Worker doing renovations on the roof of the Keenan Building, 1970, Post-Gazette photo. Post-Gazette photo, date unknown. Colonels Plaza, 1974. (Harry Coughanour/Post-Gazette)

1907: "The T.J. Keenan Building" 

For utilitarian dwellers, business people and visitors to Pittsburgh’s modern Downtown the 18-story Keenan Building on Liberty Avenue may be associated with the 7-Eleven store that is located on its ground floor.  You know the intersection of Liberty and Seventh Str., right? And you would, for sure, recognize the landmark… Yeees? Let’s just hope you looked up at least once. If not, you should, because you are missing out on the artistry behind the building and a cool story. 

The Keenan skyscraper is one of the oldest among Golden Triangle buildings. 

Constructed in 1907 at a cost of  $2 million, it was the tallest building in Pittsburgh and the shiniest. The dome was ‘crowned’ by the eagle and a series of portraits. The ‘penthouse’ once served as lavish living quarters for Col. Thomas J. Keenan, Jr., the owner of the building AND one-time owner of The Pittsburgh Press.  In those days, as you can imagine, conceiving such a structure was a statement, building it was an accomplishment. Photographs and sketches of Pittsburgh’s “skyscraper with the golden dome” appeared in newspapers and magazines worldwide. In those days, it was Pittsburgh’s counterpart of the Steel Tower in the 1970s and the Fifth Avenue Place branded by Highmark today.

In the early 1950s, the Keenan building housed state offices, commercial firms and a restaurant. 

In the 1960s, the building changed ownership several times. Each and every one of the new owners had undertaken what they called a major rehabilitation campaign “to restore the Keenan Building to its old-time splendor.”

Those promises brought cheer to advocacy groups protecting Pittsburgh’s historic buildings and landmarks at the time. In their view, the Keenan Building deserved a special consideration because of its uniqueness. “The only other important skyscraper n this country, the Spreckels-Call Building on Market Street in San Francisco, was completely ruined by injudicious ‘rehabilitation’ some years ago and that makes the Keenan Building all the more important,” Vice President Trump of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation told the Post-Gazette in 1969. 

Today, the dome is golden no more. New domed skyscrapers, shinier and taller, sprung around the country and around the world. And the Keenan Building carries a far less personalized and far less intriguing name — Midtown Towers.

—Mila Sanina

August 3, 1950: Dominico Omogrosso (Credit:Unknown) July 12, 1950: Scene of the shooting (Credit: Unknown) Schenley Hotel Crime Scene (Credit: Unknown) July 12, 1950: The murder weapon (Credit: Unknown) July 12, 1950: Detective James J Scoide, Dominico Omogrosso, Detective Al Mumpfer (Credit: Unknown) Schenley Hotel Murder Scene (Credit: Unknown) July 12, 1950: Dominico Omogrosso (Credit: Unknown) Schenley Hotel Murder Scene (Credit: Unknown)

1950: Murders at Schenley Hotel

“They always made faces at me.”

This was the explanation Dominico Omogrosso provided hours after fatally shooting two and wounding a third while on his night guard shift at the Schenley Hotel in Oakland.

Omogrosso, 58 at the time of the shootings, had immigrated from Naples, Italy, through Ellis Island in 1919. Sick for many years, Omogrosso had difficulty finding work in Pittsburgh and his fear of needles kept him away from the doctor. As a result, he was largely supported by his wife Ema until she got him a job as the Schenley Hotel’s night guard.

His rampage started in the hotel’s basement shortly after midnight on July 12, 1950, where Omogrosso had his sights set on Alfonso Marano, a former friend and baker at the Schenley.

Omogrosso then made his way upstairs to the ballroom, reloading his gun on the stairs. He found his second victim, H.H. Kunde, assistant night manager of the Schenley, relaxing in a swivel chair reading a newspaper. Spinning Mr. Kunde around, Omogrosso shot him twice - in the neck and arm - at point-blank range. Mr. Kunde narrowly survived the incident.

John S. Harper stood at a telephone receiver just feet away watching the events unfold when Omogrosso turned the gun toward him. Two shots were fired, and Mr. Harper was pronounced dead hours later.

Omogrosso scurried to the hotel lobby, smoke still rising from his revolver. His wife, who heard gunshots from the bakery, approached him in an attempt to stop the shooting spree.

“Don’t touch the gun,” he warned. “I got even with them.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Kunde dashed to the back elevator where he rode up seven floors to a resident physician who called the police and treated him for his wounds.

Omogrosso was soon arrested and questioned by police before unloading on any other workers that night. While questioned, Omogrosso shockingly had no recollection of shooting Mr. Kunde or Mr. Harper.

