Do you hate long commutes? If you prefer to live close to work, but still want a large home on a tree-lined lot, you’ll want to consider Squirrel Hill. The neighborhood with the funny name is located five miles from downtown Pittsburgh and just a few minutes from many of the area’s colleges and universities.
A Rich History
When you look at vibrant Squirrel Hill today, it’s hard to believe that the area was once a hunting ground for Native Americans. It’s believed that those first inhabitants gave the area the nickname “Squirrel Hill” due to the large population of gray squirrels that frolicked in the woods and hills. Squirrel Hill’s first commuter was Colonel James Burd, a soldier stationed at Fort Pitt. In 1760, he built a house he called Summerset on the banks of the Monongahela River.
Squirrel Hill continued to grow slowly through the remainder of the 1700s and 1800s. Wealthy Pittsburghers embraced it as the perfect place to build their mansions. Expansion occurred rapidly in the late 1800s when the introduction of trolley lines that made it easier to reach the leafy neighborhood. Both wealthy families and middle managers at Pittsburgh companies were drawn to Squirrel Hill’s convenient location.
Although it was easy to get to Squirrel Hill by trolley, driving to the area meant bumping along a dirt road. In 1927, the commute from downtown Pittsburgh became much easier with the opening of the paved Boulevard of the Allies.
Excellent Housing Stock
Thanks to the early development of Squirrel Hill, the neighborhood is filled with spacious, charming old houses that offer four bedrooms or more. You’ll find Victorians, colonials and many other styles, many of them constructed with sturdy brick. These upscale homes offer plenty of space for entertaining inside and out. If your house hunting philosophy is “the older, the better,” you’ll want to concentrate your housing search on the Murray Hill Avenue Historic District. The district features Victorian, Queen Anne, Shingle style, Ranch and Colonial Revival homes.
Buying a home in Squirrel Hill offers an excellent return on your investment. The current median home value in Squirrel Hill North, where many upscale homes are located, is $543,000, according to Zillow. The site also reports that home values rose 3.8 percent in the last year and are expected to increase 2.3 percent in the next year.
No Car Needed
Stores, restaurants, public transportation and other conveniences are only a short distance away when you live in Squirrel Hill. Residents enjoy a short walk to the business districts on Murray and Forbes Avenues. Everything from clothing to artwork to musical instruments is available for sale in the eclectic mix of shops. If Asian cuisine is your favorite, you’ll find plenty of Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Korean restaurants in Squirrel Hill, in addition to delis, diners and coffee shops. Local favorites include NU Jewish Bistro, Murray Avenue Grill, Taiwanese Bistro Café 33, Independent Brewing Company and Pastoli’s Pizza, Pasta and Paisans and Naya’s Cuisine.
Groceries are available at Murray Avenue Kosher and Giant Eagle Supermarket. The business districts also offers drug stores, banks, salons, the local branch of the Pittsburgh Public Library and even a movie theater.
It’s easy to travel to other areas of the city from Squirrel Hill, as several bus routes run through the neighborhood. Depending on where you live, Shadyside and Oakland are a short walk, bike ride or car trip away. Residents also enjoy convenient access to Route 8 and I-376.
Abundant Open Spaces
Squirrel Hill is home to Schenley and Frick Parks, two of Pittsburgh’s largest outdoor recreational areas. Schenley Park’s 456 acres feature trails, a swimming pool, the Bob O’Connor Golf Course, disc golf, skating and playgrounds. The Park’s Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens offers outdoor gardens, seasonal flower shows and a variety of exhibits and programs.
Frick Park occupies 644 acres and is the perfect place to bike, hike, enjoy a game of tennis or baseball, or let your dog get some exercise at the off-leash dog park. The park is home to more than 100 species of birds and features the only public lawn bowling green in the state. Year-round programs and events, including bird and nature walks, guided tours and Earth Day festivities are offered at Frick Park.
Ample Educational Opportunities
Squirrel Hill children receive an excellent education at Pittsburgh Public Schools. Pittsburgh Allerdice High School provides Advanced Placement courses in 24 subjects and offers a partial engineering magnet program. Younger students may attend the Minadeo, Colfax or Greenfield schools or can enroll in magnet programs offered by the Pittsburgh Sterrett Classical Academy or Pittsburgh Linden International Studies School.
If you prefer a private or parochial education for your children, you’ll find many good choices nearby including Community Day School, Central Catholic High School, St. Edmund’s Academy, Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh and Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh.
Many of the area’s leading higher education institutions are located in or near Squirrel Hill. Both Chatham University and Carnegie Mellon University are located in the neighborhood, while the University of Pittsburgh and Carlow University are a few miles away in Oakland. Other institutions within a few miles of Squirrel Hill include Point Park and Duquesne Universities and The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Older homes offer plenty of character, but it may take a little work to restore a home’s former glory or add modern conveniences. If you’ve recently purchased a home in Squirrel Hill or are considering buying a house in the neighborhood, we can help you improve your space with renovations that reflect your personal style and lifestyle. Get in touch with us to find out how we can make Squirrel Hill, PA, home renovations as painless as possible.
Pittsburgh Parks: Schenley Park
Pittsburgh Parks: Frick Park
Wikipedia: Squirrel Hill
Zillow: Squirrel Hill North Home Prices and Values
Next Pittsburgh: Things to Do in Squirrel Hill