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Swissvale Borough

Swissvale Borough Hall is located at 7560 Roslyn Street, Swissvale PA 15218; phone: 412-271-7101.

Beginnings [1]

In delving into the past history of Swissvale, we shall try to publish it from the time when Swissvale was known as a "Hamlet" from 1850 to 1866. Following this period the title was changed to "The Village" and this name clung to our community from 1866 to 1898. On the 30th day of July, 1898, just fifty years ago, we were incorporated into a borough to be known as "The Borough of Swissvale."

Now to get into the early history of our community. About the time the first gun was fired on Fort Sumter, announcing to the world the beginning of the Civil War, the beauties of the sylvan hamlet of Swissvale, situated in Wilkins Township, were being brought to the attention of many of the people of Pittsburgh.

Surrounded by fertile and well kept farms, the wooded hills, bountiful orchards and waving fields of grain, provided a picturesque and delightful setting for the dozen or so homes which formed the Hamlet of Swissvale.

William S. Haven, whose homestead occupied all the property now owned by the Union Switch & Signal Company, was the proprietor of the largest printing and stationery establishment west of Philadelphia, and was one of the wealthiest men in Pittsburgh.

During the Civil War, Mrs. Haven made daily trips to Camp Copeland, (now Fourth Ward, Braddock Borough), where the Union Soldiers were drilled before being sent to the front. At her own expense she provided soldiers with generous supplies of home-cooked food, and helped to nurse the sick and comfort the dying.

The patriotism and generosity of the Haven family and their solicitude for the welfare of the soldiers, was such as to earn for them the profound respect and admiration of all who knew them.

Andrew Carnegie, who at this time was Superintendent of the Pittsburgh division of the Pennsylvania Railroad, was an intimate friend and frequent visitor of the Haven family. On one of his last visits, having stayed later than usual, he had to run to catch the train for Pittsburgh. In his haste, he fell into an open culvert at the side of the railroad crossing but climbed out with his temper and clothing a little worse for the experience. The next day, the railroad carpenters came out and boarded up the culvert, as Andy did not wish to have a repetition of that occurrence.

Jane Grey Swisshelm lived in a log house adjoining the Haven property, in what was known as the Nine Mile Run Hollow. She so loved this beautiful hamlet, that she bestowed upon it the name of Swissvale and that is how our borough received its present name. Mrs. Swisshelm's activities as a writer and one of the promoters of the Underground Railroad for the succor of slaves fleeing from the South to the North and into Canada for freedom, earned for her fame and prestige which will remain and endure as a part of the history of Western Pennsylvania.

John McKelvy owned and operated one of the finest farms in the township, at that time. The broad acres comprising his farm, covered the greater part of what is now known as the Hill District of Swissvale.

The Robert Milligan farm occupied that section of what is now the Borough lying East of Dickson street and Westmoreland avenue to the section of Braddock and Woodstock Avenues, and from Milligan avenue into what is now Rankin Borough. The Samuel Deniston farm occupied all that territory from what is now Carrie street, West to McClure avenue, and from Monongahela avenue to the Monongahela River.

The Thomas Dickson farms lay between what is now McClure avenue and the Nine Mile Run, and extended from Monongahela avenue to Nevada street in the North Homestead district.

  1. Swissvale 50th Anniversary Executive Committee, Golden Progress: History and Official Program of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Swissvale Pennsylvania, 1898-1948, 1948, Swissvale PA
**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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