Written by wsmith727 on 19 Jan, 2011
The Great Pittsburgh Pierogie races occurs during Pirates game in the middle of the 5th inning. Sadly, it tends to be the highlight of the game.The contestants are Jalapeno Hannah, Cheese Chester, Sauerkraut Sal, and Oliver Onion. I always root for Cheese Chester. I've heard…Read More
The Great Pittsburgh Pierogie races occurs during Pirates game in the middle of the 5th inning. Sadly, it tends to be the highlight of the game.The contestants are Jalapeno Hannah, Cheese Chester, Sauerkraut Sal, and Oliver Onion. I always root for Cheese Chester. I've heard that the favorite character among the becostumed runners is Hannah because "she" carries a purse -- a potential weapon against "her" adversaries.The Pierogies are very popular among the kids at the stadium and are hounded for pictures and autographs or perhaps just a pat on the back. It saddens me that the enthusiasm for the Race all too often exceeds that for the game itself.It's nice to inject a little bit of whimsy into the game, but I can't help but feel it's a minor-league gag in a major-league stadium. I can't imagine a New York-style pizza race within the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium, but PNC Park, despite its physical beauty, has a long way to go before it could be considered hallowed. Close
Written by MilwVon on 12 Feb, 2008
BODIES – The ExhibitionCarnegie Science CenterPittsburgh, PABODY WORLDS is the world renowned exhibit created by Gunter von Hagen that has traveled the world bringing the human body in its most basic form to illustrate how it functions. Using a technology called “plastination” human bodies…Read More
BODIES – The ExhibitionCarnegie Science CenterPittsburgh, PABODY WORLDS is the world renowned exhibit created by Gunter von Hagen that has traveled the world bringing the human body in its most basic form to illustrate how it functions. Using a technology called “plastination” human bodies are preserved to allow scientists to show muscle tissues, organs, skeletal structure and the circulatory system. BODIES – The Exhibition is a copy-cat production using the same process to preserve human cadavers for illustrating the complexity and wonderment of our body.I spent about an hour touring through the various areas of this very interesting, and at times thought provoking, exhibit. Starting with some rather basic displays of the human skeletal and muscular systems, it was easy to become comfortable with what seemed to be an uncomfortable air of voyeurism looking at the human form in its rawest, most basic form . . . bare and naked.As someone who has her own health concerns, to learn about and see anatomically accurate illustrations through real human bodies gave many reasons to pause for reflection. Not a smoker myself, I cannot imagine the impact of seeing an actual lung blackened and destroyed through cigarette smoking would be to a current smoker. To see a breast ravaged by cancer only served to remind me of how fortunate I am that I have not had breast cancer hit women of my family.I have always wondered about the uterine fibroids that continue to pain me so to see one preserved through plastination, I thought “I need to donate my body to science so that they can display what I have since mine is roughly twice the size of the one on display.” I was also very interested in seeing the structure of the lungs and how they work when healthy and how disease hampers them from feeding our body with life’s substance - - oxygen.Perhaps one of the potentially most disturbing areas of the exhibit was immediately after the reproductive organs display. Once sperm meets egg, a single cell exists for about 30 minutes before splitting and duplicating creating the embryo that some 40 weeks later arrives as a small bundle of joy. In the area that has preserved fetuses as young as a couple of weeks after conception . . . and as fully developed as a baby at full term. They also have a couple of specimens of fetuses with birth defects including a cleft lip as well as one with spina bifida. I had to take a seat and clear my head after seeing this section of the exhibition. For those who may not want to see these specimens, there is a side entrance that by-passes this hall and takes you to the next area.I think in total there were 15 full body specimens that illustrate muscle structure, the full digestive tract from mouth to anus and other full systems including the circulatory system complete with heart and lungs. There were three bodies featuring sports poses including a tennis server, a volleyball player digging a spike and a soccer player doing a bicycle kick. To see their muscles fully flexed in sport was very interesting. I cannot do justice in trying to explain the detail that this plastination process allows you to view the human body. You really must see it for yourself.Admission fee for BODIES – The Exhibition is a separate fee from the main Carnegie Science Center. There is no price break if you’re not interested in the science center itself, save your $14. Admission prices for the BODIES exhibit is $22 for adults and $16 for kids ages 3 – 12. Carnegie Science Center members receive a discounted rate of $14 and $10 respectively. There is no price break for seniors at this exhibit. Exhibition hours are 10:00am – 9:00pm daily, except on Steelers’ home game days, Thanksgiving and Christmas.NOTE: They do not permit taking photos in exhibit area.HIGHLY Recommended! Close
