In the early history of Pittsburgh, Mount Washington, known as Coal Hill until 1876, offered easy access to several mines operated there. Rock and minerals, such as Gray sandstone, were quarried at Coal Hill for the second Allegheny County Courthouse. Due to the sweeping views of the Pittsburgh, the first drawings and a vast majority of photography of the city originated from Mt. Washington.
The original switchback trails that wound up the steep slopes of Mt. Washington were barely passable to a team of horses pulling a loaded wagon. Immigrants, predominantly from Germany, settled Mount Washington by the early 19th century and worked in the plants adjacent to the Monongahela River. They became weary of climbing steep footpaths and steps to their homes, from the river valley, after work. They remembered the Seilbahns of their former country, and proposals were advanced to construct one or more of them along Coal Hill. The Monongahela Incline was the first of these to be built in 1869–1870. The Duquesne Incline opened to the public in May 1877, and it was one of four inclined planes climbing Mount Washington that carried passengers and freight to the residential area that had spread along the top of the bluff. As the hilltop communities were virtually inaccessible by any other means, many of Pittsburgh’s inclines carried horses and wagons as well as foot passengers. All carried some light freight. A third incline, the Castle Shannon Incline, which closed in 1964, also served the hilltop community on Mt. Washington with a lower station at the corner of East Carson Street and Arlington Avenue, just east of the present Station Square Transit Station. This incline was closed by its owner, the Pittsburgh Railways Company, just prior to all of their streetcar and bus routes being taken over by the Port Authority.
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