Press writer Eleanor Chute, now of the Post-Gazette, covered the performance.

April 25, 1979: PSO rocks the jailhouse

From time to time, we find photos in the Post-Gazette’s photo archive worthy of standing alone — and without much story. This image of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in the Allegheny County Jail qualifies.

Pittsburgh Press photographer Michael Chikiris captured the scene and writer Eleanor Chute provided colorful details about how the inmates received it.

"The violin sounds pretty. I hope they come back here," inmate Harvey A. Broadus told her that day.

It’s unclear whether they ever did, but the photograph contains a scene for the ages. The full story, from April 26, can be seen above.

—Ethan Magoc

This picture of Parks, left, is dated June 7, 1935, the first day of the National Open at Oakmont. (Pittsburgh Press photo) After the U.S. team won the Ryder Cup in September 1935, Parks shakes hands with Alf Perry of England. (Acme photo) Parks in 1949. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Parks as a U.S. Steel executive in 1949. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

June 8, 1935: The faltering love life of a golf champ

Moments after he’d shocked the golf world by emerging from obscurity to win the National Open at Oakmont, Sam Parks Jr. was cornered by a reporter from The Pittsburgh Press.

Parks had taken the tournament lead with a miraculous 60-foot chip shot witnessed by a gallery estimated at 10,000. Then he held off a curly-headed blond Californian named Jimmy Thompson in a gruelling homestretch to win with a score of 299.

But who cares about spectacular victories? Love — that’s what reporter Evelyn Burke wanted to discuss.

Parks was young and handsome, and now he was a star. The fact that he was a hometown kid made him even more appealing.

Do you have a girlfriend? Burke asked. Is marriage in your future?

“For heaven’s sake, don’t make me out a ladies man,” Parks pleaded, a note of panic in his voice. “I’ve been too busy all my life to bother with girls.”

The reporter took a moment to jot down that Parks was wearing a brown sweater and gray slacks. Reporters crowded around. Flash bulbs popped. Burke noted that Parks had a “natural deep tan” and his face was “a sort of new Dubonnet shade, a sort of red brown mixed with purple.”

Burke then persisted in her line of questioning. You can’t blame her. In the mid-1930s, the Depression continued to hang around the country’s neck. Reading about a local guy who defeated golf’s biggest stars made Pittsburghers feel proud.

The public is interested in you, Burke said. What type of girl do you like?

“I like ’em all,” replied Parks, obviously trying to be helpful and accommodating. “Blondes, brunettes and redheads, but honestly I haven’t any preference.”

Parks wasn’t accustomed to the spotlight. He was just a kid who’d grown up in Bellevue and happened to fall in love with golf. After school, he’d run to catch a streetcar to the Highland Country Club so he could practice. It paid off. Parks was unknown nationally, but local golfers knew him as a solid player and a dangerous competitor. At Pitt, he’d served as captain of the golf team.

And what about lady golfers? Burked asked.

Parks said he’d never played golf with a woman. “Not that I have any objections to them. It’s just that I don’t know many girls who do play golf. I’ve always been pretty busy, anyway.”

The National Open victory earned Parks $1,000. He’d play a few more years professionally, but would never again win another major tournament. Eventually he would marry, then divorce and marry again. He’d take a job with U.S. Steel, then retire to Florida, where he’d die at the age of 87 in 1997.

But in a cramped hallway in 1935 he was still a young 25 and he showed his white teeth and shook his head at Burke’s questions.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “There’s not much to tell about me — only golf. I like to dance, too. But I don’t get to many parties because golf seems to take up so much of my time. And honestly, I’m not in love.”

Parks grinned and “his dark eyes squinted in a friendly fashion,” Burke wrote. “His black hair, parted in the middle and slicked back, made him look very boyish.”

Steve Mellon

Top photo: Two weeks after winning the National Open at Oakmont, Sam Parks Jr. played an exhibition game at Cambridge Springs, PA., where he was joined by former English champion Joyce Wethered. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

1983: A view of the Hill House Center in the Hill District. (Mark Murphy/Post-Gazette) March 22: 1970: Thelma Lovette, a social worker, Sister Celeste, a nurse and Dr. James A. Stewart work in a medical clinic at Hill House in the Hill District. (Michael Chikiris/The Pittsburgh Press) 1969: Here are volunteers and employees of Hill House. From left, Thelma C. Jones, Melvie Blackwell, Alfreda Tyson, William Lewis and Sylvia Bose. (Donald J. Stetzer/The Pittsburgh Press)  Gordon William, an assistant teacher in Hill House Center's day can center, works with youngsters in 1989. (Tony Tye/Post-Gazette) Volunteers Alice Scott, seated, and Linda Hemper distribute food to the needy in 1973 at Hill House Center. (Ross A. Catanza/The Pittsburgh Press) Lois Thompson, a University of Pittsburgh student, instructs and art and  game class at Hill House Center in 1975. (Albert French/Post-Gazette) James F. Henry became executive director of Hill House in 1978 and served for 25 years. (Credit: unknown) From left, Agnes Wilson, Mary N. Smith, Charles Love, Edna Wood and Ethel Pettigrew plant tulip bulbs at Hill House in November 1974. (Howard R. Moyer/The Pittsburgh Press)

1964: Hill House

In the 19th and 20th centuries, immigrants who arrived in America often spent time at settlement houses where they learned how to speak English, sought work and adjusted to their newly adopted country.

