Thursday, December 22, 2016

Forgotten History: The Montooth House on The Hill

Edward Alexander Montooth was a big deal back in his day. He also had a pretty nifty house in Pittsburgh's Hill District.

Major Montooth and Old Pittsburgh
Edward Alexander Montooth was born September 18, 1837 in the third ward of Pittsburgh, which was an area defined by Eighth Avenue to the north, Diamond Street (now Forbes Avenue) to the south, Market Street to the west and Grant Street to the east. His father was a respected downtown merchant. Edward was the eldest of several children, four of whom survived to adulthood. At some point in the late 1870s the four unmarried Montooth siblings and their widowed father moved from downtown to the Hill District, which at that time was made up of a mixture of large houses like the one they lived in (above), along with smaller row houses. The Montooth home is in the center of the above photo (the wings were added later). Plat maps of the era indicate that there was a structure on this lot in the 1870s, so their home may date to that time.The house was across the street from Pittsburgh Central High School, in the area where Connelly Skill Learning Center is located today.

From "Flem's" Views of Old Pittsburgh
Edward Montooth studied law and was admitted to the bar in December 1861, but the American Civil War inconveniently interfered with his career plans. “He forsook a fast-growing practice” and enlisted in the Union Army, enrolling as First Lieutenant in Company A, 155th Pennsylvania Infantry on August 23, 1862. Rising through the ranks over the years, Montooth distinguished himself on the fields of Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and was brevetted major for meritorious conduct at Gettysburg. He was mustered out on June 2, 1865 and resumed his interrupted law practice in Pittsburgh. For the next 30+ years, he partnered with his brother Charles and fellow Pittsburgh Civil War veteran J.T. Buchanan at the firm of Montooth Bros. and Buchanan.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, 19 December 1889
It's no exaggeration to describe Edward Montooth as a pillar of post-Civil War Pittsburgh society. He served as Allegheny County District Attorney from 1874-77, and had unsuccessful runs for Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor in 1886 and Governor in 1890. He was much esteemed for his military background and was active in the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), serving as Grand Marshall for local veteran parades. He was such a recognized and venerated Pittsburgh character that a life-sized photograph of him was placed in a gallery window in 1884 to show off the “perfect likeness” reproductive quality of a local photography studio’s work.

Montooth was so well-respected in his profession that an 1887 Pittsburgh Bulletin profile proclaimed:
….he has always possessed the confidence of the people in his ability as a lawyer, as shown by his having been concerned in every prominent trial –particularly for homicide—for the past seventeen years. In nearly every case he defended the accused, and only one of his clients was ever hanged….   

The Bulletin also glowingly described Montooth’s non-professional attributes:

He paints well, has a delicate piano touch, is familiar with the best that has written by both ancient and modern writers, and is a close observer of men and things. He has always had a passion for the drama, is a discriminating Shakespeare scholar, has met most of the distinguished actors and actresses of his time, and has a library well-stocked with dramatic literature…. In appearance Major Montooth is a handsome man, with a marked military bearing and the well-bred air of a man of the world. He has traveled extensively, having visited all the principal countries of Europe and has besides breathed the terrible atmosphere of African deserts and Asiatic swamps. He tells of his experiences in a lecture that he delivers occasionally, the announcement of which always draws a large audience. With a sound mind in a sound body, Major E. A. Montooth is in the meridian of his manhood.

Illustration from Homestead by Arthur G. Burgoyne, 1893
Apparently still in his prime, and fresh from another trip to Europe in August 1892, the good Major was asked for his reflections as to how the recent Homestead Strike had played across the pond. Mind you, later that year Major Montooth would join the defense team for Sylvester Critchlow, who was the first of three Homestead strike leaders to be tried (and ultimately acquitted) in Allegheny County Criminal Court for the murder of Pinkerton guard T. J. Connors. Montooth may or may not have known he’d be involved with the Homestead trials when he was interviewed by the Pittsburg Daily Post about his recent travels, but he certainly downplayed European reaction to the labor strife:

We were in Paris when the riot occurred, and the European edition of the Herald contained brief reports of the matter. There was nothing but the bald news; no comments of any kind, and what has happened since the day of the strike was chronicled in as brief space as possible. I do not believe the English people thought much about it. They were deep in their parliamentary elections and that was the absorbing topic everywhere, so that I was not able to ascertain any particularly strong sentiment against Mr. Carnegie or Mr. Phipps.

