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Pittsburgh
1950's
ALL THINGS PITTSBURGH
By the 1950's, Pittsburgh was in full swing of its urban renewal dubbed "Renaissance I".  Pollution controls and the
affluence of the 1950's led to a revitalization of the city that included massive construction projects and a total revamp
of the Point, the actual heart of the city.

"Renaissance I" began in 1946. Title One of the Housing Act of 1949 provided the means in which to begin. By 1950,
vast swaths of buildings and land near the Point were demolished for Gateway Center. 1953 saw the opening of the
(since demolished) Greater Pittsburgh Municipal Airport terminal.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA
PHOTO RESTORATION DONE BY THE STEELCACTUS FOUNDATION

ADDITIONAL VERBIAGE BY THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA
1950
A view of the Point from Mount Washington showing the Point Bridge on the
right spanning the Monongahela River and the Manchester Bridge on the left
spanning the Allegheny River. The Point stands at the confluence of the
Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers which together form the Ohio River. Also
pictured are the Pennsylvania Railroad freight yards (center foreground) and
Exposition Hall (left of the freight yards).
1954
The One, Two, and Three Gateway Buildings (top left background) were designed
by architects Otto Eggers and Daniel Higgins, with Irwin Clavan. Scarcities
during the Korean War required that chrome-alloyed steel be substituted for the
stainless steel that was originally specified. The Gateway Center buildings were
completed around 1952. Note the beginning stages of construction of the Fort
Pitt Bridge (right) on the bank of the Monongahela River.
The "New" Pittsburgh Airport
The fountain and flagpole outside of the Great Pittsburgh Airport. Ground for the terminal was broken on July 18, 1946, in Moon and Findlay Townships, 16 miles
west of Pittsburgh. The construction project was financed with a peoples’ bond issue. At the time of the dedication on May 31, 1952, the cost had run up to $33
million. The terminal building, known as “The Taj Mahal” by some residents, was one of the largest in the world, encompassing 750,000 square feet, and was
actually a small city within itself, containing 65 hotel rooms, restaurants, shops, banking facilities, and many other conveniences.
The terminal was closed in 1992 and razed in July 1997.
The reconstruction of Pittsburgh's Lower Hill District
neighborhood began in 1955 with $17 million in federal grants.
This project encompassed 100 acres, 1300 buildings, 413
businesses, and 8000 residents (a majority of them
African-Americans) that were displaced in an attempt to extend
the revitalization of the adjacent Golden Triangle. Early in the
nineteenth century the Hill contained country estates, working
farms, coal mines, and a village of black freedmen. Eventually
the Hill District became a place of diverse cultures and many
levels of prosperity. During the twentieth century, the older
ethnic and Jewish population moved away and the Hill became
known as the Harlem of Pittsburgh, a place where the best jazz
could be heard. Urban renewal in the 1950s removed virtually all
of the Lower Hill District.
The Gateway Center buildings (pictured in the background under construction) Pittsburgh
corporations signed leases at Gateway Center without previewing the building’s appearance or
interior design. The Gateway Center Project was a chance for architects to develop a large urban
area from the ground up and it became the first real use of the noted Swiss architect Charles
Edouard Jeanneret’s 1922 design.
Ninety-five acres of the lower Hill District were cleared using eminent
domain, forcibly displacing hundreds of small businesses and more than
8,000 people (1,239 black families, 312 white), to make room for a cultural
center that included the Civic Arena, which opened in 1961. Other than
one apartment building, none of the other buildings planned for the
cultural center were ever built.
School children participate in the clean up of an abandoned
lot in one of Pittsburgh’s inner city neighborhoods.
Description of the photograph reads, “Architects James A. Mitchell, Dahlen K. Ritchey, and
Philips B. Bown, representing the Pittsburgh architectural firms of Mitchell & Ritchey, Inc. and
Altenhof & Bown, Inc. appraise sample section of 1 1/2 story stamped aluminum panel proposed
for Alcoa’s downtown skyscraper, scheduled for erection in 1950-1951. Company officials approved
design and specifications for this type of construction. Section illustrated above will cover 1 1/2
stories of the completed building and includes reversible type aluminum windows containing heat-
retardant glass.” Construction of the building was completed in 1953. The Alcoa Building stands
on the site of the renowned Beaux Arts-style Nixon Theater, and in 2003 the building was referred
to as the Regional Enterprise Tower.
The expanded Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation’s (J&L)
South Side facility, located at 2709 East Carson Street. The
J&L iron furnace and mill were located on the South Side of
the Monongahela River, in the East Birmingham, now the
South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Following World War II
Admiral Ben Moreell served as president (1947-1952), and then
chief executive officer (1952-1958), overseeing a post war
modernization program and rehabilitation of J&L plants and
equipment after wartime overuse. In his “Plant Improvement
Program”, which he introduced in December of 1950, Moreell
introduced a plan to create new power sources, improve upon
raw material handling, and increase speed of production. The
depressed steel market of the 1970s led to a rapid decline in
steel production in the Pittsburgh area. The corporation soon
began demolishing older factories with no intention of
rebuilding. By 1989 most of the South Side Works and the
Eliza furnaces across the Monongahela River were leveled. In
the 1990s the few remaining buildings serve as a distant
memory of the thriving community these factories surrounded.
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