Architecture & Neighborhoods

Quite Contrary

Sometimes an observer can find a gem where he might least expect it—in this case, Northview Heights housing project. As with many of the city’s projects, it’s not easy to get to there. But if you’re going, drive up above the North Side, just beyond where Federal Street and Perrysville Avenue meet, and continue climbing. Neighborhood …

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Millvale Vista

Tucked in a valley off the Allegheny River along Route 28, Millvale teems with homes, churches and stores that follow the contours of the flood plain along Girty’s Run. Long before its 1868 incorporation, the land marked the beginning of the Venango Trail, which led to Erie. One of the earliest white inhabitants of the …

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Portrait of Penn Avenue

Whether the cultural district or the Strip District, Garfield, Point Breeze or Wilkinsburg, Pittsburghers know Penn Avenue as the heart of every neighborhood that grew up along it. Photographer John Beale, also a professor of photojournalism at Penn State University, has spent a year capturing images of life along Penn, and a portion of that …

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Full Circle for the Square

At noontime on a summer’s friday, Mellon Square—the green public space that lashes together so many of Downtown Pittsburgh’s office buildings, hotels, and businesses—is bustling. Ties loosen, heels are exchanged for sneakers and brown bags and sidewalk-stand hot dogs come out as office workers begin the brisk business of a respite from the cubicle by …

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Song of Shadyside

The word “trendy” has been surgically attached to the word  “Shadyside” since days of yore—far more yore than you think. That most elegant and affluent neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End is home to what Andy Warhol dubbed the Beautiful People, and the upscale shops that cater to their needs. In search of a certain high-end luxury item? You can find …

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Song of Mount Washington

The first Native Americans to spot the first white men approaching their halcyon Green Triangle did so from the same basic observation deck—give or take a few hundred yards—where native ’Burghers admire their Golden Triangle today. By moonlight, those Indian sentries had a perfect view of all telltale torches and flickering campfires at the confluence …

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Song of Slippery Rock

This “Song” even has lyrics—of a sort—in the form of Jack M. MacDonald’s How Slippery Rock Got Its Name, written for the town’s 1975 sesquicentennial: Settler: Gosh all hemlock!What do I see? A redskin pointin’ his gun at me? Indian: That’s right, Pale Face… since I’m discovered, don’t move a step. I’ve got you covered. Settler: …

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Song of Washington, Pa.

The mother of all Washingtons occupies the federal District of Columbia, yet smaller ones abound. The Father of His Country sired no children but, by way of surrogate progeny, he begat towns bearing his surname in no fewer than 27 states. Only one of those little Washingtons was seriously naughty enough to provoke George himself …

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Song of Sewickley

Would you be shocked to learn that Sewickley — the patriotic, upper-crust town just downriver of Pittsburgh — holds an annual American flag-burning in broad daylight on public property? No need for outrage or a constitutional amendment. Turns out, it’s the perfectly respectful flag retirement ceremony, in which tattered Old Glories are given a solemn …

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Song of Greensburg

A thousand feet up the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in the beautiful Laurel Highlands lies the city of Greensburg, an hour southeast of downtown Pittsburgh. A major business and cultural center, its 16,000 population doubles during work hours, giving it one of highest daytime-growth rates in the country.   You, like Ed McMahon, did …

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Song of Canonsburg

The bustling borough of Canonsburg, 20 miles due south of Pittsburgh, was incorporated Feb. 22, 1802, on what Mother always called George Birthington’s Washday. Yes, it was a bit disrespectful. But so was Mother. And so, for that matter, was George. The Father of Our Country spent a lot of time in those parts during …

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Song of Lawrenceville

As a child growing up in Pittsburgh in the ’50s, I thought that Lawrenceville was named for our mayor and that the soldier statue at Butler and 34th Street was David L. Lawrence as a young man. Umm, wrong. The immortal soldier who guards “Larryville” from his circular pedestal at Doughboy Square is a World …

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Song of Weirton

We talk about living in the Tri-State Area, figuratively. The “we” in Weirton live in it literally. My waitress at Mario’s Italian Restaurant on Main Street is a fine example: She’s wearing a black-and-gold, No. 7 Roethlisberger jersey as she serves up the boss’s home-and-handmade spaghetti, while a poster behind her proudly announces Dean Martin …

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Which Came First?

It is almost invisible now, a ghost of a building squatting in the shade of looming hemlocks at the edge of the highway. Though it’s now rundown and overgrown, the brooding brilliance of the place endures. You still can see its crisp, horizontal lines formed by the distinctive, rough-hewn rocks, laid by hand three-quarters of …

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Song of Kittanning

The tranquil beauty of the Allegheny River at its idyllic venue in Kittanning conceals restless ghosts and a violent history. Safe to say, the 18th-century Native Americans who lived there never imagined it couldn’t be defended from a few hundred white invaders, or that the fate of two great Old World empires across an ocean …

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Song of Squirrel Hill

“Jews are just like everybody else, only more so,” Wyoming Benjamin Paris* liked to say. He was an authority on the subject of chutzpah, and the star of his Hill District basketball team — a team with no uniforms or name. In 1919, the year of his bar mitzvah, he hopped a streetcar from Downtown to …

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Song of the South Side Slopes

If you went any higher, you’d need a harp. Yard Way on Pittsburgh’s South Side Slopes is only about half a dozen blocks long, one would say. One would say that if it were in another city. In Pittsburgh, one would be more apt to say it’s half a dozen blocks high, considering the breathtaking …

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