Written by kjlouden on 27 Jun, 2005
I have mentioned before that Pittsburgh has many close ties to Central and Eastern Europe. Thanks to guide Owen Lipsett, a knowledgeable source on the history and peoples of those regions, I have learned that at one time, Pittsburgh had the largest Slovak population…Read More
I have mentioned before that Pittsburgh has many close ties to Central and Eastern Europe. Thanks to guide Owen Lipsett, a knowledgeable source on the history and peoples of those regions, I have learned that at one time, Pittsburgh had the largest Slovak population of any city in the world. That was the reason first President of Czechoslovakia Masaryk came to then "Steel City" to gather support for the formation of that country in 1918.
If I am not mistaken, then the large concentration of Slavic and other Central European peoples in the city followed Andrew Carnegie’s constant quest for better technology and cheaper, less skilled, less organized labor than the original German iron and steel workers who had given him all the trouble with the Homestead Strike and Battle of Homestead in 1892. After Germans were banned from the mills, enter Slovaks, Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Bulgarians, and others. (Our guide Jan could excel on a quiz matching each national group with a decade marking that group's greatest influx, but don't expect me to do that!)
Their neighborhoods are still lined up along the banks of the Monongahela on
Pittsburgh’s Southside, beginning just a few blocks east of Smithfield Street Bridge and extending all the way to Homestead and beyond. Markets, restaurants, bakeries, shops, churches, and community buildings represent a multitude of European cultures, all originally immigrated here to work in Andrew Carnegie’s mills as early as 1875, when the first mill, now U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thompson Works, was built in Braddock. (Carnegie’s first contract for this mill was from its namesake and then-governor of the state, Edgar Thompson, for rails for the Pennsylvania railroad.)
Our guide Jan is a fountain of information about the ways in which Pittsburgh changed the lives of these peoples and the ways in which they changed Pittsburgh. In addition, a permanent exhibit at Heinz Regional History Center records and displays the customs of a city whose population was at one time fifty-percent immigrant workers.
They brought with them many traditions, including the cookie table set up for weddings. To this day, when a bride reserves a hotel space for a reception in Pittsburgh, the manager in charge of the event asks not "Do you want a cookie table?" He asks, "Where do you want the cookie table?" Our tour group gets a good idea of how big the cookie table might be when Jan informs us that hers was twice as long as our bus.
Jan’s mother was worried about how to get all the cookies to the reception, and the husband-to-be, not privy to this custom, couldn’t understand all the commotion about transporting some cookies. We can’t fathom the problem either, until Jan enlightens us--there were eight-hundred dozen cookies! These would last three days, the typical length of celebration for a "Hunky" wedding. And, judging from the cookies Jan has baked for us according to her grandma’s recipes, they are addictive! I wonder if her grandma resembled one of these ladies in a photo at Heinz History Center.
Well, the one in native garb certainly looks like she could bake some yummy cookies!
Jan’s aunt ran a boarding house for workers. Some would sleep in a bed shared by another worker on a different shift. This was called "hot racking," and you can easily imagine why. The mills ran 24 hours, and men worked seven-day weeks, twelve-hour shifts. There was no union from 1892 until the 1940’s. Many were burned by hot slag, but reporters thought the glowing by-product dancing on the floors was "beautiful" in its incandescence--and Pittsburgh had its share of reporters in those days, because what was happening there was like nothing ever before.
