH school wasn’t built yet and I had to walk to McNaugher for first grade. You described the places and people as if it was yesterday! I had many great memories and friends. We moved out of state in 1969 and our house was fire-bombed from the time my sister and brother in law dropped us off at the train station and went back to our house. There were some rough times in that last year and sadly, I was never able to revisit on many trips back to Pittsburgh. Totally enjoyed this walk down memory lane! Thank you for sharing!

  12. Yes I remember your family I think your family lived on the corner house if I’m not mistaken I want to school with your brother I also remember the pinkston they lived on the same side as my family

        1. I remember you and your brother Dave-I believe you lived on Chicago St one building down from the Duckworths. I remember listening to records at your house! Hope all i well!

          1. Hey Ed…yep all is great….Dave has a flock of children and grandchildren and lives in the north hills. He married Roey McCafferty in maybe 1969…. she passed in the mid 80’s and Dave later re-married. I live in florida….and wish I was back in the burg…..will do so when I reture

      1. Not remembering the Pinkstons. Our neighbors were the Shrivers, Mastels, Dudley’s, Bentleys, Notaros, Watsons, Shaws, Boyd’s, and Wallers are all that come to mind right now.

        1. We lived at 1330 Chicago. The corner house next door to the Mastel. My mothers name is Hattie and Father is Charles. Ms Mastel was one of my mothers best friends.

          1. Hi rod.I lived at 520 mt pleasant rd the top row of homes between chicago st and hazlett I remember your sister josephine very well and brother marcus do u remember the davenports and the duckworths they lived on the other side of chicago

          2. That’s a couple names I forgot. My brother Ed was pretty close with the Duckworths and the Davenports sound very famaliar!

  13. OMG–my sister was in love with Steven Duckworth in Elementary, and we still talk about that! Also of course remember the Davenports–Johnnie was big time with my Dad (Rev. Garvin) at Bethany House.

    1. Steve was one of my best friends, and I remember your sister, but for the life of me I cannot remember her first name…I remember she and Steve had a brief romance in maybe 2nd or 3rd grade. I’m John Dougherty, btw.

        1. John, glad to be remembered! I am certain the romance was very one sided, he probably wasn’t even aware of it.

  14. I’m sitting here in Alabama now telling my wife about all the stories and wonderful people of NVH. I remember some of you guys and I remember some of the family names but can’t put a face with the name. I sent this link to my brothers and sister and when I speak with them I tell them about the comments and they smile and laugh. They remember all of you’ll. Marcus talks about you’ll my sister Olivia remembers everyone of you’ll and tries to get me to remember you’ll. Raymond pasted this year and the Scotts and Jones and Brentleys and Giles and Fishers and Richardsons and Batts and Robinsons and many, many others.

    I will forward your comments on to my sisters and brothers stay in touch. Keep dropping the comments when you can this is a good thing. Smile. I miss the days when a neighborhood was a community. If I did something up by the elementary.school my mom would know before I hit Chicago St. Sometimes I would get popped or scolded by someone mom and then get it again when I hit the steps at 1330. The entire community kept us in checked. I remember Rev Garvin my mom always spoke about him.

  15. I live on penfort st when i got married in 1963 my wife mother was one on the 1st to live on penford st in the 2nd row when you start up the hill on the left went to the drive inn all the time up there spent my time growing up on perryville ave and Charles st and at the pool P.V Pool playing corner catchers there also went to Annunciation school then to perry high then to service in dec of 1959i miss them times .

  16. Lived in NVH from aprox. 1962 to 1968. We lived at 438 Mt Pleasant for a few years then moved to 1313 Chicago st. as our family grew. Our family name is Brazill. Mother Mary, father Robert . Brothers Raymond, Robert (Boe) ,Phillip, Me – Paula, sisters Mary & Evelyn. We went to tbe Vineyard, Bethany house, remember Piggy Wiggy and Tannys mobil school bus stores, Mr Softie ice cream truck, the huckster (fresh vegetables) Smoky the milk man and lots of other great memories. Have seen family names that my parents were friends with in comments , Duckworths, Mastels , Daughertys ,McGoughs. Some of our neighbors were the Brosiers(Matti, Celeste, Necie, Neil), Roths(Mimi, Mary Ann), Wallers( Mary Ellen, George),Kohnans (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) Scotts (Pauli).

    1. Hey Paula, John Dougherty here, how wonderful to see your name here. I remember what a wonderful lady your mom was…I think you were a year older than me…..and your crazy brother Bo was my brother Paul’s buddy….
      i remember Evelyn and little Mary and Phillip…you had the big hill up to the tower, behind your house. After you moved, we came for picnics at your house way out in the burbs….for the life of me I cant remember where it was….. near Irwin, right?

      1. Hi John…wow memories. I just came back from Pa and spent time with Boe. Yea he and Paul loafed together. My bro is still really funny, keeps us laughing all the time. We lived in Irwin when you came for picnics. What a memory you have. If your on facebook im Paula Brazill Bates have pics of reunion with Boe.

  17. My grandparent were PAULINE Johnson n Mr Geno their Kidz were Kevin,buster,tonya,vivian,michelle,n Sharon …….any one know em

  18. My address was 349 my pleasant road. I remember a Barbara Garvin. I smiled as I read about the vineyard, the Bethany house. Lived across the street from Northview Elementary. I also have fond memories. Went there until 1969 (?) . We moved, but spent many summers there with my bff. Still have some of the same friends from there.

  19. Interesting article, my address was 325 Mt. Pleasant Road. Thank you Mr. Bill Gandy and Mrs. Kimberley SwissMiss Gandy, Allegheny City Historic Gallery. The story-line brought so many memories from the old neighborhood. Can’t wait to get home and check out the Gallery….People from this neighborhood weren’t just neighbors, we were family. Our friendship, loyalty & respect still dates back to our childhood days of the 60’s, 70’s!

  20. So many years have passed and so many names Forgotten! It’s been nice to relive this part of my childhood, thank you all for sharing!

  21. Does anyone remember a Skibo (guess at spelling). Son would be Edward I think, be about 60 now. Lived on Street behind Pennfort, near the city steps that went down toward the Vineyard?

    1. I remember Eddy Skiba (I think it’s with the “a” …he was in my classes at Northview Elementary, and yes, he would be 60, as I am….

  22. Hi my name is joe mitchell, i lived at 1478 chicago st next door to the hunter family.joey hunter was my best friend. they were great times for a young kid.does anyone know where joey hunter is.I had so many friends there, the list would be to long to mension.in our row was , fairbanks ,posagas,hunters , springersand capos.remember the curtians and mullins.

  23. My name is Bob Newman and I lived at 318Penfort St. from ,1962-1969 . Went to Annunciation grade school with Bob Brazil & Paul Dougherty . Remember the McGoughs ,Duckworths

    1. Hey Bob this is Paula Brazill – lived at 438 Mt Pleasant Rd. Then moved to 1313 Chicago st. as family grew larger. I am ( Boe) Bob Brazills lil sister. I also remember( Doc) Paul Dougherty, Tommy McGough, Duckworths and Mastels. They all loafed together. Was your sister Susan Newman…she was a friend and we attended Annunication school together.

  24. Ronald K. (“Walk’O) Watkins; I lived a 1324 Chicago Street. We moved to northview from the hill district (whiteside Road) in 1962. I remember all of you. What a great pleasure to go back in time, when things were so simple! Love you all. Ronnie Watkins. Key Biscayne, FL and Silver Spring Md.

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