Meridians of manhood, larger-than-life reputations, and popular “An American Abroad” lectures don’t put off death, however. After suffering a progressive “affection of the liver” of some four years, Major E. A. Montooth died February 9, 1898. He was buried in the family plot in Allegheny Cemetery (sec 19 lot 78). The Pittsburgh Legal Journal memorialized his career and character, echoing praise heaped upon him during his lifetime:

After he retired from the District Attorney’s office, he at once assumed a leading position in our profession as a natural leader, especially in criminal justice. For many years he was engaged in nearly every cause before the court and jury. He had a very valuable practice in homicide cases. As an advocate, had no superior and few equals. His thought was of the man as much as his cause. His candor and fairness won him the confidence and respect of the best class of persons. His conduct as counsel was eminently open and fair. He had no secrets from his associates. As an adversary he was formidable; his candor and fairness was really strength. Major Montooth had many minor accomplishments not generally known to the public. He was a man of artistic tastes. He loved art, and had purchased whilst abroad many things that suited his taste. He had skill as an artist. He held the brush in a modest way and portrayed his tastes. He was a musician and enjoyed the harmony of sweet sounds. His acquaintance with artists was large and generously enjoyed. We will not enter upon his social relations. He never assumed that “one tie” that too often separates from father and mother and natural relations. It was known to all the delightful brotherhood that that constituted the firm of “Montooth Bros.”

1889 plat map showing Montooth home
Since he had never married (eschewing that “one tie”) and had no children, Montooth’s will stipulated that all his earthly goods be equally divided between his surviving siblings, sisters Mary and Margaret, whom he named as co-executrices of his estate. His collection of “photographs, with autographs of famous theatrical people” most of whom were personal friends, went to the Pittsburg Press Club.

The Sisters Montooth decided to divest themselves of the family home on Fulton Street in the Hill District. The realty was valued at $12,000, but demand for the property made it more valuable over time.

Blackmore mansion in Hill District
The house was first considered for a “….project of a new hospital in Pittsburg under the management of a society of Hebrew women.” The newspapers didn't name the organization but it was in fact the Hebrew Ladies' Hospital Aid Society, formed in 1898 to meet the medical and social needs of newly arriving Jewish immigrants settling in the Hill District. The society had by this point raised some $7000 for their new venture, and were said by the Daily Post in October 1900 to be interested in buying “…a house which can be converted into a hospital without too much repairing.”
Blackmore renovated as Montefiore Hospital

While they considered the Montooth homestead, the Hebrew Ladies' Hospital Aid Society eventually acquired the classically styled home of the late Mayor James Blackmore further back in the Hill on Center and Herron Avenues. After renovations and expansions, Pittsburgh’s new Montefiore Hospital opened in May 1908. [i]

So why didn’t the ladies get the Montooth property?

Because Henry Clay Frick bought it instead.

On 14 November 1900, the local press announced that Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick had presented the old Montooth mansion to the Kingsley House along with “permission to repair and remodel the mission at his expense to meet the requirements of the association work.”

Social Reform in Pittsburgh and Kingsley House 

Rev. George Hodges (1856 – 1919)
Kingsley House was formed in 1893 by Reverend George Hodges as a settlement house dedicated to providing social and educational opportunities for immigrant families. As minister and rector at Calvary Episcopal Church from 1881 to 1894, Rev. Hodges quite literally preached the Social Gospel of the era to his parishioners. This Protestant reform ideology emphasized the religious motivation of the church to involve itself in the community and turn its collective attention toward addressing the social, political, and economic causes of poverty.  Doing so of necessity evoked a moral obligation for the wealthy to care for the poor, which found practical application in the growing popularity of urban settlement houses.

Rev. Hodges seemed to view his wealthy parishioners as less toxically disinterested and self-absorbed than they were isolated and ignorant, writing that they were  

….for the most part well-intentioned and good-hearted people, who think a great deal more about the poor than the poor imagine, and who do a great deal more for the poor than anybody ever finds out.

But at the same time Hodges allowed no justification for the foundation of exploitative working conditions, low wages, and substandard housing that underlay Pittsburgh’s steel empire, and determined to work within the existing system to do something about it. He was able to prick the consciences of his wealthy parishioners by emphasizing that the debasing elements of contemporary urban life had the potential to destroy the entire social fabric of the nation, and called upon them to address those elements from their positions of privilege by providing community resources for the worthy poor.

First Kingsley House, 1707 Penn Avenue
Hodges’ new social organization was named for Charles Kingsley, co-founder of the Christian Socialist movement in London's East End. Within the space of a few years, it became obvious that Kingsley House's first home in a Strip District row house on Penn Avenue was not meeting the goals of the organization. The city was experiencing a population shift, and the Kingsley settlement house found itself in the middle of a community that showed little evidence of residential family growth. On the other hand, the area we now call the Hill District was expanding, as new immigrants flooded the area.

In January 1901, Henry Clay Frick bankrolled the purchase of Kingsley’s new home in the area of city wards 7, 8, and 11, and Maggie Montooth “conveyed to the Kingsley House Association the Montooth homestead at Bedford avenue and Fulton street, Eighth ward, for $15,000.”

We can’t know exactly what motivated Henry Clay Frick’s generosity, as he famously did not speak to the press and was not gregariously self-explanatory (unlike his former partner and frenemy Andrew Carnegie). It is tempting to imagine Frick and his fellow Calvary congregants guiltily squirming in their pews as they listened to Rev. Hodges’ sermons, or fuming as they read his weekly Pittsburgh Dispatch columns. After all, this period of progressive social thinking also encapsulated Pittsburgh's labor disputes and Frick’s crushing of the Homestead Strike.

Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919)
But despite these seeming contradictions of concern (or perhaps because of them), and with credit to Rev. Hodges’ gentle handling of his wealthy parishioners, Mr. Frick was lauded as a willing and generous supporter of Kingsley House from its inception. He was described in local papers as “one of the most enthusiastic workers in the Kingsley House movement.” Like others from Pittsburgh's capitalist elite class, he made substantial start-up donations to the endowment fund which designated his entire family as Kingsley ‘Life Members’ exempt from further payment of dues.

Although Rev. Hodges left Pittsburgh in 1894, and Frick was spending more and more time away from Pittsburgh at the turn of the century, he remained invested enough here to make this contribution of a new building. Perhaps he felt the time was exactly right in 1901 for a magnificent public gesture on behalf of Pittsburgh’s poor. He was at that point richer than he’d ever been, following the dissolution of his fractious partnership with Carnegie a few years earlier and the formal merger of Carnegie Corporation into United States Steel Company. This was also the time when the Christopher Magee-William Flinn Republican "Ring" domination of Pittsburgh politics was coming to an end after two decades of enriching its supporters through financial and real estate dealings, patronage, and organization of the city's immigrant population into powerful voting blocks -- the very population that Kingsley House was meant to serve. Frick had appreciated "Boss" Magee's support during the Homestead labor disputes and generally benefited from the patronage network that the Magee-Flinn Ring had created. But they'd had conflicts, too, and their relationship was largely one of convenience. Perhaps recognition that the existing political machine's days were numbered (in part due to illness, as Magee had taken a medical leave of absence and would die later that year) and that the power of the Ring was in decline prompted Frick to capitalize on an opportunity to assert his independence and enhance his reputation by supporting the type of people the Ring had manipulated over the years.

Whatever his reasons, this was certainly a grand gesture. While no photos exist of the Montooth mansion prior to its conversion into a settlement house, enough information can be gleaned from its subsequent Kingsley House iteration to indicate that Major Montooth and his family lived in some style there in the 1880s and 1890s. The property had comfortable frontage on both Fulton and Bedford, and the circa 1870-80s three-story structure had 21 rooms.

Henry Clay Frick financed updates, renovations and expansions, including the building of a gymnasium (seen to the left in photos of the house, with arched window) and entire new wing extension. When the Kingsley House officially opened in the old Montooth mansion, Mr. Frick was rumored to have contributed a total of nearly $30,000 for the house plus remodeling and renovation. The Pittsburg Weekly Gazette described the new wallpaper and hangings in the home and the "Handsome casts of famous works of art…placed in different rooms and in the hall.” Other prominent Pittsburgh families contributed to the furnishing and outfitting of the settlement house, and were given credit for entire rooms. Neither Henry Clay Frick nor Kingsley house founder Rev. Hodges attended the housewarming reception on 11 November 1901. [ii]

Excerpt from Pittsburgh Daily Post article, 12 November 1901

The following photos were coompiled from various annual reports of Kingsley Association during its tenure at the Montooth mansion from 1901-1919. The reports have been digitally preserved as part of the Kingsley Association Records held by the Archives Service Center (ASC) at the University of Pittsburgh, and can be accessed via Historic Pittsburgh Digital Research Library. Click on each photo to see it in more detail.

1906 Girls Afternoon Club holiday tree and gifts

1906 holiday tree and gifts for Kindergarten
Holiday portrait

Visit from Santa

Playing games

Sewing ladies

Cooking class



Kingsley House, circa 1911
Kingsley Association (as it was known from 1917 on) ostensibly outgrew its well-used Montooth mansion "House on the Hill" facilities, moving to the East End in 1919. In fact, racial shifts of the population it served were what prompted the move, as illustrated in this rather coded quote from the 1921 Kingsley Association yearbook: “The foreign immigrant question is becoming most acute in the rapid shifting of race residence in the Hill district.”  Service provision and support were very much racially segregated, with the new East End facilities secured to serve primarily European immigrants and their families. For a few years after Kingsley Association vacated the premises, the Montooth mansion housed the Morgan Community House. This was a “social settlement for colored people” that was initially operated by Kingsley in cooperation with the National Baptist Mission Society but then turned over to that organization entirely.  

The same Fulton (by now called Fullerton) and Bedford property was considered in 1918 as a potential location for Pennsylvania’s only hospital for African-Americans. In 1923 it was reported that the Morgan Community House had vacated the old Montooth property and was turning it over to the Negro Hospital Association to equip as a hospital for Pittsburgh’s black population. The Morgan Community House continued to operate nearby at a property purchased for $12000 by African American community leaders at 73 Fullerton Street, and it operated for many years as a “Negro Community House.”