The pace of production had never been imagined. Fast and furiously, Carnegie’s steel was building a new infrastructure and a new industrial nation, but it didn’t stop there, either. It was building everything: railroads, armaments, skyscrapers, bridges, Brooklyn Bridge, Panama Canal, and eventually the biggest ball bearing in the world for Greenbank Observatory.
At the height of the steel boom, mills were expanding so fast that sewage wasn’t
adequate. Beginning at the site of the present Waterfront Shops in Homestead was the largest open hearth in the world! Workers lived in small dwellings surrounding courtyards where the only water supply for the entire compound was next to the common toilet. Typhoid was rampant. In addition, an exhibit, Breath of Hope, at Heinz Regional History Center until July 4, explains that with 100,000 new immigrants each year, an epidemic of tuberculosis necessitated the city’s setting up the first sanitariums in the country and setting new standards for patient care.
The once-upon-a-time pollution of the city’s three rivers is infamous, and Jan watched the dumping of slag into them. That’s what teen children of immigrant workers did on Saturday night. It was their typical date night! They drove to spots on the opposite riverbank and watched the fiery cascade, like a volcano as it was plunged from the top of a hot blast furnace. It was their first fireworks!
Nowadays, Pittsburgh is famous for its clean air and water, but community centers all along the rivers still offer ethnic dinners, plays, dances, music, and more to those who wish to find them. From Lithuanian to Polish to Hungarian, festivities abound, and most are open to the public. Polka, anyone? There is plenty of that, and as a firsthand spectator several years ago of the yearly polka event at Seven Springs Ski Resort, I can tell you that these folks can dance non-stop for thirteen hours. (Yes, I timed them!) I mean, of course, thirteen hours for three days in a row, the typical length
of any festivity.
Authentic native costumes can be viewed at a little museum at Duquesne University. The school’s Tamburitzans, all scholarship students, travel the world presenting song and dance of Eastern and Central Europe. One is lucky to catch them in Pittsburgh, but they do appear there several times each year. An exhibit at Heinz History Center also displays costumes and native dress, such as this outfit worn by a Serbian singer who was famous in the early half of the Twentieth Century.
To help us appreciate the enormity and influence of Central European culture in
Pittsburgh, Jan tells us that until the 1950s, the language of the street on the Southside was still Slovak. In addition, the city boasts the second largest Italian population in America next to New York City. Bulgarians are represented. (Jan recommends Old Europe on Carson Street as a great Bulgarian restaurant.) Then, of course, there are the "Bo-Hunks" (Jan’s term for Bohemians or present-day Czechs, including herself), Hungarians, and dozens more.
Just as I am beginning to think that Jan is exaggerating how common the term "Hunky" is in this city, we drive past the AFL-CIO in Braddock, and in front of the building, we see a plaque commemorating "The Great Strike of 1919--The Hunky Strike!" Demonstrating complete solidarity, 350,000 workers of all nationalities stood with "Hunkies"--who testified that they had bought war bonds and donated to the American Red Cross--and shut down the industry without any union! (I imagine this is when they became proud to be "Hunkies"!) To see nationality percentages for workers in 1919, click here and scroll down to the chart.
This strike was long after Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and even J. P. Morgan had "managed" the steel business. This strike found bewildered managers testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Education and Labor about "Bolshevik instigation," while at least one Slavic worker testified, "The first thing that was wrong, they would call me a Hunky." Names stick, but connotations have changed, especially for those who made the steel that built this city. Slavic workers let America know, just as their forefathers let the Hapsburgs know, that they wanted recognition for their hard work.
No wonder locals are so proud of their skyline! Their fathers built it.
Know what else Pittsburghers are proud of? Their unity. Visitors must appreciate it, too, when they see this pretty city all cleaned and sparkling in three rivers.