Pittsburgh’s Hill District was once home to three settlement houses — the Irene Kaufmann Settlement, the Anna B. Heldman Center and Hill City. In 1964, those three agencies merged to form Hill House Association.

The new community center was a place where Hill District residents could obtain help finding housing, receive dental and medical care, advice on family planning, legal assistance, tutoring for high school dropouts and job training.

Public officials and civic leaders such as Elsie Hillman and the late Wendell G. Freeland knew there was a pressing need for a place like Hill House Association.

That’s because 50 years ago, the needs of Pittsburgh’s black residents were acute.

The destruction of the Lower Hill District neighborhood, which occurred between 1955 and 1960, displaced 8,000 people and 400 businesses. City officials had used eminent domain to clear the neighborhood so it could build the Civic Auditorium for the Civic Light Opera. (The dome-shaped building, later called the Civic Arena and Mellon Arena, was demolished in 2012, after the Pittsburgh Penguins had moved to Consol Arena.)

In 1972, a new Hill House building opened at 1835 Centre Avenue and served as the home of 18 social service agencies. The new building, which cost $2.5 million, also became a gathering place for the black community and local leaders of the civil rights movement.

Among Hill House’s early leaders were Harry Bray, J. Wendell Ramey and Russell Shelton. James Henry became director in 1978 and his tenure lasted for 25 years. He was succeeded by Evan Frazier.

The current president and chief executive officer is Cheryl Hall-Russell, who happily announced the opening of a full-service grocery store in the Hill District in October 2013. For thirty years, the community had lacked that basic amenity. Today, Hill House is focusing on helping seniors, workforce development and students who have dropped out of school.

Marylynne Pitz

March 8, 1967: Unidentified worker looks at giant otter tank. (Morris Berman/Post-Gazette Photo) September 19, 1967: Mrs. Thomas Terpack of Squirrel Hill with alligator April 2, 1967: George Thorpe, left, Underground Zoo assistant holds the base of a lightweight simulated coral formation while assistant John Raucci lifts one of the simulated reef column structures. June 4, 1967 (Paul Slantis/Post-Gazette) March 26, 1969 (Robert J. Pavuchak) June 22, 1967: William Flynn selects smelt, left, and feeds porpoise. November 24, 1967: After some coaxing, Roger Conklin gets grip on Alaskan crab. (Donald Stetzer/Post-Gazette) October 1, 1967 (Ross Catanza) December 29, 1972: Shark watching at AquaZoo is Noah Umholtz of Regent Square.

1967:"First penguins arrive in Pittsburgh"

In 1967, a group of penguins found a new home in Pittsburgh. Their new home was not Civic Arena, and in fact, they were not even hockey players.

These real penguins in Pittsburgh joined hundreds of other aquatic species in the opening of Pittsburgh’s new aquarium, Aquazoo.

They joined the exotic animals who had called the zoo home since 1898, when the Pittsburgh Zoo first opened its gates. Then, it was known as the Highland Park Zoological Garden.  

In the 1960s, the Highland Park Zoo experienced major changes when the Pittsburgh Zoological Society planned and fundraised the two newest attractions, AquaZoo and Underground Zoo.

In 1966, while constructing the dwellings for Pittsburgh’s newest aquatic residents, an “aquafari” led by top zoological experts was underway to capture nearly five tons of the exotic fish from the Amazon River in Columbia. These “aquafarians,” as they termed themselves, returned to Pittsburgh with eleven 11,000 pounds of fish, porpoises, alligators, toads, and frogs. Animals such as penguins, sharks, and dolphins were also shipped to Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, AquaZoo staff worked hard to ensure that these species were placed where they would thrive. Zoo artist Ben Blackson stated, “What we’re trying to give the public are ‘living illustrations.’ We’re living in the 20th century and it’s time we took the animals out of the cages and put them in surroundings similar to their natural environment.”

This meant particular attention to tanks’ water temperatures levels, adding simulated sponge and coral reef, and balancing chemical levels in saltwater water trucked in from a New York harbor.

Finally, in October 1967, the AquaZoo opened its doors to nearly eight thousand attendees, including Mayor Joseph Barr who noted, “It will be a benefit and a boon to the Tri-State area as well as to Pittsburgh; [it is a] great addition to the City and its people.”

The aquarium certainly left attendees in awe.

Roger Conklin, one of America’s most famed expert on sea-life, was also on hand for the grand opening. While visiting the aquarium he couldn’t stop saying, “beautiful! - beautiful!”

Decades later, the AquaZoo is still thriving, especially after undergoing a $17.4 million renovation in 2000 that doubled its size. The AquaZoo became the PPG Aquarium that year, too.

Today, the theme at the aquarium is “Diversity of Water,” where you can still explore the underwater world of sharks, turtles and - of course - penguins.

— Emily Kaplan

Peyton, center, shows authorities how the shooting occurred. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Mary Peyton. Peyton, with authorities, at his roadhouse. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Spectators lined up to get a seat for the trial. (Pittsburgh Press photo) After sentencing, Peyton slumped in the arms of deputies. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Peyton in prison during a 1953 riot. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Peyton, center, with daughter Mary and son Pat. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

June 26, 1947: The night of a killing.

