The Hidden East End
Pittsburgh’s eastern neighborhoods always have shown a broad socioeconomic spectrum, from extravagant wealth to dire poverty. The Mellons, Fricks, Carnegies and Westinghouses built their mansions in this most-stylish part of town. But their departure for greener and more secluded pastures — and the mass relocation of families here after the razing of the Lower Hill — left much of this area economically depressed for decades. Now the long-awaited renaissance of East Liberty is beginning to bring major reinvestment here, too.
photos by kristi jan hoover
Bridges span the Allegheny to connect this mostly residential community, the only neighborhood in Pittsburgh that itself straddles a river. Check the map: Waterworks Mall is here, not in Fox Chapel.
Originally an Italian immigrant neighborhood in the late 1800s, Larimer is experiencing the impact of overflow from booming neighbor East Liberty. Larimer’s centerpiece, Bakery Square, is a formerly shuttered Nabisco plant that Google now calls home.
Thoroughbreds raced on a track in Homewood more than a century ago. Now kids race their BMX bikes here in the Wheel Mill (see next page), a converted warehouse.
Some of the working-class townhouses here date back to the 1880s. This primarily residential hillside neighborhood also is home to an alternative high school, the Pittsburgh Student Achievement Center.
Here in 1894, John Moorhead Jr. buried six tin cans to make the city’s first golf course. Today, the lavishly appointed local Carnegie Library branch is a reminder of the steel tycoon who lived nearby.
This neighborhood, a former dairy farm, was remade into a suburban-style residential community in the 1960s. This neighbor of Wilkinsburg is one of the most far-flung parts of the city proper from Downtown.
North Point Breeze
The grounds of George Westinghouse’s mansion, Solitude, now form a park. Railroad tracks and the Martin Luther King Busway separate this mixed-residential and warehouse district from Homewood.
Stately mansions, particularly Henry Clay Frick’s Clayton, are reminders of this neighborhood’s earlier status as “millionaire’s row” for the city’s captains of commerce and industry. They couldn’t take it with them, even if the grandiose crypts of Homewood Cemetery suggest otherwise
Smoke pours from the sideways 55-gallon drums lined up next to the sidewalk at The Dream BBQ in Homewood South. Put some buttery, garlicky stewed cabbage, greens or green beans next to your rack of ribs to make dinner complete. 7600 N. Braddock Ave., 412/244-0355
You name it, they fry it at Hook Fish & Chicken in Homewood West, and not just catfish or tenders. We’re talking perch, whiting, wings, shrimp, scallops, oysters and — for the real fry-basket diehards — gizzards. 6960 Fifth Ave., 412/361-1060
When he opened in 1979, Joseph Simmons named Dana’s Bakery in Homewood South after his young daughter. She’s all grown up, but he still makes each sweet potato turnover, pineapple upside-down tart and puffy cake doughnut himself each morning. 720 N. Homewood Ave., 412/731-0929
In Thailand, they drank iced coffee before iced coffee was cool. So get yours from Thai Place in Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, near Waterworks Mall. Owners Santi and Surin Thamwiwat opened the area’s first Thai restaurant back in 1989. 1034 Freeport Road, thaiplacerestaurant.com.
The wine list is solid at Pino’s Contemporary Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar in Point Breeze. Or you could sip a house-made limoncello instead — or try an Italian cocktail featuring something from the array of imported and specialty bitters. 6738 Reynolds St., chefpino.com.
Who’s up for Bloody Marys? Get one for half-price during Sunday brunch at Social at Bakery Square in Larimer. Prefer mimosas? They get the same discount on Saturday mornings. 6425 Penn Ave., bakerysocial.com.
The walls are lined with jazz, R&B and gospel CDs at Dorsey’s Record Shop in Homewood South. Cornelius Dorsey used to fix radios in the back; now grandson Marcus offers VHS-to-DVD conversion and computer repair. 7614 Frankstown Ave., dorseyrecords.com.
You could buy its hot sausage in the Strip District, but drop by Henry Grasso Co. in Larimer, a remnant of the neighborhood’s Italian roots, for the full selection of sausages, capicollo, slab bacon and kielbasa. It’s all made by Joe, the owner’s son. 716 Larimer Ave., 412/441-8126.
With more than 2,500 handpainted patterns and fiber in every color, including some that glow in the dark, Needle Point Breeze has everything required to make your own customized purse, iPad cover, throw pillow, wall hanging, belt, wedding gift or Christmas ornament. 6734 Reynolds St., facebook.com/needlepointbreeze6.
Bring your mountain bike or rent one to grab big air on the ramps and jumps at The Wheel Mill in Homewood West. With 80,000 square feet on two levels, the converted warehouse is packed with tracks for novices and daredevils alike. 6815 Hamilton Ave., thewheelmill.com.
PHOTO BY JORDAN LOCKE
Milling machines, 3-D printers, laser cutters and a water jet that can bore through eight inches of steel in one pass. With a membership at TechShop Pittsburgh in Larimer, you get access to these and other tools for whatever project you dream up. 192 Bakery Square Blvd., techshop.ws.
Learn to paint or see an exhibit at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Point Breeze, in the former home of industrialist Charles Marshall. Classes also are offered at another mansion next door. 6300 Fifth Ave., center.pfpca.org.
Food Critic's Pick
Pittsburgh’s restaurant scene has undergone a sea change in the past 10 years, but Point Brugge Cafe in Point Breeze has kept a steady hand and loyal clientele. The neighborhood eatery has an excellent Belgian beer list (and a solid overall bar program) and crowd-pleasing favorites such as mussels, a top-notch hamburger and steak frites. Those frites? They’re some of the best in town. (401 Hastings St., pointbrugge.com) — Hal B. Klein
While walking through the stately Frick Art & Historical Museum and Clayton, the accompanying former home of the Frick family, it’s easy to imagine you’re living in the early 1900s. Add a summer evening with a glass of wine on the terrace and notes of fine music drifting through the air and it’s even easier. Summer Fridays at the Frick offer extended museum hours, a cash wine bar, food trucks, entertainment and opportunities for picnics on the lawn or dinner seatings at the Cafe at the Frick. Admission to the grounds as well as several programs are free. No matter how you choose to spend your evening, it’ll surely be a memorable — and timeless — occasion. (thefrickpittsburgh.org) — Lauren Davidson