The Strip District, or simply "The Strip," is an eclectic area of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Historically known as an area of warehouses and industry, thousands flock to The Strip for more upscale reasons.


The Strip is located just east of Downtown Pittsburgh. It is bordered to the north by the Allegheny River, to the south by Grant's Hill and Polish Hill, and to the east by Lawrenceville.

The Strip got its name from its shape: it incorporates only three major roads (Liberty Avenue, Penn Avenue, and Smallman Street) but spans some 22 blocks from 11th to 33rd Street.


(Courtesy Neighbors in the Strip:

The Strip originally existed only between 11th and 15th Streets, as established in 1814 by James O'Hara and George Bayard. Originally knwon as Northern Liberties or Bayardstown, the Strip served as a hub for industrial development during the early 19th century. It joined the city as its own ward in 1837, the first addition to Pittsburgh since its incorporation.

The earliest businesses in the Strip as it expanded outward included iron mills, foundries, and many factories. Andrew Carnegie himself ran iron and steel mills at Smallman & 33rd Street.

As railroad cars were rerouted out of the downtown area, the Strip became the new terminal for many food shipments, notably fish, fruit, and meats. Starting in the early 20th century, produce markets moved their hub to Smallman & 21st Street, a building which still exists but is no longer the hub of produce trade. Warehouses and offices moved into the Strip until the Great Depression and the St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936 caused catastrophic losses. Merchants continued to suffer as a result of war rationing during World War II. According to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, in the 1950s "there were 71 wholesale produce dealers in the Strip district. By the 1970s there were about two dozen dealers left in the produce terminal." It was only in the late 20th century that small businesses started to make their mark in the Strip.

The Present-Day

Today, the Strip is a thriving community of small businesses. Tax incentives mean that much of the development in the Strip is taxed at a low to zero rate. Mayor Tom Murphy of Pittsburgh has extended these incentives in order to encourage further growth.

The Strip is part of Pittsburgh's Second Ward, which also includes Downtown. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, only 266 people lived in the Strip as of 2002 ( That represents a tiny sliver of Pittsburgh's total urban population of about 280,000 people. Recent housing developments aim to bring more people to the Strip. I live in the Brake House Lofts, a three-story apartment building that opened in 2002. The Brake House is so named because starting in the early 20th century, it was a factory for the Westinghouse Air Brake Company and manufactured brakes for trains. Every year, there is seemingly a new plan to renovate the Armstrong Cork building into lofts. The Armstrong Cork Building is located right on the Allegheny River, but has fallen into disrepair and has been unused (except for the occasional rave or murder) for decades.

Due to the low population, you won't find any pharmacies, general-purpose grocery stores, or doctors offices (although there is an animal hospital) in the Strip. Instead, you will find a number of specialty markets including many ethnic grocers. The Strip has also been known for its nightlife, including many bars and clubs that go out of business disappointingly often.

Getting to the Strip

The Strip District extends from 11th Street to 33rd Street, but most of the tourist/yuppie traffic heads for the markets between 16th and 24th. If you're planning on visiting the Strip, park on Penn between 24th and 27th and walk for a bit, or prepare to be gouged severely by parking lot attendants near the markets. Beyond 28th Street, most of the buildings are used for factories, warehouses, trucking facilities, and of course the city's auto pound.

PATransit also runs a few bus routes such as the 54C, 86B, and 91S that travel to Liberty Avenue or Penn Avenue in the Strip. Party-goers can take the Ultraviolet Loop on Fridays and Saturdays from 7:00 PM to 3:00 AM, operating on a half-hourly schedule.

When the weather is good, Pittsburghers and folks from the suburbs flock to the Strip. Greeting them are many street performers, panhandlers, and street vendors. A friend of mine who is also from Long Island said that it reminded her of Canal Street in New York City, only "less crappy." You can buy flowers, knives, blankets, handbags, DVDs, trinkeys, and other objets d'crap outside.

My picks for what's fun in the Strip:


Grocers and Fruit Stands

Bars and Clubs

  • Mixx Lounge (formerly Voodoo Lounge) - Sometimes throws big biker bashes with live music and thousands of bikers all along Penn Avenue. Long after it's over, the bikers remain, guaranteeing that residents like me won't be able to sleep. Also gained notoriety in 2003 for introducing "adult cabaret acts" much to the chagrin of local business owners.
  • Metropol, formerly M, formerly Metropol has gone through many owners and could close at any time. While open, they host many musical acts from the past and present.
  • The 31st Street Pub (31st & Penn) also hosts many rock artists, but they caused a stir in the early 2000s by adding exotic dancers to make happy hour much happier. (

Many more bars and clubs exist in the Strip, but they disappear too frequently to Node for the Ages.

More Stores of Interest

Putting the "strip" back in the Strip

A long-running controversy among local residents and business owners is the slow rise and fall of adult businesses in the Strip. Some bars, like the aforementioned Voodoo Lounge and 31st Street Pub, have tried to increase business by adding adult acts. They have met with fierce opposition from neighborhood groups like Neighbors in the Strip (

In the last few years, a strip club called Bare Elegance took over a 12,000 square foot warehouse at 31st and Liberty, and was hit with fines of $1,000 per day due to violations of city ordinances governing adult clubs. Happily paying the fines, they stayed in business until early 2003, when they were suddenly seized by the Feds for dealing cocaine and ecstacy. Another club beneath Bare Elegance and not featuring adult acts remained open during court proceedings. In late summer 2003, Bare Elegance sported a new sign "Still bare, still elegant, still open," once again triumphing over legal threats.

The Strip District continues to grow into the 21st Century. As a proud non-native Pittsburgher, I am excited to live and work in this fascinating, diverse neighborhood.

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