The earliest appearance of Cuba-You-Quit Alley on a map, in 1882.

On the subject of Cuba You Quit Way, von Hindenberg asks, “What is the large building thrown diagonally across Cuba’s line of retreat?”

Dr. Boli and Father Pitt have not been able to find out. The question is complicated. The alley was on a steep hill (it ran along the border between Uptown and the Hill District), and the map shows small frame houses (yellow) and two brick houses (red) that no longer exist. In the 1910 map by the same company, the same building is shown as red, indicating that it was made of brick or stone. Possibly the change of color indicates that it was demolished or dilapidated. It appears to belong to “V. Brusco et ux.” on the 1923 map, but it is adjacent to the Booth & Flinn brickyard, and might be one of their buildings. Since there was no zoning in the neighborhood, the whole area was a cluttered mix of modest rowhouses, businesses, small factories, and institutions. The western half of Cuba You Quit Way may not have been cut through: many streets appear on these maps that are only paper streets, or pathways through the weeds. We should add that the automobile or wagon was not welcome here: Wyandotte Street (the diagonal street at lower right) is a stairway. Probably the only way to get to those little houses on Cuba You Quit Way was on foot (which is still true of a surprising number of houses in Pittsburgh). It is easier for a pedestrian than for a car to step around the projecting corners of a building.

Of course the name of the alley is the most surprising thing about it, and it tended to attract remark when it was current. During the First World War, the Pittsburgh correspondent for The Union Postal Employee took inspiration from the name to suggest some improvements in the city’s street-naming system, which still frustrates mail carriers.

Our city scheme is not simple. The “namers” of the streets appear to favor words of topographical significance, and as a result one-half of the names refer to some degree of elevation peculiar to the section in which the street happens to be. There are dozens of “Hill Top,” “Highview,” “Hillside,“ ”Hilldales,” etc., to say nothing of a few pages of “Maples,” “Elms,” and “Ferns.” One street, however, stands forth prominently as the only one of its name in the world. I refer, of course, to “Cuba-You-Quit Alley.” At the present time, with a war in progress that makes the Spanish-American War look like a backyard scrap, the only move to commemorate the event was the changing of the name of “Kaiser Wilhelm Street” to “Marne Way.” Surely the “namer” of “Cuba-You-Quit Alley” would not hesitate to accept the suggestion that we rename some of the “Maples,“ ”Elms” and “Hills,” etc., with more appropriate titles. I suggest a few, but the inventor of the name of “Cuba-You-Quit Way” will undoubtedly be able to improve on my list: “Berlin-or-Bust Alley,” “Buy-a-Bond Terrace,” “War-Savings-Stamp Street,” “Food-Will-Win-the-War,” “Don’t-Waste-It Alley,” “Over-the-Top Avenue,” or “Carry-On Boulevard.” (The Union Postal Employee, January, 1918.)

In at least one way the postal employee’s suggestion was implemented. Shortly after the Great War, a new automobile highway was opened clinging to the cliff above the Monongahela, and it was given one of the most audaciously grandiose names ever applied to an American street: “The Boulevard of the Allies.” Unlike New York’s Avenue of the Americas, the Boulevard of the Allies is so called by ordinary Pittsburghers; and furthermore Second Avenue downtown was renamed as an extension of it, so that to navigate the avenues downtown you have to learn to count in Picksburgh dialect: one, Allies, three, four, Forbes, five, Oliver, six, seven.

But did Cuba-You-Quit Way get its name from the Spanish-American War? No; it first appears on maps in 1882. The name appears to be a folk etymology: that is, a popular but incorrect explanation of the derivation of a term. The Post-Gazette told the story of Cuba-You-Quit Way a few years ago. It seems the alley was named for a Chippewa woman named Cub-bayou-quit (there was no settled spelling of her name), who married a well-to-do Pittsburgher. She married him in a Chippewa ceremony; but when, as a widow, she tried to claim property worth millions of dollars in 1874 money, the current owners claimed that Chippewa marriage did not count in Pennsylvania law. Apparently the case was such a sensation that it was in everyone’s minds for months, and some city planner attached her name to a new alley, which does not appear on an 1872 map but does on an 1882 map as “Cuba-You-Quit Alley.” The rule that there are no “alleys” in Pittsburgh was not in force until the early twentieth century; we still find some ancient street signs marking alleys that are “ways” on modern maps.

Street sign for Larkins Alley (now Larkins Way) on the back of St. Casimir’s Church, South Side.

The Post-Gazette says that the name of Cuba-You-Quit Way was changed to Cuba Way in 1926, and adds that “it no longer exists.” That is not quite correct. The eastern section of Diaz Way, a narrow and nearly but not quite abandoned alley, is the old Cuba-You-Quit Alley.

Diaz Way probably has an interesting history, too. It appears as “Davis Alley” in 1872, the earliest map on which we have been able to find it (it does not appear in 1862 or before). It is still Davis Alley in 1882, but the name has changed to Diana Alley in 1890. It still appears as Diana Alley in 1910, but as Diaz Way in 1923.

Dr. Boli often wanders into back alleys of history, but seldom so literally as he has done today.