An hour or so before becoming one of Pittsburgh’s most notorious killers, Charles Peyton locked the door of his Steubenville Pike roadhouse, then sat in the tavern’s kitchen and had a beer with his cook, a man named McKenna.

Peyton left the room briefly. When he returned, he carried a loaded and cocked .45 automatic pistol, which he placed on a table. Peyton began singing a song called “When You Were Sweet Sixteen.”

McKenna thought the gun was dangerous and said so. Peyton replied that he’d only use it to defend his “castle.”

By now it was after 3 a.m. McKenna said goodnight and headed upstairs to his apartment.

A short time later, an automobile pulled into the roadhouse parking lot. Peyton would later say he heard men and women talking outside. Suddenly there was pounding on the roadhouse door. “We want a drink,” called a voice.

Peyton hollered that his tavern was closed, then he snapped off the lights.

“We’re coming in anyway,” someone answered

In the darkened tavern, Peyton sat on a barstool behind the counter and aimed his .45 automatic downward. He pulled the trigger — a warning shot, he claimed, to scare away the intruders.

A body crumpled to the floor.

“As I fired my wife walked right in front of me,” Peyton said. “I didn’t see her before I pulled the trigger.”

The bullet, fired at point-blank range, tore into Mary Peyton’s left breast, punctured a lung, ripped downward through her organs, emerged from her right hip and ricocheted off the floor.

Mary, 22 weeks pregnant, fell face down. Blood pooled on the grimy floor. When detectives arrived, they found Charles Peyton “semi-hysterical.” Mary, moaning and weak, was rushed to Mercy Hospital.

There, she rallied long enough to answer a few questions. Did your husband shoot you by accident or on purpose? a detective asked.  “On purpose,” came the reply.

Within 10 hours, Mary died. Peyton was arrested.

“I tell you I didn’t see her,” he protested. “It was pitch dark in there.”

Mary’s body was laid out in the living room of her parent’s Carnegie home. Police allowed Peyton to pay his respects. The haggard 51-year-old was led manacled up the front porch, where he was met with stony glares from his in-laws and his 11-year-old son, who’d later testify that his father was a merciless wife- and a son-beater.

His lips twitching, Peyton stood for a moment before his wife’s casket. Then he dropped to his knees and sobbed, “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”

He rose and stumbled forward to kiss his dead wife on the cheek, but before he could complete the smooch detectives grabbed him and whisked him out of the house.

The trial was 17 days of drama that captivated the city. Peyton said he didn’t hear his wife enter the bar moments before the shooting, but detectives discovered that the door through which she passed squeaked loudly.

Witnesses said Peyton regularly gave his wife black eyes and bruises. No, others said. Peyton was a loving husband who bought furs for his wife.

Then came son Pat, who testified that his father beat him severely and had, on another occasion, fired a gun at Mary. Pat referred to his father not as pop or dad, but “that man.”

A jury found Peyton guilty of second-degree murder. The sentence, 10-20 years, was pronounced on Good Friday. Distraught, Peyton slumped into the arms of deputies.

At Western Penitentiary, he was a model prisoner. During a riot in 1953, he stood aside, far from the fray, where his image was captured by a newspaper photographer.

He served the minimum 10 years. Dressed neatly in a prison-made suit, Peyton left the prison in July 1957. He was 61 years old. “Tanned and full-faced” one newspaper reported.

Son Pat, now 21, was there to greet him. A newspaper photographer snapped a picture of Pat smiling with his dad.

Peyton then slipped into an automobile and headed straight for Miami, Fla., where he was promised a job as a janitor in an apartment complex.

— Steve Mellon

Top picture: After viewing his wife’s body, Charles Peyton sobs in a police vehicle. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

Herron Hill Reservoir was drained for repairs in May 1965. (Credit: The Pittsburgh Press) Workers performing repairs at Herron Hill Reservoir in May 1965. (Credit: The Pittsburgh Press) Workers performing repairs at Herron Hill Reservoir in May 1965. (Credit: The Pittsburgh Press) Herron Hill Reservoir was drained for repairs in May 1965. (Credit: The Pittsburgh Press) Standing in roughly the same spot 49 years later, the water and other tower still comprise the view looking northeast. (Credit: Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette) The Cathedral of Learning can be seen at various angles from the top of Herron Hill. (Credit: Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette) A wide-angle look at Robert E. Williams Memorial Park and the Pittsburgh skyline in the distance. (Credit: Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette) A view of Downtown Pittsburgh and the Hill District looking west from the reservoir atop Herron Hill. (Credit: Ethan Magoc/Post-Gazette)

1965: Cleaning Herron Hill Reservoir

Most Pittsburghers would say Mount Washington offers the best view of their city.

Maybe so, but as Post-Gazette columnist Brian O’Neill wrote this week, Observatory Hill’s Brashear Reservoir is actually Pittsburgh’s highest elevation point at 1,370 feet. He found the elevation ranking doesn’t necessarily provide the best view of the skyline and surrounding area.

Reader Mike Cornell responded to his column: “Brian, you had the right idea but the wrong reservoir. Try the reservoir in Robert E. Williams (Herron Hill) Park.”

At The Digs, we made good on his suggestion and visited the park as the sun was setting.

