Thinking Outside The Square

Okay, everyone can find Market Square on a map of Downtown. After all, it's been Pittsburgh's favorite gathering place for more than 250 years. But we like to think of the Square as a state of mind that crosses streets and sidewalks beyond its boundaries to embrace its neighbors on Fifth and Forbes and Wood Street, too. That's why we're reminding you to discover what's outside the Square during a free Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation tour of the Square and its surroundings this Friday at noon.

Hooking up with the tour is easy. The group meets in the grassy triangle of park in front of the fabulous new Fairmont Hotel. Just look for the guides holding up the yellow PHLF tour signs. Then around noon, you and your fellow intrepid hikers will take off to explore Downtown's past, present and future for the next 60 minutes.

Right off the bat, you'll learn why the beautiful blue and white Buhl Building — that's the one that looks like a really big piece of Wedgwood dinnerware —  on the corner of Market and Fifth has the name "Bash" above its entry. And if you turn your eyes to the skies, you'll see all 23 stories of the shiny new Three PNC Plaza, the home of the Fairmont and the greenest mixed-use building in all of the United States. And that's just the start.

A few steps along Fifth, you'll take in the lovingly restored facades of once neglected buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries that are now bustling with new businesses and living spaces like the stylish MarketSquare Place Lofts.

Now if your appetite needs to be satisfied, you can visit the hot dog vendor across from the Capitol Grille on Wood and Fifth as the group admires the giant living mural growing on the side of the main PNC building. After a short stop on Wood Street to inspect a wonderful terra cotta building and the only remaining wooden front structure Downtown, the trek will move on to the intersection of Wood and Market. There, the guides will direct your attention to one of the city's oldest establishments — Weldin's Stationery Store — and one of the newest, the chic Boutique la Passerelle. While you're on the corner, try to spot one of the skinniest buildings you'll ever see anywhere.

Pardon the construction on Forbes Avenue as workers busily pour concrete for a new road lead to the Square. Once you pass the almost venerable George Aiken's restaurant, you'll make tracks to Pittsburgh's longest-running eatery — the world-famous Original Oyster House. Now, we certainly will understand if you can't resist the temptation to take a step back in time to savor one of the best fish sandwiches around. But we really do recommend that you stick with the tour to the end. If you do, you'll catch a peek of the relocated Mancini's and Prantl's shop on Market, just across the street from the Nettleton Shoe Shop and Heinz Healy's mens clothing store.

You'll end the tour across the street from where you started at the one of Downtown's most-traveled and least-known byways — Graeme Street. Only about 100 feet long, Graeme cuts alongside the Diamond Building on Fifth and Liberty before ending in the Square. It's also the address of one of the most intimate housing spaces Downtown, the Residences at Market at Fifth with only 7 units.

Now for extra credit, pay attention to  your tour guide this Friday. Because we'll be checking back to see who knows why Market Square was once better known as the Diamond.

The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation walking tours of the Market Square area end this Friday. So circle the date now.


  1. Too bad everything is closed on Sunday

  2. Agreed, many places Downtown are closed on Sundays. In Market Square Primanti's and Starbucks are open. We have an late night/weekend dining guide on our website. Here is the list we compiled last fall... and keep an eye out for the updated one we'll be posting in the next two weeks! http://www.downtownpittsburgh.com/_files/docs/vised_late-night_weekend-dining-guide_fall2009.pdf