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War Side: Pittsburgh’s North Side

The WAR Side: Story of NorthSide Pittsburgh

Just a mile north of Heinz Field and PNC Park resides the heart of the Pittsburgh streets, the North Side, which developed such a reputation years ago that many gave this side of Pittsburgh the alias of the War Side.

While the days of gangbangin’ in Pittsburgh are of the past, the city’s street life consisted of numerous gangs throughout the city like the Bloods, Crips, West Side Convicts, and the LAW gang, all who were created in the ‘hoods of Pittsburgh urban areas.

While the days of gangbangin’ in Pittsburgh are of the past, the city’s street life consisted of numerous gangs throughout the city like the Bloods, Crips, West Side Convicts, and the LAW gang, all who were created in the ‘hoods of Pittsburgh urban areas.

The North Side’s reputation of the 1990s with the friction between neighborhoods led to this section of the city to be labeled as the “War Side”, a side of Crips, Gz, and multiple well reputable hoods like Hoodtown or the Rhine Street of Spring Hill home to the Three Rivers Apartments.

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Over the years the black community expanded specially after urban renewal with the construction of the Civic Arena destroyed key parts of the historic black community of the Hill District, which led to a population expansion into the North Side’s housing projects and neighborhoods.

Before the expansion of the city’s black population into Northside Pittsburgh, the black community was only limited to areas like Charles Street, the Central Northside, and other nearby neighborhoods, while also being successful and thriving communities.

A mural depicting Pittsburgh black community, located along Charles Street.

While Lower Manchester had a sizable black population, after the 1960s both Upper and Lower Manchester, divided by Pennsylvania Avenue, became predominantly African-American and a very popular neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s black community.

As half of the Hill District was destroyed, African-Americans were forcing to relocate in the city’s housing projects and two on the North Side are Northview Heights and Fineview’s Allegheny Dwellings, some of the city’s largest housing complexes.

Built during the 1950s and 1960s, these two neighborhoods helped in various ways to contribute to the North Side being referred as the War Side as Northview Heights, a former mixed racial community, became so bad that the area eventually became a gated community.

northside pittsburgh ghetto northview heights

Northview Heights housing complex

During the influx of African-Americans into the North Side a large portion was demolished, the East Street Valley community, due to the construction of interstate 279 that would help relocate the North Side’s white population further north.

With white flight the nearby black communities of Central North Side and Charles Street grew into Perrysville South and along Brighton Road, making everything south of Marshall Avenue to become predominantly African-American by the 1970s and 1980s.

By the 1990s, the streets of the North Side were in full effect as the S.O.E alliance, meaning either Soldiers of Everybody or Soldiers Over Everyone, with Northview Heights and some of the North Side’s other Crip ‘hoods created one of the city’s tightest bond amongst separate gang areas.

northside pittsburgh gangs ghetto

Graffiti of the Brightridge neighborhood, which once home to the Tre 8s

Another infamous area was around Brighton Road, a section of the North Side that was home to Brighton Place and the Mad Cave Crips of Morrison Street and the former Tre 8s of Brightridge, all around the intersection of Brighton Road and California Avenue.

The city of Pittsburgh has historically been known for creating their own homegrown gangs, and one being the Gz that consisted of the Manchester OGz and the Wilson Avenue Gz who were once in an area known as Snapville off Perrysville Avenue.

northside pittsburgh ghetto

The heart of the Wilson Avenue neighborhood

A community that has had its share of indictments and media attention is the Central North Side or Mexican War Streets, a community known as the home of the Hoodtown Mafia.

Hoodtown was one of the city’s most active neighborhoods during the 1980s and 1990s as many were centered around Carrington Street, but through numerous arrests during the 2000s and gentrification the neighborhood is mostly a memory.

With the streets and urban communities of the North Side having a close location to both Steelers and Pirates’ stadiums, as well Pittsburgh’s downtown area, the ‘hoods of the North Side are in the current process of redeveloping and gentrifying.

northside pittsburgh ghetto

Upper Manchester in its beginning stage of gentrification

Communities around Federal Street, the Lower Manchester area, and the Central North Side neighborhood are some of the North Side sections that are seeing the most rebuilding, but the process will eventually make its way to all communities that are south of Marshall Avenue.

With the new construction, hundreds of former residents are forcibly relocating farther north into neighborhoods around Brighton Road like Marshall-Shadeland and Brighton Heights or further north along Perrysville Avenue.

While there is more to the North Side story, this article should provide an introduction to a side of town that was once referred as the “War Side” as times have altered much of the community and changed the fabric of North Side’s former society.

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*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

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