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Pittsburgh Pennsylvania: Forbes Avenue Street Scene

Today we travel to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for a view down a line of automobiles on Forbes Avenue in the Oakland neighborhood which is located on the eastern side of the City. At the head of the line of vehicles in the left-hand lane is a 1936 Ford “Tudor” sedan followed by the oldest car in the view, a 1929 Pontiac four-door sedan. The image is dated to November 11, 1937 by the source.

The tall building in the background is the Cathedral of Learning, a forty-two story landmark in the center the University of Pittsburg campus that contains classrooms, and the School’s administration center. Another structure of note that stands out from the traditional architecture is the light-colored Art Moderne two-story structure on the far left of the photo containing a cleaner and a flower shop. This building appears to be in the finishing stages of construction.

Share with us what you find of interest in the enlargeable photograph (below) by the City Photographer courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh Library.

18 responses to “Pittsburgh Pennsylvania: Forbes Avenue Street Scene

  1. Interesting to see that the three principal signs you see here: Gulf, Sunshine biscuits and CocaCola are still in business, I believe.

    • Sunshine Biscuits was purchased by Keebler Company in 1996, and then Keebler was purchased by Kelloggs Company in 2000. Surprisingly, Gidas Flowers is still there. Their address is 3719 Forbes Avenue. The Art Moderne facade has been removed and the building appears to have reverted back to the original red brick. Viewing Google Maps it appears that many of the original buildings are still standing. Forbes Avenue is now a one-way street.

      • John Fry, thanks for the address…and I do see Gidas Flowers has returned to its brick façade that I suspected was underneath. The proportions just didn’t seem right for late-‘30s new construction. I also see the 3-story building beyond still retains its upper story windows but the store fronts have modern cladding and windows, including a First National Bank ATM.
        It’s a pleasant and vibrant-looking street that’s sadly so often been obliterated in many other cities, leaving residents with little sense of recognizable place. Pittsburgh is to be applauded for having the wisdom (and likely, zoning laws!) to retain it.

  2. It’s interesting how the reflection of the power/telephone lines has further embellished the new building on the left with speed lines. That could be just a new glass façade on the building…the ground floor, particularly the double transom windows on the left side and the storefront display windows on the right, seem sort of old fashioned.

    • There’s a reason that the center of the street is brick. In many cities the local privately owned traction company (trolley) had responsibility for that portion of the street as part of their right-away contract with the city. The traction company maintained the trolley tracks, the right-away and snow removal and bricks were cheaper to maintain.

    • Not to nitpick, but they look quite irregular. In Toronto on the streetcar tracks, granite blocks were used in the same fashion as here. And when some lines were decommissioned, some enterprising types (read thieves) went in at night and stole large amounts of them as they are quite valuable.

  3. The car headed away from the camera looks like a 1937 Ford flatback. The second car behind the 1929 Pontiac is a 1937 Studebaker, I believe.

  4. The taller red brick building at the end of the street is part of the Schenley Apartments complex, which was built in the late 1920’s. Originally high-end residents, they’ve since been converted to University of Pittsburgh student housing.

    the Gothic building mid-block on the left was a police station and later, the King’s Court Theater, which ran regular midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show viewings.

    Re: the trolley tracks, there was another reason why street railways preferred brick or block to concrete or asphalt; they allowed ready access to the track if repairs were needed. In many parts of Pittsburgh, the streetcar area was paved well ahead of the street itself, in some cases never!

    • I saw on street view that it was “Police Patrol Station #4”
      Great old building. It’s good to see they’re preserved.

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