Pittsburgh has a long Irish history dating back to the 18th century when the first settlers arrived from Scotland and Ireland. These early immigrants were mainly Presbyterian Scotch-Irish, a wild bunch that were at the heart of the 1794 whisky rebellion! and who over time also founded the University of Pittsburgh and some of the regions best known colleges.
The early 1800′s saw the arrival of Irish Catholics, and in 1808 these immigrants built St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in the Strip District. The Great Irish Potato Famine resulted in Allegheny County’s Irish population doubling over a ten year period, most however arriving from prosperous areas such as Ulster. The Sister’s of Mercy were also present and made many important contributions to Pittsburgh’s heritage including St. Paul’s Cathedral, Carlow College and Mercy Hospital.
Irish from other parts of the U.S. also ended up in Pittsburgh while working on the Ohio & Pennsylvania Railroad and the Ohio Canal, and stayed as dockhands or in the coal fields.
During 1890, more immigrants arrived and settled primarily at the Point in downtown Pittsburgh. An entire community of Irish sprung up around the old Fort Pitt Blockhouse, calling themselves “Little Ireland.” Other Irish communities grew in the South Side, Strip District, North Side, Oakland and Lawrenceville. Crowded and poor, groups such as the Ancient Order of Hiberians eventually helped to change people’s attitudes and conditions improved. In 1940 Pittsburgh was to have its first in a long line of Irish mayors.
In the 2000 census Pittsbugh city recorded a polulation of 334,563 with nearly 16% (almost 53,000) claiming Irish ancestry. The community is alive and vibrant and is proud of its Irish heritage.
PITTSBURGH IRISH FESTIVAL
The 19th annual Pittsburgh Irish Festival kicks off this Friday, Sept 11th, and runs through to Sunday the 13th. All the fun and festivities will be at the Riverplex at Sandcastle near the Waterfront in West Homestead / Pittsburgh.
The organisers have a fantastic line up of events and live music, and the schedule is packed with entertainment.
Pittsburgh has a great record of celebrating its Irish heritage, and this has become one of America’s finest Irish festivals. It’s well worth reading the background story to get an appreciation of the festival’s history, and the important part it plays in Pittsburgh life throughout the year.
Well done guys, slainte, and we hope you have a really great time.