Pittsburgh History with Ginny: There was a WHAT at the Point?!

You’ll never guess what once stood at the Point over 100 years ago.  You will never guess. Read until the very end to have your mind blown.

Let me explain.

No, is too much.

Let me sum up and then we’ll go storm the castle, Inigo.

A long time ago, reader Chris sent me a link to a Google Maps-like version of an old Pittsburgh map. He sent me the link last April, and I finally found time today to click on the link after flagging it as important almost one year ago.

That’s right. It is currently taking me almost a year to get to “important” things. I’m going to write a book about time management and prioritizing and it will be called Time Management and Prioritizing: What Not to Do and When Not to Do It. 

It will be a best-seller and not just because I will put pictures of boobs in it.


Anyway! So I was deep inside of the old Pittsburgh map, sort of virtually walking the old streets of Pittsburgh when I happened near the Point where I was having fun punting 100-year-old pigeons, and I saw something called the Exposition Building.

Right on the Allegheny River.

I knew instantly I needed to hunt down some old photos of the Exposition Building. What went on there? Who went there? What was it like? Have we invented TIME TRAVEL YET?

So the first thing I found was this 1900 photo of a slum near the Point, with the Exposition Building in the background (click for embiggens):

I see you there.

I love how well-dressed they are, even in a slum.

Here’s another view, looking across the Allegheny from the North Side with Mt. Washington in the distance, if I’ve got my bearings right, and let’s be honest, I might not. I lose my bearings after I make two turns. I have a two-turn bearings-maintaining limit. It’s a thing.

Here we are in 1916, workers building the Point Bridge, or maybe that’s the Union Bridge. Damn it. I lost my bearings and I didn’t even make a turn. New record.

Anyway, the Exposition Building is in the background:

I even found the floor plan! So cool. 

This picture gives you a REAL good look at where it was located. Mt. Washington in the background, Point Bridge on the left, and Manchester Bridge on the right.

And then I saw this and my mind went KABLOOEY! Now, you’re standing on Mt. Washington, and that’s the Manchester Bridge, with the Exposition Building to the right and do you see that? Look closer.

Here’s a look in a 1905 picture:

That is a roller coaster at the Point!

In 1905!

A roller coaster!


In 1905!

How much do you love that?!

As much as me?!

Do you want to hug?!

Me too!


As far as I can tell, it would have been right about … here:

How cool is that?

You can read more about the Exposition building here, and learn how it nurtured the growing popularity of hockey in Pittsburgh. There was also a merry-go-round, ice skating rink, music hall and lots lots more.

So that’s my big discovery — summed up. Maybe you already knew? But I didn’t so I had to share it with you.

I tell you one thing, if they do invent time travel, there is no way in HELL I’m ever getting on a roller coaster in 1905 because I imagine it is would be held together with spit, soot, and hope.

Now. Let’s go storm the castle.

Also, Spit Soot and Hope would be a kickass band name.


  1. Sam Seaborn
    January 14, 2013 10:57 pm

    They executed hundreds of people at the point, and now its a park with a nice fountain.

  2. Robin Pozgar
    January 14, 2013 11:03 pm

    Very Interesting… thank you for the information and the great pictures

  3. Duane
    January 14, 2013 11:04 pm

    That is cool! AND, in the back ground of the roller coaster picture, isn’t that a baseball park? Is that across the river on the same side where Station Square is OR is it where Heinz Field is today????

    • Renee and Zoe
      January 14, 2013 11:12 pm

      I think it’s on the North Shore, but further to the right of Heinz Field. Like between Heinz Field and PNC Park.

      • Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
        January 14, 2013 11:25 pm

        That would be Exposition Park (Field? Always forget which) the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates/Alleghenies, on the North Side sort of between where 3RS was and PNC Park is, prior to moving to Forbes Field. I actually noticed that before the crater.

    • Pa-pop
      January 14, 2013 11:31 pm

      That’s Exposition Park, home of the Pittsburgh Alleghenies who became the Pirates. The park was used by the Bucs until Forbes Field opened in 1909 in Oakland.

  4. inBrookline
    January 14, 2013 11:12 pm

    The Winter Garden has a cool footnote in hockey history. Hobey Baker played his last game there. He was the Lemieux/Gretzky of the time and regarded as one of America’s greatest hockey players. Shortly after playing at the Exposition Building, he joined the service to fight in WWI and was killed in a plane crash.

    Don’t feel too bad for Hobey… he played for Philadelphia. They should have made him ride the rollercoaster.

  5. Bram R
    January 14, 2013 11:25 pm

    This one I knew. I never saw pics, though. I think roller coasters are a tragically underutilized option for public transit.

  6. Greg
    January 15, 2013 12:14 am

    Some time ago the Carnegie had an exhibit titled “Pittsburgh Revealed”, which was a collection of old pictures of Pittsburgh. I bought a print of one of them — a panorama of downtown Pittsburgh, dated 1908. The same roller coaster is clearly visible in that print — I always looked at it and thought “nah, couldn’t be…”

  7. Aubrey
    January 15, 2013 7:59 am

    I vote Pittsburgh should bring back the rollercoaster, a Merry-go-round, dance hall, etc. It’d be like having the Santa Monica peer here, on a river. You know, classy Pittsburgh style. The Point is an awesome place to do something like that. I know Station Square tries to be similar, but how cool would it have been to have a roller coaster…*le sigh*

  8. Laurie Mann
    January 15, 2013 8:18 am

    I knew the Point had changed a lot over time, but I always thought it was warehouses and factories. Interesting about the amusement park. I look forward to the whole Point FINALLY not being under reconstruction later this year. I’ve missed the fountain.

