Tag: Storefronts

  • Building on Penn Avenue at Winebiddle Street, Garfield

    Building at Penn and Winebiddle

    If we read our old maps correctly, this building on Penn Avenue at Winebiddle Street, probably built in the 1890s, housed the Garfield Bank. But since the name “Garfield Bank” does not appear before the 1923 layer, it may not originally have been built for that institution. It is a curiously eclectic building, hard to assign to a particular style, and the architect (or probably builder-with-a-pencil) seems not to have known quite how to deal with the front, leaving a disturbingly asymmetrical arrangement of windows. But it is an interesting construction, and it has been preserved in very good shape.

    Penn at Winebiddle

    On city planning maps, Penn Avenue is a neighborhood border, and the south side of Penn Avenue is in Bloomfield; but both sides of the Penn Avenue business district have always been called “Garfield” by Pittsburghers, as we see from the fact that a Garfield Bank occupied this building in 1923.

    From the west
  • Mt. Oliver Mens Shop

    The front of this building, which was originally constructed a little before 1910, has been perfectly pickled in the middle twentieth century. It is now an antique store advertising “useful junk,” and if you enlarge the picture, you will see how much of that junk is a perfect match for the era of the storefront itself.

  • Miller Hardware, Mount Oliver

    Here is a building that probably dates from the 1890s, and it appears to be occupied by the business that built it. Miller Hardware has expanded into the building next door as well, but it is still an old-fashioned hardware store.

  • Vanished Storefront on Brownsville Road, Knoxville

    Sometimes old Pa Pitt hasn’t got around to publishing a picture of something before it disappears. Back in January he took this picture of a three-storey commercial building from 1901; it has just been demolished. It was not an extraordinarily fine work of architecture, but the upper floors were pleasingly proportioned and treated with enough ornamentation to make the building a good citizen of the streetscape. The ground floor was a mass of decades’ worth of improvised improvements and adaptations; its last tenant was a general store that advertised “videos” among its wares, which tells us how long that store had been vacant.

  • Italianate Commercial Building, Lawrenceville

    An unusually attractive building on Butler Street at the corner of Main Street. Note the folk-art wood carving in the trim.

  • Nicholas Building

    If you see a student of architecture suddenly stop in the middle of the Diamond and burst out laughing, this building is the subject of the mirth.

    When it was announced that a gigantic complex to be designed by Philip Johnson was going to take over one corner of the Diamond, the owners of the Nicholas Coffee building, who happened to be ready for a renovation, decided to welcome their new neighbor with a parody of what was then Johnson’s most famous work. At that time, Johnson was notorious everywhere for his AT&T Building (now called just 550 Madison Avenue), which was a deliberate poke in the eye of orthodox modernism; and you have only to see it to get the Nicholas Building’s joke.

    Photograph by David Shankbone; cropped by Beyond My Ken.
  • 8 Market Square

    8 Market Square

    This building on the Diamond has lost its cornice, but the rest of it is intact, and the details are worth a closer look.

  • Weldin’s Building

    Until a few years ago, this building was the home of Weldin’s, the venerable stationer that had been selling pens, ink, and paper since well before the Civil War. Weldin’s itself is no more—the business moved to the Gulf Tower for a few years, and then vanished in the early months of the COVID pandemic. But the extraordinarily rich Italian Renaissance front of this building remains as a highlight of an extraordinarily rich row of small commercial buildings on Wood Street.

  • Renaissance Deco in Mount Oliver

    131–133 Brownsville Road

    Italian Renaissance architecture filtered through an Art Deco lens makes an extraordinarily rich little building on Brownsville Road. The storefronts have been modernized; they would almost certainly not have had doors that open right into pedestrians’ faces when this building was put up in 1928. But the overall impression the building makes is still dignified, with a touch of Venetian fantasy that reminds us of a Pandro S. Berman production.

    False balcony
  • G. C. Murphy Buildings

    G. C. Murphy buildings

    It called itself “the world’s largest variety store,” and it was probably right about that. G. C. Murphy was a big chain of five-and-dime stores based in McKeesport, but the downtown Pittsburgh store was its biggest and most exciting. It had three floors of everything, including concessions rented out to everything from produce vendors to fortune tellers. The whole establishment occupied the corner of Forbes Avenue and the Diamond and went through the block to Fifth Avenue.

    The chain succumbed to corporate raiders in the 1980s, who exploited quirks of capitalist logic by driving the chain into bankruptcy and getting rich in the process. The downtown store contracted into a small part of its former empire, and then closed altogether.

    For a while the buildings sat empty. Now they have been restored to beautiful condition, and the Diamond is thriving again. Old Pa Pitt wishes he could have Murphy’s back, but time like an ever-rolling stream and all that.