Borough of Fox Chapel
The area that became Fox Chapel, as well as the surrounding communities of O'Hara, Aspinwall and Sharpsburg, were among the first settled in the Allegheny Valley. James Powers was the first white settler in the area and he moved in 1796 after he was driven off Herr's Island by Indians. His ancestors still live on property in O'Hara that Powers bought more than 200 years ago.
Irish immigrant James O'Hara, a Revolutionary War general, entrepreneur and prime mover in early Pittsburgh history, owned most of the property on the northern shore of the Allegheny River from the Point to what is now Harmar. When O'Hara had financial problems in 1818, he was bailed out by another prominent Pittsburgher, James Ross. O'Hara gave Ross 1,700 acres in exchange for his help, much of which became Fox Chapel. Ross also built a country estate called "The Meadows" at the intersection of Fox Chapel and Freeport roads.
Allegheny County built a road through the community and called it Fox Chapel Road. The Pittsburgh Field Club opened in 1915 and the Fox Chapel Golf Club opened in 1923. In 1922, Shady Side Academy opened its senior school on property that was formerly two large farms.
Residents formed the Fox Chapel District Association in 1928 to provide fire and police protection through contracts with neighboring communities. Two years later, the impetus that led to the formation of the borough began when O'Hara residents discovered that county commissioners were considering a proposal to open a water amusement park in Squaw Run Valley with a pool, a boat harbor at the Allegheny River and an amphitheater. At the same time, another company was considering opening a dog track on Freeport Road.
Both projects were dropped after community opposition, but residents pressured O'Hara commissioners for a zoning ordinance to regulate development in the district. By early 1934, the district association was considering formation of a new municipality to provide police protection and other services. The petition for incorporation included 40 percent of O'Hara, 22 percent of its population and a large percentage of its tax base. Needless to say, the petition was opposed unsuccessfully by O'Hara and the local school board, which claimed the petition was an attempt to grab the area's valuable real estate and leave behind tax exempt property, including the county workhouse and the Veterans Administration hospital.
1 -- Source: 2000 U.S. Census