As for the Montooth mansion, it was demolished at some point after 1923. A notation in a 1931 Pittsburgh Press article referencing the “House on the Hill” states that it was “….later torn down to make room for the proposed Negro hospital.” Since the Livingston Memorial Hospital Planning Committee eventually settled into the site vacated by Montefiore Hospital further back in the Hill in the old Blackmore estate, it is not clear if the Montooth mansion ever served a public function after 1923.

Epilogue: A Philanthropic Legacy
While Major Montooth certainly had an out-sized reputation in Pittsburgh’s legal, veteran, and cultural community during his lifetime, it was not lasting and there is no evidence that philanthropy was part of his public profile. That such a legacy is connected to his name at all today is vis-à-vis the posthumous use of his home. The Montooth name was repeatedly referenced publicly during the 20 years that the old homestead served as a community house for Pittsburgh’s immigrant and black communities, so the Major existed in living memory for some time after his death.

But at least one of Major Montooth’s two surviving sisters had an active share in a Montooth philanthropic legacy. After selling their family homestead, Mary and Maggie Montooth moved to smaller digs at Halkett and Forbes in Oakland until the end of their days. For nearly two decades, Mary managed the Toy Mission, a holiday gifting charity for poor and orphaned children that she helped found in 1893. The spinster sisters both passed away in the mid 1920s.

Today all we have left to remember the Montooth family by is a street between Warrington and McKinley Park in Beltzhoover, in the former Montooth Borough, which was named for the Major in the 1890s.

[i] Montefiore Hospital at Herron and Center soon outgrew its site, prompting extensive fundraising, acquisition of new property in Oakland, and a building campaign. Today’s Montefiore Hospital was established in Oakland in 1929.
[ii] A blurb in the 3 November 1901 Pittsburgh Press indicated that Kingsley House was “looking forward to the prospect” of Rev. Hodges and Mr. and Mrs. Frick attending the reception. But Reverend Hodges was Dean of Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was unable to attend, although he sent a telegram of congratulations to be read aloud at the event. It is not known why the Fricks didn’t attend. It’s possible that a previous commitment or travel plans took precedence. Perhaps the terminal illness and death of his uncle Jacob Frick in Wooster Ohio that same week served as a social excuse. In general, it seems that HCF did not seek the public approbation for his good deeds with the same enthusiasm as did his former colleague Andrew Carnegie. Also, given Frick’s focus on travel and work in NYC at the turn of the century, the goings-on in Pittsburgh were perhaps less important than they once were. And it is quite possible that the organization itself became less of a priority as it shifted to a more activist reformist stance. Kingsley Association and the surrounding area served as ground zero for the scathing, widely-publicized Pittsburgh Survey, a ground-breaking sociological study of urban poverty and industry. Although always listed as 'lifetime members’ in recognition of their initial generosity, Frick and his family members were not listed as repeat donors in Kingsley Association annual reports.

Please email me at if you have questions about specific sources consulted for this piece. For more information about the reform era in Pittsburgh, I recommend Keith A. Zahniser’s Steel City Gospel: Protestant Laity and Reform in Progressive-Era Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pittsburgh's Lost Islands

1874 Bird's-Eye View of Pittsburgh, Otto Krebs
AKA, The Island-less Golden Triangle
Library of Congress Collection

I lost my glasses the other day. It was annoying, but nothing compared to losing an island.

Which Pittsburgh has done at least three times, once in each river.

The Case of the Missing Island I: Wainwright's Island
If you know Pittsburgh, you know we have rivers. Three of them, in fact. And so of course we have bridges; at last count there were 446. One is called the Washington's Crossing Bridge, although most people call it the 40th Street Bridge because we're literal people here.
But there's also this big honking island in the Allegheny River called Washington's Landing or Herr's Island. It's popularly thought to be the place where George Washington spent a freezing December night in 1753 after he and frontier guide Christopher Gist got dunked when rafting across the Allegheny. Thus the official name of the bridge crossing the island reflects this inauspicious event, and a marker on its southwest side solidly claims the connection:

A messenger from the Governor of Virginia
to the commandant of the French forces on the Ohio
and CHRISTOPHER GIST, his guide
crossed the Allegheny at this point on December 29, 1753
on the return journey from Fort LeBoeuf. 
Placed by the Pittsburgh Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution

Which would be fine, if it was true. But George Washington likely neither slept here, nor did he cross the river at this point.
According to the accounts that Washington and Gist wrote of their journey, they expected that frozen rivers would be easy to cross as they headed back from their French-scolding mission at Fort LeBoeuf. They were wrong. As Washington later described, about "two miles above Shannopins" they found a barely frozen river filled with ice floes and debris.

