In the mid-1880s, if one were to compare the City of Pittsburgh to the parcel of land that lay on the northern banks of the Allegheny River, one could not help but notice the difference.
While the area which is now Aspinwall was quiet country, primarily owned by the descendants of James Ross, Pittsburgh, just seven miles away, was rapidly becoming a busy industrial center. Bessemer Steel Company, Union Switch and Signal, H.G. Frick Coke Company, Jones and Laughlin Limited, Westinghouse Electric Company, Pittsburgh Reduction Company (the first aluminum producing company), and Oliver Iron and Steel Company were all in operation by 1890. Pittsburgh also had street cars, the inclines and department stores. The population of Pittsburgh itself was 238,617; and neighboring Allegheny City (across the river) boasted 105,287 residents.
In order to escape the dirt, noise and confusion of the big city scene, some farsighted individuals took a long look at the pastoral area just a few miles up the Allegheny River. Henry Warner, the superintendent of the Allegheny County Workhouse, conceived the idea of a residential community along the bank of the river.
Warner traveled to New York, discussed the matter with Mrs. George (Annie) Aspinwall, and purchased 155 acres from her. When the Aspinwall Land Company was formed in 1890 he became its first president. Pittsburgh residents, mostly upper middle class, purchased lots from among the 60 available for home sites, and Henry Warner's dream started to become reality.
Records show that by 1890, the little town had approximately 400 residents. Many of these residents were young couples with children - - a nucleus for a growing town. The need for a school became apparent. Although a school was in existence, it obviously could not handle the increasing population. As the new development grew, it meant that increasing pressure was placed on the existing government of O'Hara Township to provide the necessary services to the residents of this rapidly growing area. By 1892 it was apparent that O'Hara Township would have difficulty meeting some of the new population's needs. Accordingly, a group of forty residents, men and women alike, signed a petition requesting incorporation as "The Borough of Aspinwall, a self- governing unit."
In December of 1892 the Borough of Aspinwall was formed. And the first recorded meeting took place on February 27, 1893 in the office of the Aspinwall Land Company. John Lawrence was sworn in as the first burgess. Council members included John Cowan, Ezra Creese, C.H. Reach, president, W.C. Scott, W.R. Smith and F. Armstrong. These men then established the following committees, with three members on each: Ordinance, Streets, Finance, Fire, Light, and Health. 1
In April of 1893 Lot 319 (210 5th) was purchased and the Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department had a home, which was also used for meeting of the Borough Council. By August George Bowman was the first president of Hose Company No.1. In September the fire department was completely organized and the first fire chief James Beveridge was named.
As Aspinwall continue to grow, phase 2 was brought up at the Dec. 1899 council meeting (which would include everything above 6th.) They saw a need for a second fire station and another fire house was built by August of 1904 on 12th Street.
As you may not be aware the fire department does more than put fires out and recuse people, did you know that the fire department with help of the resident’s help push back the PA Railroad from laying tracks in Aspinwall this was deemed the Midnight Rebellion of 1903 (May).
1AM- Thomas Carlin, saw a work train come up the track and about 150 laborers swarmed out & began "pinching" it down toward the street. Carlin tried to telephone uptown to give the alarm, but the telephone wire had been cut. Carlin tried to start the whistle, but someone had cut the rope, and he had to climb to the roof and pull down the lever with his hands. He blew the fire signal and in a few minutes the volunteer fire department had begun to arrive, some of the members half dressed. The fire department manned the hoses and fired water into the gang of laborers. 2
By January 1932 a new auxiliary unit was form of the Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department, this was the ladies Auxiliary with the first meeting called to order by Fire Chief Wolfarth with 15 ladies attending, mainly the wives and girlfriends of the firefighters.
In April of 1958 the fire department reached out to the borough in regards to the former dump site in Aspinwall and wanted to turn this is to a playground with a baseball field, basketball courts, swings and sandbox this was a 2 ½ acre site. This was approved and the fire department started this transition, all the work was performed by the fireman and most of the materials where donated. The playground was dedicated in July of 1958 and called “Fireman’s Field”. Another fact of this playground is when winter came the firefighters would then turn a section of it into an ice-skating rink. Do you know which park we are talking about? I bet you don’t. This park was located right next to Aspinwall Fire Department station #2 at 12th and Center Ave. Which today has houses on it. This playground was around until the late 60’s
By the early 70’s the Fire Department had out grown their current fire house on 5th street and working with the borough who was also looking for a new location for the borough building. The site of the Pittsburg Piano Co. building which was in exitance from 1889 to 1930’s. 3 This is still to this day our current location for Station No. 1 on Commercial Ave, where we have been since 1974.
Did you know the Fire Department hosted and ran a street fair from the 1960 until the 80’s, that’s right it was the Labor Day Street Fair.
What about our wonderful flea market which dates back to the early 70’s, it wasn’t always help in the municipal parking lot like it is today, but was actually moved around town and held in different locations. Always ran by the fire department.
1993-1999 the fire department hosted a carnival for the Aspinwall and surrounding areas.
Aspinwall started a live-in program in 2011 with the intent of attracting college students and young adults with the interest of public service in the fire department.
At its height in the 1970s, the Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department boasted a membership roster of 120 volunteers in two fire companies. Today, the department performs its mission with 20 highly-trained men and women of all ages. The department welcomes new members to carry on the tradition of the fire service. The fire department also has a vibrant junior firefighter program for young, civic-minded men and women ages 15 to 17. 4
Over the past 100+ years of service the fire department has provided we have had 18 Fire Chief with the longest running Chief Art Esser held this position for 30 years from 1960 to 1990, next would be our current Chief Gene Marsico with 13 years as Chief.
|James Beveridge 1893-96||Thomas Bryan 1915-1918||Lee E. Albacker 1996-2009|
|Ross H. Love 1896-1899||Harry B. Conner 1918-1921||Gene R. Marsico 2009-|
|Cyrus A. Keck 1899-1903||J.A.Bolton 1921-1923|
|George B. Fehr 1903-1904||Henry M. Wolfarth 1923-1944|
|James Beveridge 1904-1906||Scott Douthett 1944-1948|
|Cyrus A. Keck 1906-1907||George White 1948-1960|
|W.F. Schilling 1907-1909||Arthur G. Esser 1960-1990|
|W.L. Emerick 1909-1915||Nicholas J. Scheid. Jr. 1990-1996|