Remembering the West End

Carl Staff Image

When I was first hired at the West End as a Library Assistant, I was tasked with organizing a scattered collection of historical materials strewn about in a tiny room with shelves. Some were in boxes, and many of those boxes were falling apart. Having a wee bit of experience in archives, I rolled up my sleeves and began figuring out what we had, always thinking – how can I organize these materials in a way that will be recognizable and useful to visitors?

Library staff hard at work!
Carl bringing order to chaos at the West End branch.

 

What eventually came into being was the West End Historical Collection, which includes:

  • A collection of branch records (annual reports and stats dating back to the 1920s).
  • Information about the West End and surrounding neighborhoods including economic analyses, high school yearbooks and newspaper articles.
  • Over twenty loose books.
  • About dozen binders filled with photographs of the neighborhood and Library events.
  • A collection of GI magazines and pocket books from WWII.

Quite a haul.

With order imposed, I began to promote the collection to anyone who would listen. While I had my favorite items, it soon became clear that there was one particular treasure in the collection: Recollections and Reminiscences of the West End, by Arthur M. Fording.

Recollections and Reminiscences provides details about the neighborhood as it was during the early to mid-twentieth century. Genealogists may find it useful, as Fording wrote about many of his neighbors – including anecdotes about people and families he knew well and what many of them did for a living.

View of the West End
An undated view of the West End from CLP – Main’s Pittsburgh Photographic Library.

 

The items in the West End Historical Collection may only be examined on-site, but if you’d like to read Recollections and Reminiscences or examine any of the other materials housed with the collection, then come on down! We’ll be happy to show you the room and pull any items of interest.

Want to learn more about the West End?

Visit the library's Historical Collection!

Carl studied history at Duquesne University, where he eventually earned an M.A. in Public History. Currently he is a Library Assistant at CLP – West End.