Shannopins was a former Lenape village upriver along the Allegheny about two miles from The Forks of the Ohio at today's Point, where Pittsburgh's three rivers meet. Given a lack of archaeological evidence, much debate has taken place as to exactly where Shannopins was. Most agree that it was somewhere along the shore of today's Lawrenceville neighborhood, likely between 31st to 40th Streets bounded by Butler Street and the river. The State Historical Commission commemorates Shannopins at the entrance of the 40th Street Bridge, but that was at best the far edge of the settlement.
Well, wherever it was, our guys were stuck on the opposite shore, two miles up, somewhere along the edge of today's Sharpsburg neighborhood. And this was not where they wanted to be, as a dismayed Washington recalled: "We expected to have found the river frozen, but it was not, only about fifty yards from each shore. The ice, I suppose, had broken up above, for it was driving in vast quantities."
Gist and Washington spent a night and a day planning and building a raft for their crossing. Once launched, their raft caught in the fast moving current, hit an ice flow, and tossed George into the drink. He later recalled:
Before we were half way over we were jammed in the ice and in such a manner that we expected every moment our raft to sink and ourselves to perish. I put out my setting pole to try and stop the raft that the ice might pass by, when the rapidity of the stream threw it with so much violence against the pole that it jerked me out into 10 feet of water, but fortunately, I saved myself by catching hold of one of the raft logs. Notwithstanding all our efforts, we could not get to either shore, but were obliged as we were near an island to quit our raft and make for it.
Gist described their new location as "a little above Shannopin's Town." The two men spent a frozen December night on this overgrown island. Luck was with them the next morning, as the channel between their island and the shore had frozen solidly enough to allow them to gingerly cross on foot. 
Mural at Station Square Gateway Clipper fleet tunnel showing Gist and Washington on their raft.
So whither, island? Apparently verifying the location was difficult even a century later. Neville B. Craig, who published the first comprehensive history of Pittsburgh in 1851, noted a few years earlier in a footnote in his monthly historical magazine that:
...this island must have been Wainwright's, not Herr's. The former island is near the eastern bank of the Allegheny, and that branch of the river might freeze over in one night, so as to bear Washington and Gist; but the wide channel between Herr's island and Shannopin's would scarcely so freeze in one night.
Craig had a good point, for the Allegheny is wide and deep enough on the eastern shore of Herr's Island to make an overnight freeze was unlikely.
Alrighty then, so, what of Wainwright's Island? Well, it's gone. I mean, the land is there, but it's not an island any longer. While Neville Craig knew it as an island in the mid-1800s, industrialization has since claimed the channel between Lawrenceville and Wainwright's Island that Washington and Gist sloshed across on foot.
The island was named for or by Englishman Joseph E. Wainwright, who settled there with his family circa 1804-06. Wainwright founded a woolen mill on the land and established the Winterton Brewery in 1818 to take advantage of the hops that grew wild along the river banks. The island was quite fertile, hosting hickory, black walnut, locust, sugar maple, butternut, peach and apple trees, plus sugar cane plumegrass. Wainwright described how the channel between the island and the mainland was twenty yards wide, with a fall of about 4 feet. The portion of the Allegheny that flowed into the channel became known to Pittsburgh residents as "Little River," and was regarded as a great spot to catch herring, wall-eyed pike, and bass.
Before Wainwright moved in, the land was referred to as either Cork's or Cook's Island. It has also been referenced by the intriguing name of Good Liquor Island, probably related to the brewery and/or the wild hops that grew there (clearly a happenin' place).
The Wainwrights were not the only settlers on the island. Several prominent Pittsburghers owned property there or on the mainland abutting it, including Conrad Winebiddle (an early landowner in the east end of Pittsburgh) and Mrs. Elizabeth F. O'Hara Denny (daughter-in-law of Pittsburgh's first major, Ebenezer Denny, and daughter of General James O'Hara and Mary Carson O'Hara). Winterton Brewery moved off the island in the mid-1800s and was merged with the Pittsburgh Brewery Company in 1899. But Wainwright's idyllic island didn't even last that long.
A boundary dispute filed in 1868 by Wainwright heirs against a subsequent owner, McCullough, was appealed to the state Supreme Court. It provides some historical information as to how the island was developed. Boats were described as navigating the channel in 1839, but that was no longer possible once McCullough built a dam in 1849 to power his mill. That dam seems to have been a major factor in the dropping of water level in the channel, although at the time of the suit it still seemed to have been partially flowing. A solid road called Allen Street crossed to the island in 1868. Beginning in the Civil War and continuing thereafter, the channel was a dumping ground for building debris and landfill. Whatever wasn't needed at the near-by Allegheny Arsenal or the Carnegie & Phipps Company Union Iron Mill got chucked in the drink. With all the damming and debris, the channel had completely disappeared into the mainland by the turn of the century. Island, no more.
Maps of the era show the island and document its gradual disappearance. (For better resolution images, click on the images, or head over to Historic Pittsburgh Maps Collection to see the original scans I've excerpted). A rare 1830 Barbeau and Keyon map, later reprinted by Johnston & Stockton in 1835, shows the island sitting pretty in the Allegheny.

