Architecture & Neighborhoods

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.

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…

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.

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…

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:

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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…

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,…

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…

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.

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…
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