Gould City Hill
(Also known as Ewing's Hill (after Ewing's Farm), Nuggett Hill and Mayer's Hill)

Comprising:

  • Osceola Drive
  • Crestvue Drive
  • Eisner Avenue
  • May Avenue
  • Patterson Avenue
  • Ramsay Avenue
  • Charlet Street
  • Chess Street
  • Hill Street
  • Perett Street
  • Lurry Street
  • Calvert Street
  • Jones Drive
  • As well as the upper portions of Prestley Road

Gould City Hill

--Based on information provided by Chuck Degrosky

For clarification purposes, let us identify Gould City Hill as the area from the Norfolk and Western tracks, up Bridgeville’s highest hill, to the Bridgeville-Collier line on Prestley Road.

History dates the beginning of Gould City when, in the late 1890’s, George and Jay Gould, the latter being the founder of the New York Central Railway, purchased the land belonging to Thomas Redman, and formed the Wabash Improvement Company. Later, C.P. Mayer bought most of the land which did not fulfill the Goulds’ dream. Although some of the lots were sold, it remained largely a wooded area. On the very top of the hill was a mound of stones, 25 feet long and 6 feet high, referred to by the Bridgeville residents as the Indians Mound. It was opened and many artifacts, including arrowheads, were found. One may also remember the presence of the large letters that spelled out Mayer Highlands, which could be seen from a distance away. Here, one might enjoy climbing along those large letters, as well as visiting the famed Indian mounds.

The five oldest streets in this section of town are: Ramsey, Patterson, Calvert, Chess and Hill. Dave Poellot, along with the Mullen Development Company, eventually purchased the majority of the hill and carried out the Goulds’ dream of development. The following streets were created in the late 1940’s and 1950’s: Oceola, Crestvue, Eisner, May, Charlet and Perett.

For the older residents of the Bridgeville area, one may recall the steam-powered engines which picked up and discharged passengers at a station that no longer exists. One might also remember the Bridgeville Dairy Company (formerly the Hittner Dairy), which was located on Ramsey Avenue. Today, the building is occupied by the City-Coin business.

Years ago, when Bridgeville seemed ‘so big’, each section of town featured its own sports teams: Gould City Hill was one, along with the Lower End, Hilltop, Bell Town, Fryers’ Hill, Coulterville and others. All this, however, was before the advent of so much television.

Gould City

--By John F. Oyler, Copyright 2006

Dorothy Stenzel recently added the history of Gould City to her long list of historical research projects. As usual her combination of persistence and good judgment produced a valuable collection of information, some of which is summarized in this Newsletter. It chronicles the ill-fated effort of the Goulds to build a transcontinental railway system, and the small part Bridgeville played in the story.

Jay Gould had an incredible career, amassing a fortune of two hundred and fifty million dollars by his death in 1892, making him the wealthiest man in the world at the time. John D. Rockefeller, at 150 million dollars and William Waldorf Astor, at 140 million dollars, followed him on the list of the world’s richest individuals. Compared to them, J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie were near-paupers, with fortunes of 25 million dollars.

Gould was born in Roxbury, Delaware County, New York on May 27, 1835, the son of modest farmers. When he was twelve years old, he left home with fifty cents and the clothes on his back. He found a job in Hobart, New York, keeping books for the village blacksmith where he earned enough to finance six months of education at the local Academy.

Having learned all he could at the Academy he took a job in a tin shop while continuing to self-study in the evenings. By the time he was 15 he was a full partner in the shop. His next venture was surveying. He took charge of a surveying party that mapped Albany, Ulster, Greene and Delaware Counties in New York; Lake Geauga in Ohio; and Oakland, Michigan. He then established a tannery in Thornhurst, New York, a town—Gouldsboro—and a bank, all before he was twenty-one.

He sold his interests in the town for $80,000 and invested in depreciated railroad securities following the Panic of 1857. With the help of his father-in-law Gould obtained a job managing a railroad connecting Troy and Saratoga, New York. Because of his efforts, it became a highly profitable operation, one that he was able to acquire ownership of. The profits from this venture funded his speculation in the stock market.

With help from Jim Fisk, Jr., Gould wrested control of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad from Cornelius Vanderbilt and made another large profit on the transaction. His speculation in gold triggered the memorable crash known as Black Friday in 1869. Gould came out of it with yet another large profit.

Another achievement was Gould’s gaining control of Western Union in 1881 and establishing a monopoly in telegraphic communication by combining it with three other smaller firms he controlled. He was at the height of his power when he died in 1892 at the age of fifty-seven.

George J. Gould, born on February 6, 1864, was twenty-eight years old when his father died, leaving him seventy million dollars and an entrepreneurial heritage. He did not, however, inherit his father’s success, possibly because of a lack of ability and certainly because he encountered bad luck

Late in the nineteenth century, Jay Gould had an ambitious plan to build a network of railroads that would link the East and West Coasts. George J. Gould was determined to complete the project. The Western Pacific Railway, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, and the Missouri Pacific Railroad linked St. Louis to California. The Wabash Railroad connected Toledo, Ohio to St. Louis. Acquisition of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad in 1901 brought the syndicate as far east as Wheeling, West Virginia.

To reach the East Coast the syndicate planned a railroad from Zanesville, Ohio to Belington, West Virginia, to connect with the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway, which would then connect with the Western Maryland Railroad and provide links with Baltimore and Philadelphia.