Johnson & Stockton map, Lawrenceville insert, 1835
This Sidney & Neff 1851 map nicely illustrates the relationship between the larger Herr's Island (aka Washington's Landing) and Wainwright's Island:
Enlargement of 1851 Sidney & Neff map, Library of Congress collection
The G. M. Hopkins & Co. 1872 plat map below also clearly shows the island (known as McCullough's for its then-owner). You can see additional Wainwright family property on the mainland, including the Winterton Brewery.
1872 Hopkins map of Pittsburgh's 15th Ward, including McCullough's Island

Close-up; note property still owned by Mrs. Denny, and small industry on island
By 1890, the strip of land is back to being called Wainwright Island. But it's not much of an island by this point. It appears attached to the shore, although its former boundary was demarcated with a low water line notation.

1890 G. M. Hopkins & Co. map of Pittsburgh

By 1900 a pink sliver of land was still labeled Wainwright Island, but was firmly attached to shore.
1900 G. M. Hopkins map of Pittsburgh

By 1910, plat maps don't even indicate that this section of land along the Allegheny River between 34th and 40th Streets had a separate name. So Wainwright's Island was gone...but not forgotten. In 1906, the industries occupying the strip of land over the former channel became involved in a protracted contest with the City of Pittsburgh over who actually owned the in-filled channel bed. The land being disputed was estimated to be about 100 feet wide and 4000 feet long. The City claimed incontestable ownership and viewed the corporations using the land as tenants. Off and on from 1906 through 1919, the City demanded that the companies either pay rent, submit a bid to purchase the land they occupied, or else vacate it. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad/Junction Railroad, US Steel Company, and Allegheny Valley Railroad Company all leased parts of the former Wainwright Island from the city's main tenant, the Denny estate, which did concede city ownership. In all the articles related to these disputes, the land was still referenced as Wainwright's Island (give or take an apostrophe). The former island was still present in living memories of that era. The fact that Wainwright descendants were prominent figures in turn-of-the-last-century Lawrenceville probably helped keep the former island's memory alive, too.

The Case of the Missing Island II:  Killbuck or Smoky Island
The Allegheny merges to form the Ohio River a little more than two miles north of Wainwright, and it is there that we find our next set of missing islands...or rather, we won't find them.
The islands were first documented on a 1755 map by Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry, King Louis XV's Chief Engineer of New France. Between 1753-1756, Léry spent time on the frontier building fortifications for the French. In April 1755 he stopped by Fort Duquesne to map its defenses and assess its readiness for the inevitable war with the English. His verdict was prescient: he wrote that Fort Duquesne "....can promise but very little protection..." 
Léry mapped the surrounding topography anyway, in anticipation of General Braddock's military advances. The original map is in France at the Centre des Archives d'outre-mer, Aix-en-Provence, Archives Nationales. I unfortunately couldn't find a complete digital copy. However, Historical Maps of Pennsylvania notes that Léry named the Ohio River "Oyo ou Belle Riviere" and the Monongahela "Riviere Manangaile" as can be seen on this map cross-section pulled from Wikipedia:
Léry's Pittsburgh map, 1755

What can't be seen above is the part of Léry's map that included an island, just beneath the text to the left. That island became a peninsula when water levels rose, and it jutted from the shores of what later became known as Allegheny City. Two smaller adjacent islands sat to the west.
These land masses, whether singular, triple, or peninsular, were notable features of the terrain and were clearly visible from today's Point (fka Forks of the Ohio). You can see one fat and sassy island on this woodcut map from the January 1759 issue of The Scots Magazine. (See it below #15. Also, note that #6 is Shanapins town). This is occasionally called the first map of Pittsburgh proper, since the English were now in control of the area.
Pittsburgh 1759
We can clearly see a peninsula with two smaller islands along the eastern shores of the Allegheny and Ohio below on a "street map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1795, which includes Fort Pitt." This one was published by Samuel W. Durant in his 1876 History of Allegheny Co. Pennsylvania, so it may be a retrospective creation. Still, the islands are prominent.
Pittsburgh 1795

