Ninety-two years ago, smoke from the mills obscured the view

On March 23, 1920, a City photographer took this series of photographs, now part of the Historic Pittsburgh archive.  the description accompanying these images says, “Rear view of Bigelow Boulevard properties showing conditions.”  Only in the photo above can you see much beyond the immediate buildings — the pollution hides the views that we enjoy today.  (Post updated to reflect new information — thanks to Carol Peterson for your comments!) The houses in the foreground were on the upper side of Bigelow Boulevard.  The dome of the church is visible behind the billboard in the center, atop an apartment building that stood at 3011- 3013 Bigelow Boulevard.  To the right of that building is the square tower of the Immaculate Heart of Mary School.

In all other shots, nothing is visible beyond the houses but a grayish haze.

The photographer changed position a couple times so the series doesn’t line up perfectly, but I was able to Photoshop two pairs of photos to create wider views.

How different it must have felt to live here during the industrial heyday of Pittsburgh:  no view, few trees, and a lot more buildings.  But it still looks like Polish Hill.

2 thoughts on “Ninety-two years ago, smoke from the mills obscured the view

  1. Thanks for posting these great photos!

    After spending too much time staring at this… the building with the billboard on its roof was a tenement building at 3011-3013 Bigelow Boulevard. The building to its right with the square tower topped by a cross is Immaculate Heart of Mary School. The houses in the foreground were on the upper side of Bigelow Boulevard. Their backyards went up to Leander Street, where the photographer was standing. The third photo shows the unpaved right-of-way of Leander Street.

    The City Photographer took these photos because the City was planning to acquire and demolish the houses on the upper side of Bigelow in order to improve Bigelow. It accomplished that goal by 1923. That was an era of widening roads to accommodate car traffic; East Ohio Street/Rt. 28 was widened with some buildings along it torn down or moved at the same time. As hard as it may be to imagine today, houses had lined both sides of East Ohio in the St. Nicholas Church vicinity.

  2. These pics are really great ! Thanks for doing the legwork for me to find shots of the Polish Hill I remember, growing up as a kid ! And I wanted to return to retire HERE? ha ha. No….I knew that the whole city now had crystal clear air…sorta.

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