Written by kjlouden on 21 Jun, 2005
As powerful wings move the air above us, our guide looks up and guesses that
a turkey vulture has invaded our space. Then she recognizes it as a peregrine falcon and
remembers that these raptors are always in Pittsburgh’s news. Everyone knows that they
roost atop…Read More
As powerful wings move the air above us, our guide looks up and guesses that
a turkey vulture has invaded our space. Then she recognizes it as a peregrine falcon and
remembers that these raptors are always in Pittsburgh’s news. Everyone knows that they
roost atop the Gulf Tower.
"What’s happening?" I have to turn around to see it and catch only a streak zipping down
to the Ohio River. (I understand that they can dive at speeds around 200 miles/hour.) As
high as we are above the water, though, I must correct her: "I believe we
are invading his space!" High above Fort Pitt Tunnel, this is his kingdom, and only
those curious Georges who want to see what the city looks like from his
perspective venture up this walk.
Pittsburgh really didn’t have to plan "greenbelts." More likely, greenbelts planned
Pittsburgh. Only problem is, most of the woods around the center city are too steep
for walking, hiking, biking, or even climbing without equipment. However, that is what
makes this metropolis feel so cozy, and one might argue that the absence of humans on these
steep riverbanks is what protects the wildlife who make it their home. The critters do
their part to enchant the greater metropolitan area of 1.5 million people, who feel that
they have the best of both worlds: urban and natural. Enter raptors! They don’t possess
the handicaps that limit human forays onto these cliffs.
And they certainly don’t respect the wildlife in the waters, as we do. I am very sad to
report to those who have enjoyed ducks along these waters that I haven’t seen a single
quacking Anatidae at Gateway Clipper’s dock or anywhere else along my cruise course
this weekend. Now, I have learned from West Virginia Public Radio that these Pittsburgh
Falcons--you see, they are talking about them all the way down in West
Virginia!--sometimes bring beheaded ducks to office windowsills at the Gulf Tower,
where they pluck them and devour them in front of God and secretaries. Obviously, they
haven’t heard that "a duck may be somebody’s brother."
Now, to make matters worse, I understand that the duck-hawks have been there more than
10 years and that occupants of the Gulf Tower have no intention of shooing away their
murdering, raptorial guests. Instead, they have placed a roosting box on their roof and
cooperated with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and Pennsylvania Game
Commission to form a society to protect the falcons. These three rivers of empire and
steel are wild once again, and conservation is now a prime goal of this city. The
National Aviary has established a second falcon nest on the Cathedral of Learning in
Oakland. This second project was the brainchild of a biology professor at the University
of Pittsburgh. At one time, he believed that the two falcon populations were far enough
apart that the birds wouldn’t become territorial and fight one other. Wrong! They probably
So, what chance has a duck-lover against all the biologists in a city well-known for its
preservation efforts that include those of the National Aviary? What about the local scientists involved in biotechnology? Just as Pittsburgh’s preeminence in iron and steel was unquestioned in other
decades, the city’s biotechnical leadership is recognized today. Couldn't researchers devise a microbe that would make ducks less tasty to nonhuman predators? Like Marie Antoinette (kind of), I say of the falcons, "Let them eat snake!
"Furthermore, thanks to the leadership of Carnegie Mellon University, the city is the foremost center for
robotics in the world outside of Japan. Maybe this would work… could we have duck
Okay, I have to admit that peregrine falcons are pretty exciting. Their home in Pittsburgh
is a done deal, and it is helping to reverse their near extinction. The original Pittsburgh parents, Boris and Natasha, have had 18
babies, most of them banded, tracked and virtual celebrities with their own webcam. You can see
them online, or if you would rather see them soaring above the city, spend time on the
rivers. At least one of their children lives in Detroit now and one in Cleveland. Heck,
before long, every city within a hawk's flight will have a few--thanks to the Gulf Tower and Cathedral of
Learning nests. (Say "goodbye" to your web-footed friends!)