In court, Omogrosso was described as listless and apathetic. Only when the Coroner’s Jury announced the verdict of homicide did Omogrosso show any interest in the proceedings.

Deemed insane, he was admitted to Farview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane after a judge declared Omogrosso suffered from “delusions of persecution” for almost 40 years.

Whether Omogrosso spent the rest of his life in Farview or prison is unclear, as searches through Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Press archives,, and Google News provided no information regarding the later years of his life.

Omogrosso died in 1971.

- Emily Kaplan

The Pittsburgh Press in June 1956 used a dotted line to show where the new hotel would be built. (Pittsburgh Press photo) The hotel ballroom under construction. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Japanese construction men examined the building in February 1959. (Pittsburgh Press photo) Conrad Hilton cuts a massive ribbon at the hotel's grand opening. (Sun-Telegraph photo) This May 1959 picture of the Hilton was taken from an upper story of the Gateway Four Building then under construction. (Pittsburgh Press photo) The Wyndham  Grand Pittsburgh Hotel today. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)

December 1959: The hotel that transformed the Point

For some time, “The Digs” staff has been partaking in a Pittsburgh tradition: Watching construction work at the city’s most visible hotel. We’re thrilled that renovations at the Wyndham Grand are finally complete.

More than half a century ago, the hotel was known as the Hilton. And as it slowly rose over the Point, one steel beam at a time, thousands of Pittsburghers stood on sidewalks and craned their necks to watch the progress. One was a Pittsburgh Press reporter named Gilbert Love.

This was in the late 1950s — an exciting time in the city. Love and every other Pittsburgher had fresh memories of the Point as a place of crumbling warehouses, dilapidated brick dwellings, saloons and narrow cobblestone streets.

Then it changed — in dramatic fashion. The Point was cleared, the old buildings demolished. Silver towers named Gateway Center 1, 2 and 3 rose skyward, looking spiffy and modern. Surrounding them were trees and shrubs. Greenery, on the Point! It was barely believable.

Further up Liberty Avenue stood Four Gateway Center, 22 stories of green glass — a mirror, so the new and emerging city could preen itself.

The Hilton would be the gem of the Point. “We intend to build a beautiful structure worthy of its beautiful site,” said the hotel’s director. When was the last time anyone had used the word “beautiful” and Pittsburgh in the same sentence?

But there it was, 24-stories of anodized gold, an exclamation point on the Golden Triangle. Workers wrapped it in a quarter mile of royal blue ribbon — “the world’s largest ribbon and bow,” proclaimed The Pittsburgh Press.

Tanned and dapper Conrad Hilton showed up to cut the five-foot wide strip of cloth. Trailing behind him were a bunch of his Hollywood friends. After opening ceremonies, the sexes parted in typical ’50s style: Women filed inside to attend a fashion show while men sat down to a luncheon.

The city shivered with anticipation of the next day’s dinner and dance, a $75 per person affair open to 1,000 Pittsburghers and 200 special guests of Hilton. “The doors of the largest ballroom in the eastern part of the nation will be thrown open to reveal what promises to be one of the most spectacular scenes of elegance and conviviality ever witnessed here,” gushed the Press.

It was a smashing event. A few days later, Love looked up at Mount Washington and imagined what the new city would look like in the years to come. He could visualize “the crest of the hill lined with restaurants with glass walls overlooking the triangle, and apartment houses with balconies or decks to take advantage of the view. Below them, the hillside would be a hanging garden of blooming plants.”

He imagined pleasure boats on the river, a fountain sending a geyser of water into the sky, walkways along the river.

Visitors, he wrote, “will wonder why this place was ever called ‘The Smoky City.’”

Steve Mellon

Top photo: The Hilton Hotel, under construction in October 1958, framed by one of the tiers leading to the new Fort Pitt Bridge. (Photo credit unknown)

April 7, 1955: J. Salk with flasks in which monkey kidney cells are incubated before virus is allowed to grow in them. (Credit: Unknown) Dr. Jonas E. Salk and Arthur Donahoo of Washington, Pa. (Credit: The Pittsburgh Press) May 23, 1955: Dr. Jonas Salk. (Credit: Unknown) Feb. 13, 1966: Salk in the lab. (Credit: The Pittsburgh Press) Jonas Salk in his later years. He died in 1995. (Credit: Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazete) Jan. 30, 1956: Dr. Lev J. Lukin, Prof. Anatoli A. Smorodimtseo, Dr. Marina K. Vorshilova, Prof. Mikhail P. Chumakov and Dr. Jonas Salk. (Credit: Unknown)

1955: Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine

On the afternoon of April 16, 1955, there was noticeable buzz at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport. Why?  Pittsburgh’s newest international star, Dr. Jonas Salk, was coming home. A crowd of 500 proud locals, many of them children, anxiously waited for the doctor’s plane to land.

