PITTSBURGH - A century ago, the city of Allegheny merged with the city of Pittsburgh.
Allegheny, a city of 145,000 people, lay north of the Allegheny River and was Pennsylvania's third-largest city. Many Alleghenians mourned when the city, now known as the North Side, merged with Pittsburgh.
But now, there are plans to save as many of the area's Victorian buildings as possible and for the construction of a new Carnegie Library branch. The 84-acre Allegheny Commons Park is in the midst of a more than $16 million plan to return its fountains, reline its promenades with trees and build a boathouse on Lake Elizabeth.
David McMunn, a board member of several North Side preservation groups, said that even if one does not know Allegheny's history, "You can't help but get the feeling something profound happened here."
For a time in the late 1800s, Allegheny was home to more millionaires per capita than any other city in the world, and many of the homes on its "millionaire's row" remain on Ridge Avenue. It was home to Western Pennsylvania University, a forerunner of the University of Pittsburgh, the original Phipps Conservatory, a Carnegie Music Hall and Library and theaters.
Pittsburgh, which had been annexing other areas, had twice sought to annex Allegheny before 1907.
Though many Allegheny residents opposed a merger, the state changed the law to allow the count of combined votes to determine the majority. Pittsburgh, which was three times larger, voted almost unanimously in favor, Allegheny 2-1 against.
With the merger, Pittsburgh became the country's fifth-largest city, with more room to grow industrially and a new source of tax revenue.
Even today, many North Siders still don't feel the area fits comfortably in Pittsburgh's weave of neighborhoods.
"We're just different over here," said Mike Coleman, president of the Allegheny City Society. "When we moved here, we were amazed at how much like a village it is, apart from the rest of the city."
Barbara Burns, a former city councilwoman, said: "I think a lot of folks felt like we were a stepchild. The sentiment is that we've always been an afterthought and a dumping ground."