You won’t see Boris anymore, for those two nests in Pittsburgh probably did become
territorial. A younger male from the Cathedral of Learning nest probably killed Boris.
As a result, the female at Gulf Tower abandoned six eggs (Boris’), took up residence with
her new mate (a young stud from the Oakland nest), and produced four new eggs.
As you can imagine, Pittsburghers have been interested in the shenanigans of the
predators from the beginning of the Gulf Tower nest. That’s how residents of this city
are--proud that their hometown is first. The nest at Gulf was the first falcon nest in
Pennsylvania in over 40 years. (It’s now over 10 years old, but it still gets a lot of
If you want to keep an eye on the Gulf Tower while you are in town, look at the
See the tallest building? That’s US Steel Tower on Grant Street. The Gulf Tower is the
one in front of it on the left. It’s the older art deco skyscraper on the corner of Seventh
and Grant. The roost is on 37th floor.
If you want to capture a really neat shot of Pittsburgh, do this. Find the West End
Overlook. Perhaps the Duquesne Overlook will do--it’s easier to find on Carson Street.
You can even walk to the incline, about a mile from the Station Square subway stop, or
drive to the parking lot. (Duquesne Incline has its own.) Be patient. Make sure the bird is high
in the air above buildings with a clear backdrop of sky--but include the famous skyline! The
National Aviary on the Northside is known for its raptor program, so the photo would
be especially definitive of Pittsburgh. It’s the skyline shot that not many
Written by kjlouden on 26 Mar, 2005
I designed our walk of downtown to start at the Omni William Penn Hotel, where we were staying, but the necessity of pulling out of the parking lot there (and finding a less crowded one) got us off course. Nevertheless, these directions should work…Read More
I designed our walk of downtown to start at the Omni William Penn Hotel, where we were staying, but the necessity of pulling out of the parking lot there (and finding a less crowded one) got us off course. Nevertheless, these directions should work for anyone else. Take the subway to the Steel Plaza stop, and then take the Grant Street exit from US Steel Tower.
Across the street is the Omni William Penn Hotel, a historic landmark. Go inside and see the elegant lobby. If you already need refreshment, have a drink in the bar while you people-watch through the window. Or you can sit on the lobby balcony and have a great dessert from the restaurant. When you exit the building, turn right on Grant Street, but not before you look up at the top of the next building. I’m not sure what it is, but it is incredibly ornate with an elaborate filigree overlay—a Gilded Age building, no doubt.
Proceed several blocks on Grant, and take time to walk all around the Allegheny
Courthouse and Jail built by H. H. Richardson and exemplifying his Richardsonian
Romanesque style. Be sure to get a photo of his replica of the Venetian Bridge of Sighs.
Then turn right on Fourth Avenue and walk to Smithfield Street to see Kaufmann’s
Department Store and the Kaufmann clock, a cherished local landmark and a scene of yesteryear that you’ll find reproduced with watercolors in city galleries.
After another block on Fourth, turn right onto Wood and then left onto Forbes to find
Market Square, and if you need a bite here, try one of Primanti Brothers' Italian-meats sandwiches ($5), the ones with the fries and the coleslaw on the bread. Other choices abound, such as The Oyster House (since 1870) and Landmark (or "1902")
You may find a stage set up in the center of the square and perhaps a large crowd, like the one I found wearin’ the green near St. Patrick’s Day. If you don’t like being squashed, come back later. The square is frequently quiet and always quaint with its brick-and-gaslight look.
From Market Square, walk toward the glass tower for a glimpse of PPG Place. Find PPG
Wintergarden to see if there is a display inside, and then sit a while at a table (in warm weather) and watch kids playing in the fountain or skating on the ice rink. This is a good place to start reading blue landmark signs shaped like this one.
You’ll find landmarks for "the first this" and "the oldest that" if you stop for those blue-and-gold signs. Some of them pertain to early steelworkers' unionizing efforts.