It’s centered in the Upper Hill and offers equally impressive views to the north, south, east and west — an advantage over Mount Washington or the West End, where one’s eye is drawn toward the Golden Triangle.

The reservoir itself was built in the 1880s and now holds 14 million gallons, serving neighborhoods that include Bloomfield, Garfield, the Hill District, Point Breeze, Squirrel Hill and upper Oakland. In 2004, City Paper’s Chris Potter labeled the 19th-century construction “a desperately needed improvement for a rapidly expanding city.”

From 1920 through 1964, the city did not clean the reservoir’s bottom. Leaks developed and minor earth slides resulted, leading to a $150,000 repair job ($1.2 million in 2014).

The photos above — taken in the spring of 1965 — reveal the reservoir as it’s not often seen.

That is especially so today, when a fence and tarp-like covering extends across the two-acre space.

—Ethan Magoc

Eckstine helped revolutionize jazz in the 1940s. Eckstine at home in 1952. Eckstine with daughter Gina Eckstine in 1979. Historical marker at the Eckstine home in Highland Park was unveiled in 1994. (Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette)

Oct.12, 1971: The great ‘Mr. B.’

Tall, handsome and blessed with a velvety baritone voice that seduced jazz lovers everywhere, Billy Eckstine left his mark on music as a band leader, mentor, entertainer and singer.

A Pittsburgh native born on July 8, 1914, he grew up on Bryant Street in Highland Park, attended Peabody High School and went to Howard University. His mother, Charlotte, was a seamstress and his father, William, was a chauffeur. The family owned a piano and young Billy gravitated to music, eventually learning to play trumpet, trombone and guitar. He also loved playing football but suffered a broken collarbone while in high school.

Eckstine was 11 when he first sang at a church bazaar. Later, he won an amateur competition by singing “Stardust” at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. For a time, he worked as a singing waiter at the Fort Pitt Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh.

In 1939, he sought his musical fortune in Chicago. The next year, he joined Earl “Fatha” Hines’s band, sharing vocals with Sarah Vaughan and working with alto sax player Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie. The two young vocalists began perfecting their singing styles. During that time, Eckstine made a successful recording of the jazz standard “Skylark.”  His first big hit was “Jelly, Jelly,” which he sang while touring with the band. A few years later, he had other hits with “Prisoner of Love” and “Cottage for Sale.”

His success allowed him to form his own band in 1944 and mentor emerging talent. The Billy Eckstine Orchestra featured jazz trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Kenny Dorham, saxophone players Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt and drummer Art Blakey, another Pittsburgh native. It was the first major big band to be influenced by the emerging musical style called bebop.

The band broke up in 1947.  Eckstine signed with MGM records and began singing ballads. Hits included “Blue Moon,” “Caravan,” “I Apologize,” “My Foolish Heart” and “Everything I Have is Yours.” By 1949, he was the top male vocalist in “Metronome” magazine and the most popular singer in “Down Beat” magazine.

Like Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra, Eckstine arrived in the big time by appearing at New York’s famous Paramount Theatre. In 1950, Eckstine grossed half a million dollars from record sales, stage appearances and nightclub stints. He drew record-breaking crowds in New York and Los Angeles. By that time, he had closets full of suits, owned three cars and took regular lessons from a golf pro.

Always stylishly dressed, he wore narrow ties, loose-fitting suits and a signature curved shirt collar favored by hipsters and gangsters. He toured with pianist George Shearing and loved to play golf, shooting in the low eighties. He made numerous television appearances and was the first black singer to grace the cover of Life magazine.

In 1960, during the World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees, he sang the national anthem. In 1986, he was honored at Heinz Heinz during a local jazz festival. By that time, he had 11 gold records to his credit. That same year, he made his last recording, titled “Billy Eckstine Sings With Benny Carter.”

The father of five boys and two girls, Mr. Eckstine sometimes performed with his daughter, Gina, the youngest of his seven children. He died in Pittsburgh in March 1993.

—Marylynne Pitz

Top picture: Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh and Bill Eckstine in 1971. (Ross Catanza/The Pittsburgh Press)

Decommission of the Shippingport Atomic Power Station. Shippingport atomic station site.

1958: "Shippingport Atomic Power Station"

Shippingport Atomic Power Station was the first full-scale atomic electric power plant in the world. 

The Beaver County plant built on the Ohio River, just 25 miles from Pittsburgh, at the time of its opening inspired promises and bold predictions that “nuclear power would raise the public’s welfare, revamp industrial techniques, and increase America’s standard of living.” 

Its decommission was less glorious — due to environmental concerns publicized by Pitt Professor Ernest Sternglass — but it was successful. Nowadays the site hosts a different power plant, the Beaver Valley Nuclear Generating Station, which has two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors. 

On the day of Shippingport Atomic Power Station’s dedication, May 26, 1958, President Eisenhower, who five years before gave his famous Atoms for Peace address at the United Nations, delivered a speech via electronic hook up to people who gathered at the Shippingport site. The ecstatic crowd of government officials, dignitaries and business elite  shared the sense of accomplishment, congratulating each other on completing the landmark plant just in 32 months. Final costs for the entire plant ran up to $75 million. 

