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.

Blowing Engine

Blowing engine at Station Square

This was the blast in a blast furnace: the machine that provided the air that rushed into the furnace to keep the chemical reactions going. Surprisingly, this one was not used in Pittsburgh: it was brought down from Sharpsville, a little steel town in Mercer County. But it was built by the Mesta Machine Company in West Homestead. Now it lives at Station Square, right in front of the Glasshouse apartments.

Mesta blowing engine
Blowing engine

B. M. Kramer & Co. Building

Note that this picture is more than 13 megabytes if you enlarge it.

Old Pa Pitt can only say this is not bad for a first try. He has always admired this little masterpiece of industrial architecture (which surprisingly still houses a pipe, valve, and fittings company), and set himself the task of getting a picture of the Sidney Street face, which covers the entire block between 20th Street and 21st Street on the South Side. The evening sun was not kind to him, so he may try again on a cloudy day; but this is still the only picture of the whole Sidney Street face on the entire Internet, so Father Pitt gives himself credit for that much. Below, a more conventional (and much easier) view from the corner of 20th and Sidney Streets, with the usual utility cables.

Duquesne Brewery in Evening Light

Duquesne Brewery

The Duquesne Brewery mushroomed into a titanic operation after the Second World War, and then rapidly collapsed in the 1960s and was gone by the 1970s. At its peak it took up three blocks on the South Side, and of course it was famous for the largest clock in the world. This 1899 building, the center of the empire, was abandoned for some time, then taken over by artist squatters, and finally, as the Brew House, became lofts and studios. It is an architectural curiosity, added to over the course of the brewery’s history with some regard for consistent style but no regard at all for symmetry.


Westinghouse Works

How do you give a good impression of how big the Westinghouse dynamo factory is? This extraordinary film from 1904 begins with an aerial tracking shot that goes on uninterrupted for two minutes. Then we see an army of women assembling the more delicate parts, and finally quitting time, when many of the younger workers literally run out the doors.