Ross Twp. Neighborhood Named ‘America’s First Suburb’

ROSS TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — You lived in a town or city, or you lived in the country. Those were the only choices, until the nation’s first suburb was built in Ross Township, 80 years ago.

Pittsburgh History and Landmarks has unveiled a plaque designating Swan Acres as “America’s First Modern Subdivision.” Residents and former residents gathered to celebrate a neighborhood that began with concrete houses in 1937.

Martha Pople is the daughter-in-law of builder, Harry Pople.

“I’m sorry my husband isn’t around because he would have loved this,” she said. “He would have been very proud. He was always proud of his father.”

Harry Pople’s grandson, George Pople, described the idea behind the structures.

“They had the idea of taking sort of the modern influences from Europe and bringing them into Pittsburgh. They also wanted to create a new style of house, a fireproof house,” he said. “For instance, the house behind me had ceiling tiles made out of concrete, so the whole house supposedly wasn’t going to burn down. It was going to be able to withstand pretty much anything.”

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Jonathan and Laura Colby live in the first house built in Swan Acres, constructed entirely of concrete.

“It’s an absolute nightmare to do any kind of plumbing or electrical work or that kind of thing,” Jonathan said. “But it’s pretty cool. I like it.”

“It has all of the original fixtures,” Laura added. “Really wide staircases, beautiful metal railings. There are no hard corners in the house. Every corner in the house is rounded.”

Though many more homes would follow in America’s First Modern Subdivision, they did not replicate the originals. The concrete “house of the future” is a memory of the past.

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