  9. Michael
    January 15, 2013 8:33 am

    Those are some great photos! I just found out about the Exposition Hall as well while looking at this site about the hockey venues of Pittsburgh, http://pittsburghhockey.net/arenas
    It’s neat to think about where some things were built, like how the Allegheny Observatory is in the city with all sorts of light pollution.

  10. Linda
    January 15, 2013 8:58 am

    Yep, I already knew. And I told you about it six months ago so I guess you’ll read that email sometime in June?

  11. bigslacker
    January 15, 2013 9:23 am

    Hello, Amazon? I’d like to pre-order a copy of “Time Management and Prioritizing: What Not to Do and When Not to Do It.”

  12. Miles Reader
    January 15, 2013 10:09 am

    Awsome find. Really enjoy your enthusiasm for historical Pittsburgh.

  13. Zach
    January 15, 2013 11:05 am

    In the last photo you get a GREAT shot of Exposition Park across the river!

  14. bucdaddy
    January 15, 2013 11:12 am

    Having a hard time finding the slum in the overall pix. Must have been a very tiny slum, like one street for one block. Must be on the other side of what looks like a railroad yard.

  15. Gunnlino
    January 15, 2013 12:43 pm

    Perhaps I’m being too PC but I’m very put off by the “slum” description . Several generations of my family lived and worked in the ‘Burgh , raised large families on meager wages , maintained as best they could ( as did countless other families ) . Old photos of the neighborhood where my parents ( and I ) grew up show similar scenes but the people were church going , raise your kids correctly , care about your neighbors and elders , proud , and hard working . Sure it was a raggedy neighborhood but far from a slum .

    • Liz
      January 15, 2013 2:49 pm

      If you click on the link above the photo, the caption on the Pitt website uses the word “slum.” Not saying Pitt’s definitively correct, just that I don’t think Ginny was using the word as a judgement on the photo. She was relating info from the source.

      If she’s done any more research on that particular photo, maybe she’ll fill us in. :)

    • Virginia
      January 15, 2013 7:39 pm

      I used the term “slum” because that was how the caption read. Wasn’t trying to make a statement on anything.

      • Gunnlino
        January 15, 2013 8:28 pm

        Oh no , please understand , I did not mean to take anyone to task over the term, in particular Ginny . I read the Pitt caption and I understand the use and I’m not trying to “start ” something . I guess I was hasty in running my mouth .

  16. AngryMongo
    January 15, 2013 1:34 pm

    How long before Drs. Grant, Sattler, and Malcom come to Pittsburgh and unearth a full homo-pigeonous skeleton, showing the missing link between us and our evil punt worthy cousins?

    Welcome to Jur-Ross-Park

  17. Mary Ann Napoleone
    January 15, 2013 2:11 pm

    Thanks for the memories. My parents would remember. They were born in 1906, Bloomfield and Troy Hill. They man have seen the rollercoaster and known the Exposition Building.
    My best memory of the Point is the Jenkins Arcade and St. Mary’s which is still there, I think.

    • Myrna
      January 15, 2013 9:08 pm

      I remember the Jenkins Arcade also, and Joseph Horne across from that almost. I lived in Coraopolis and would take the trolley up there all by myself just to walk around and look at all the stores and I was only 11yrs. old and could take the trolley for 5cents……get a transfer and ride back home! Those were the days. Loved them.

  18. Carol Brown Cohen
    January 15, 2013 6:55 pm

    I was there! A lot of action back then. Great research. Xoxo. your Mama.

  19. SteelMagnolia
    January 17, 2013 1:50 pm

    My Mind = Blown. I had no idea that that building ever existed, or the roller coaster for that matter! I love Pittsburgh history, Ginny! Thanks for sharing!

  20. PA Girl in VA
    January 17, 2013 3:36 pm

    I got absolutely lost in the interactive old-timey maps! I’ve been researching my husband’s family/geneology and know that in the 1920s/1930, his mother lived on a particular street according to the 1930 census. Based on these interactive maps, I was able to see that the street changed names 3 times between 1890 and 1930! So when I see that the family lived on both Ackley Street AND Armandale Street in a very short period of time, I’ll know they didn’t move – the street name simply changed. Thanks for sharing this invaluable tool!

  21. JR
    January 17, 2013 10:00 pm

    My cousin is a member of the American Coaster Enthusiast Association and I had her ask their historian if the coaster at The Point had a name. Here’s his response:

    “We don’t have a record of the ride having a name, though it certainly could have. Many of these rides of the time usually had simple names like “Figure 8 Toboggan” or “Toboggan,” often without signage. The only surviving ride of this type is at Lakemont Park in Altoona, PA, known as “Leap the Dips.” It opened in 1902 and is the last side-friction coaster still in operation in North America.”