Sarah Street was the prime residential street of East Birmingham (the part of the South Side between 17th and 26th Streets), and it retains some of Pittsburgh’s most distinguished rowhouses. The one above is a splendidly eclectic mix—a bit of Italianate, a bit of Gothic, a bit of Second Empire. Note how much effort has gone into making interesting patterns in the bricks.
Here is another house in a similarly eclectic style. The parlor window is treated almost identically, but the upper floors vary the theme considerably.
This is not strictly a rowhouse, since it is detached from its neighbors by a narrow alley on each side; but since it is connected to those neighbors by a pair of gates, it is as near a rowhouse as makes no difference. This is a fine example of the Italianate style in a city house, and the owners have had some fun picking out the ornamental details with an unusual but effective paint scheme.
The last rays of evening sun strike little rowhouses on Pearl Street in Bloomfield. This picture was taken in 1999, but except for the cars the view has changed very little. Bloomfield still has one of the city’s best collections of Kool Vent aluminum awnings.
What is there to see in one block of rowhouses on one back street on the South Side? Old Pa Pitt asked that question, and then got out a camera to answer it. Here are a few little details from the 2200 block of Sarah Street.
No neighborhood has changed more than Lawrenceville in the past two decades—but only demographically. In 2001, Lawrenceville was a cheap working-class neighborhood whose long business district was full of abandoned storefronts, except at the still-thriving core around the intersection of Butler and Main Streets. (Butler, of course, is the main street; the Pittsburgh area is full of Main Streets that aren’t the main street of anything.) Then the artsy types discovered it and briefly made it into the artists’ colony of Pittsburgh; then their rediscovery of the neighborhood caused rents and real-estate values to rocket upward, sending the artists scurrying to Garfield and other cheaper places while people with money moved in.
But through those rapid changes, the back streets of Lawrenceville have hardly changed at all. The artists and their moneyed successors moved in because they liked the neighborhood the way it was, and they have been careful to maintain it that way. The houses are better kept on average now, but they were never badly kept, as we can see in this picture from about 2001. Except for some more fashionable polychrome paint schemes on a few of the houses, this view is almost exactly the same today.
Remarkable mostly for its unremarkableness, this little house in the back streets of the South Side is a good demonstration of how to keep an old house (it might be 150 years old or more) tastefully up to date.