Skip to main content

North Hills Monthly

Community Guide: Aspinwall

Aug 31, 2015 11:32AM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch
Aspinwall is one-third square mile of suburbia with tree-studded streets, Victorian-style houses and easy access into downtown Pittsburgh. While other Pittsburgh-area suburbs build up and out to accommodate rapid growth, Aspinwall wants to stay clean and walkable with plenty to do: a town big enough for a movie theater, several restaurants, a waterfront and a good vibe without losing its small, hometown atmosphere. It’s where people want to dine outdoors, browse storefront windows, shop unique, and linger.

In the mid-1880s, the area where Aspinwall is now located was primarily owned by the descendants of James Ross. With the steel industry thriving in Pittsburgh, Superintendent of the Allegheny County Workhouse, Henry Warner, had the idea to create a residential community along the bank of the Allegheny River. Warner traveled to New York to discuss the idea with Annie Aspinwall and, subsequently, purchased 155 acres of land from her and formed the Aspinwall Land Company in 1890. Pittsburghers, mostly from the upper-middle class, purchased lots from the 60 available home sites and by 1890, the town had 400 residents, most of whom were young couples with children. Aspinwall was officially incorporated as a borough in 1892 and now has approximately 3,000 residents.

Shop and Play
Aspinwall developed in a very traditional way and therefore has always been a very walkable town. “Our town has embraced the importance of being pedestrian-friendly, and we look forward to even more improvements that emphasize pedestrians, not just cars,” said Aspinwall Mayor Joe Giuffre. “Business owners have been telling me for a few years that they see an increase in families walking downtown, and we know that young couples are looking for towns, like Aspinwall, with town centers and walkability.”

While the town is known for its strong medical and business areas, it is also known for being clean, family-friendly and culturally diverse, offering plenty to do. “We have enough of everything – you can come and not be overwhelmed by a mix of unique stores like specialty food shop Feast on Brilliant, Bella Christie & Lil’ Z’s Sweet Boutique, Aspinwall Beans ‘N’ Cream Café and Coffee Shop and Mosaic K Studio, which showcases works from area artists, all the while being just up the road from the Waterworks Mall and chain restaurants,” said Giuffre. “You can find just about anything you need here in our little community.”

As a lifelong resident and owner of local business, 321Blink, Tim McLaughlin appreciates the fact that the town is a sort of well-known secret. “When you’re born and raised in this town, you get to know everyone. It’s a nice, safe community where both residents and business owners really take pride in caring for their properties. They invest their time and energy into keeping the neighborhoods beautiful. We work and live in this community because it feels quieter, safer and slightly untouched by all of the big development happening all around us.

“The Fox Chapel School District, one of the top districts in Allegheny County, is a draw to parents of school-aged children,” added McLaughlin, who is also the Aspinwall Chamber of Commerce president. “Restaurants, such as Tavern in the Wall and Cornerstone Restaurant & Bar, appeal to food lovers, while visitors enjoy the street fairs and events, such as Fall in the Wall and the annual Christmas light-up night. In addition, the summer boasts a Children’s Night Out and a concert series.”

McLaughlin adds that 2017 promises even more family-friendly celebrations as Aspinwall celebrates its 125th anniversary.

Aspinwall Riverfront Park
A new attraction to the area is the addition of Aspinwall Riverfront Park, which covers 10 acres along the Allegheny River and was home to the former Aspinwall Marina. The riverfront offers year-round recreational activities, including an ice skating rink, a hillside amphitheater for outdoor performances in summer and sledding in winter, and a quarter-mile section of a flat walking trail for walkers, bike riders and runners that will become part of the Riverfront Trail System. “The park is designed to accommodate up to 500 people sitting on blankets on the hill and is just a really neat place for people to come and enjoy performances or just relax,” said McLaughlin. “It gives us a green area in a place where not a lot of green space is available, and the project has really generated a strong sense of community among the residents and businesses.”

For more information about the community, visit

Upcoming Event
•    Nov. 21: Light-Up Night