Thanks to the East Liberty Valley Historical Society, we are learning lots more about the history of some of Albright’s neighbors.
Here is a post from the East Liberty Valley Historical Society on Christopher Zug, whose property is now the site of the Giant Eagle Market District.
[If you are interested in learning more about history of East Liberty and surrounding neighborhoods, be sure to like the East Liberty Valley Historical Society Facebook page.
Pittsburgh means Steel. Or at least it used to. But when we think of our City’s peerless industrial past, rarely do we realize just how many iron and steel producers there were. Sure, we’ve heard of Andrew Carnegie, but have you ever heard of James Hemphill? What about Wallace Rowe? Maybe Christopher Zug? All were iron producers. All were East Enders.
Today, we’re going to look at Christopher Zug (1807-1902). Zug was born in 1807 in Carlisle, PA. His family had emigrated from Switzerland in 1725 and settled on land that was granted by the Penn Family. He arrived in Pittsburgh in 1835; traveling here on the Pennsylvania Main-Line Canal.
After an earlier stint in wholesale dry goods, Zug took a job in the iron mills, which at that time chiefly produced nails. Keep in mind, this is an era before steel. It was also before the Great Fire of 1845. Pittsburgh was a wooden city and it was growing exponentially. Nails were in high demand!
With a little hard work and perseverance, Zug eventually became co-owner in Graff, Lindsay, & Co., a mill situated at 13th Street and Etna Street in the Strip District. In 1856, the company reincorporated as Zug & Painter, and later, Zug & Co. The mill became known as the Sable Iron Works and was located under what is now the southern abutment of the Veterans Bridge/I-279.
In stark contrast to some of his contemporaries, Zug was hailed as a champion of workers’ rights. One of his many obituaries states, “Mr. Zug was regarded as a strong friend of union labor, and the signature of Zug & Co. was the first, or one of the first, to be attached to he Amalgamated Association wage scale. Such a thing as a serious dispute at the Zug mills was entirely unknown.”
In addition to being a renowned engineer, Zug was also a noted botanist.
In the late 1880s, when Zug was well into his 80s, he built a large home at the intersection of Centre and Roup (now S. Negley Avenue). To date, no photos of the home have been found. But historic maps tell us that it was symmetrical, built of brick, and, interestingly, faced away from Centre Avenue and toward the railroad. This was a time when much of the East End was still open land. Centre Avenue was hardly the major thoroughfare that it is today. The railroad was the primary means of accessing the East End from Downtown. Zug would have wanted his house to be prominently visible to everyone traveling into the city.
We can gather from the house’s plan, its date of construction, and from its neighbors that it was probably a very stately, center tower Second Empire house.
Today, Giant Eagle Market District sits on the site of the Christopher Zug house. The house was demolished c. 1930.
Christopher Zug died in 1902 at the age of 95.