Hugh H. Brackenridge described the island in 1786 in the paper he founded, Pittsburgh Gazette:
At the distance of about 400 or 500 yards from the head of the Ohio is a small island, lying to the northeast side of the Allegheny river, at a distance of about 70 yards from the shore. It is covered with wood, and at the lowest point is a lofty hill, famous for the number of wild turkeys which inhabit it. The island is not more in length than one-quarter of a mile and in breadth about 100 yards. A small space on the upper end is cleared and overgrown with grass. The savages had cleared it during the late war, a party of them, attached to the United States, having placed their wigwams and raised corn there.
The biggest land mass, the one described above, was named "Smoky Island." We are probably looking at it jutting out to the left in this sketch by Mrs. E.C. Gibson, wife of James Gibson, a Philadelphia lawyer. The couple passed through Pittsburgh on their honeymoon in 1817. Her sketch has been enhanced, reproduced and colorized many times over since then. The below illustration probably isn't even her original, which appears to have been lost. William Coventry Wall's famous 1877 painting is assumed to have been a close copy of her rendering.
Rendering after a sketch by Mrs. E.C. Gibson, 1817  
By 1850 the two smaller islands had disappeared from maps and only the peninsula was left. And then just as was done in Lawrenceville, the backwaters were filled with building waste as industrialization took hold of the area's topography by the early 1900s. Island, no more.
But unlike Wainwright's Island, Smoky Island is more vividly remembered in popular Pittsburgh memory. Well, maybe "popular" isn't the right word....ghoulish, more like. Supposedly the island got its nickname during the Seven Years War, when Natives used it to burn English captives there at the stake. According to legend documented by historian Leland Dewitt Baldwin, the Delaware and Shawnee used the island as a place of torture for captives taken following Braddock's defeat in 1755. It was a brilliant tactical choice, as the island was within the sight of French defenders stationed across the river at Fort Duquesne. Whilst ostensibly allied with the French, The Native tribes figured it probably didn't hurt to let them know how enemies were treated. Baldwin recounted a story handed down by young British captive James Smith, who was recuperating at Fort Duquesne and witnessed the goings-on at Smoky Island across the way:
....the prisoners were ferried over the Allegheny to Smoky Island, a low sand bar on the north shore directly across from the Point. There they were tied to stakes or saplings and put to the fiendish torture that the savages could devise. Coals of fire were heaped about their feet; the women thrust red-hot ramrods through their nostrils and ears and seared their bodies with blazing sticks; even the children stood around with their half-sized bows and shot arrows into the legs of the victims. Young Smith, watching from the ramparts of the fort, was so sickened by the sight and by the piteous screams of the dying men that he retreated to his quarters.... ~excerpted from Pittsburgh: The Story of a City, 1750-1865, 1937
Smoky Island gradually became known as Killbuck Island after a chief of the Turtle tribe of Delawares who lived from 1737-1811. Known to his people as Gelemend and to white settlers by his baptismal name of John Henry Killbuck, he initially offered his services to English settlers and then allied himself with the cause of colonial independence. In thanks, Killbuck was given the land known as Smoky Island by Colonel John Gibson during the latter's tenure as Fort Pitt commanding officer in 1781. In a later petition to have his legal rights to the land recognized, Killbuck dictated how that transaction went down:
Col. words to the following effect: "Brother! I put you under my arm; nobody shall hurt you. Brother! I give you this island where you and your children can always plant! The island shall be your sole property." On this he gave directions that a part of the island should be cleared, ploughed, and planted for me with corn, which was also done again in the following years. The grant of the island was afterwards confirmed by General Irwin and his successors the different commanding officers at Pittsburg.
My Brother! This island had long before that time, been considered my Property by all the people of my Nation. And I was now assured that the Governor of Pennsylvania would freely confirm me in that right. ~excerpted from The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Volume X, 1886

Killbuck never did get around to having his ownership legitimized, though he sold the island to one Abner Barker in 1803 for $200 without a Land Office patent to secure his legal rights to the land. Without being able to show legal ownership, Barker apparently decided not to put any money into developing the island. He subsequently lost the land due to unpaid taxes. A several decades-long chain of ownership transfers followed.

Ownership of Killbuck passed to a farmer named David Morgan and his family in 1817, and for a time all seemed well on their island paradise. But in 1820 a fire swept through their cabin while the parents were out, killing all four children. Not a place of peaceful history, this Killbuck Island. Pittsburghers might be forgiven for thinking the area haunted by what a 1949 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article characterized as "....the gray wraiths of so many long-dead Indian and pioneer souls."

A great flood in 1832 took much of the top soil, although it was still intact enough to host a school for boys in 1837. But its viability as an island gradually deteriorated.  It was described in great detail in 1874 litigation put forth by heirs of one of the subsequent owners, another case that went all the way to the state Supreme Court:

....previously to 1832, there was a small channel at the head of the island, which ran down between that and the main shore, thus forming the island; it was about 100 feet from Bank Lane; the main shore was a perpendicular bluff; the water would be at the base of the bluff about half the year; in dry times the water would not run there. Bank Lane was on the top of the bluff; along some places it was so narrow that a horse could not travel; a man could walk along it; there was a path and a fence some places. At a low stage of water there was a slough only 3 or 4 feet wide....there was always some water when the river was lowest....the higher the water the wider it would be...When there were 5 or 6 feet of water in the river, the whole of the island would be submerged. By a sudden fall in the river, the water between the island and the main land would be left in ponds, between which there would be wide open spaces, so that the place of the channel could be walked over easily; the deepest water was at the head of Killbuck Island; in ordinary stage of water there was a channel; boats would go through; when the river was well up the space between the river and the end of the lots was quite narrow; there was just a pathway around the fences of the lots...The witnesses varied as to the contents of the island from 3 acres to 15 acres. There was evidence that up to the year 1832, Killbuck island was as high as the main land and was never overflowed till then....
That's a lot of detail, to be sure (and believe it or not, that's my edited version). Here's why: by 1874 Killbuck wasn't an island any longer. As can be seen on this 1872 Hopkins plat map, the high and low water lines are indicated, but the former Killbuck Island is now seemingly part of the mainland. The roughly 70 yard channel had been filled with excavation and industrial debris.

