Let's Learn From the Past: Market Square
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Market Square has served as the bustling heart of Downtown Pittsburgh for nearly 250 years. The square was first mapped out by architect John Campbell in his original plan for the city in 1764. The land was officially given to the city in 1784 by the grandchildren of William Penn.
In its earliest years, Market Square was home to many important buildings, including the first Allegheny County Courthouse, the first jail and the Pittsburgh Gazette, the first newspaper published west of the Allegheny Mountains. Known by locals as the "Diamond," a Scotch-Irish term for town square, the area was a melting pot of ethnic businesses owned by Irish, German, Italian and African-American immigrants.
As with today's Market Square, events and concerts frequently took place in the Diamond, which flourished as a community meeting spot for Pittsburghers.
Market Square was designated a historic district in 1972 in an effort to keep its original architecture and style intact. Despite the distinction, the area endured traffic, crime and loitering for several years. But thanks to a crackdown on illegal activity and an emphasis on historic preservation, Market Square has experienced a remarkable renaissance over the past decade. The refurbished 68,000-square-foot plaza is now a pedestrian-only area with new brick paving, planted trees, bistro tables and restored historic storefronts. It plays host to such diverse events as St. Patrick's Day celebrations, Steelers rallies, political demonstrations and a vibrant farmers market.
Market Square is still the home of Pittsburgh's oldest bar, the 141-year-old Original Oyster House, and to the Nicolas Coffee Co., founded in 1919.
For nearly 21/2 centuries, Market Square's eclectic and bustling space has been the central hub of Downtown. Visitors can learn more about Pittsburgh's diverse neighborhoods and ethnic culture as part of the Senator John Heinz History Center's Special Collections gallery.
First Published December 8, 2011 12:00 am