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ON THIS DAY: September 12, 1893, Cornerstone laid for South Side Market House

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — A building central to the commercial development of the South Side had its cornerstone laid on Sept. 12, 1893 in the center of Bedford Square, just a block away from East Carson Street. The South Side Market House is still in use today as a Citiparks Healthy Active Living Center and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it narrowly escaped destruction by fire in 1914.

Designed by Charles Bickel in 1883, the Market House is one of two remaining 19th-century market houses in the city. The Motor Square Garden, also known as the East Liberty Market, was built approximately five years later.

The South Side Market House served as a hub for area farmers to sell their produce and livestock. Located in the middle of the South Side’s Bedford Square, named for Dr. Nathaniel Bedford, the building was the fifth market house built on the site.

A fire nearly destroyed the Market House in 1914. It was the last and most destructive of five fires that ravaged the building since it opened. The original towers and roof were completely burned away and the windows shattered. The Romanesque walls were about all that survived, and when the Market House was rebuilt in 1915, the new roof was made a simple gable. Below the bull’s head on the building’s southern facade a plaque was added to commemorate the reconstruction.

The South Side Market House closed as a marketplace in 1940. It was turned into a recreation and community center and hosted everything from boxing tournaments to semiprofessional basketball games.

On May 19, 1978, the South Side Market House was rededicated as the New South Side Market House. Following its remodeling, the Citiparks building housed senior citizen programs, a preschool, and continued its role as a community and athletic center until it was closed in 2011 for structural deficiencies in the vestibule floor.

More than a year later in 2012, the building was again reopened following $230,000 in repairs, with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl cutting a yellow ribbon to mark the occasion.

A time capsule placed in the building’s cornerstone was found during repairs in 2015. Mayor Bill Peduto proclaimed Aug. 29 to be South Side Market House Day and joined other officials to open the capsule. Inside, were horseshoes, a newspaper from Sept. 1893, coins from the U.S. and Germany, tokens from area businesses, and a folding watchman’s key made of brass and iron.

The building reopened as a Healthy Active Living Center in 2019.

In June 2020, the South Side Market House Healthy Active Living Center received a $51,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging for further improvements.