Philip Fleger, chairman of the Board of Duquesne Light and the man of vision, who won the bid with his Shippingport offer, was among the enthusiasts: ”It is all together fitting that this station should be located close to the birthplace of the petroleum industry and on top of one of the world’s greatest coal fields,” he said. “For the history of industry and man’s progress is closely bound to the history of fuel…”

It was in Shippingport where experts established practices and rules on how to operate a nuclear power plant. A mistake could be costly and the main rule at Shippingport read: “No carelessness can be tolerated anywhere, for the entire chain of events can prove disastrous.” In the 1960s experts from Shippingport traveled to Japan when the Japanese started talking about using nuclear power as an energy alternative. 

However, the Shippingport experiment was not meant to live. After 25 years of operation, the plant was decommissioned. 

Dr. Sternglass, Pitt professor of radiology, accused Shippingport executives of covering up harmful radiation levels he discovered in data gathered by Nuclear Utilities Services Corporation, which went unreported to government officials. Sternglass alleged that levels of cancer, infant mortality, heart disease had increased due to higher levels of Strontium-90 in the soil and milk produced on local dairy farms.  Dr. Sternglass’ accusations galvanized protests in Shippingport. The community and environmentalists called for the moratorium on nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania and the U.S. Due to insufficient evidence the case was dismissed and the investigation closed. But in spite of the result, Dr. Sternglass’ account of the scandal make a riveting read. At present Dr. Sternglass serves as Emeritus Professor at the Department of Radiology at the University of Pittsburgh.

Shippingport was the first but obviously not the last nuclear power plant. As of March 2014, 435 nuclear power plants are in operation worldwide, 104 of the them are located in the U.S.

— Mila Sanina

1940: A view of Bedford Dwellings with Downtown Pittsburgh and the Gulf Tower in the background. (Credit: The Pittsburgh Press) July 11, 1939: A contract for general construction signed by (seated, from left) James Ring, Councilman George E. Evans. Standing, from left: Carroll Hill and Dr. B. J. Hoyde. (The Pittsburgh Press) Late 1930s; Bedford Dwellings site under construction (Credit: Isaacs and Walsh, Inc.) Dec. 19, 1938: Crowd at ground-breaking ceremony for first project of Pittsburgh Housing Authority. (Credit: Unknown) Oct. 11, 1939: Councilman George Evans and workmen start to put cornerstone into place at Bedford Dwellings. (Credit: Unknown) Oct. 19, 1939: Cornerstone laying at Bedford Dwellings. (Credit: Unknown) June 11, 1953:Mayor David L. Lawrence hands key of first apartment rented at Bedford Dwellings addition to Andrew Doran. Included are Mrs. Doran and their 10 children. (Credit: Unknown) Dec. 28, 1956: Overhead view of the Bedford Dwellings. (Credit: Unknown) July 17, 1960: Two-year-old La Burna in suds and hot water at Bedford Dwellings. Her family told The Pittsburgh Press they had nothing of the sort in their former slum. (Credit: The Pittsburgh Press) Feb. 1, 1990: Ardmo Fuller, president of the Metropolitan Tenants Organization, looks out the window of her Bedford Dwellings apartment. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)

1940s: "Bedford Dwellings"

Bedford Dwellings opened in the Hill District in 1940. At one point that year, a man was interviewing to live in a unit there.

An interview was then required of prospective residents. During the questioning, he changed his mind.

“I just remembered about that graveyard and I decided I’m not going to live with any ghosts,” he told an employee of the complex — allegedly built atop a cemetery.

From its inception through the present, the possible presence of ghosts, as well as a need to fill an abandoned mine in the late 1930s, have been far from being the only problems at the Hill District housing project.

The project would have been torn down in 2003 if not for a shift in federal funding, and today the units could use more care. Piles of litter are the first thing you see at its front on Bedford Avenue. Deep potholes mar Chauncey Drive, which loops through the complex’s eastern half. The 2423 and 2425 Bedford Avenue building numbers are missing or damaged. In short, it’s no longer the shining answer to the city’s lower-income housing needs.

More than 70 years ago, the complex was especially sought after. It was part of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority’s response to the federal government’s push to eliminate slums.

On opening day — July 15, 1940 — 32 families “paraded” into their new residence. On that day, The Pittsburgh Press wrote: “Thus begins a great experiment in public housing visualized by the Federal Government as a step in solving the problem of providing better living quarters for a ‘third of the nation which is ill-housed.’”

Despite issues such as dirty water that appeared from time to time, Bedford Dwellings was still the preferred public housing project 50 years after its construction.

Others, including Allequippa Terrace, had so deteriorated that, “for all the demand for public housing, the city just can’t give (them) away to its needy,” Dennis B. Roddy of The Pittsburgh Press wrote on Sept. 13, 1984.

Still, in the late 1970s, The Pittsburgh Press reported, mothers grew concerned about their children’s safety to the point of patrolling streets and buildings with brooms, swatting those driving up to sell dope to residents.

The next 40 years featured several attempts to replace or renovate many of the units, but much of the original Bedford Dwellings project remains.