A short walk west on Fifth will take you to Liberty Avenue. Turn left and walk all the way to Gateway Center Visitors’ Information booth on your left. If you don’t need to stop here, then note the subway stop and continue walking all the way to Fort Pitt Bridge and follow the signs to the right of the bridge to Fort Pitt Museum at Point State Park. Take a look at the excavation of old Fort Pitt, and see the Blockhouse, oldest house in Allegheny County, even if you don’t want to tour the Museum. Then follow the path to the river, and look left and right to get your bearings--so many rivers can be confusing!
You’ll see two inclines across the Monongahela to your left. (For those, take the subway
to Station Square some other time.) Turn right and walk along the quay up the Allegheny River. You’ll see Heinz Stadium and Carnegie Science Center across the water on the Northside. (Yes, that’s a submarine docked there on the Ohio River! You can tour it when you go to the Science Center.)
When you see steps up, take them and follow the walk back to the Hilton. We’ll skip
Liberty Avenue for now, since you will walk the rest of it many times in your jaunts around the Golden Triangle. For now, walk past the Hilton on Liberty, and looking straight ahead, you’ll see Fifth Avenue Place straddling the street. Go around it to the left to get on Penn Avenue, and walk up Penn all the way to Tenth Street.
This will take you through the Cultural District, starting on Sixth Street, and if you look right and left down all the side streets and on Penn, you’ll see all the theaters: Heinz Hall (symphony), the Byham (musicals), the Pittsburgh Public (O’Reilly--plays), Benedum Center (opera), and a few smaller ones. Look for the Byham and the Renaissance Hotel to your left down Sixth St; Heinz Hall will be on your right. These are all restored landmarks that deserve a visit, even a tour. That bridge at the end of Sixth Street (left) is the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and the Seventh Street Bridge is also an interesting one. These will take you to the Northside (just for future reference.)
Before you get to Seventh Street, you’ll see the O’Reilly, a new state-of-the-art theater on your left with the Box Office at Theater Square just another door further along Penn. At Seventh, look right for the Benedum (the opera theater) and left for Katz Plaza, where you may be able to enjoy an outdoor lunchtime concert. Take a look at the lobby of the Benedum, another multi-million-dollar renovation project, and note the blue-and-gold sign across from it on Seventh Street, where The Pittsburgh Agreement was signed declaring the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918. After all that, rest a while at Katz Plaza. These seats have got to be comfortable as a beanbag!
Yes, they recall a theme of television Evening News: "The eyes of Pittsburgh are upon you!" The 25-foot bronze fountain makes a restful sound as water trickles down it step-by-step.
You have only three more blocks on Penn. You’ll note details of buildings that have been restored, and you may want to return at night to see the new lighting project for the Cultural District along Penn. At tenth, the Convention Center will be on your left and the Westin Hotel on your right. (If you walked toward the Convention Center, you would see the Heinz Regional History Center to the right on Smallman Street, but you can just remember that and turn right instead and walk to Liberty.) A left onto Liberty and a right onto Grant will take you back to your subway stop at Steel Plaza, but note the Fishmarket Restaurant behind the Westin and the Amtrak Station across the Street. Inside, the station itself isn’t much of an architectural gem, but the upper floors house swank residential units in a landmark setting.
Not tired yet? You can always turn right on Liberty and walk down to Wood Street to another subway stop or proceed to the Gateway Center stop you passed on your way to Point State Park. Down that way is the restored Harris Theater, where you’ll find a foreign or art film that may be hard to see if you live in a small town. A few small bare-bones theaters and exhibition galleries are also along the way.
Take along a map. To find a simple one that includes many downtown landmarks, click
You’ll find downtown Pittsburgh a joy to walk. At night, you won’t see much neon, and in spite of its modern infrastructure, much of the city appears to be frozen in time at about the turn of the last century or a little later. Trolleys have been replaced by a very clean subway, and arts organizations have stuffed every nook and cranny with interesting details.
