This building sits at the complicated corner where Broadway, Hampshire Avenue, and Beechview Avenue come together. Except for the ground floor in the front, it has changed little since it was put up as one of the first commercial buildings in the neighborhood. For many years the fondly remembered Johns’ Drugs (the apostrophe could have gone either way, since the founder was John A. Johns) was here.
We mentioned “the ground floor in the front” because, like many Beechview buildings, this has ground floors on more than one level. On the Hampshire Avenue side is a little speakeasy in what would be the basement level if the ground were flat.
The street sign with “Hampshire St” is anomalous. The street is called “Hampshire Ave” on other signs, including the one across Broadway. Most streets are “avenues” in Beechview, even if the “avenue” is a concrete stairway.
This view of the west side of Broadway in Beechview shows us a very Pittsburghish commercial district. The architecture is miscellaneous, including apartment buildings, commercial buildings, houses with storefront extensions, and tiny one-storey gap-filler storefronts. The street curves, so the buildings are not all perfectly rectangular. And of course this is Pittsburgh, so the whole row is on what in other cities would be called a steep slope, though in Pittsburgh we expect the Red Line streetcars to negotiate it.
Old Pa Pitt’s obsession with small apartment buildings continues. This one is on Broadway in Beechview. It seems to have been originally meant as an imitation of a Georgian mansion of the sort found in Annapolis or Williamsburg. It looks as though smaller windows have been installed, and the semicircle of bricks at the top of the central stairs might have been a “Palladian” window. In spite of alterations and repairs, though, it remains a pleasing and distinctive building.
An inbound Siemens SD-400 trolley stops at the Hampshire stop in Beechview. This is another streetcar picture for Red Line riders to enjoy while we wait for the repairs to the Saw Mill Run viaduct. And, by the way, Las Palmas across the street is an excellent place to find Latin American specialties as well as general American supermarket groceries.
Beechview is something unique in Pittsburgh and very rare in the United States: an early-twentieth-century streetcar suburb where the streetcars still run down the main street as they did when the neighborhood was first laid out. The central business district has had its ups and downs; right now it is a good place to find interesting little ethnic restaurants and groceries. Most of the neighborhood is laid out as a grid in spite of the precipitous hills, but Broadway, the street with the car line, follows the top of the ridge. Beechview Avenue (below) continues the straight line of the business district as Broadway curves off toward the Fallowfield streetcar viaduct and abruptly ends at Fallowfield Avenue, leaving the streetcars to continue on their own right-of-way.
Following the ancient tradition that the street with the tracks belongs to the streetcar company, the Port Authority is responsible for maintaining Broadway.
Streetcar service in Beechview is interrupted right now because the Saw Mill Run viaduct has been closed for emergency repairs. The Red Line will roll up Broadway again as soon as the bridge reopens.