The City of Pittsburgh Art Commission was established in 1911 to review designs for public projects such as public buildings, bridges, sculptures and war memorials. The Art Commission and the City Planning Commission of the same year represent an initial governmental effort to exercise some control over Pittsburgh's urban development. The Art Commission exerted considerable influence on the Allegheny County Department of Public Works' massive bridge-building campaigns of the 1920s and 1930s. The Commission's records show that some features of the city that we now know and admire would have turned out differently had they been built as they were first proposed.
Early Art Commission files document projects reviewed by the Commission between 1912 and 1939. The files include blueprints, photographs and papers that document more that 200 projects including many important buildings, bridges and sculptures.
The largest record groups document a 1913 competition to design the Schenley Memorial, and a 1915 competition to design an entrance plaza for Schenley Park and provide the memorial with an appropriate setting. Also well represented are river bridges; monuments and statues in Pittsburgh's municipal parks; World War I memorials throughout the city; and the 1927 campaign to remove the Allegheny County Jail and replace it with a nearby criminal courts and jail building.