The South Side is home to one of America's "Great American Main Streets," features 15 blocks of Victorian architecture and is a National Historic District. It's a walker's paradise: you can shop, eat, and visit live theater and music venues and art galleries — all without a car. You can hike and bike along the 5 miles of riverfront trail, walk one of the 68 sets of public stairs and visit the Library! From its early days as a welcoming spot for immigrants, then as a fallout shelter during the World Wars, to the lively, engaging community hub it is today, CLP – South Side has been an integral part of the community for over 100 years.
Before the Library was built, the land was owned by Edward Yard, a descendant of John Ormsby, the founder of the South Side. CLP – South Side was among the first neighborhood locations in the Library system. The two-story, red-brick building was designed in 1909 by Alden & Harlow, Pittsburgh’s leading architectural firm at the time. The attendance during the first 10 days of the location’s opening was 10,497 people! We were stocked with books in several foreign languages, since the majority of the community were new immigrants.
CLP – South Side was the first home of the Helen Keller Book Clubs in the 1920s, which rewarded children for reading and giving oral reports. The Children’s Room was specially designed with books, tables and charts appropriate for children. Teenagers used to hang out in the Library in the evening. The Library would close at 6 pm so the librarians could eat dinner, but then they would re-open at 7 pm so young adults could gather there.
All of the woodwork in the renovated building, even the window frames, is original. When the tables were being restored, the woodworker said removing 100 years worth of bubblegum from the bottoms was the most challenging task. The square wood pieces in the centers of our furniture are called “plugs.” Before widespread electricity, we used gas lamps throughout the whole building. According to the librarian at the time, keeping the building clean was a full-time job.
CLP – South Side houses the South Side Local Development Corporation Archive (SSLDC.) The SSLDC was a community-based non-profit corporation whose purpose was to promote the economic revitalization and historic preservation of Pittsburgh’s South Side. The SSLDC facilitated responsible business, recreational, residential and workforce development and provided direction, skills and technical assistance to other community groups and individuals for the benefit of the South Side. This collection contains grants, materials, reports, meeting minutes, project planning, drawings and photographs pertaining to the organization’s 30 years of operation (1982-2012.)
Make sure you come visit us and check out our beautiful building!