Congregational social halls, hotel ballrooms and community centers can all be great choices for those planning weddings, b’nai mitzvah parties and other events. Local couples looking for something a little different have been known to tie the knot at Kennywood, on the Gateway Clipper, and at a variety of farms throughout the region, while b’nai mitzvah children have had their parties at museums, ball parks and the Carnegie Science Center.
But for those seeking an even more out-of-the-box space, Pittsburgh has no shortage of options. The Chronicle checked in with three local venues that may not be on the radar of everyone planning a unique event here, but probably should be.
The Studio on Fifth
WQED’s Fred Rogers Studio in Oakland has been hosting events for more than eight years, including weddings, b’nai mitzvahs, private parties and corporate fundraising dinners.
While the set for “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” is no longer housed within the studio — it has been relocated to the Heinz History Center — the space still appeals to those with fond memories of the show, said Rebecca Jean Born, director of client services and production operations at WQED Multimedia.
“Some clients are drawn to the fact that Fred Rogers produced his show here, and there is something magical about being in WQED studios,” Born said, adding that the two fully functioning studios can provide a distinctive party experience, especially for those guests who have never before been inside a television studio.
But the show biz appeal aside, the space stands on its own as something special, according to Born.
The Fred Rogers Studio offers “a sheer black curtain with twinkle lights,” she said. “It’s simple and stunning.” That studio also boasts a 21-foot-high lighting grid capable of supporting graphic images and special effects in any color.
WQED’s two studios can accommodate 230 people for a formal sit-down dinner, or more than 300 guests for a standing cocktail party.
“We are definitely something different,” said Born.
Kosher catering can be accommodated.
The studios are typically booked 12 to 18 months in advance.
HIP at the Flashlight Factory
This North Side space was built in 1887 as a stamping factory, and in the 1920s was the site of the invention of the flashlight as well as the single cell battery.
Things have changed.
In 2010, Pittsburghers Elaine Stone and Mitchell Schwartz purchased the factory with the idea of creating loft and event spaces.
HIP has been open for a little over a year, said Gracie Schwartz, the couple’s daughter, who manages the venue.
HIP’s spaces include the Grand Hall, a 3200 square foot open area with 15-foot-high ceilings, exposed brick and hardwood floors, and includes an outdoor area; the Flash Lounge, an 1800 square foot room with a bar; and the Prosecco Room, a 1500 square foot space that can be used for dinner parties, corporate events, bridal showers and birthday parties.
Some local Jewish groups already have discovered HIP, according to Schwartz. Hillel JUC has hosted an event there, and Shalom Pittsburgh’s annual Vodka Latke party was held there in December, 2018. Kashrut requirements can be accommodated, she said.
In addition to the “industrial cool” feel of the venue, Schwartz said, an advantage of booking a party at HIP is “we do a lot of DIY (do it yourself) here. You can make your event exactly as you want it to be.”
HIP offers a three-day rental option for weddings, which could include a “girls’ night” and a rehearsal dinner, she said.
If you happen to be looking for a sustainably designed space, with a great view, it is worth checking out Tree Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville, an environmental nonprofit on the Allegheny River that opened its doors for events in January, 2019.
With a vision to create a healthy urban forest by inspiring people to maintain, plant and protect trees, the 501(c)(3) also provides a unique setting for weddings, bar or bat mitzvah parties, and bridal and baby showers, said Maggie Aupperlee, Tree Pittsburgh’s manager of communications and marketing.
“When folks are looking for a sustainable venue option, we are definitely high up on that list,” Aupperlee said. The organization is currently undergoing its LEED certification process, is 100 percent solar-powered, and even has recycled floors.
But even if someone is not necessarily looking for a LEED certified building in which to host their event, “we are one of the only riverfront properties that folks can rent out. Our courtyard is right on the river,” Aupperlee said.
Last year, the venue was the site of three weddings and a bar mitzvah. Three more weddings are already scheduled for 2020, with another three on the books for 2021.
Rental of the facility includes the indoor Riverfront Room on the Allegheny, which can accommodate 77 people, and the outdoor courtyard, with a capacity of 150. There are no vendor restrictions, so bringing in kosher food and dishes is not a problem. PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.