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Society marks 1907 annexation of Allegheny City

| Saturday, July 28, 2007
A statue of Fame sits atop the 1871 Soldiers Memorial overlooking Lake Elizabeth in the West Park section of Allegheny Commons, Monday, August 18, 2014.
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
A statue of Fame sits atop the 1871 Soldiers Memorial overlooking Lake Elizabeth in the West Park section of Allegheny Commons, Monday, August 18, 2014.

On a December day nearly a century ago, the mayor of Pennsylvania's third largest city crossed a bridge over the Allegheny River to hand off the reins of his government to the mayor of the state's second largest city.

The transaction -- which climaxed a controversial merger -- between Allegheny City Mayor Charles F. Kirschler and Pittsburgh Mayor George W. Guthrie will be re-enacted later this year as part of activities that start today recognizing the 100th anniversary of Pittsburgh's annexation of what now is the North Side.

"It was really a profound thing to try to accomplish, taking two cities and making them one. There are a lot of changes that happened on both sides," said David McMunn, secretary of the Allegheny City Society, a nonprofit that helps preserve the history of the old town.

The society today will use the "Jubilee Celebration in the Park" -- an event hosted by the North Side/North Shore Chamber of Commerce -- to highlight centennial observances.

"We think this is a great time to reminisce about the past," said McMunn, who called the annexation "probably the most significant thing that happened in the 20th century in the city of Pittsburgh."

Festivities for the North Side's fifth annual park celebration are scheduled from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. in the East Park section of Allegheny Commons. The theme is not just historical. The celebration includes entertainment, exhibitors, artists and food vendors, a health and wellness fair, basketball tournament and children's activities. Admission is free.

A history tent will feature photographs of Allegheny City, a story area and a memory book where visitors can record their recollections of North Side life. The event will pay tribute to famous women of Allegheny -- past and present -- with large puppets designed by Cheryl Capezzuti.

"It's going to be visually stunning to see hundreds of these giant puppets," said Robin Rosemary Miller, executive director of the North Side/North Shore Chamber of Commerce.

A parade through the park featuring the puppets is set for about 4 p.m., Miller said.

Larry Berger, executive director of SLB Radio Productions, which does the Saturday Light Brigade radio show, said the production company will be recording interviews with residents who have stories to pass along about Allegheny and North Side history.

"Audio is a powerful tool to help collect thoughts and reflections, and collect and teach history," Berger said.

Allegheny was incorporated as a borough with about 1,000 residents in 1828. Its population climbed to 10,000 by 1840, when it was designated a city and grew to nearly 150,000 before Pittsburgh annexed it. The hotly debated merger was approved in a June 12, 1906, referendum. Although a majority of Allegheny residents opposed the move, Pittsburgh's larger population carried the vote.

Opponents challenged the annexation in lawsuits that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld it. Allegheny formally was annexed on Dec. 7, 1907.

Additional Information:

Centennial Celebration

Today -- starting at 11 a.m., a history tent in the East Park section of Allegheny Commons, in the North Side, will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1907 merger of Allegheny City and Pittsburgh.

Sept. 27 -- Allegheny City Society lecture on the annexation, Northland Public Library, 300 Cumberland Road, McCandless, 7 to 9 p.m.

Oct. 20 -- Guided motorcoach tour of 14 neighborhoods surrounding Allegheny Commons, 8:45 a.m. until 3 p.m. $40 per person with lunch included.

Dec. 6 -- Commemoration banquet, Grand Hall at The Priory, 614 Pressley St., North Side, 6 to 10 p.m. $30 per person. Advance reservations only.

Dec. 7 -- Re-enactment on the Roberto Clemente Bridge of handing over the ceremonial 'keys' of Allegheny to Pittsburgh on this day in 1907. 11:30 a.m.

For more information, contact the Allegheny City Society at 412-322-8807 or by e-mail at history@alleghenycity.org

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