What Pittsburgh Looked Like in the 1930s: Unveiling the City’s Historic Era in Striking Photos

The 1930s were a tough time for the entire country, and Pittsburgh was no exception. The Great Depression hit hard, and the city’s booming economy of the 1920s quickly turned into a struggle for survival. Jobs were scarce, and those who were lucky enough to have work often faced low wages and poor working conditions.

Despite the economic downturn, the steel mills – the city’s lifeline – kept running, albeit at a slower pace. Steelworkers, tough as nails, continued to toil away, their spirit unbroken. The city’s identity as the “Steel City” was put to the test, and it passed with flying colors. Communities banded together, supporting each other through the tough times. Soup kitchens and charity drives became common, and neighbors looked out for each other.

On the cultural front, Pittsburgh didn’t skip a beat. Theaters, like the Stanley, continued to offer an escape from the harsh realities of life, showcasing everything from dramatic plays to the latest Hollywood flicks. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra continued to mesmerize audiences, and the city’s jazz scene kept the music playing, providing a much-needed boost of joy and energy.

In sports, the Pittsburgh Pirates were still in the game, showing the same fighting spirit as the city itself. They might not have taken home the World Series in the ’30s, but they were a symbol of Pittsburgh’s perseverance and determination.

One of the most significant events of the 1930s in Pittsburgh was the devastating St. Patrick’s Day flood in 1936. It was one of the worst floods in the city’s history, causing immense damage. But once again, Pittsburgh proved its resilience. The city pulled together, cleaning up, rebuilding, and coming back stronger than ever.

#1 Slum houses on “The Hill,” Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#2 Busy section of Penn Avenue at South Beatty Street, 1933

#3 Boulevard of the Allies featuring homes and billboards, 1930

#5 Pittsburgh Press Building and day’s headlines, 1931

#8 Houses in “The Hill” slum, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#9 Monongahela River industrial landscape, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#10 Homemade pool by steelworkers for their children, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#11 Coal barges on Monongahela River, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#14 Operating steel sheet roller, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#16 East side of Pittsburgh from Homestead, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#17 Inactive steel mills in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#18 Houses along Monongahela River, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#19 Monongahela riverside houses, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#20 Junction of Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#21 Monongahela River looking north, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#22 City view from Homestead, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#23 Allegheny River bridge, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1938.

#26 Negley Run Sewer debris and construction, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#27 Geneva and 44th Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#28 West Sycamore and Shiloh Streets, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#29 Freyvogel Pharmacy and South Hills Trust, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#30 A.E. Freyvogel Pharmacy, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#31 West Lacock Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#33 West Carson Street construction, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#34 Negley Run Sewer Lock and Dam 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#35 Allegheny River banks, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#36 Seward Street and Greenleaf Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#37 German Square Steps, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#38 Rock Street Steps, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#39 South 8th Street Sewer, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#40 Webster Avenue properties, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#41 William Street Landslide, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#42 East Liberty Presbyterian Church construction, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#43 William Street landslide damage, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#44 Penn Avenue businesses, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#46 West Carson Street wall progress, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#47 William Street properties, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#48 Robina and Sherwood Streets, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#49 Saint Joseph Way, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#50 Birmingham and Saint Joseph Way, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1933.

#51 View from house No. 107 on Monastery Street toward Birmingham Street, 1933

#52 Reconstruction of sewer near South 8th Street along Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Rail Road, 1933

#53 View of Robina Street from the intersection with Sherwood Avenue, 1933

#54 Intersection of Dollar Street and Centre Avenue, 1933

#55 Sussex Avenue looking north at the intersection with Fortuna Avenue, 1933

#56 Properties along Dollar Street looking towards Centre Avenue, 1933

#57 Traffic on West Lacock Street looking east towards Federal Street, 1933

#58 Traffic on West Lacock Street looking west towards West Canal Street, 1933

#59 Penn Avenue traffic from the entrance of an Amoco gas station, 1933

#60 Stengel Way in front of Damascus Bronze Co. looking north, 1933

#61 Properties on Saint Martin Street at the intersection with Saint Thomas Street, 1933

