Preferably with large windows, hardwood floors and enough room in the kitchen for two cooks. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, is it?
It’s not as if I’m looking for a cantilevered house built over a waterfall, or an 8,000-acre estate in the mountains of North Carolina with grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. I don’t need a house with a séance room and a host of secret passageways; in fact, the fewer secret passageways, the better. And who wants to clean 61 bathrooms? Not me. Nor do I do windows.
And while I can appreciate historic homes of all sorts, no one famous needs to have lived in or visited my [as-yet-undetected] house before, whether a founding father or a king. I certainly wouldn’t complain about an apartment in a building inspired by marine life and bones by one of my favorite architects, but truly my sights are set in a more practical, and local, realm.
Lastly, I may be a bit of an environmentalist, but I’m realistic enough to know that my chances of finding an earth house, straw bale construction, or a home made entirely of scrap and salvaged materials to rent within the City of Pittsburgh and closely-neighboring boroughs are pretty darn slim. Nor am I ready to go off the grid at the moment, not too likely anywhere I’m looking. I’ll just keep exploring the latest options here at the library until life takes me somewhere I would never expect.
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.