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


Behind Every Wall by Laurie Lundquist PennDOT

1100 Allegheny Valley Expressway (Rt 28)
Troy Hill, Pittsburgh PA 15212

This one is a challenge to see right now. At least if you’re walking or biking it is. This six panel etched mural is a part of the Route 28 construction project that PennDOT has been working on for forever. OK, it just seems that long. Until they complete a sidewalk along the base of Troy Hill (which we’ve read is part of the plan) you’re going to have to see this artwork while driving or riding a bus on this highway.

We took the above two photos from the pedestrian bridge by the Heinz Plant using a telephoto lens. It was the only place we could see them from, and it is obviously not a good view. The photo below was taken standing on a large boulder on the side of the Northshore Heritage Trail. We searched for a better vantage point, but buildings, trucks and the railroad retaining wall pretty much eliminate any chance of viewing these from the trail.

The project is still under construction. From what we know, they’re working on the last of the six panels now. The images depict scenes that celebrate the history of the area. When we’re able to safely get photographs of each panel we’ll update this.

The mural was designed by Laurie Lundquist, an Arizona artist with several functional public artworks under her belt. I recently saw one of her bridges in Tempe, Az and it was beautiful. On her website she says: Connection to place is a powerful elemental relationship that influences our way of being in the world. As an artist I aspire to design landscapes, built forms or circumstances that will deepen our understanding of and affinity with a given place. Site responsive work can provide portals that invite contemplation and connection to the places we inhabit. In this case she chose to connect us to the history of this area. The images came from old photos of places important to this community.

One of the most well known images will be of St Nicholas Church. The demolition of this building was fought over for years. Up until the wrecking ball began the job, many were still fighting to save the historic church – considered the first Croatian Parish in the US by many. Eventually the battle was lost though, and all we have left are the photos and memories of the church that stood for a century.

According to the PennDOT website, the other etched panels will depict Thomas Carlin’s Foundry; The Pennsylvania Canal; Allegheny Institute and Avery College; the Pittsburgh, Allegheny and Manchester Traction Co., and the Josip Marohnic Bookstore.

The panels are being created from stencils. The images are sandblasted and the concrete is painted and stained, then coated with an anti–graffiti finish.

December 2014

Still no sidewalk, but now that the leaves are mostly down there’s a slightly better view of at least one of the panels from on top of that boulder along the trail.

June 2015

Work on the sidewalk is completed and it turned out to be better than we expected. Not just a sidewalk, but a bike path!

There are six panels that span the area from just north of the pedestrian bridge by the Heinz buildings to the flight of steps coming down Troy Hill from near where Goettmann St meets Troy Hill Rd. Working from the steps toward the city, the first thing you come to is the replacement for the 1944 grotto built to honor Our Lady of Lourdes. Right now it’s still awaiting the finishing touches, including a new statue.

Continuing toward the city the first mural is the one commemorating St Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church. This church stood as the center of Croatian culture and traditions for over a century. It was the heart of the local Croatian community.

This is the only panel that wraps around a bend in the wall

The next panel celebrates a landmark bookstore and its owner. Although owning what was probably the first Croatian bookstore in the country might seem an achievement in itself, Josip Marohnic was much more than that to this neighborhood. One of the founders of St Nicholas Parish, editor, publisher, business owner, community leader, church leader, poet – this Croatian immigrant dedicated his life to the American Croatian community. As president of the Croatian Fraternal Union of America, Mr Marohnic was active in assisting Croatian immigrants in the US and Canada. He was honored for his works in Croatia where they named a street after him.

Tomas Carlin’s Sons Company specialized in bar and billet shears, grinding machinery and contractor’s supplies. Besides being a large employer along River Road, the foundry may have been most well known for the fire that destroyed most of the plant and the replacement warehouse that was built to be almost fire proof.

Once upon a time, the best method of transporting goods was via water. The rivers were the main transportation arteries and as the country was expanding west, there was huge interest in discovering better and faster routes. The railroads were yet to be developed and canals were a favored method of creating new inroads. The Pennsylvania Canal was finished in the 1830’s and abandoned in 1860. By that time the railroads were starting to grow and the canals had proven to be unprofitable. For that small segment of time, there was a series of canals, inclines and railroads strung together to move passengers and goods between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. It entered Pittsburgh from the north with an aqueduct crossing the Allegheny River at 11th St. There are a few remaining structures from the Pennsylvania Canal that the North Side is working to preserve.

Born in 1784, Charles Avery settled in Allegheny City in 1812 and set up business in wholesale drugs. He later invested in cotton and became aware of the plight of the slaves. An abolitionist, Mr Avery used his profits to help with the underground railroad and to fight against the fugitive slave laws. He financed the Allegheny Institute and Mission Church founded in 1849, which later became known as Avery College.

Sad to say that the red brick building that housed the church, school and station in the underground railroad was demolished in the 1960’s to make room for a highway – but without all the controversy that surrounded the demolition of St Nicholas Church. The basement of the building included access to a tunnel that led to the Pennsylvania canal which they used to move the slaves from the Allegheny River to safety. Few noticed the loss of a precious piece of our history when Avery College was torn down. Having this mural panel is a step toward helping us all remember the value of education and human rights, as well as a man who believed in it enough to put his personal fortune behind it.

The mural does not depict Mr Avery though. Instead it shows the Rev Elijah Pettus. He was the pastor of what had become the Avery Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church at the time when the site was bought for highway construction.

The final panel recognizes another piece of local transportation history. In the 1800’s there was a large assortment of individual companies running trolly or rail cars in various sections of the county. The Pittsburgh Allegheny and Manchester Traction Co existed in the late 1800’s. It controlled two bridges across the Allegheny River and served Pittsburgh and Allegheny City. Over the years all of the individual companies merged and morphed into larger businesses which eventually became Pittsburgh Railways Co and then the Port Authority of Allegheny County.


TAGS mural, Behind Every Wall, Troy Hill, St Nicholas Church, Thomas Carlin Foundry, Pennsylvania Canal, The Allegheny Institute, Avery College, The Pittsburgh, Allegheny and Manchester Traction Co, Josip Marohnic Bookstore, sandblasted panels, Laurie Lundquist, PennDOT, ,


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



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