Golzar Meamar

Underground Parking Garage ground-breaking, Mayor Lawrence is speaking (Nov. 8, 1953). A view from above of the plot of land that would house Mellon Square (Paul Hunter/Sun-Telegraph, August 1952) Mellon Square Park under construction (Apr. 9, 1955) Richard Mellon, David Lawrence and George Main at the Mellon Square groundbreaking ceremony (Sept. 28, 1953) Underground Mellon Square Garage (January 3, 1953)

1955: Groundbreaking ceremony for Mellon Square

Mellon Square has anchored Pittsburgh’s business district since 1955 and hid behind its aesthetic shield one of the largest parking lots in the center of the city. Props to Pittsburgh banker Richard Mellon King for conceiving an oasis in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Downtown.

But more than 50 years of exploitation, corrosion, and lack of maintenance made it clear: the oasis itself needed resuscitation to bring back its previous magnificence. In 2009, such a plan was developed, and in 2011, a $10 million restoration began. 

Today Mellon Square re-opens restored and remodeled to once again offer a safe place for Downtown workers and residents to take a break in the middle of traffic crawling on Smithfield Street, Oliver and Sixth Avenues. 

Walk over to Mellon Square, take a stroll on the exquisite pavement, look up and you’ll feel dwarfed by giant symbols of Pittsburgh’s capitalist power and glory of the past: the Regional Enterprise Tower, Oliver Building, Omni William Penn Hotel, and 525 William Penn Place. Well, maybe not “glory of the past” — no one would argue that these buildings still look quite as magnificent.

The vision behind Mellon Square was driven by pragmatism: in the 1940s, Downtown Pittsburgh needed a garage to accommodate the needs of the growing business district and to lure Alcoa away from an idea to move its headquarters to New York. Thus, it couldn’t be just a parking garage; Richard King Mellon wanted that space to capture the spirit of Pittsburgh’s Renaissance. Architects from Mitchell & Ritchey designed the parking space capped by the public square, Simonds & Simonds landscaped it. 

When Mellon Square opened, it was deemed “the creation of an oasis of beauty and serenity above the din of the city streets.” When the square was completed, Mellon gave the square to the city.

A dedication marker on ground level says: “Mellon Square is dedicated to the memory of two brothers, Andrew W. Mellon and Richard B. Mellon, their leadership, civic spirit and philanthropy advanced immeasurably the welfare of this community.”

Mellon Square is looking up to become Pittsburgh’s Rockefeller Center, though smaller in scale and more manageable in vision — not quite as Ayn Randian, much more hospitable and less intimidating. Just like Pittsburgh itself.

— Mila Sanina

President Dwight Eisenhower with A. Philip Randolph in an undated photo. (Credit: Associated Press) January 1944: A. Philip Randolph as a young man. (Credit: Unknown) Bishop John J. Wright, J. Gordon Howard and A. Philip Randolph on Sept. 4, 1967. (Harry Klingensmith/Post-Gazette) A. Philip Randolph in Washington D.C. before the Lincoln Memorial. (Credit: National Archives) A. Philip Randolph on Sept. 21, 1966 inside the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offices. (Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

1940s: Labor leader Asa Phililp Randolph

One of the American labor movement’s greatest leaders was Asa Phililp Randolph, who knew what it meant to work hard and persevere.

As a boy, he was a grocery store clerk and newspaper vendor to supplement the income of his father, a minister in the African Methodist Church. When he got older, Randolph laid track for the railroad. 

After leaving Crescent City, Fla., for New York City, he worked as an elevator operator and waiter while attending City College of New York. He lost his job while trying to organize a union for waiters on a local railroad. But that setback did not stop him. 

By age 28, he was publishing a magazine called the Messenger, which was billed as the “only radical Negro magazine in America.”  

In 1925, he began organizing a union called the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a group of railroad employees who worked up to 400 hours a month for a wage of $67.50. Twelve years would pass before he won the union’s first contract, which cut porters’ work hours in half and more than tripled their salaries. 

In 1941, Randolph organized a march on Washington to protest discrimination in defense plants. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt yielded to the pressure and signed an executive order banning that type of discrimination.

In 1948, Randolph and other black civil rights leaders fought discrimination in the U.S. military, prompting President Harry S. Truman to order desegregation of the U.S. military.

Randolph also organized the famous 1963 March on Washington, which drew 250,000 people who heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak eloquently of his dreams for America.  The march brought pressure to bear on the U.S. Congress. That same year, Lucille Green Randolph, whom Randolph had married in 1955, died the day before his 74th birthday. On the nights when he was home, he read her a chapter from the Bible.

The success of the March on Washington was realized a year later when  the Civil Rights of 1964 became federal law.

In September 1967, Randolph was honored in Pittsburgh at a Labor Day Mass where Bishop John Wright presented him with an award for his courageous leadership.

—Marylynne Pitz

June 22, 1980: Protesters in Shadyside. (Credit: Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette) June 22, 1980: Protesters in Shadyside. (Credit: Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette) June 22, 1980: Protesters in Shadyside. (Credit: Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette) June 21, 1991: Sherie Santucci of McKees Rocks and Jennifer Orr hold hands during a rally in Market Square sponsored by the 1991 Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Pride Committee. (Terry Harris/Post-Gazette) Oct. 11, 1988: Mike McFadden (facing camera) and Terry Macko embrace outside Pittsburgh City Council chamber after members defeated a gay rights bill. (Credit: John Beale/Post-Gazette) March 6, 1989: Gay and lesbian activists protest outside the Syria Mosque after city gay rights legislation failed. (Credit: Mark Murphy/Post-Gazette)

1974: Same-sex couples fight for their right to marry

The news on Tuesday of a federal judge striking down Pennyslvania’s ban on same-sex marriages spurred us to look into Pittsburgh’s history of gay and lesbian equality.

