Friendship is a tiny (.1 square mile) neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End. The neighborhood was originally developed as a streetcar suburb for the professional-class during the Victorian era. Until the 1950s, the neighborhood was inhabited by wealthy families who enjoyed their massive and ornate brick homes on serene, shaded streets.
Friendship’s story is largely a story of the surrounding neighborhoods. In Garfield, to the north, a massive housing project began during the 1950s, causing some Friendship residents to move outside the city. Around the same time, East Liberty, to the east, began a misguided urban renewal project that further caused Friendship folks to look elsewhere. The changes surrounding the neighborhood also coincided with new zoning laws that allowed Friendship’s stately homes to be transformed into multi-unit apartment buildings.
By the 1980s, 70% of the homes in Friendship were owned by landlords. By the end of the decade, though, folks started to recognize the incredible, albeit blighted, housing stock in the area and began to renovate the once grand homes.
Today, Friendship resembles what it must have looked like before the turn of the century. The houses are more often than not immaculate, and even though the pint-sized neighborhood is surrounded by some of Pittsburgh’s busiest business districts, the area feels as quiet as the leafy suburb it was originally envisioned to be.
friendship house-porn and garden (and castle) tour
Because it was planned as a residential neighborhood, Friendship lacks a business district- residents must make the several-tenths-of-a-mile trek to get to any of several shopping areas. But the houses; THE HOUSES!
friendship montessori school
I don’t remember my elementary school looking like this.
so THAT’S where babies come from
While Friendship lacks a true business district, there are some shops and businesses along the south side of Penn Ave (technically only the south side is part of Friendship.) For instance, Friendship residents never have to leave the ‘hood to get tickle-me-Elmos.
A few buildings down from Babyland is the Dance Alloy Theater. And a few doors down from that is the Pittsburgh Glass Center where a stroll down Penn Ave. can quickly turn into a faceplant session along one of their windows as you become mesmerized by some wild glassblowing. In lieu of a glare-marred photo of the madness inside, please accept this photo of a sweet mural on the side of their building.
If I’m not mistaken, Avenue B, a hip, dimly-lit addition to Pittsburgh’s restaurant sits within Friendship’s borders. Barely. Never been, but folks seem to dig.
parting shot: friendship
Neighborhoods like Friendship do not endure automatically. It is not easy for a beautiful house to remain a beautiful house for 100 years, nor is it easy to keep the streets clean and quiet and friendly for the same period of time. Friendship looks the way it does today because the residents there MAKE it look that way. It’s an effort, not an accident.
In 1989, a car dealership purchased some adjacent lots, including a Victorian house and an older wood-framed structure. Friendship residents were upset by the developments but failed to turn their frustration into timely action; the lots were destroyed to make a car lot. This unfortunate episode spawned a greater good- The Friendship Preservation Group and the Friendship Development Associates were formed as advocacy and planning groups that championed the best interests of both the neighborhood itself and the residents who live there.