“No public reception is planned, but County and City police will be assigned to the Airport to handle the people who may wish to cheer his victory,” said a Pittsburgh Press article that day.

Salk arrived in Pittsburgh on the heels of his most notable accomplishment: the successful application of a vaccine to cure polio. After seven years of experimentation and testing, largely conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, the scientist’s team reported the vaccine a success.

Salk-related headlines sprang up all over the country; he quickly became known as the miraculous man who cured a disease that had affected more than half a million Americans in the preceding 40 years.  

Salk, though, was not well-liked by his peers.

While some scientists were purely petty, others argued Salk had “not played fair” by using unconventional means of creating a vaccine.

A few in his field thought it was “unthinkable” that Salk should receive all the credit for the polio vaccination. Scientists who came before Salk set the foundation for the work he did, but despite their research and experimentation, they were not as widely recognized.

Through the success and criticism, Salk knew he still had work to do. Unsatisfied with a vaccine that was only 80 to 90 percent effective, the New York native set his sights on perfecting the shot by returning to his Pittsburgh lab for further research.

Meanwhile, starting in late April 1955, thousands of Pittsburgh children were vaccinated in local schools. The first mass inoculation in Allegheny County occurred the Monday after Salk’s return, and city school children did not receive shots until 10 days later.

Pittsburghers warmly welcomed home their “adopted local boy” after the initial invention, and the happiness and gratefulness spread across the country. People hung up “THANK YOU SALK” posters in store windows, held celebrations, and commemorated the day the invention broke through.

Ten years after the vaccine’s initial success, the United States no longer claimed polio as a major health concern. And the public loved Salk for it.

—Emily Kaplan and Golzar Meamar

Dippy's statue unveiled in Oakland, 1999. (Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette) Dippy is a Steelers fan. ...and sometimes a Panthers fan... Dippy sporting a special holiday scarf, 2004.

1999: Hip dinosaur Dippy 

The Oakland statue of Dippy, the most famous dinosaur of Pittsburgh, seems to have been standing outside the Carnegie Museum of Natural History on Forbes Avenue forever. He is old, right? It only makes sense: Dippy is a dino. 

The looks and names can be deceiving though. Dippy’s fiberglass statue is only 15 years old. One of the most recognizable symbols of Pittsburgh was erected in 1999 to celebrate the centennial of discovering the bare bones of the real Dippy, Andrew Carnegie’s obsession — that treasure still stands indoors in the museum’s Dinosaur Hall. 

The indoors Dippy, whose real name is Diplodocus carnegii (in honor of… well, you know who), first appeared before Pittsburgh’s public in 1907. At that time, the 84-feet-long Diplodocus was a creature of superlatives: the tallest dinosaur ever found, the best preserved, the most desired by various collectors, the first dinosaur to ever be housed in the museum and many other THEs.  Even the tale of finding Dippy and bringing the bones to Pittsburgh was hailed "a soap opera about bones."

But enough drama about the Dippy who lives indoors. Tough life. Dippy who stands outside must be thinking his indoors counterpart has it easy. Snow, sleet, rain, thunder, bone-chilling cold and even the vandals — Dippy has seen it all in an unpredictable world of Pittsburgh’s outdoors, and for that perseverance he earned the city’s respect and recognition.

Dippy, for sure, is a representative of Pittsburgh’s pop culture. He even made it to Yinztagram, a Pittsburgh photo app, as an integral feature of the Steel City along with Primanti Bros. sandwich, Rick Sebak and a construction detour sign.

The fiberglass Dippy is hip, too. During his short life he has sported more scarves and hats than an average Pittsburgher. Obviously, he does not choose his sports loyalties. Dippy’s passions have Pittsburgh ties. He was spotted wearing the Steelers Terrible Towel, the Panthers’ scarf, the green-and-white scarf with shamrock on it before St. Patrick’s Day and even a bicycle helmet (maybe as a precursor to the advent of the cycling culture in the Steel City?).

— Mila Sanina

A streetcar promotes the arrival of the Freedom Train in Pittsburgh in 1948. At left is Thomas Fitzgerald, trustee of Pittsburgh Railways. At right is Councilman A.L. Walk. (Credit: unknown) People wait their turn to see historic American documents aboard the Freedom Train. The line stretched to Grant Street and wrapped around the Post Office and Courthouse. (Credit: unknown) Mounted police keep order as people line up outside the U.S. District Courthouse and Post Office to see historic American documents aboard the Freedom Train in September 1948. (Credit: unknown) U.S. President Harry S. Truman and David Lawrence confer aboard the Freedom Train in Pittsburgh in 1948. Allegheny County Commissioner John Kane has his back to the camera. (Credit: unknown) Train buffs placed coins on the track in 1976 before the train arrived in Greensburg. When it left, they bent down to collect the compressed coins as souvenirs. (Albert French/Post-Gazette)

1947-48: The Freedom Train’s journey through Pennsylvania”

One year after World War II concluded, U.S. Attorney General Tom Clark believed Americans had become complacent about their rights and responsibilities as citizens and the value of their many freedoms.

