Ethnan Temple in Wilkinsburg. Photo by Kate Buckley
MLK mural by Kyle Holbrook, Penn Avenue Business District, Ethnan Temple and Valley Sales and Service Locksmith Owner Jim and his dog Charlie (all photos by Kate Buckley)

Just east of the city limits, the not-quite-suburban community of Wilkinsburg is carving out a notable presence on Pittsburgh’s creative landscape.

Stats (via Niche)

  • Population: 15,797
  • Size: 2.25 sq. miles
  • Median Rent: $776
  • Median Home Value: $77,900

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Penn Avenue meanders out of Pittsburgh’s East End neighborhoods and into Wilkinsburg, branching off into enclaves with tiny cultural gems like Biddle’s Escape coffee shop and the Percolate Gallery. Mom-and-pop jewelers and florists add to the mix, with businesses passed down through families for generations.

Printer’s Row, including Challenge Printing and Hoechstetter Printing, upholds Wilkinsburg’s printmaking tradition. And newcomer TipType rescued Pittsburgh’s only working Linotype machine and is reviving that long-lost printmaking art.

Despite the municipality’s economically depressed status, Wilkinsburg leaders sustain civic pride with strong environmental and community-building efforts. Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has invested more than $13 million in the borough in recent years, and the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation heralds the borough’s real estate investment opportunities as poised for possibility.

Young people are discovering low rent in beautiful old buildings. On a more grassroots level, volunteers and activists run a robust crew of block clubs to address the specific neighborhood concerns throughout the 2.3-square-mile borough.

Settled by highly religious European immigrants, Wilkinsburg was nicknamed The Holy City when it seceded from Pittsburgh in 1871 in order to maintain its religious integrity. Today, the borough still prohibits bars and has a high concentration of Protestant churches. Only now, the borough’s 16,000 residents enliven its pious roots with gritty charm and a scrappy optimism.

More Wilkinsburg News