Allegheny County is a funny place to live—even for the native-born—with its chaotic assemblage of cities, townships, boroughs and municipalities cropping up all over the map with little apparent logic or consistency. There are so-called "cities" like Clairton and Duquesne that are tiny little places and townships that are immense.
Just the other day, after decades of looking for it, I found Lower St. Clair. We all know about Upper St. Clair, but in all my years of living in the South Hills, I never could find Lower St. Clair. Well, it's been there all along, hiding in plain sight. But that's another story.
This personal "Mystery of the Missing St. Clair" set me wondering about another South Hills conundrum: why are there two Baldwins? How come Baldwin Borough and Baldwin Township? They're both sitting right there, but they don't touch one another. Brentwood, Whitehall and even Castle Shannon separate them. How did that happen?
Today, Baldwin Borough is the bigger of the two at nearly six square miles of area and a population of about 19,000. Baldwin Township is comparatively little—less than one square mile in size and a population of less than 2,000. There are high schools with larger populations.
But way back, Baldwin Township was the big place with an area of 16 square miles. Baldwin Township was established in 1844. Petitioners named the land for Henry Baldwin, a Pittsburgh tycoon and Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge, and initially, the township stretched from the Monongahela River south to Washington County.
Industry thrived in Baldwin Township. Coal was king, and there was a prosperous glass factory. Cherries were a major agricultural crop, and whiskey was a thriving business.
By the early 1900s, however, things started going south (pardon the expression) for Baldwin Township as residents broke away to form their own communities that were more responsive to local needs.
Originally, the township embraced 10,550 acres—enough land for three dozen South Hills Country Clubs. Nowadays, the great majority of that land has spun off to become Baldwin Borough, Brentwood, Castle Shannon and Whitehall. Some of it was glommed by the City of Pittsburgh.
Here's another surprise: Did you know that Baldwin Borough is only 59 years old? It was established in October 1952 and spans a long, narrow vector of land running from the Monongahela River at the Pittsburgh line to South Park Township, bordering Pleasant Hills, Whitehall, Brentwood, West Mifflin and Bethel Park.
Out of the original Baldwin Township, "Carrick Borough" was founded in 1908 and became part of Pittsburgh in 1925. Castle Shannon Borough was founded in 1919 from parts of Baldwin Township, Mt. Lebanon and "Bethel Township."
Brentwood Borough was founded in 1915, combining the villages of Brentwood, Point View and Whitehall. "Hays Borough" was established in 1901 and became the 31st Ward of Pittsburgh in 1928.
"Overbrook Borough" was formed in 1919 and became part of Pittsburgh in 1929.
Today's Whitehall Borough was founded in 1948 from parts of Brentwood Borough and "Bethel Township," which morphed into Bethel Park Borough in 1949.