City Guide: Lawrenceville

At first, it’s hard to wrap your head around a place like Lawrenceville, a place that remains in a bit of an identity crisis.

Half of this neighborhood is made up of artsy galleries and trendy boutiques, and half retains something a little more inspired by nostalgia. There’s a patina that you could imagine the shopkeepers wiping from their windows. It seems to say: “Don’t forget that we worked hard for all of this.”

Home to the 16:62 Design Zone, lower Butler Street is crowded with fine-art galleries, interior design shops and design-oriented businesses. If someone mentions Lawrenceville, you think art. While that could mean that Lawrenceville is a place that could make you a little wishful about your wallet, simply stepping off the sidewalk and browsing a gallery reminds you that there are people here in Pittsburgh who are making beautiful and thought-provoking art daily.

Lawrenceville locals aren’t ready to let anyone forget that. These are the folks who arranged not just a cookie tour, not just a garden tour, but an artists’ studio tour, too. They’re the ones who thought up the spectacular Art All Night, an annual daylong volunteer-run event that celebrates the work of novice and professional artists alike. In 2011, the work of 1,200-plus local artists was featured, and more than 12,000 guests were in attendance.

Art thrives in Lawrenceville, and not just at the street level. Functioning in the background are places like the distribution headquarters for Justseeds, a North American artist collective that uses their work to speak up for social, political and environmental change. The Blackbird Artist Studios have open hours when you can meet the artists, watch them work and talk with them about their process. And who could forget Everyone an Artist, Pittsburgh’s only gallery dedicated to artwork produced by locals with behavioral and intellectual disabilities. Milestone, Everyone an Artist’s parent organization, offers studio space in Lawrenceville to help those individuals bring that art into being.

Even the fancy clothing boutiques are locally owned, and many—including Pavement and Sugar Boutique—sell clothes by spectacular designers who haven’t made it big just yet. WildCard stocks prints by local photographers and artists, and also sells art to benefit local initiatives like Grow Pittsburgh. It hosts meet-ups with local crafters and offers classes on how to make everything from dream pillows to yarn.

Lawrenceville was built on the sweat of the mills, mines and arsenal. What lives on in the neighborhood is an ethic of working hard, and then supporting that work—an ethic that Pittsburgh just can’t seem to shake. Whether we’re talking about inventing Koolvent aluminum awnings (and then purchasing them en masse) or building an oasis where the visual arts can thrive, Pittsburgh is all about supporting its own. Those artists, the local business owners, the crafters­—they’re all working hard. Be a good ’Burgher and head over to Lawrenceville.

Become one with the spirits
We wonder: With Allegheny Cemetery being well over 150 years old, how many lifelong Pittsburgh residents have yet to explore it? It’s a true gem we almost decided not to speak of, because once you experience it you’ll surely want to go back again and again—and this is one place some admirers wish they could keep all to themselves. The sublimity residing within the tall iron gates on Butler Street and Penn Avenue is simply breathtaking. More than 124,000 people call Allegheny’s glorious 300 acres of lush hills, trees and reflective twin ponds their final resting place. Some even call it their sanctuary. Maps are available for self-guided tours; guided tours are complimentary for groups. Additionally, The Stephen Foster Music and Heritage Festival, Doo Dah Days, takes place every July at Allegheny Cemetery. The festival is free and features live folk music, costumed reenactments, food vendors, tours, and other activities. Allegheny Cemetery is one of Pittsburgh’s true beauties, and all it costs to experience it is your time—and you might decide to “spend” your whole day.

Cookies, art and gardens
Lawrenceville is home to some diverse (and free!) annual events, giving the public a great opportunity to discover the unique offerings of many businesses on Butler Street. Art All Night is a yearly event that occurs the last weekend of April, giving artists an opportunity to showcase one piece of their work, non-juried and uncensored. Attendees can peruse the art and take in a seemingly endless list of live performances during this 24-hour event. The Blossom Tour takes place each May, and if you visit all of the participating stops on the map, you’ll likely go home with enough free seed packets to plant yourself a copious garden. In December, munch on mini cookies at the Joy of Cookies Tour.

Friend a Little Flea
Lawrenceville Little Flea is a neighborhood marketplace presenting a rotating line up of vendors and artists during the warmer months. The changing vendors give shoppers a unique experience each week, and the affordable finds can range from furniture to handmade crafts to baby Doc Martens. The Cultural Corner features live music, dance, spoken word, workshops and more. Little Flea opens each Saturday mid-morning and runs until late afternoon, weather permitting. Find the Flea in Geoller’s parking lot at the corner of Butler and 36th streets.

Bowl a cheap strike
The main draws at Arsenal Bowling Lanes are themed nights and specials, with a different offering every day. “Super Weekends” means $7 all-you-can-bowl from noon-3 p.m., and “50-Cent Sundaze” gets you games, shoe rental, hot dogs and pop for just two quarters each from 1-4 p.m. ($6 entry fee). There’s also College Night, Service Industry Night, “Rock n’ Bowl,” ’80s Night, bingo and karaoke night—all great bargains.

Explore with a free tour and so much more
Cookie tours, blossom tours and house Tours ... oh my! Lawrenceville sure does love its tours, and why not? It's the perfect way to showcase all of the neighborhood's eclectic shops and restaurants. And tours aren't all Lawrenceville does. Check out Art All Night each spring and Doh Dah Days each summer for more free fun in one of the city's hippest neighborhoods. Visit LivingPittsburgh.com for more info on Lawrenceville tours.

More sweet deals in Lawrenceville
>> Low-cost live music at trendy Nied's Hotel
>> $1.50 Pabst Blue Ribbons and $3 Red Stripes at New Amsterdam

Church Brew Works
3525 Liberty Ave.
412/688-8200
churchbrew.com

Alchemy N’ Ale
5147 Butler St.
412/252-2156

Piccolo Forno
3801 Butler St.
412/622-0111
piccolo-forno.com

Round Corner Cantina
3720 Butler St.
412/904-2279
roundcornercantina.com

Tamari
3519 Butler St.
412/325-3435
tamaripgh.com

Allison McGeary Floral
3625 Butler St.
412/621-6427
allisonmcgeary.com

Asian Influences
3513 Butler St.
412/621-3530
asianinfluences.com

Crystal Bead Bazaar
4521 Butler St.
412/687-1513
crystalbeadbazaar.com

Pageboy Salon & Boutique
3613 Butler St.
412/224-2294
pageboypgh.com

Pavement
3629 Butler St.
412/621-6400
pavementshoes.com

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