#ArchiTalks 10 "summer break"

"dormont day 1968"

i was talking to my daughter about this month’s #ArchiTalk prompt and said,
“How am I going to write about a break when I don’t feel like I will be getting one this summer”
and she said, “Why don’t you write about when you were a kid?”  
And I said, “Oh, so I should write a history piece…?

I grew up in a suburb four miles southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, technically a borough named from the French “mont d’or” meaning mountain of gold, or Dormont.  Incorporated in 1909, it is a place of about one square mile, bisected by two major throughways to the city and the country with a trolley running through the center.  My great-grandparents had built a house there when they emigrated from Levoca, Slovakia and my great-grandfather took it into the city every day to the bank he worked at til around October ‘29.  

schmitt house, broadway ave., dormont, pa 1913

Summer Break activities I fondly remember were:

swim lessons

Parks made up about one quarter of the area, namely Dormont Park, that was the epicenter of the community.  In May, everyone would go to the Borough Building and purchase a die-cut piece of aluminum that would be one’s permit to summer fun; the swimming pass.  One would walk to the park, enter the doors of the brick two story building, show their pass (it had to be sewn on to your swimsuit so as not to be transferrable through the fence) and walk through the turnstyle, through the locker rooms and out into the blazing sun that reflected off of the world’s biggest natatorium, at least in the tri-state area, DORMONT POOL.  

dormont pool 5 jenny flickr

Having started as a dam in a creek, the pool had been concreted over and dedicated on July 4th, 1929 and is 1.85 acres in size, starting at about 6” to 12 feet deep.  It was where everyone took swim lessons and it was a right of passage to finally make it 9 feet where you can go off of the three diving boards, including the high dive.  My brother managed to make the transition in about two summers where it literally took me as the  more cautious elder sister probably four and I probably only achieved this because i wasn’t about to let him get there first (he did anyway) and probably set myself up for choosing a career comprised of mostly males and my aversion to playing any competitive sport (well, save for one year on the high school rifle team) and most board games.

dormont day

On July 4th, there was a celebration named, quite aptly, “Dormont Day”, where one would purchase a book of tickets from the borough building or from kids selling them that would give you rides, a goody bag (cracker jack, some other stuff, and a bunch of peanuts in the shell for the kids), and a raffle ticket to win the Cadillac that was donated by the local Rohrich dealership every year.  They had free buttermilk (for anyone who wanted it) and at night there would be the Zambelli fireworks, a Pennsylvania company that produced one of the area’s most spectacular firework displays.  It is Americana at it’s finest and a place where when I returned 13 years later, my old next door neighbor greeted me walking by with a baby stroller with my one year old as if he had just seen me the day before.

dormont park with earlsmere house in background nextpittsburgh.com


Years ago, Summer’s past, there was a concept called the Drive-in, where people would drive their cars on balmy evenings to a big lot on the outskirts of town, and watch movies there on the really big screen.  It was actually a great place to go with friends to see horror flicks and it was a pretty inexpensive way for your parents to take the family to the movies, with the “g” rated movies playing first and the “pg” ones after the kids fell asleep, and of course I have heard that some people would go there on dates.  In the South HIlls of Pittsburgh, there was the South Park Drive-in and a few others around when I was a teen but today, these places are called “Swap Meets”  where people take their cars filled with stuff they don’t want to sell to people who don’t need it.  

formerly the schmitt house broadway ave., dormont pa 2013

dormont pool popcitymedia.com

Summer Break to me ends after you graduate from high school, gone are the carefree times of no work and all play, and on to the realities of college and career.  It is now defined by my children’s school vacation and trying to make memories like those of my childhood but also have them plan new ones for theirs.

This is my "Summer Break", please follow the links below to see what other Architects are doing.

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture
Bob Borson - Life of An Architect
Architectural Bucket List
Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture
Marica McKeel - Studio MM
Summer Break = Extreme Architecture
Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet
Summer Break and Aunt Loretta
Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect
summer break
Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect
2 Simple Systems That Will Transform Your Studio
Evan Troxel - Archispeak Podcast / TRXL
Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC
Vacationing with an Architect
Collier Ward - Thousand Story Studio
Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen
Nicholas Renard - dig Architecture
Andrew Hawkins, AIA - Hawkins Architecture, Inc.
Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture
Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design
Summer Getaway
Cindy Black - Rick & Cindy Black Architects
* - *
Rosa Sheng - Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project
#Architalks 10 - Give me a Break!
Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
#Architalks 10 - "summer break"
Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC
Architalks: There, but not there
Amy Kalar - ArchiMom
Summer Break
Michael Riscica - Young Architect
The Architecture Students Summer Break
Architect: Gift or Curse?
brady ernst - Soapbox Architect
The Education of an Architect
Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect
Summer Vacation
Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC
A Brilliant Summer Break
Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture
Eric Wittman - intern[life]
summer break [or] summer school
Sharon George - Architecture By George
Summer Break #ArchiTalks
Brinn Miracle - Architangent
Summer Break

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  1. I currently live in the house in Dormont that your great grandfather had built. You may be happy to know that we have restored it.

  2. yes, i have heard that and seen the photos on facebook, i believe you have conversed with my stepdad about it.


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