Pittsburgh’s North Side was a separate city called Allegheny until it was annexed to Pittsburgh in 1907. Begin the tour at 906 Cedar Ave., on the east side of Allegheny Commons Park. Street parking is available. This is a private residence. When Cather arrived in Pittsburgh, 906 Cedar (then number 66, still incised in a stone block near the door) was the home of George W. Gerwig, a one-time drama critic she knew in Lincoln. The Gerwigs regularly entertained Cather in this house, in the heart of what was then a German neighborhood called Dutchtown. George Gerwig’s father Charles, the nominal owner of the house, was an insurance executive and local politician. This house is probably the prototype for the Engelhardt residence Cather describes in “Double Birthday” (1929), a house “of many-colored bricks, with gables and turrets,” facing the Park and the market (now a commercial complex called Allegheny Center) in Allegheny.
Although the large stained-glass window on the west side of the Engelhardt house, “representing a scene on the Grand Canal in Venice, the Church of Santa Maria della Salute in the background, in the foreground a gondola with a slender gondolier,” is apparently fictional, pictorial stained glass is a feature of this and other houses in the neighborhood. A large stained-glass window depicting sailboats, waterways, and architectural elements appears on the south side of 900 Cedar Ave. (facing Suismon).
Continue north on Cedar Ave. to the end of the park and turn left on North Ave. to reach (PLEASE COMPLETE DIRECTIONS HERE—THANKS!) Allegheny High School (then 53 Sherman Ave.) where Cather taught in the English Department from 1903 to 1906, commuting by streetcar from the McClung residence in Squirrel Hill. The building where Cather taught was destroyed by fire in 1906; the present building, erected on the same site, dates from 1908 and faces different direction than the original. In a flashback to the turn-of-century in “Double Birthday” (1929), Cather describes Doctor Engelhardt’s discovery of Marguerite Thiesinger’s “one Voice” sounding from the chapel of the Allegheny High School building as he took his daily walk around the park.
Andy Warhol Museum
Mexican War Streets. Just minutes from Cedar Avenue in the central Northside, this area of about 300 beautifully maintained rowhouses is one of Pittsburgh’s most successful historical districts. The twelve streets of the tract were laid out at the time of the Mexican American War (1848) and take their names from key battles and generals.
Gertrude Stein Birthplace 850 Beech Avenue (Pittsburgh has several Beech Avenues, so type postal code xxxx into your GPS). Stein was born in this two story Italianate brick house a year after Cather, in 1874.
Mary Roberts Rinehart Home Only one block away at 954 Beech Avenue, Mary Roberts Rinehart, “America’s Agatha Christie,” penned her finest mystery novel, The Circular Staircase, in 1908. 954 Beech Avenue
Max’s Allegheny Tavern. 537 Suismon St. 412.231.1899. Just three blocks from Cedar St. Highly recommended for reasonably-priced traditional German food and German-style beers on draft. The main dining room and the bar date from 1903, and the current owners have restored the traditional décor. Period photographs on the walls help bring to life the Allegheny that Cather knew. Readers of “Double Birthday” will want to notice, in the main dining room, the small photo of an Allegheny Market butcher stand, the kind of stand in which Elsa Rudder’s fiancé Carl Abberbock owns an interest. http://www.maxsalleghenytavern.com/