Written by kjlouden on 17 Feb, 2005
You remember the song: "Hey, Babe! Take a walk on the wild side!" I couldn’t help thinking of it as we roamed the Mexican War Streets on the north side of the city. Isn’t this what every tourist is looking for—something different, colorful, wild?…Read More
You remember the song: "Hey, Babe! Take a walk on the wild side!" I couldn’t help thinking of it as we roamed the Mexican War Streets on the north side of the city. Isn’t this what every tourist is looking for—something different, colorful, wild? You might ask, "What is wild about Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Italianate, French Second Empire, and Richardsonian Romanesque?" After all, this residential neighborhood adjacent to the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh’s facility for installation art, has some buildings that have been preserved or restored, according to directives from the Historic Review Commission of Pittsburgh.
Visitor’s information centers can supply a walking map of the neighborhood, and even some interiors are open to the public. We didn’t have the map! Instead, we decided on an impromptu walk after we exited the Mattress Factory, and a "local guide" who had nothing better to do volunteered to show us his version of the historic neighborhood founded in 1840 as Allegheny City, home of Stephen Foster, Gertrude Stein, Willa Cather, and Dr. Felix Brunot’s mansion, a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Our guide didn’t know Gertrude Stein. He repeated, "Hey, Babe, you’re in the ‘hood now. Don’t come here after dark." His cool walk skipped a beat as he unlocked the gate of his friend’s little courtyard garden on Sampsonia Way. As we admired it, he knocked on the door, but nobody was home. The shade garden was peaceful.
On up the street, he led us to colorful murals painted on the sides of buildings, more gardens at other "friends’" houses, and corner bars where locals hang.
What we viewed could be called "the folk tour." I’m not sure that any of our stops are the ones on suggested walking tours, if any of the colors represent authentic reproductions of any folk culture, or if any of them ever passed historic review. My guess is that this African-American "‘hood" makes its own statement, independent of any design-review authority but that of the neighborhood’s own improvement councils. (There are several of these.) It’s a bold statement in bright colors that speak of post-industrial Africa—my architect friend tells me that authentic African colors must be made from natural dyes. (These aren’t!)
Buildings that are painted so vividly are not necessarily actual documented stops on the Underground Railroad, but they certainly remind us that this neighborhood was an important stop for slaves. (Some may wish that they did so in the colors of pre-industrial Africa!)
If you want to see more historically-correct scenes, look here. On my next visit, I will "walk this way!"—follow the "suggested" walking tour to see the site of Avery College, originally Allegheny Institute and Mission Church and the first post-secondary educational facility for African-Americans in the country, established by abolitionist and philanthropist Charles Avery for transplanted slaves. The basement of the structure was a documented hiding place for runaways from Southern plantations. (Avery also established Oberlin, the first college in America to admit black students.)
The municipally designated historic district is comprised of 335 buildings and begins on Sampsonia Way, home of the Mattress Factory. Besides nostalgic architecture, the neighborhood that was once Allegheny preserves a great amount of history. Gertrude Stein’s birthplace is on Beech Street. Willa Cather and other, lesser-known writers made the city their home. Stephen Foster was born and lived on Union Avenue, where he wrote "My Old Kentucky Home," and his father was mayor of Allegheny in 1842. In 1901, President McKinley’s funeral procession made Allegheny the center of national attention. Before that, trolleys traversed the fashionable city, where President Lincoln and other notables were entertained on Millionaires Row in the parlors of wealthy philanthropists, who discussed abolition and whose attitudes fashioned laws that lead to the end of slavery. In the late 19th century, the street that is now Ridge Avenue was thought to have more millionaires per square foot than any other place in the world.
