Market Square has been at the center of Pittsburgh, literally, for over two hundred years. It has, throughout the centuries, been one of the city's main gathering places.
The origins of Market Square can be traced to architects John Campbell and Thomas Vickroy. In 1764, while creating the block plan for city streets, they created a public commons refered to as Diamond Square, or Diamond Market.
The first Allegheny County Courthouse and jail were constructed in Diamond Square, and it was the home of the first newspaper, the Pittsburgh Gazette, established in 1786. On July 8, 1794 the newly formed "borough" of Pittsburgh established a "Public Market House and Stalls" on the eastern half of the square. The courthouse building was sold on August 11, 1841, when the County seat moved to Grant Street.
Pittsburgh's Public Commons has undergone many changes over the years. In 1915, the buildings at the center of the square were demolished to create a new market house known as the Diamond Market. The construction was unique in that the structures were built over Diamond Street (Forbes Avenue), with the two buildings intersected by Market Street. The Diamond Market stood in the center of town for nearly fifty years.
In 1961, the Diamond Market was demolished to create an open-air plaza, Market Square. When the buildings were razed they left four footprints at the intersection of Forbes and Market Streets. The roadways were left intact, and the four open areas were developed and landscaped. The open square became a popular meeting place for lunch at one of the many restaurants, or for public demonstrations and celebrations. For many, Market Square became a place to just sit quietly, relax and feed the pigeons.
In the early 1980s, construction of PPG Plaza, with it's many buildings, threatened to obliterate the square. Many concerned citizens and surrounding businesses petitioned to save the landmark buildings surrounding the plaza. In the end, one corner of the square was sacrificed for construction and the remaining structures were left intact. Market Square became a rich mixture of both old and the new, with the century-old shops ringing three quarters of the plaza and the mirror-like PPG Plaza towering over the landscape.
The final renovations to Market Square began in 2009. The intersection was removed from the inner plaza and all vehicle traffic was diverted around the square, increasing pedestrian-friendliness. More outdoor seating was provided for outdoor activities. Nearby development, both commercial and residential, has once again made Market Square one of the city's centerpiece attractions.
Market Square is a very busy place, especially at lunch time during the weekdays. Large crowds descend upon the plaza to visit the many restaurants or to take in the live entertainment that plays daily on the small stage. In the evenings it is a mecca for good times and late-night enjoyment. Along with Point State Park, Mellon Square Plaza and Gateway Center's Equitable Plaza, Pittsburgh's Market Square is another oasis in the heart of the urban landscape.
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