The History of the South Side Flats Neighborhood in Pittsburgh | Pet Palace

The History of the South Side Flats Neighborhood in Pittsburgh

history of the South Side Flats

Located just south of the heart of downtown and alongside the Monongahela River, the South Side Flats is a neighborhood with a rich culture and history. Best known as Pittsburgh’s “Georgetown,” this area has transformed throughout the years through increased diversity and expanded entertainment options, all while maintaining its historic character.

For more information about what makes the South Side Flats neighborhood a staple in the Pittsburgh community, check out our informational guide today!

A Brief History of the South Side Flats

history of the South Side Flats

Originally established in the mid-1800s, the South Side Flats area has since flourished to become a neighborhood dominated by restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. But the neighborhood itself wouldn’t be where it is today without the decades of continuous growth and expansion it has benefitted from, which our team has highlighted below.

Just some of the notable milestones in the neighborhood’s extensive history include the following:

  • 1763 – Much of Pittsburgh’s south side and its surrounding hillsides were granted to Major John Ormsby in 1763. With the land he was given, he built a lavish estate, which included a ferry to better facilitate travel between his home and downtown Pittsburgh. This project was conducted and completed in the 1770s. 
  • 1811 – After the estate was established, Dr. Nathaniel Bedford, Ormsby’s son-in-law, began to plan out the South Side Flats, originally naming it Birmingham after his native city. During this phase, Ormsby also named various streets after his children, Mary, Jane, Sarah, and Sidney. These street names are still being used in the neighborhood today.
  • 1873 – The South Side Flats quickly grew into an industrial center due to its efficient rail and river transportation hubs. But it wasn’t until the depression of 1873 that Pittsburgh’s iron and steel industrialist, Benjamin Franklin Jones, partnered with banker James H. Laughlin to form the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. The firm soon became the largest employer of the South Side Flats with over 15,000 employees by 1910. 
  • 1920s-1930s – The ‘20s and ‘30s saw a significant influx of immigrants to the area. Mainly comprised of German, Irish, Welsh, and English individuals, these immigrants inspired the 19th-century architecture that we see throughout the neighborhood today. This is especially true of the buildings that incorporate elements of traditional German heritage.
  • 1980s – The decline of the steel industry resulted in significant layoffs at the Jones and Laughlin plant, as well as the closing of the Levinson Steel Company in 1981. Following a series of building fires that hit the area during this time, the South Side Flats began its official redevelopment phase. This included a partnership with the South Side Local Development Company, as well as continual work to preserve the historical monuments that make up this neighborhood.
  • 1993 – After numerous conversations about what should be established on the old Jones and Laughlin plant site, which merged with the Ling-Temco-Vought Corporation in 1974 and, ultimately, closed completely in 1986, the Urban and Redevelopment Authority (URA) finally purchased the property for $9.3 million. The old plant was then repurposed into what is now the Southside Works complex.

The South Side Flats Today

As mentioned previously, the South Side Flats is now a lively neighborhood hotspot filled with local brewpubs, upscale wine bars, and diverse eateries. The area is also known to feature a variety of karaoke spots, dance clubs, and music venues, while still possessing both residential and commercial spaces that each retain their own 19th-century historic charm.

Notable Attractions in the Neighborhood

Throughout the neighborhood’s history, numerous businesses and organizations have been established that have become essential to the area.

Are you in the South Side Flats and looking for a fun activity to do with friends or family? If so, the region is home to many unique restaurants, attractions, stores, and more, including the following:

  • The Pretzel Shop
  • Painting with a Twist
  • Big Dog Coffee
  • Pins Mechanical Co.
  • Jekyl & Hyde
  • The Urban Tap
  • And more!

Alongside notable attractions and eateries, the South Side Flats also has many outdoor activities and parks to enjoy with friends, family, or your furry friend, such as:

  • Three Rivers Heritage Trail
  • Venture Outdoors
  • The Color Park
  • Southside Riverfront Park and Trail

history of the South Side Flats

No matter if you’re just passing through the area or if you’re a longstanding resident of the South Side Flats neighborhood, know that there’s plenty for you to appreciate. For more information on the neighborhood in its entirety, check out the complete guide on what to see, eat, drink, and more in Pittsburgh’s South Side Flats.

Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know About the South Side Flats

To accompany the history of the city itself, our team has compiled a list of significant facts and statistics that help showcase what makes this beautiful neighborhood what it is today. Notable points include:

  • As of 2023, the total population of the South Side Flats is 10,207, with the median age of residents being 29.1 years old (Point2).
  • Out of the current population, 92.2% of individuals are white-collar workers, while 8.7% of people are blue-collar workers (Point2).
  • Being just south of the city of Pittsburgh, the South Side Flats neighborhood covers only 0.936 square miles (Kiddle Encyclopedia).
  • The South Side Flats is home to one of the largest Victorian main streets and concentrations of 19th-century homes in the United States (Pittsburgh Beautiful).
  • The East Carson Street Historic District, a main staple in the South Side Flats, was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places on November 17, 1983 (Kiddle Encyclopedia).
  • The neighborhood today is known to host a variety of college students from nearby institutions, like Duquesne University, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh Beautiful).
  • When the neighborhood was first established, it was remarkable for its glass production, as well as its iron and steel manufacturing (Kiddle Encyclopedia).
  • The Southside Riverfront Park used to host Pittsburgh’s annual Dragon Boat Festival before they moved the event to North Lake Park (Pittsburgh Dragon Boat Festival).
  • The Arcade Theatre first opened in the South Side Flats in 1929, and, at the time, it was the first theatre outside of downtown Pittsburgh to have sound and air conditioning (Kiddle Encyclopedia).

Looking for Pet Boarding in the South Side Flats? Contact Us!

At Pet Palace, we are dedicated to providing unmatched services in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, such as pet grooming, boarding, daycare, and beyond. So if you’re taking in the sights and need someone to care for your pet while you’re busy, we’re the solution!

For more information about how we can best assist your pet, please reach out to our team today.

Lora Shaw

About the author

Lora Shaw

Lora Shaw is currently the Vice President of Operations at Pet Palace.

Categories: Cats, Community Involvement, Dog Daycare, Dogs, Pet Boarding, Pet Grooming, Tips for Your Pets