Father Pitt

Why should the beautiful die?

Craig Street Automotive Row, Oakland

Update: Father Pitt has improved on these pictures and published more or less the same article over again, but with much better lighting.

Oakland Motor Car Co.

If this is not unique in North America, it has to be at least very rare: a complete contiguous row of buildings from the early days of the automotive industry, intact and largely unaltered. They are lined up one after another, without any gaps, along Craig Street from Baum Boulevard northward. It is one of Pittsburgh’s unrecognized treasures. Fortunately only one of the buildings seems to be endangered at the moment: the others have found new uses, and the owners have not made substantial alterations to the façades, several of which have fine terra-cotta details.

In 1905, a splendid amusement park opened on this site: Luna Park, the first of a chain of Luna Parks that spanned the globe.

Luna Park

This one did not last long, however: it closed in 1909—partly as a result of competition from the well-established Kennywood Park, where you can now see a smaller model of the Luna Park entrance.

The closing of the park opened up a broad expanse of cleared land, and the newly rich automobile industry moved in here. By 1923, all these buildings had been constructed in a long row.

We begin at the corner of Baum Boulevard (the picture at the top of the article), where the grandest of the lot actually sold low-priced cars. This was a dealer in—coincidentally—Oakland motor cars, which were named for Oakland County, Michigan, where they were made. Oakland was General Motors’ cheap division before GM bought Chevrolet.


The ornate capitals of the corner columns are worth a closer look.


Next in the row up Craig Street is a Franklin dealer.

Tire dealers

Next come two tire dealers in identical buildings. The one on the left sold Kelly-Springfield; the one on the right sold B. F. Goodrich. These buildings are now the Luna Lofts, which probably sounds better than Kelly-Springfield and B. F. Goodrich Tire Lofts.


Here is the one building Father Pitt considers endangered, beacuse vacant and ill-kept buildings catch fire mysteriously. It belonged to the Van Kleeck Motor Co., which sold Jordan automobiles. The façade is mostly original, though it has had some curious alterations, especially the door to nowhere with its tiny iron balcony.


Next (and please forgive the glare from the sun in the wrong part of the sky) comes an Oldsmobile dealer.


And finally the Nash dealer, now home to a branch of North Way Christian Community, which has made the front look gorgeous.

This is the whole contiguous row along Craig Street, and it is incredible enough that the entire block of buildings has survived intact. There were also other car dealers in the same immediate area, and even more remarkably they have survived, too. In the future, Father Pitt hopes to bring you pictures of the Chevrolet dealer, the Packard dealer, the Studebaker dealer, the Ford dealer, and the Sampson dealer.

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