Old Pa Pitt was not satisfied with the pictures he published of the Craig Street automotive row two weeks ago. The light was wrong: the sun was behind the buildings. We did our best with those pictures, but really the only way to get better ones would be to return at a different time of day. Father Pitt is so thoroughly dedicated to his readers that he did exactly that, so now here is a duplicate of that article, but with better pictures.
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.
Update: Father Pitt has made a composite photograph of the whole row at once, so you can see how the buildings fit together.
In 1905, a splendid amusement park opened on this site: Luna Park, the first of a chain of Luna Parks that spanned the globe.
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.(1)
We begin at the corner of Baum Boulevard, 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.
Next in the row up Craig Street is a Franklin dealer.
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, because 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. The terra-cotta decorations are well preserved, and Father Pitt was able to pick some of them out with a long lens:
Next 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. We’ll be seeing more of them soon.
- Most of this information comes from comparing 1910 and 1923 maps; the 1910 map still shows Luna Park, and the 1923 map shows this row of buildings with the owners and the brands they sold clearly marked. (↩)
3 responses to “Craig Street Automotive Row Again”
[…] Father Pitt has improved on these pictures and published more or less the same article over again, but with much better […]
[…] Pa Pitt obsessively documented every building in the Craig Street automotive row. But he was even more obsessive than that. The thing that is most impressive about that row is that […]
The endangered building has partially finished apartments in it. A coworker of mine was considering buying it and finishing the renovations. It is evident that at one point this building was both being used residentially and commercially. There is a working freight elevator inside.