Filed Under August Wilson

Lutz's Meat Market

The building at 2145 Centre Avenue was for many years the home of Lutz's Meat Market; indeed, the owner's name is still visible on the building's cornice. 

German immigrant Charles Lutz founded the meat market in 1894 at a site across the street from where he eventually built the three-story building on the corner of Centre and Elmore Street. The store was on the first floor, and the family lived on the floors above. Charles's son Karl took over the shop in 1922.

As new Black migrants moved into the Hill during the decades around World War II, Lutz's was a popular shopping destination for residents due to its quality selection, as well as the fact that nearly all of the store’s employees, including its butchers, were Black.

During the riots in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr's assassination in April 1968, many businesses were ransacked and burned - Lutz's included.  This was surprising to many because Lutz had a good reputation in the community.

Lutz's was a popular shopping destination for residents in the Hill due to its quality selection, and the fact that nearly all of the store’s employees were Black.
  At 63, Karl Lutz decided to retire and sold the business to Cal Cunningham, a Black long-time employee for whom Lutz became a mentor.  A Pittsburgh Courier article announcing the transition noted, "Karl Lutz will be missed. He was a kind man and taught Cal everything about the business.”

Unfortunately, Cal Cunningham died the following year of a cerebral hemorrhage, and his wife closed the market a few years later.

Years later, August Wilson would use the Lutz name for a White shopowner character in his 1990 play Two Trains Running. Lutz never appears on stage, but is constantly complained about by the deranged character Hambone, who is convinced Lutz cheated him out of pay that was promised. Most August Wilson scholars agree that Wilson drew on a familiar name from his past, but did not intend his character to portray the actual Karl Lutz.

More recently, the building has become the home of Nafasi on Centre, a collaboration between the Hill CDC and #ArtsInHD, an initiative of the Hill District Consensus Group. Nafasi on Centre is intended to provide a central hub for innovative artists with Hill District connections; it hosts artist work-space in the basement, a cafe/gallery on the first floor, and four 1-bedroom apartments and two micro lofts, spread across the second and third floors.

Images

Karl Lutz and Cal Cunningham Interior of Lutz Meat Market, with Nat Jackson and Izzy Frazier behind counter, and owner Carl Lutz, and Calvin Cunningham holding papers in front of counter Source: Charles "Teenie" Harris Collection, Carnegie Museum of Art Date: 1963
Doc's New Ideas Michael Goodin Flickr
Untitled

Location

2145 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Metadata

“Lutz's Meat Market,” Hill District Digital History, accessed June 17, 2024, https://hillhistory.org/items/show/38.