Market Square: Pittsburgh’s original gathering space
You might think of Pittsburgh’s Market Square as a gathering place for businessmen and women navigating the daily lunchtime rush, as a home to cooing pigeons snacking on crumbs or even as an unintentional ice skating rink in winter.
While Market Square might not look the same as when it was first constructed, one thing stayed the same: it has remained Pittsburgh’s restless epicenter.
The conception of Market Square dates back to 1784 when Philadelphia surveyors George Woods and Thomas Vickroy sought to create a central location for the city of Pittsburgh. It was originally known as the “Diamond,” a name typical for 18th and 19th century Pennsylvania town centers. Within the Diamond, the original Market House was built around 1794.
According to a 1982 edition of the Pittsburgh Press, the Market was replaced in 1853 by a building that “served as Pittsburgh’s City Hall, as an armory for the 17th Pennsylvania Regiment and briefly as a hospice for Civil War Soldiers.”
Moving into the early 20th century, the Diamond Market was constructed to take up all four quadrants of the Diamond Street-Market Street intersection. The Market House, as it was known, provided Pittsburghers with a lively grocer, florist and baker scene.
The building stood until October 1961, when it was razed to make room for grass, benches, and walkways. Four large grass quadrants were carved from Forbes and Market Street, which ran through the square.
Market Square gained another addition in 1977 — the granite Hartzell Memorial Fountain, constructed in 1909. Inscribed with the words, “For Man, Beast and Bird,” it stood in the square until 1990 and was used as a birdbath, public water fountain and sometimes a place for the homeless to wash up.
Much of what we see today in Market Square was constructed throughout the 1980s. Most notably, Pittsburgh’s iconic PPG tower was built with five surrounding buildings in 1984.
Today, the grass quadrants are paved over and seating accommodations fill what Pittsburghers think of as a reliable Downtown hangout spot.