For the last several months, I’ve been researching the topic of suburban decline for a series of nonfiction stories I’m working on. I’m looking at what is traditionally viewed as first-ring suburbs, or the first wave of planned communities beyond the city limits. My focus is on the eastern suburbs outside of Pittsburgh, an area I’ve lived nearly all my life.
This morning I stumbled across a great set of photos by Dorsett Studios
that chronicles the old East Hills Shopping Center in Penn Hills, a suburban borough currently in the grips of a two-decade decline. Photo sets like this have been crucial for me when doing research because they not only add historical context, but because they act as an informal archive of places — like East Hills Shopping Center — that no longer exist:
This might have been the Radio Shack store, circa late 1980’s. This is all gone now. The bandstand and banners, the pedestrian walkways were named for U.S. Presidents, the Parking areas were named for Pittsburgh Pirate baseball players. The “Arcade” shops included a pet store and a Hobby shop, where I bought my Kites, Models, toy soldiers, and Trains.
(Photograph: Dorsett Studios. Caption: East Hills Shopping Center in Penn Hills)