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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pittsburgh: 100 Years Past


I'm still stunned I found this at Rogers Community Auction over the weekend. It's a postcard booklet, with locations printed on the front and back. The postmark is dated September 1914. I paid $5 for it.


Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown Pittsburgh




St. Paul Cathedral, Oakland


Mercy Hospital, Uptown


Allegheny General Hospital, North Side


Heinz Residence, East Liberty


Highland Park Zoo, Highland Park (Now just the Pittsburgh Zoo)


Baseball Park, aka Forbes Field, Oakland


"New" University of Pittsburgh, Oakland


Forbes Field, Oakland









Carnegie Technical School, Squirrel Hill (Now Carnegie Mellon University)


Pennsylvania Railroad Union Station, Downtown Pittsburgh


Hotel Schenley, Oakland (Now the William Pitt Union at the University of Pittsburgh)


There were a few other ways to confirm this is from 1914.

First, Pittsburgh is spelled with an H on these. From the 1890s until 1911, the city was spelled Pittsburg. Also, there are pictured of Forbes Field and Exposition Park in this collection. There was only a small time frame when both existed at the same time: Forbes Field was built in 1909; Exposition Park (pictured in the "Smoky City" photo) was used until 1915.

It's kind of cool that most of the buildings, with the exception of Forbes Field and the Exposition buildings, are still in existence. Not sure about the fate of the Fort Wayne Depot and Pittsburgh Post Office buildings pictured. Other buildings, while still standing, have changed significantly or have been repurposed. For instance, as I mentioned above, the Schenley Hotel is now the student union building at Pitt. Also, the Allegheny Post Office, in North Side, now houses the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

One other thing I did: I searched the name Helen Duncan, of Saltsburg, since this booklet was addressed to her. She was born in September 1904, so she received this booklet right around her 10th birthday. And I'm guessing she held onto it for a long time, or collected them. The seller at Rogers had a few other booklets featuring other cities, so she could've collected them. I didn't see whether they were all addressed to her or not.

Lastly, the booklet had postcard photos on the front and back, instead of the traditional open space to write a note. And they were all attached accordion style. That's something I've never seen before.

Have you ever been curious as to what your hometown looked like 100 years ago? How much have things changed over the last century?


  1. Great buy for 5 bucks. I love looking at old photographs/artwork. I'm from Chicago and yes I am curious about how it looked a hundred years ago. I'm from the far north side, about 5 miles northwest of Wrigley Field. There was actually a book published about 10 years ago with great photographs that showed some of the street intersections back in the day. It's fun to try and put yourself there in your mind. As Mark alluded to, there is a time machine quality to it all.

    1. Definitely. It's weird to think about how much has changed, yet how much has stayed the same, too.

  2. Ah thats a crazy cool find and even though those postcards are from 1914 it really makes me want to visit Pittsburgh. I have seen one post card of my hometown and it was crazy to see how old fashioned and different it looked with carriages in the postcard.

    1. It's definitely worth a visit. ;) But then again, I'm biased.

  3. Wow, what lovely postcards. It would be awesome to attempt to take the same photo nowadays and then put them side by side. Fancy a task ;)

    1. That's seriously a great idea! I think the biggest transformations would be the zoo and the university photos. Some of the others, particularly St. Paul Cathedral and Mercy Hospital, look exactly the same.

  4. Yes! I am constantly looking up things from the past in my community...it's all so interesting. Next to my neighborhood used to be an amusement park...which is now defunct, but I can't help to research more about it.

    And I never knew that about the spelling of Pittsburgh! My family is from there, so I kind of recognize several of these buildings :-) Very cool.

    1. Cool! There was an amusement park my mom went to growing up, not too far from where we lived, and it had closed right around the time she graduated from high school. She still talks about that place.

  5. This is indeed a very interesting find, and as both a Pittsburgh native and a railfan I'm intrigued that the Fort Wayne Depot was apparently still standing at the same time as the Pennsy station. At the time, both would have been owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Fort Wayne Depot was originally built by the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad, connecting its namesake cities. The Pennsy would later buy the PFW&C. I can't find online reference to the dates of construction or demolition of the Fort Wayne depot, but I think I know a book that might help.

    Also, I'm impressed with your blog. I've added a link to you on my own site.

    1. Pittsburgh was definitely an interesting place 100 years ago, just like it is now! :) I found it weird that Forbes Field and the prior baseball park were standing at the same time, too.

      And thank you for the kind words!

  6. So interesting to see the postcard image of the tunnel in Highland Park. It looks very different now with all the trees shading it - very dark and foreboding most of the time. It would be fun to see photos of these places now compared to the ones you displayed here.