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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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