Is "East Liberty" on its way to becoming "Eastside"?

"Eastside" is the name of a real estate development.

"East Liberty" is the name of a Pittsburgh neighborhood, and East Liberty Development Inc. is an organization that is working to revitalize it.

I now sometimes hear my students, many of whom live in North Oakland, and Squirrel Hill, and Shadyside, refer to the neighborhood as "Eastside." They also report hearing "Eastside" as a neighborhood descriptor on local radio.

I may come across sometimes as a critic of efforts to hold onto the past without reason. I'm also a pretty regular skeptic of efforts to "brand" Pittsburgh with slogans. Here, where both premises seem to come into play, the second strikes me as being more powerful than the first. The conflation of "Eastside" (the real estate) and "East Liberty" (the place) seems like a bad thing.

Questions: Does East Liberty need a "reverse" branding initiative so that it remains, proudly, "East Liberty"? Or does the apparent naming confusion follow from a deliberate effort to distance the current neighborhood from what some might think are the negative associations of the past (and to associate the neighborhood with the more upscale Shadyside)? On the one hand, my relative lack of local historical knowledge means that I don't carry around any negative associations for East Liberty. On the other hand, why should I? Is this even worth caring about?

And before someone else says it, I will: North Shore, or what used to be the North Side?


7 Responses to "Eastside?"

O said... 4/14/2006 4:30 PM

Or does the apparent naming confusion follow from a deliberate effort to distance the current neighborhood from what some might think are the negative associations of the past (and to associate the neighborhood with the more upscale Shadyside)?

Yes on both. Although technically, the border of East Liberty and Shadyside is Centre Ave, not the busway. Until Whole Foods moved there, however, I doubt that you'd find a Shadysider that would admit that.

Sean McDaniel said... 4/15/2006 10:10 PM

Honestly, if you're going to rename places, start with the city itself. No matter what you call the neighborhoods within, "Pittsburgh" still conjours visions of a smoky city and vaudeville jokes. Mel Brooks even made a crack about Pittsburgh (no more dirty beds in Pittsburgh) a couple seasons ago on "Curb Your Enthusiam."

So if you're really going to have a serious discussion of changing what we call the North Shore (actually, that designates a portion of the North Side, just as Manchester and Brighton Heights do) or East Liberty, then we shouldn't pooh pooh the idea nixing Pixburgh.

Are you laughing yet?

Sean McDaniel said... 4/16/2006 12:11 AM

Okay. I have a suggestions about this subject on my newly created blog at http://behindblueyes2.blogspot.com. I apologize for not knowing how to insert a live link.

RichW said... 4/16/2006 7:52 PM

Most of the people who think of Pittsburgh as a smoky dirty city, a) wouldn't be coming here even if was the cleanest, greenest place on earth, or b) will be dead soon.

Where I come from, the North Shore is everything from Charleston up to Newburyport. You need an ocean or at least a sea - something that creates it's own waves - to have a shore.

I and many others moved here because it IS Pittsburgh. No need to change the name.

Although I'm still a Jets fan.

Matt C. Wilson said... 4/16/2006 11:54 PM

It's absolutely a whitewash - you hit the nail on the head. But I wonder if an apt comparison is "Homestead" becoming "The Waterfront". Not exactly a bad trade, even for the loud, proud native Homesteaders. I say let them call Eastside what they want - Pittsburghers will decide if it's still Slibbity or not.

(and for the complainers - Pittsburgh born and bred, so I can yinzer all I like. Quit bein' nebby n'at.)

Anyhow, you got me riled enough to post, Mike. :)

RJE said... 4/18/2006 2:09 PM

i've never heard 'eastside' and i've lived in friendship, bloomfield or lawrenceville for 19 yrs and pay attention, am involved with the f'ship development associated and penn ave arts init, etc. if you've heard it, ok, but i don't think it has any legs. the 'waterfront' in still in homestead, and the new walgreen's (lookout for lobbying campaign to privatize liquor stores to intensify once they have a good number of stores in pennsy) will always be in east liberty.

i think 'north shore' is the area between the massive railroad tracks and the river, and the 'north side' encompasses the north shore, war streets, manchester and etc. i think 'north shore' is useful as a name and isn't any kind of whitewash.

Anonymous said... 4/24/2006 1:58 PM

The green dome of Motor Square Garden, or whatever it's called these days, is a high-profile East Liberty landmark. Anything across the street from it--Whole Foods, Walgreens, etc.--is in East Liberty too. Now the strip between Aiken and MSG is more problematic. Maybe that's the Eastside. Pretty tiny neighborhood though. Maybe it could be Friendship Flats, or Shadyshore.

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