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Frederick Law
report to the
Pittsburgh Civic Commission

Main Thoroughfares and The
Down Town District"

00 Cover Page

00 Contents

01 Down Town

02 Main

03 Surveys and
   a City Plan

04 Parks and

05 Special

06 Index

PART III: Surveys and a City Plan
Pittsburgh: Main Thoroughfares and The Down Town District
Frederick Law Olmsted report to The Pittsburgh Civic Commission, 1910

page 93

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Surveys and a City Plan

Pittsburgh's Need For Surveys

No city of equal size in America, or perhaps in the world, is compelled to adapt its growth to such a difficult complication of high ridges, deep valleys, and precipitous slopes, as Pittsburgh. By consequence no other city has such imperative need of accurate and comprehensive surveys, as a basis for the layout of streets, sewers, and all public works, for the purpose of avoiding the extravagant mistakes, misfits, and reconstructions that are bound to result from groping, piecemeal work done amidst such obstacles.

New York, Baltimore, Washington and other American cities, where the need is far less crying than in Pittsburgh, have awakened to the importance of modern, accurate and comprehensive topographical maps as a basis for the intelligent and economical planning of public improvements, and have provided themselves therewith. But Pittsburgh, having less excuse for the omission and paying a heavier penalty for the blunders to which it gives rise, lags in the same class with too many unprogressive cities to this country where the official surveys are merely incomplete and casual records of streets, properties and public works, gradually accumulated through a long series of years. These records consist, for the most part, of independent piecemeal surveys of all degrees of accuracy and inaccuracy, made for all sorts of purposes, and of compilations and transcripts of these piecemeal records patched together in attempts to reconcile irreconcilable data.

It is not necessary to give a long list of examples of the incompleteness and the inaccuracy of much of the old data of which the Bureau of Surveys is the official repository in Pittsburgh. Every surveyor and engineer in Pittsburgh with whom I have talked, whose work has given him occasion to use this data, is familiar with the conditions; with the fact that the tapes used in the original surveys of different parts of the city differed in length and that

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Last modified on 22-Dec 1999
Design format: copyright 1997-1999 Bruce S. Cridlebaugh
Original document: Frederick Law Olmsted, 1910