Perhaps inequality is the better word. The Post-Gazette’s archive contains only one relevant folder on the subject — “Homosexuals” — and it’s largely filled with images of protesters.

Historically, same-sex couples have had little to be happy about.

Legislation banning discrimination against homosexuals had first been proposed in Pittsburgh City Council on June 15, 1974, at the behest of a local gay rights group called Gay Alternatives Pittsburgh (GAP).

For a long time, nothing happened.

Years of appeals and slowly rising acceptance across the nation pushed Pittsburgh’s City Council to reconsider.

While running for mayor, Sophie Masloff was against gay rights legislation. 

Masloff faced judgement for that decision before becoming mayor, or rather, for her behind-the-scenes actions opposing gay rights legislation in 1988.

Cry Out, a gay rights organization in Pittsburgh, protested and picketed Masloff’s house after her election as mayor.

Gay pride celebrations continued in Pittsburgh — attempts to spur legislation passage — and they eventually made an impact.

In 1990, Mayor Sophie Masloff signed a gay rights amendment into the city’s Human Relations Act,  which made it illegal to “discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations based on sexual orientation — defined as ‘male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality or perceived homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality.’”

Her move to ban hiring discrimination was not exactly a bold move. Mayor Richard Caliguiri had already outlawed sexual discrimination in hiring in 1978. Then-Pittsburgh Press columnist Brian O’Neill wrote, “The news of Sophie’s choice was displayed in the newspapers Tuesday, but to the casual observer, it was a non-story.”

And now, in 2014, gay couples in Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania can marry — just like anyone else.

Golzar Meamar

Andy Warhol, between seven and nine years old, circa 1935. (Credit: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts) 1949: Warhol in New York City. (Credit: Philip Pearlstein) A self portrait Warhol created while a student at Schenley High School. (Credit: Handout/The Pittsburgh Press) A collection of childhood photos of Warhol, published in The Pittsburgh Press May 13, 1994. Andy Warhol outdoors. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images) Still of Andy Warhol from Scenes in the Life of Andy Warhol. (Credit: Courtesy of Anthology Film Archives) John Warhola (brother of Andy Warhol) signs autographs in front of a replica of the new Andy Warhol stamp unveiled at the Andy Warhol Museum on Aug 8, 2002. (Andy Starnes/Post-Gazette) Donald Warhola, a nephew of Andy Warhol, talks about the Andy Warhol Museum involvement in Holocaust Remembrance Day activities, January 2014. (Larry Roberts/Post-Gazette) Paul Warhola, 83, of Smock, Fayette County, witnessed Babe Ruth hit his final three major league home runs on May 25, 1935 when he was 12. He was an older brother of Andy. (Lake Fong/Post-Gazette)

1935: Andy Warhol’s childhood

The humble beginnings of Pop artist Andy Warhol are worth revisiting because like so many Americans and Pittsbugh residents born in the 20th century, he was the son of immigrants. 

His real name was Andy Warhola. His parents, Julia and “Ondrej” or Andrew, were Eastern European immigrants from the Carpathian Mountains, just north of Transylvania. 

Andy’s father traveled to America in the early 1900s and worked as a coal miner in Pennsylvania. In 1909, Mr. Warhola returned to Eastern Europe and proposed to his future wife, Julia, who was one of 15 children. They married that year. 

In 1912, Mr. Warhola immigrated to America, leaving his bride behind. Nine years passed before she joined him in Pittsburgh in 1921. Their first son, Paul, was born in 1922 and their second son, John, arrived in 1925. Andy arrived in 1927.

The Warhola family lived in Soho at 73 Orr Street in a two-room, tar paper shack and used an outhouse in an alley. When their youngest son, Andy, was two, the Warholas moved around the corner to a home on Beelen Street that had its own commode. The family attended church at St. John Chrysostom Eastern Rite Russian Greek Catholic Church, which was two miles from their home.

By 1934, the family moved to 3252 Dawson Street in lower Oakland, a step up from the working class neighborhood of Soho. When he was 10, Andy Warhola’s fifth grade teacher recommended him for Saturday art classes at the Carnegie Museum. That’s where he came under the profound influence of Joseph C. Fitzpatrick, a legendary art teacher. 

Mr. Warhola worked for the John Eichleay Company, which moved houses and did construction. But he knew his youngest son had talent and set aside $1,500 in a postal bond for Andy to go to college. He died in 1942, seven years before Andy Warhola moved to New York City to make his name and leave an indelible impression on the art world.

—Marylynne Pitz

Top photo: Andy Warhol, between seven and nine years old, circa 1935. (Credit: Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts)

View of the WPA quarry project with Bottoms in the foreground. (Sun-Telegraph photo) Panoramic view of the mound in 1946. (Sun-Telegraph photo) Man and mound in the late 1930s. (Sun-Telegraph photo) Newspaper article about the mound in 1926.

Aug. 7, 1938:  McKees Rocks Indian Mound.

One day in the mid-1890s, a boy playing baseball with his buddies in McKees Rocks looked down and saw what he thought was a tree root sticking out of the ground.

