City Stories

The War Side: Pittsburgh’s North Side

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The WAR Side:

Story of Pittsburgh North Side

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

Pittsburgh 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.

pittsburgh north side

Off Perrysville Ave. is the former home of the Wilson Ave Gz.

Before the rise of street activity, the black community of the North Side 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.

pittsburgh north side

A representation of Pittsburgh North Side black history near the Charles Street area.

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.

pittsburgh north side

The Northview Heights housing complex.

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.

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.

pittsburgh north side

Image of the neighborhoods along Brighton Road.

By the 1990s, the streets of the Pittsburgh ghetto of the North Side was 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.

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 Upper Manchester neighborhood.

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.

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 of the Pittsburgh ghetto, especially 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.

The heart of the former Hoodtown neighborhood.

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.

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.

A dumpster sitting outside of soon to be renovated homes in the Central North Side section, formerly known as Hoodtown.

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.

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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.