Pittsburgh and belonging.

Flying back into Pittsburgh after a week with family in the SF Bay Area is always a wistful homecoming.  Wistful because there is definitely something to be said for being able to stop at Mom or Grandma’s house for dinner any day of the week; homecoming because there is something about the kind of magnetic combination of land, architecture and people here in Pittsburgh that has kept me here for 20 years. 

It is something that relates to that combination that I want to tell you about today:  the Pittsburgh Architects and Pittsburgh Architecture files here at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Main.  There are two things that make up the files, an index, which looks like a card catalog, and the clippings files, which are in several filing cabinets.  The list of topics that appear on the index cards is listed on our web site.  Each card has either a listing of where you can find more information about the architect, building or neighborhood, such as in local architectural periodicals or local newspapers on microfilm, or it will indicate that there is a clippings file. 

You never know what you might find in a clippings file, although it may seem obvious that there are newspaper clippings.  There might also be a flyer or brochure from a house tour, an architect’s resumé, or better yet, photos or floor plans of a home or building from an old magazine.  (I’ll never forget seeing the floor plan for one of the mansions in the North Side that is now a part of CCAC.  It must have taken an army to clean a house like that!)

These two files, plus our amazing collection of architecture books, complement the huge number of resources available in our Pennsylvania Department.  What’s available in there could be the subject of many, many postings, but I just want to mention that they, too, have a clippings file to trawl through, as well as the Western Pennsylvania Architectural Survey.  The WPAS was a survey done in the ’30s of structures built in Western Pennsylvania before 1860, and it contains photographs and field measurements of those buildings.

I think that knowing some of that architectural history is what makes me feel like Pittsburgh is in my bones.  I’m inviting you to come to the library and explore these resources for yourself.  It’s a treasure trove to discover.



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5 responses to “Pittsburgh and belonging.

  1. totally random – local architecture god frank lloyd wright was my great-grandmother’s cousin! which makes me…hmm…practically totally unrelated. oh, well.


  2. Rebekah

    I love the WPAS file. Just in the last year I was helping someone research the “bones” of the house he and his wife had just purchased. It was built in the 20’s so they were looking for information about the structure and then were going to do period-style decorating. Very cool…

  3. Dianne

    I continue to try and find out when the building my Wilkinsburg condo is in was built (deed says 1938 but I’m told the building is more than 100 years old). Carnegie’s childhood home is/was around the corner on Rebecca, and I’m told the rich used to live in this area. Next time I’m in Pittsburgh, can the WPAS give me any information about this beautiful structure. Thanks.

  4. Hi Dianne – have you talked to the librarians in the PA Dept. about this one? Here’s their main page, with contact info:


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