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12.15.2014

Walk Down Baum Boulevard Part 8: Auto Row Today

Moving along on our journey down Baum Boulevard! Here are parts 123456, and, 7.

While much of the luster of yesteryear's Baum Boulevard Auto Row is pretty much gone, some remnants still remain. We mentioned some of the remaining buildings that are either repurposed (Baum Dodge and the Studebaker Building) and others that are endangered like the Model T Assembly plant. However, not all is lost in regards to auto sales and auto care. On the end of Baum Boulevard that is approaching Craig/Bigelow, the Auto Palace sells Porsche and used cars, and there are also dealerships for Mini Cooper, BMW, and Mercedes Benz.

I am not certain when the buildings were built that house the Porsche dealer, if they are relatively new construction or are older buildings. At one point or another, this address was the site of a tire shop named Hutchinson Treads. At this shop, in 1959 you could purchase a no frills, black tube General Tire and have it mounted for free at $11.95. Whitewalls were extra.
There are no longer any American brands on the boulevard, but the dealerships now occupy the end of Baum Boulevard that was almost exclusively the Luna Park land. In the photo below, the area in the back left corner and over is the land in which all of the dealers is located. This photo is of the Atherton Bridge and you can see the Shoot the Chutes water ride standing tall from the old Luna Park. (Pittsburgh City Photographers photo)
The Auto Palace used dealership in particular has a history as being other used car dealers, a Pontiac dealer, and even as a Papa Johns franchise location. In addition to being used as a used car dealership today, it is also the site of an Avis car rental shop.
Mercedes-Benz and Smart Car dealership
BMW and Mini Cooper
Where old meets new....the most essential place for automobiles, a gas station, and the old Ford Model T Assembly plant. 

And where there are cars, there naturally have to be service centers. This shop closed in the last year or two, but there are a number of places up and down the road for maintenance. 
Another essential for a road trip aside from making sure your car is functional and fueled up is having a place to fuel yourself up as well. Of all of the changes on Baum happening now and over the last few decades, one thing remains a constant, Ritter's Diner. This is the ultimate dive diner for many hungry Pittsburghers, especially those that want to get a decent meal at 3:00AM. This is the best food that the city has to offer at that hour. The roadside diner is an essential piece of Americana and Ritter's definitely fits the bill!
Big box America also makes an appearance on the drag, with Wendy's. They recently completely tore down their old location and erected this brand new building on the same spot. It still has the same service it had before, if anyone has ever gone to this location before ;-). Regardless of service quality, Wendy's is a modern roadside staple.

If you are looking for a more fancy meal, the landmark Cafe Sam is around as well.
As we mentioned in part 5, Motor Square Garden remains, and a landmark institution of American driving, AAA, is the main tenant in this historic building.
While the bulk of Baum Boulevard's Auto Row may be gone, these remnants give us an insight into the past, present, and future of the automobile. In a way, Baum Boulevard covers the 21st century of the automobile in regards to a higher emphasis upon automotive service, used automobiles, and new cars for the wealthy with dealers with the high-end brands taking control of the auto sales on this once bustling street for auto sales. With that being said, I do see a chance for renewal on Baum Boulevard, as we are seeing with the rehabilitation and retrofit of the buildings to different purposes. We also have multiple institutions that have lived on for decades that provide a solid foundation for this corridor. We still have a few more parts to our walk, but this should conclude our study of the automotive related buildings. 

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