Pittsburgh's Outdoor Murals and Public Art, discovered on bicycle around the Burgh bike


by Nick Hohman Ashley Hodder

7503 Dickson St Swissvale PA 15218

There’s a lot going on in this mural. We see a lot of everyday people doing everyday things, but we were particularly intrigued by the old steel or iron worker playing chess (or checkers) with the very nondescript person in the upper left corner. Is the muscular form behind the hardhat Joe Magarac – aged like our own steel and iron industry is, but still a presence in the community? Maybe we read too much into it. Maybe it’s just a grandfather that once made his living in the mills and now enjoys his grandkids?

For over 100 years, the Union Switch and Signal plant operated in Swissvale. Lots of inventions and innovations for railroad warning and signaling were developed and manufactured here. Gone in the mid 1980’s, it’s closing left mixed feelings toward the railroad industry. No one denies the history or impact on the community, but when the company closed down here many were left with conflicting sentiments of nostalgia and resentment. The mural includes a train top center, but shows the transition to the bus (the mural is directly across the street from the East Busway stop) and to alternate means of transportation with bikes and walking.

There are lots of small details that reflect everyday life and activities in this neighborhood. Positive images of family and community make this a very uplifting mural.

Abolitionist and activist Jane Grey Cannon Swisshelm is sometimes thought to be this borough’s namesake, but that isn’t quite true. We’ve read that it’s actually named for her father–in–law, John Swisshelm, who owned the farm here and served under Washington in the Revolutionary War. According to the Borough of Swissvale’s webiste, Jane is the one that named the area Swissvale. They don’t mention if it was named for the family or not. The nearby neighborhood of Swisshelm Park however, is named for Jane. Never the less, we were told that Jane was one of the figures in this mural. Jane Swisshelm was a strong minded woman who’s actions and political writings had impact far beyond this region. A stong opponent to slavery, Jane supported the underground railroad and published many articles in support of the abolitionist movement.


TAGS Mural, Swissvale, community, family, railroads, Union Switch and Signal, bus line, basketball, biking, play, medicine, birth, checkers, steel, Jane Grey Cannon Swisshelm, Nick Hohman, Ashley Hodder, ,


We strive for accuracy. If you can offer any updates or corrections, please email pghmurals@gmail.com



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06/16/2016 @ 14:09 nina I remember the artist who did the old man and the green baby representing Pittsburgh's past in industry and it's future in greener technologies and pursuits.

09/29/2016 @ 02:50 Michelle Gregio, Edward Rawson, chris Savido, and kyle holbrook worked in this mural

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