Market Square is also known as “The Diamond.” It was laid out by George Woods and Thomas Vickroy in 1784. The square had two three-story buildings that were connected by a bridge on the top floor. It was the largest city market where many residents of Pittsburgh and pioneers passing through the city came for supplies. Market Square also contained the city hall and even after it was relocated, the square remained a place for commercial activity through the Civil War and early 1900’s. The first Allegheny County Courthouse was constructed in this area. When the new courthouse on Grant Street was finished in 1841, the square returned to being just a public marketplace, which is what it was meant for. In 1914, a public market house was built but was later demolished in 1961 to open up the space as a public park and meeting place.
Market Square has a lot of important history. In 1972, Market Square was designated by the city as the first historic district. In 2009, Market Square was rejuvenated into a European-style plaza for various leisure activities including dining and shopping. However, some of the businesses that were around when Market Square was first built are still in existence. Nicholas Coffee and Tea Co. has been serving coffee since 1919. The 1902 Tavern has been in Market Square for over 100 years. Finally, the Original Oyster House from 1870 is the oldest union bar in the city and is designated a historic landmark by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
PPG Place is a beautiful office complex also known as “the crown jewel in Pittsburgh’s skyline” and “the towering success of downtown Pittsburgh.” The PPG Place office space opened in August of 1983, the retail shops opened in November 1984 and the complex was dedicated on April 11, 1984. It was built during Pittsburgh’s “Renaissance II Period” which was when the economy was declining due to steel mill closures. During this time, Pittsburgh Steel Glass still remained a Fortune 500 company. PPG Place is a six building complex with a 40-story glass tower surrounded by four 6-story glass buildings and a 14-story glass building all containing a total of 21 elevators. Together, PPG occupies 5.5 acres. Before it was built, an 8-foot-tall model was put together by Renato Chieruzzi in his own basement. The architecture was designed in the neogothic style and was inspired by London’s Victoria Tower, H.H. Richardson’s Allegheny County Courthouse and Charles Klauder’s Cathedral of Learning. During preparation for construction, anthropologists found over 10,000 artifacts in what was the Kings Garden and Kings Orchard about 1,000 feet from the gate to Fort Pitt. The buildings have 231 glass spires and 19,750 pieces of PPG’s Solarban 550 Twindow, which is meant to be an advertisement for the insulating glass product. The complex cost $200 million to construct. The design is not only appealing but it is also high-energy efficient. In the summer, heat is reflected away from the building by the glass and in the winter infrared heat is reflected and contained within the building. The building also collects and utilizes heat from computer equipment.
There are many wonderful year-round attractions at Market Square and PPG place. PPG Plaza contains a 44-foot granite obelisk that stands on four spheres. During the warm weather months, there is a 140 jet fountain that is accented by 280 underground lights. In the winter, the same area is covered by a lighted Christmas tree with an ice skating rink surrounding it. The rink is open mid-November through mid-February and for adults to skate it is $8 with a $3 skate rental fee. Group rates and skating lessons are also available. Saturdays during December, children can skate with Santa. There are several shops located in Two PPG Place including Serendipity and Chocolate and Chances. There is also a food court and several restaurants including Ruth’s Chris Steak House. For the convenience of visitors, there is a 700-space parking garage with a public entrance on Third Avenue.
For the winter months, there are several free holiday events. A favorite event are the free horse-drawn carriage rides around Market Square that take place Saturdays November 23rd through December 21st. Market Square is also set up with seasonal merchants that are very fun to visit. Wintergarden is an all-glass garden environment that is very bright and open with a 32-foot tree. It is located in One PPG Place and holds free exhibits from late November through early January. During these exhibits, donations to Children’s Hospital’s Free Care Fund are collected. One exhibit is the annual Spirits of Giving around the World which features a display of life-size Santas and original paintings. There is also an exhibit with gingerbread houses that were submitted by various organizations throughout Pittsburgh. There is also a unique train exhibit created by a local artist Don Jones. Every day during the month of December, Wintergarden hosts area musicians that play seasonal music. The area can be rented for private functions, including small weddings.
Market square is a wonderful place to visit. There are always people walking around to visit the shops and restaurants. PPG Place is a beautiful structure and worth the time just to look at it. The winter events are well done and bring all different kinds of people together to celebrate the holidays. Going there has been a great place to experience the livelihood of Pittsburgh. I believe that Market Square truly has fulfilled its intent of being a public marketplace to bring people together. I recommend to everyone spending time at Market Square and PPG Place – even if it is just visiting the Starbucks for a coffee, or getting a quick dinner at Chipotle or Noodles & Company- experiencing the charm of the city is worth every minute!
By Brittany Goodwillie