On May 22, 1947, with the endorsement of U.S. President Harry S. Truman, Clark gathered 200 people at the White House. Conference participants represented business, finance, labor, industry and government. 

Americans, the group decided, should see a free traveling exhibition of the nation’s historic documents. The American Heritage Foundation, a New York-based organization, was established to organize an exhibition aboard the Freedom Train. 

Fifty-two railroads shared the task of taking the Freedom Train on its 33,000-mile journey. Staff members of the National Archives assembled about a quarter of the 126 documents on display. 

Americans lined up in droves to see Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. Caesar Rodney’s letter, written on July 4, 1776, described the voting on the Declaration of Independence. George Washington’s letter outlined the winter hardships his troops suffered.

The Freedom Train’s journey began in Philadelphia on September 17, 1947, the 160th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Guarding the displays were 27 U.S. Marines, many of whom had seen combat during World War II. 

The Freedom Train arrived for a three-day stay in Pittsburgh, at Pennsylvania Station, in September 1948. In Downtown Pittsburgh, a line formed an hour before the exhibition opened. Men removed their caps when they boarded the train. 

The Freedom Train’s tour ended on Jan. 22, 1949. By that time, more than 3.5 million people in 48 states had seen America’s founding documents.

—Marylynne Pitz

A view of Forbes Field and its third base seats, where Reischbaum and Hyde sat that day in 1960. (Morris Berman/Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph)

1960: Boyhood memories at Forbes Field

When I called Lee Reischbaum, a local Pittsburgh psychologist pictured left in the above photo, he responded: “You won’t believe this! I’m on the phone with Michael Hyde right now!”

Not that this was abnormal. The two are good friends. The fascinating part?

Michael Hyde is the boy on the right in the photo above, captured on April 24, 1960, by a Pittsburgh Press photographer.

Early in that magical 1960 season, 11-year old Reischbaum and 9-year old Michael Hyde enjoyed hot dogs on the third base side at Forbes Field. It was a warm spring day and a familiar scene. The neighbors, whose parents moved from Friendship to Stanton Heights together when they were infants, often attended games with each other.

Reminiscing about the 1950s and ‘60s Pirates takes the two men — now 65 and 63 — back in time. Both can name just about every player on the 1960 World Series Champion Pirates.

“One person I really enjoyed watching was Smoky Burgess, the catcher,” Reischbaum said. “He was a short, pudgy guy. But you could count on him. He was like a Josh Harrison. You put him up to bat, he would hit the ball.

“Left field was Bob Skinner, this long, tall guy who loped. He looked like a giraffe. And when he ran it was like watching a giraffe run across the plains of Africa.”

Hyde’s memory is just as sharp.

 “I remember Billy Virdon climbing up the batting screen in centerfield to catch balls,” Hyde said.

Of course, Roberto Clemente played right. The two boys used to pay a dollar or two to sit in the right-field grandstand.

“They were horrible seats. But they were behind Clemente,” Reischbaum said.

Talking about the Forbes Field Pirates reminds them of a different era.

“It was a gigantic part of life, and if we weren’t at the game at the time, we would be sitting up on the porch watching the glow from the steel mills, listening to it on the radio, eating pizza,” Hyde said. “They were amazing, amazing times.”

Today, Reischbaum has a partial season ticket package to PNC Park. But the men agree that Forbes was in a league by itself.

“I have to say nothing could be better than Forbes field. That was just a classic field,” Hyde said.

Although the two don’t go to Pirates games together anymore — Hyde lives North Carolina and is a professor at Wake Forest University — they stay in touch. Reischbaum has hardly left Pittsburgh, earning four degrees from the University of Pittsburgh. Still, the two cannot remember a time when they did not know each other.

“Michael and I are an example of the long friendships people in Pittsburgh have,” Reischbaum said.

After spending his whole life here, Reischbaum is understandably fond of Pittsburgh’s small-town feel. He and Hyde grew up on the same street as Steve Greenberg, the former Pirates vice president who spearheaded the construction of PNC Park.

And Reischbaum’s Little League coach was Bob Smizik, the former Post-Gazette sportswriter.

“That’s part of what Pittsburgh is, too. My wife sometimes shakes her head and says, ‘How do you know all these people? How do you stay in touch with all these people?’ It’s part of the city’s culture.” 

Hayes Gardner

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