The missing link, to Pittsburgh, was supplied by the construction of the Wabash-Pittsburgh Terminal Railway, connecting the Wheeling and Lake Erie to Pittsburgh. Key to its success was a potential deal with Andrew Carnegie to link up with his Union Railroad and take over the substantial tonnage moved for Carnegie Steel. Carnegie was in the midst of one of his frequent feuds with the Pennsylvania Railroad and was looking for a low cost alternative.

Construction of the sixty-mile long Terminal Railroad was expensive--$380,000 per mile. One tunnel cost three and a half million dollars; another caved in when an old coal mine under it collapsed. Twenty workmen were killed when a section of the Monongahela River Bridge collapsed during construction. Although the transcontinental system was conceived primarily as a freight hauling line, Gould sunk a million dollars into construction of an ornate passenger terminal in downtown Pittsburgh.

The new railway ran from the terminal across the Monongahela River, on a magnificent cantilever bridge, into a 3,450 foot long tunnel through Mt. Washington. Another tunnel under Green Tree brought it to a classification yard at Rook, on the hillside above Carnegie. The railroad skirted Carnegie to the east, then proceeded up the Chartiers Creek Valley to Bridgeville.

From Bridgeville it went due west to a junction with the Wheeling and Lake Erie at Hopedale, Ohio. En route, it passed through Gladden, Venice, Hickory, Avella and Mingo Junction. On July2, 1904, passenger service began from the Wabash Terminal in Pittsburgh to Toledo, Chicago, St. Louis and “all points west”. Many of the passengers on the first run were headed for the World’s Fair in St. Louis.

Early in the project, Gould apparently planned to have a major facility in Bridgeville. He acquired the land from the original Thomas Redman warrant from heirs of the Redman family. This essentially consists of all the land north of the current Norfolk and Western Railway, extending to Chartiers Creek, including “Gould City Hill”. The Wabash Improvement Company was chartered to develop this property into residential properties.

A “Plan of Lots” documenting this developmental plan was approved by the Bridgeville Borough Council on August 21, 1903. S.J.S. Fife, President of Council, and F.C. Mayer, Borough Clerk, are named on the document, which was notarized by Notary Public H.M. Blakeley.

The plan shows about 850 lots and numerous streets that never became a reality. It also shows an area south of Villars Avenue that is designated as “Wabash Shops and Terminal Yards”. Apparently Gould intended to locate a major railroad facility here. One wonders if this is the facility that eventually was located at Rook.

A 1905 detailed map of Bridgeville shows the same information as the “Plan of Lots”. Streets in the “Gould Plan” include Charlet, Eisner, May, Villars, Duret, Chalmers Perret, Calvert, Ashley, Hill, Patterson and Ramsey. One wonders who named these streets. The Wabash Passenger Station on Murray is shown, as well as a block designated “Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Ry.Co.” diagonally across Station Street from the Roman Catholic Church.

Another, equally interesting, document is a large advertisement from the June 6, 1903 “McDonald Outlook”. It describes a “Free Excursion…to the City of Gould” to view the “Great Wabash Terminal Industries at City of Gould”. The excursion sponsor is Freehold Real Estate Co., 354 Fourth Avenue, First Floor, Times Building, Pittsburgh, PA”. Readers were advised to apply immediately for “your free excursion ticket”. The first one thousand applicants would be eligible for a $15 gift as well.

The advertisement is illustrated with a drawing of an impressive railroad facility with three round-houses, twenty shop buildings and enough trains and tracks to satisfy the most rabid train buff. One wonders if the excursion actually occurred and what the Goulds had to show the folks who participated.

A news item from the same newspaper states that “The shops and railroad force that will be employed there represents a force of nearly 5,000 employees, and should give the new town an impetus that will carry it forward until it will surpass any other town adjacent to Pittsburg”.

The Pennsylvania Railroad proved to be too difficult a competitor for Gould to handle. They found a way to resolve their differences with Carnegie; the anticipated freight never developed. The combination of lower than anticipated traffic, the excessive cost of building a railroad after the easy routes had been exploited by earlier railroads and the Panic of 1907 led to a series of bankruptcies—first the Western Maryland, then, on March 5, 1908, the Wabash-Pittsburgh Terminal Railway.

The terminal was destroyed by fire in 1946. The bridge was demolished two years later, though the piers remain. Several recent plans to erect a new bridge on that site have been frustrated by access problems on both ends. The tunnel was opened for HOV traffic in 2004.

Despite his history of disappointments and bankruptcies, George J. Gould managed to retain enough wealth to live out his life comfortably. He died of pneumonia on the French Riviera on May16, 1923, following a visit to “King Tut’s Tomb” in Egypt, where he contracted a fever.

It is interesting to speculate what might have happened had Gould’s vision succeeded and the Wabash-Pittsburgh Terminal Railway prospered. The “Gould Plan” was eventually acquired by C.P. Mayer for a more modest development.

Bridgeville Firsts...

  • 1903 – Paved sidewalks
  • 1904 – Sanitary sewers and street arc lighting
  • 1908-9 – Paved streets were installed
  • 1917 – House numbering plans were introduced
  • 1926 – Electric and hand controlled stop/go signals were installed at the corner of Washington Avenue and Station Street
  • 1927 – First fire truck was purchased
  • 1928 – Organization of a dedicated fire department
  • 1935 – Showing of Sunday movies was approved at the November general election
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