Pittsburgh loses ‘a piece of history’: Fire ravages 1800s building, likely dooming it to destruction

Elinor Aspegren


Pittsburgh lost a piece of its past on Monday.

A historic building on the city’s South Side partially collapsed after a fire roared through its top floors, a four-alarm blaze that sent flames shooting into the air and produced smoke that could be seen for miles.

About an hour after Pittsburgh Public Safety reported about the fire, a side of the building collapsed, showering the streets with bricks, glass and other debris, social media video showed.

Though the collapse and fire damaged the structure, which housed on its first floor a barber shop and the South Side Chamber of Commerce, as well as residential units on other floors, no injuries were reported, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The 3½-story building, constructed in the mid- to late-1800s, is likely doomed.

While Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones said the city would determine whether the entire structure needs to be bulldozed for safety reasons, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said the rest of the building would be razed Tuesday morning, according to KDKA-TV.

The building, a focal point in the Steel City for decades, was built between 1860 and 1879, according to a historic survey published in 1981 by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, the Post-Gazette reported. At that time, the Socialist Workers Party was based in the building.

The street where the building stands is a National Register Historic District because of its many intact Victorian-era buildings, the newspaper reported.

“The people that built it and the industry that built it, the steel mills, the glass mills, it’s a piece of history that is lost and will never be replaced. It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Councilman Bruce Kraus told KDKA.

The building has most recently served as a gateway to the neighborhood and business district, Chamber of Commerce president Jon Growall told the Post-Gazette.

“That was the center of everything that we’ve worked toward as a neighborhood group over the past decade,” he said.

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