#62 Marquee of Enright Theatre on Penn Avenue at Beatty Street, 1933

#63 Stone marker for Ohio River Boulevard near Superior Avenue, 1933

#64 Fifth Avenue scene featuring advertisements and a horse-drawn vehicle, 1933

#66 Fifth Avenue at Chesterfield Road, near Montefiore Hospital, 1933

#67 Road construction on Corry Street from Lacock Street, 1933

#68 Workers unloading crops at Mayview Hospital, 1933

#70 WPA improvements on Acorn Street near Saline Street, 1938

#71 Fulton Theatre at the corner of Sixth Street and Duquesne Way, 1938

#73 Heths Run Bridge on Butler Street, built in 1914 and replaced in 2014, 1933

#74 Chartiers Avenue looking towards Allendale Street, 1933

#75 Ladoga Street at the intersection with Weller Street, 1933

#76 Glen Caladh Street at Gertrude Street featuring Hazelwood Christian Church, 1933

#77 West Elizabeth Street looking towards Blair Street, 1933

#78 Emerald Street Steps from Arlington Avenue with old advertisements, 1933

#79 Emerald Street Steps looking north from Arlington Avenue, 1933

#81 Intersection of Center Avenue and Dinwiddie Street, 1933

#82 Businesses at the intersection of Center Avenue and Devilliers Street, 1933

#83 Negley Run Sewer during construction of Lock & Dam No. 2, 1933

#84 Pedestrians near corner store on Second Avenue, 1933

#86 Rutherglen Street looking towards Second Avenue, 1933

#87 Properties on Second Avenue near Rutherglen Street, 1933

#88 Sussex Avenue looking south at Bay Ridge Avenue, 1933

#89 Businesses on Second Avenue near Rutherglen Street, 1933

#90 Intersection of Stebbins Avenue and Woodbourne Avenue, 1933

#92 Suismon Street 36″ water main break between Middle and East Streets, 1930

#93 Suismon Street water main break showing road conditions, 1930

#94 Schimmer Street city steps from Frederick Street, 1930

#95 Crank-Case Service station on Centre Avenue at Chauncey Street, 1930

#96 West Oakland Business District on Fifth Avenue, 1930

#97 Fifth Avenue construction from Hooper Street, shows Uptown Cigar and more, 1930

