Birmingham and East Birmingham (now called the "South Side") was surveyed and established by the English. The first industry was glass. By 1850 almost 60 small glass shops produced more than half the country's glass. Most of the glass for the settling of the West was shipped via the Ohio River from Birmingham, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh, then the area around Fort Pitt (now known as the "Golden Triangle") annexed Birmingham in 1872.
New glass production technology wrecked Birmingham's glass era in 1875. Iron foundries now started to grow and during the last several decades of the 1800's Pittsburgh benefited from the immigration of every nationality in Europe. Birmingham and by now East Birmingham had representation of every one of those nationalities with a predominant number of Eastern Europeans.
Each nationality built their own school and church. Steel boomed and the evolving "South Side" became a densely populated eclectic, dynamic neighborhood.
The decline of steel in the 1960's and '70's demanded that Pittsburgh affect as dramatic an economic turnaround as any city has ever experienced. Pittsburgh successfully diversified and changed into the high tech era and is now as stunningly beautiful as any city in the world.
The South Side neighborhood leadership was at the forefront of pioneering urban gentrification and has been visited by study groups from cities around the world. Today East Carson Street is "America's Longest Business Victorian National Historic District". It boasts over 700 businesses including start up high techs, fascinating "niche" shops, diverse restaurants, bars and entertainment. Pittsburgh's most vibrant neighborhood is still very much a neighborhood and everyone, from the old timers, college students, young professionals to 'empty nesters' from the suburbs, live here and It's location is central to everything that is uniquely Pittsburgh.
Construction of the three story brick home of John G. Fisher was started in 1860 and completed in 1862. Fisher was a German immigrant and was in Pittsburgh as early as 1854. Fisher manufactured bricks.
Under the front sidewalk and extending under part of the Sarah Street Fisher built an eight by twenty four foot brick walled room connected to the house basement by a low 15 foot long tunnel. We believe it's only useful value would have been for access to an underground railroad safe house. With some verification information from Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation our investigation revealed the following facts:
The underground railroad history experts doubt the tunnel at our Pittsburgh bed and breakfast was ever actually used that late. Interestingly, however, Fisher laid bricks on the dirt floor in the tunnel and basement. The tunnel bricks are worn from very heavy use… probably during Prohibition.