Category: Strip

  • Bair & Gazzam Building, Strip

    Bair and Gazzam Building, Strip

    A dignified industrial building now converted to loft apartments. It was built in the 1890s as a machine shop for the Bair & Gazzam Manufacturing Company, and by 1910 it belonged to the Ruud Manufacturing Company, makers of those marvelous automatic water heaters. The style is very much in line with the industrial Romanesque that was popular in the late 1800s; but if we look carefully at the arches on the ground floor, we notice that they are very subtly pointed.

    Father Pitt does not know the whole history of this building, but it looks as though the top two floors were a later addition.

    From the Hill
    Bair and Gazzam Building
  • Armstrong Cork Factory in 2000

    Broken windows, graffiti, piles of rubbish, trees growing from the roof—this is how the Armstrong Cork Factory looked two decades ago, when architectural historians wondered whether it could be saved. It’s a fine piece of industrial architecture by Frederick Osterling, and it was turned into luxury riverfront apartments in 2007. The success of that venture proved that there was a market for loft apartments in vacant landmarks, with the result that dozens of substantial buildings in the city have been similarly adapted since then.

    This picture was taken with a Lomo Smena 8M.

  • Warehouse on Smallman Street, Strip


    This old warehouse has seen some alterations of its details, but the lines remain basically the same. Note that even a utilitarian building like this sprouts a splendid cornice at the top.

  • Smallman Street

    Smallman Street

    Smallman Street in the Strip changes over time, but it keeps its traditional link with the food business. The Strip became the wholesale-food district because the Pennsylvania Railroad unloaded the culinary treasures of the earth here. Today those treasures arrive mostly by truck.

    The glory of Smallman Street is the broad plaza from 16th to 21st Streets, leading to St. Stanislaus Kostka, the mother church of Polish Catholicism in Pittsburgh, and one of Frederick Sauer’s most distinguished works.

    Smallman Street
  • Sixteenth Street Bridge

    Sixteenth Street Bridge

    The architectural aspects of the Sixteenth Street Bridge, now named for David McCullough, were designed by Warren and Wetmore, the architects of Grand Central Station in New York.

  • St. Elizabeth’s, Strip District

    St. Elizabeth’s

    The Strip was once a densely populated immigrant neighborhood, and until 1993 there were three Catholic churches within five blocks—an Irish one (St. Patrick’s), a Polish one (St. Stanislaus Kostka), and this Slovak church. By 1993 hardly anyone lived in the Strip, and in the parish consolidations this church was closed. After a few vacant years it became a night club. Then it became a church again: now it belongs to Orchard Hill Church. In a way this new ownership continues both strands of the building’s history: Orchard Hill is the kind of nondenominational church where worship is a stage show with a band.

    St. Elizabeth’s
  • 31st Street Bridge

    31st Street Bridge

    In order to line up with the street grid of the Strip, the 31st Street Bridge has an odd kink at the south end. Here we see it from Wiggins Street, Polish Hill.

  • Demolishing a Warehouse in the Strip


    Chunks of concrete dangle from exposed floors of a half-demolished warehouse next to the Sixteenth Street Bridge.


    No one will miss this ugly building—or at least no one will admit to missing it. But it does point out a principle that old Pa Pitt has often stated: prosperity is more destructive to old landmarks than any other force except possibly war—and even then it depends on the war. When the city is prosperous, there is a strong incentive to replace older things with newer, more profitable things. Fortunately Pittsburgh has learned a lot about appreciating its old buildings, and much of what is going on in the booming Strip District is restoration and adaptation rather than demolition. But old buildings are in much more danger when the city is prosperous than when the local economy is stagnant.

    Two floors of building under demolition
  • Downtown from the Strip

    From the corner of Penn Avenue and 17th Street.

  • Old St. Patrick

    Old Saint Patrick’s was the first Catholic parish in Pittsburgh, founded in 1808 in what was then the most Presbyterian city in North America. The parish moved more than once, and the current building dates from 1935, after the previous larger building burned.

    The parish has a long history, obviously, but it was never more historical than in the 1930s, when the activist labor priest Father Cox broadcast Mass from the church, led marches on Washington, ran for president on the Jobless Party ticket, and got into very public altercations with the fascist radio priest Father Coughlin, who brought an action against him in ecclesiastical court. Father Cox was found guilty of slandering another priest, and Bishop Boyle of Pittsburgh was directed to take appropriate disciplinary action. Bishop Boyle duly noted the verdict, and appears to have decided that the most appropriate disciplinary action was no action at all.

    A walled “Theotokos Garden” of statues of saints is a welcome refuge from the bustle of the Strip. Of course the most prominent of the saints is Saint Patrick.