#98 View of South 12th Street at Carson, looking north, 1931

#99 South 12th Street at Carson Street, looking east, 1931

#100 R. Moats Beauty Parlor on 2834-2836 Center Avenue, 1931

#101 View of 3943 Perrysville Avenue, looking northwest, 1931

#102 Crescent Pattern Company on Watson Street from Boyd, 1931

#103 Penn and Negley Avenues safety zone, looking west, 1931

#104 5828 Penn Avenue at Negley Avenue, looking east, 1931

#105 Fifth Avenue at Dinwiddie, showing Yee Hong Laundry, 1931

#106 Logan Street from Epiphany, Laibman’s Confectionery on right, 1931

#107 West view on Fifth Avenue, Jenkins Arcade and other shops, 1931

#108 Wood Street Shops, includes Monarch Electric and more, 1931

#109 1307 Monterey Street, shows Helfant’s Drug Store, 1931

#110 View of 52nd Street, shows F. H. Bauer Grocery, 1931

#111 52nd Street, people near F. H. Bauer Grocery, 1931

#112 Brant and Clislet Streets dirt road improvement, 1931

#115 15th Street corner of Pike Street, shows No. 1426, 1931

#119 7th Street Foot Bridge, looking east to 8th Street, 1931

#120 Tunnel Street on Fifth Avenue, shows curb cut back, 1930

#122 Fifth Avenue from Bellfield, Mellon Institute construction, 1933

#123 Smithfield Street Bridge, looking northeast, 1933

#125 Bradish Street, W. J. Vance Transfer and Storage, 1933

#126 2016 Delrose Street house near Kleiner Way, 1933

#128 Diamond Street at Market Place, northeast corner, 1933

#131 Seventh Street and Penn Avenue, Stanley Theatre area, 1934

#132 Diamond and Wood, John M. Roberts & Son Co. and Donahoe’s, 1933

#134 1308 Fifth Avenue towards Oakland, various businesses, 1930

#135 Mayview Hospital, View of the hospital’s canning operation focused on mental health and general services, 1933.

#136 Penn Avenue, View looking west along Penn Avenue from Stanwix Street intersection, 1933.

#137 Logan Street, Southeast corner at Logan and Clark Streets showing a produce store, 1933.

#138 focusing on unpaved road and intersections, 1933.

#140 Downtown View, From Mount Washington Roadway Extension looking northeast, 1933.

#141 81 Atwood Trolley, Ward Street view with 81 Atwood trolley and NRA signs, 1933.

#142 Knoxville Incline, From Arlington and Warrington Avenues looking north, 1933.

#143 Smithfield Bridge, South view from north approach with Monongahela Incline, 1933.

#144 Smithfield Bridge, Downtown view looking north from Carson Street, 1933.

#146 Crawford Street, Repair work seen from Cliff Street looking south, 1931.

#147 Crawford Street, Repair work seen from 820 Crawford Street, 1931.

#148 Wilkins Avenue, Repairs viewed from Barnsdale Street looking north, 1931.

#149 Frankstown Avenue, Repairs looking west to 5th Avenue Extension, 1931.

#150 Tending Yard, Man tending yard on Yorkshire Drive looking southeast, 1931.

#151 Yorkshire Drive, Brick houses viewed looking north, 1931.

#152 Mount Washington, Hillside view near proposed extension looking east, 1931.

#153 E.G. Robinson & Sandusky, Southeast corner looking south, 1931.

#154 Arlington Scene, From 3249 Arlington Avenue looking northeast, 1931.

#155 Millvale Avenue, View looking southwest towards Centre Avenue, 1931.

#156 Fourth Street, Taken from McKean Street looking south, 1931.

#157 Mayapple Street, Steps from 2nd Avenue looking southeast, 1931.

#158 Carrick Stores, Brownsville Road looking north with various businesses, 1931.

#159 Hotel Mayfair, Penn Avenue and Evans Way looking east, 1931.

#160 Herbert’s Drugs, Near Elizabeth Street Bridge looking west, 1931.

#161 Elizabeth Bridge, Progress looking east from span to 2nd Avenue, 1931.

#163 East Ohio Street, In front of public comfort station looking east, 1931.

#165 44 Knoxville Streetcar, At Beltzhoover and Climax Street intersection, 1931.

#166 Liberty Avenue, From 615 Liberty looking west at Woolworth and Rosenbaum’s, 1931.

#167 Woolworth Cafeteria, Liberty Avenue in front of 617 looking west, 1931.

#168 Two Men, East Carson Street in front of 1607, 1931.

#169 Carson Street, View from 1607 Carson Street, 1931.

#170 Carrick Avenue, From Radiant Street showing grading and ditching, 1931.

#171 Waddington Street, Grading and surfacing work at Pioneer Avenue, 1931.

#172 Brant Street, From Fernleaf Street showing grading and surfacing, 1931.

#173 Fairhaven Road, Near 151 Fairhaven Road looking north, 1931.

#174 Millerton Street, From Termon Avenue looking west, 1931.

#175 Millerton Street, From house No. 3728 looking towards Ohio River Boulevard, 1931.

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Written by Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark is a historian and writer who is passionate about sharing the stories and significance behind historical photos. He loves to explore hidden histories and cultural contexts behind the images, providing a unique insight into the past.

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