excerpted from 1872 G. M. Hopkins & Co. map of Pittsburgh
Much as with the City of Pittsburgh and Wainwright's Island, the City of Allegheny claimed ownership of this property. In 1874 the ground was leased by the city to the Tradesmen's Industrial Institute for fifteen years. Upon it was built an Exposition Building which opened on October 7 1875.
Advertisement for Allegheny City's Exposition Hall, from Allegheny County, a sesqui-centennial review, 1938

The advertisement for this first exhibition, modeled after World's Fairs, noted that goods valued at $50,000 would be displayed:
Every department will be filled with the most interesting
Inventions and Arts of the age.
Music by First Class Bands
Will be in attendance from 10 A.M. until 10 P.M. during the 
entire exposition.
Unparalleled Attractions In Every Department
In 1877 the hall came under the auspices of the newly-formed Pittsburgh Exposition Society, and was expanded to 1000 feet long and 150 feet wide. It was a destination that offered great amusement to visitors, but its joys were short-lived. The Exposition Hall on the former Killbuck Island burned to the ground on October 3, 1883. Pittsburgh's newspapers reported that the fire was so fierce that the building was reduced to ashes that afternoon in less than hour. Some 380 exhibitors had goods in the building, many uninsured. Between 300-400 people lost their jobs as a result of the building's demise, and cash from the previous day's record crowds was feared lost in safes in the building. Estimates of damages varied wildly, from $600,000 to a million dollars. Irreplaceable items lost from the "Relic Department" display included an ivory dagger once belonging to Henry VIII and Stephen Foster's piano. Rare coin, clock and book collections were also lost. The World's Greatest Cornetist, virtuoso Jules Levy, feared his golden cornet had melted in the Hall's safe (it was found the next day, somewhat tarnished, but safe). The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette lamented the loss of countless artworks exhibited by local dealers Gillespie and Co., including "....the work of almost every Pittsburgh artist, Hetzel, Wall, Linford, Leisser, Lawman, Turney, among the professionals...It was a collection of almost everything that was known in art, much that was good, much that was bad, but little that had not a high value, either for its intrinsic worth or for its associations."
The papers didn't openly speculate on bad luck associated from the many gruesome losses of life that occurred on Killbuck Island in its early history, but one wonders if the people of the day thought the place cursed due to those early brutal exhibitions. They weren't willing to give up on the land, though, and promptly built a new incarnation of Exposition Park, home field of the Pittsburgh Pirates (then known as the Alleghenies). That field was too close to the flood plain, however, and was abandoned in 1884. The next few decades saw various ownership squabbles over the land, with titles eventually going to a railroad. The land is now mostly a parking lot for the near-by stadiums and casino.

So here's how you save face when your team loses, or you drop your paycheck at the near-by casino: blame it on the accursed fortunes of old Killbuck Island.

The Case of the Missing Island III:  That Island in the Mon
Once upon a time, there was a little island on the Monongahela River that never  had a name. And frankly, it wasn't much of an island. While land masses in the Allegheny River were formed by glacial till, the Mon was a less dramatic watershed. The island, which sat between the Point and what was then called the city of Birmingham (now Southside), was basically just a big old sand bar that was used as a buckwheat field in the late 1700s. In an era before lock and dam construction assured year-round water levels high enough to support riverboat traffic, the island was reportedly accessible during times of low water by simply sloshing across the mud-bottomed Mon.
It shows up on that 1876 History of Allegheny Co. Pennsylvania map that imagined Pittsburgh back in 1795:

But it's actually not apparent on earlier maps or drawings of the area, which has led Pitt geologists to speculate that, circa 1794, the island only appeared following major flooding and draining.
By 1815, That Island in the Mon is just plain gone. See this Patterson and Darby map from Pitt's Darlington collection:
1815 Pittsburgh, Patterson and Darby, Darlington Digital Library Collection

Island no more, unnamed and unmourned.
But other alluvial islands did pop up in the Mon. Some alluvial islands are stable and long-lived, like Wainwright's and Killbuck Island, but these were always transitory. See, for example, this illustration of the Mon near the Smithfield Street Bridge built by Gustav Lindenthal. It dates to 1885, nearly a century after the first drawing that showed such islands in the Mon. Note the multiple land masses (fluffy ones, too) that were revealed at low tide:
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, from The Pittsburgh Prints from the Collection of Wesley Pickard
held by Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh*

If the volume or speed of a current changes, alluvial islands get flooded over or can even float away. This is what happened to our Monongahela buckwheat islands. Pittsburgh's modern lock and dam system assures that the river current remains stable, so no new islands are likely to appear.

Wainwright's and Killbuck stopped being islands because man willingly allowed the mainland to envelope them. But the land is still there, bearing witness to the history that took place on its soil. If only that dirt could talk, what tales it might tell!

*Thanks to John Schalcosky for sleuthing out this image!