The boy had a bat, and so he took a swat at the root. What bounded out of the ground, however, was a shin bone, not part of a tree. He and his friends did what every other American kid would do — they dug further. Eventually, they unearthed a human skeleton.

That’s one story of the discovery of the ancient McKees Rocks Indian Mound. We’ve also read that early farmers in the area sometimes plowed up skulls of those buried in a sitting position.

Few people talk about the mound anymore. But at one time it was one of the area’s most striking features. It rises above the Bottoms neighborhood of McKees Rocks and overlooks the Ohio River near Brunot Island.

In 1896, an Andrew Carnegie-funded excavation turned up the remains of up to 39 people, along with some pottery, beads, an axe and other artifacts of the Adena people who lived thousands of years ago.

Since then, the mound has been mauled and otherwise mistreated. As early as 1926, The Pittsburgh Press worried that “the public is standing by in utter apathy and indifference while the mound is being hauled down and destroyed.”

During the Depression years, the WPA quarried rock from the mound. Kids climbed over its heights in search of arrow heads. People picnicked there. Later, an oil company and other industrial firms chopped into the mound and the once-imposing cliff at its eastern edge.

In May 1951, newspapers made a big deal out of spirits rising up in revenge after two boys nearly got killed while digging a cave into the mound. The roof collapsed, burying the boys, ages 9 and 10. Two pals ran for help. The boys were uncovered after several minutes and, though unconscious, were revived.

A marker on the site calls the McKees Rocks mound the largest Native American burial ground in Western Pennsylvania.

But the years — and development — have taken their toll. We glimpsed the mound yesterday while driving across the McKees Rocks Bridge. It’s mostly covered in trees now and looks like any other rise in the Western Pennsylvania landscape.

— Steve Mellon

Top picture: WPA quarried rock from the mound in 1938. (Sun-Telegraph photo)

Police mug shot of Valenti from 1933. Marcelean Williams, former wife of Valenti, was an early witness at an inquest into the Evans-Garrow murders. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Stella Falbo, alleged girl friend of murder victim Frankie Evans, spent two days at the inquest hiding behind a newspaper. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Valenti in 1947. (Pittsburgh Press photo)

June 18, 1946: Mob murder suspect takes a fall.

(Second of two parts)

Pittsburgh homicide detective Peter Connors was driving to work along Cape May Avenue one day when he looked up and saw a man wearing a dark suit and slicked-back hair walk into a gas station near West Liberty Avenue.

That’s Frank Valenti, Connors said to himself.

Police had spent the last four weeks searching for Valenti. The dapper gangster was suspected in the murders of two small-time numbers guys, Frank Evans and Freddie Garrow. Evans and Garrow were shot to death in May, their bodies stuffed in the back seat and floorboard of a Pontiac found near Washington Boulevard. Police traced an inspection sticker on the vehicle to Valenti.

Connors couldn’t believe his luck. He stopped his vehicle and followed Valenti into the gas station. Valenti was on a pay phone. Connors slapped the cuffs on him and said, “Let’s go.”

Next stop for Valenti was the Oakland police station, and this is where things got dicey. Valenti would later claim that one of his legs was handcuffed to a bench and three men began simultaneously throwing questions and punches at him. Blows landed on his face and ribs, he said. A guy wearing overalls whacked Valenti with a foot-long section of rubber hose.

When Valenti passed out, he was revived with the smell of ammonia.

Finally, Inspector John Flavin entered the room.

“Frank, you had better tell these people what you know,” Flavin said. “We know you’re not the one, but we know that you know who did it.”

Valenti wouldn’t talk. So the beating resumed.

Later, Flavin returned. Ice was applied to Valenti’s battered face. Possibly in an attempt to make up for the plastering his boys had applied, Flavin got the suspect a milkshake with a double scoop of ice cream.

“How are my boys treating you?” Flavin asked.

“Fine,” Valenti said with a gasp.

Police hauled Valenti to Allegheny General Hospital, where he was bandaged and x-rayed, then sent to the county jail. Newspaper photographers got wind of the arrest and were waiting.

Evans and Garrow had been shot a total of 22 times. The excessive violence fascinated and shocked the city. And now police had a suspect — Valenti, impeccably dressed owner of both a chain of Pittsburgh restaurants called Spaghetti Village and an extensive criminal record that dated back more than a decade.

Reporters saw Valenti’s battered face, his stunned expression. How’d he get hurt? they inquired.

“I asked him what happened and he said he fell in his cell,” Flavin replied.

Charges against Valenti were eventually dropped for lack of evidence. Five years later a grand jury investigation of the killings recommended no indictments. Too many “untruthful” witnesses, the jurors said.

Valenti eventually left Pittsburgh and become a founder and boss of the Rochester, N.Y., crime family. He’s perhaps best known as the mastermind of a 1970 scheme in which his organization detonated a series of bombs in Rochester. His intent was to deflect attention from his organization’s criminal activities. Crazy as it was, the scheme worked. Police focused their energies and attention on suspected Vietnam war protesters.

Valenti headed the Rochester mob from 1964 until he was convicted of extortion in 1972. He moved to Arizona and died at age 97 at a nursing home near Houston.

— Steve Mellon

Top picture: A battered Valenti heads to the Allegheny County Jail. (Pittsburgh Press photo)