Architecture & Neighborhoods

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.

Looking at Lubetz

Stand at the top of the angles stairs in the entry to the Squirrel Hill Library, and you are cantilevered out and over Forbes Avenue, beyond the facades of surrounding buildings. The way the building creases and folds here, you can see outside and back in at the same time.…

The Unconventional Pays Off

Sometimes a building aims to look as if it has always been there. Frequently, architects match the brick of the surrounding neighborhood and use slightly modernized versions of traditional details to make a structure appear that it’s been there longer than it has. This is not such a bad thing.…

Christmas in Utopia

It’s early morning on Christmas Eve in the town of Economy, Pennsylvania. The year is 1828. Twenty-​seven-​year-​old Catharina Langenbacher awakens to the five o’clock gong of the grandfather clock in the sitting room downstairs. By the time she clambers down the crude staircase, her widowed mother is preparing breakfast. Catharina’s…

Strip Stake

Pittsburgh’s Strip District is the place where everyone comes for everything. With redevelopment occurring on every edge of this one-​half square mile tract, city planners, business owners and residents are looking to strike the right balance. Bring in the new developments and luxury condominiums, but keep the character — the boutiques and…

A Monument Then and Now

Did the demolition of the greenfield (really the Beechwood Boulevard) Bridge feel like the passing of an era? The urbane, concrete arch span of 1923 was crumbling far too ominously above the speeding traffic of the Parkway East to be able to stay in place, so it was ceremoniously demolished.…

The Old Ways May Be Best

Marino floro plucks a perfectly shaped fig from a tree in his Sewickley yard, opens the door to his chicken coop, and offers the fruit to a chamois-​colored hen, which clucks with enthusiasm.

Once Upon A Tunnel

The calamity began at the stroke of midnight on May 10, 1924, when Pittsburgh Street Railway Company employees walked off the job. The streetcar strike threw commuters into a tizzy, and the following morning South Hills commuters jumped into their cars and headed for the recently opened Liberty Tunnels. Between…

The Story of an Icon

With the completion of the Tower at PNC Plaza, Pittsburgh has yet another generation of skyscraper design in its picturesque cityscape. Though our first tall steel-​frame building — Longfellow, Alden & Harlow’s Carnegie Building of 1895 — was lost in 1952 for the Kaufmann’s store annex, the Frick building of 1902 remains with several…

The City-​County Building

Ask people their favorite downtown Pittsburgh building, and many will tell you Henry Hobson Richardson’s Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail. Pittsburgh’s first really famous piece of architecture has been popular consistently since its 1888 completion.

South Side Visions

I only met my husband’s grandfather a few times; he died at age 92, shortly after my husband and I were married in 1988.

Wilkinsburg renewal

Shortly before he died last year, Korean War veteran Jack Ward stood inside the doorway of the Save-​A-​Lot grocery store in Wilkinsburg’s Penn Avenue business district. Wearing his Marine cap and shirt with service patches, he handed out pamphlets about the proposed sale of alcohol in some borough restaurants. A…

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.

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…

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…
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