Architecture & Neighborhoods

Monsignor Rice’s trampoline

To understand how I, a lapsed Catholic from the East, came into possession of a small, slightly cracked trampoline that used to belong to Pittsburgh’s most famous “labor priest,” you must begin, as South Hills summers always do, with the St. Anne’s Fair.

Wabash Park ice skating, 1917

On the wintry afternoon of Jan. 20, 1917, pittsburghers of all ages enjoyed ice skating at Wabash Park in Pittsburgh’s West End. Regularly a grassy swath, it was apparently flooded and frozen for the season. The park is still there, as are a number of the park-​facing homes along Wabash…

New life in an old neighborhood

Polish Hill is one of Pittsburgh’s more eccentric and paradoxical neighborhoods. Its showcase church, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, is especially stately and conspicuous, while the angular streets that weave it to the hillside are suitably European. But the neighborhood suffered acutely in Pittsburgh’s post-​war population decline and persisted more…

Home Library Group

Coke oven smokestacks loom as members of a boys’ reading club pose in an what is likely a factory slum along the Monongahela where workers lived to be near their jobs at the Jones & Laughlin Steel Mill in Hazelwood.

Pittsburgh’s tiny troubles

“Tiny houses” are a hot trend on the Internet and occasionally in real life. The widespread but not entirely formal movement includes residences of between 100 and 400 square feet, depending who is counting. They come from builders and owners who want to live more economical and less complicated lives…

Heinz, 1903

The H.J. Heinz company was founded in 1888, and by the turn of the century had a vast processing plant on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

A New Philanthropic Direction

Since the Buhl Foundation began in 1927, Pittsburgh’s philanthropic landscape has changed dramatically, with the creation of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Heinz Endowments, Hillman Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, Grable Foundation, Colcom Foundation, Benedum Foundation and McCune Foundation, among many others. This rich collection of foundation partners has embroidered the…

From melons to motorists

Why exactly does motor square Garden have a dome? The Renaissance-​style cap in oxidized copper and glass sits confidently on a low-​rise multiple gable structure in buff brick that is more ancient Roman. Pittsburgh Press writer George Swetnam once called the combination “odd but charming.” The building definitely holds its…

The Enduring Dollar

They don’t call it the lion’s share for nothing. Those sculpted felines at Dollar Bank’s Fourth Avenue building have grabbed the limelight. A crowd attended their unveiling last year, with substantial press coverage, because master carver Nicholas Fairplay had both restored the original lions, which were placed inside the Dollar…

From drab to daring

You could easily miss the Sharpsburg Community Library, even at its Main Street location next to the post office. This is not a Beaux Arts gem of the Carnegie system. Rather, it is 1,300 square feet in a one-​story concrete-​block former Indian restaurant. The little facility is well used and…

The Little Block House That Could

The first question a visitor usually asks is: “So… what was this place?” As curator of the 250-​year-​old Fort Pitt Block House, sometimes I feel that I have the most interesting job in the world. I get to take care of the only structure left of Fort Pitt and the…

Hatfield and Home

At the corner of Hatfield and Home streets, lively currents in Lawrenceville’s past, present and future converge in vivid architecture. Historic rowhouses line the street in one direction, and in another are some of the remains of industrial infrastructure. The substantial remaining open space toward the river seems to ask…

Raising the Bar

The widely repeated story goes something like this: Gary Saulson, PNC’s senior vice president for real estate, would regularly have lunch at a certain restaurant, from which he would have a direct view toward the Liberty Travel Building, a billboard-​slathered misshapen lump, whose prominent location at the corner of Liberty…

A Sustainable Aesthetic

What is sustainable, or green architecture, anyway, and what is it supposed to look like? The fact remains that the operation of buildings uses 40 percent of the earth’s energy resources, so construction aimed at reducing that consumption is both admirable and necessary. But do you know it when you…

For the children and the community

Mist emerges with an audible hiss from the vertical stainless steel poles of “Cloud Arbor,” the new artwork by Ned Kahn in the redesigned Buhl Community Park on the North Side across from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. A delighted toddler runs toward it, to assess the wafting, San Francisco-​like…
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