In the 1950s, East Liberty was the third largest business district in the state, behind Center City Philadelphia and Downtown Pittsburgh. East Liberty boasted 500 local businesses and a population of 14,000. In 1959, when the archive picture was taken, those businesses sold everything from clothing to liquor to hardware to auto parts. With city dwellers moving to the suburbs, the Urban Renewal Authority tried to stem the tide by converting Penn Avenue to a pedestrian mall and diverting traffic away from the main shopping hub. It was the city's largest urban renewal project. And it failed. Not until the 2000s did East Liberty embark on a path to once again become a vibrant commercial and residential neighborhood.
(July 3, 1959 image from Post-Gazette archives; contemporary photograph by Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette.)
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