Many of Pittsburgh’s famous "Firsts" originated here. The first wire bridge in the world was built across the Ohio River. Experiments in aerodynamics produced a propeller on the site of Observatory Hill. Aerial photography—with cameras attached to kites—captured views of Allegheny and "the Point" of downtown Pittsburgh, a rival city at the time. The first World Series was played on the north side at Exposition Park in 1903, while fashionable ladies in plumed hats and gentlemen in Charlie Chaplin-style "bowler" hats watched the game from their blankets spread on Monument Hill. All seemed well.
Local attitudes drooped a bit in 1907, when the city of Pittsburgh annexed Allegheny City—or, as some residents claimed, "stole" the historic neighborhood. Major renewal projects destroyed much of the former glory before restoration and preservation began. Still, enough history remains for an interesting walk among buildings that have been faithfully preserved or restored according to authoritative design review. This home is more sedate than the ones our guide was determined to show us.
A suggested walk also includes many churches, the old Market House, a post office museum, and more.
Our walk was an interesting lesson on changing attitudes and landscapes of city neighborhoods where individual ethnic identity is paramount. You are certain to see a great deal of color on any walk through the Mexican War Streets, laid out in 1848 by returning General William Robinson, Jr., and named after generals and battles of the Mexican War. Remember Henry David Thoreau, who went to jail in Massachusetts when he refused to pay his poll tax to protest the addition of Texas, another slave state, to the Union? That spirit of civil disobedience seems to still pervade this neighborhood. It’s part of its legacy.
Mexican War Streets is close to most north side attractions.
Written by kjlouden on 12 Feb, 2005
It is said that Andrew Carnegie "robbed Egypt." Indeed, the Egyptian collection is well-known and wonderful, but so is the art collection. Carnegie International, the exhibition series established by Andrew Carnegie in 1896, is a prestigious annual display of international art that has…Read More
It is said that Andrew Carnegie "robbed Egypt." Indeed, the Egyptian collection is well-known and wonderful, but so is the art collection. Carnegie International, the exhibition series established by Andrew Carnegie in 1896, is a prestigious annual display of international art that has kept Pittsburgh involved in a worldwide exchange, even during decades when other American museums dealt mostly in American art. This is fortunate for those of us who love the French Impressionists! Carnegie was buying them when they were avant garde.
Carnegie International Exhibition has always been faithful to its founder’s expressed wishes—to buy art when it is new, radical, and different. Does that mean that the Carnegie is full of Andy Warhol’s, Pittsburgh’s own recent worldwide art fame? No, the Carnegie in Oakland isn’t that radical! The Warhol Museum, included under the umbrella of The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is on the other side of town. This distance is actually not a matter of preference, but the museum in Oakland simply doesn’t have room for Warhol, who has seven floors of his own in the most comprehensive museum in the world devoted to a single artist. Installation art also has its own facility, the Mattress Factory, on the Northside, and Carnegie Science Center is also in that neighborhood. As a result, the original museum in Oakland preserves much of its original identity and houses only art and natural history.
The original Renaissance-style building was opened in 1895 and expanded in 1907. Two entrances are flanked by statues of Bach, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Galileo.
Inside, the stupendous entrance hall is a preview of the prestigious collections in the
The day of our last visit, a mineralogy show disrupted our visit to the Hall of Sculpture, made of the same Pentellic marble as the Parthenon and fashioned after the Temple of
Athena on the Acropolis.
The Hall of Architecture is the only one in America and contains one of the three largest collections of casts (140) in the world, including the largest cast in existence, that of the facade of the 12th-century French Abbey Church of St. Gilles-du-Gard. In addition, the Heinz Architectural Center has several changing exhibits, and another gallery displays decorative arts.
The Sarah Scaife Gallery houses paintings arranged in chronological periods. Furniture and decor items are arranged with framed art to create a multidimensional representation of the time period in which the art was created. Bronzes of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and a desk of H. H. Richardson decorate rooms where Paul Cezanne’s Landscape near
Aix and Van Gogh’s Plain of Auvers are hung. A pair of British architect
Robert Adams’ cabinets, made for Lady Wynn, are displayed with 18th-century art.
A chair from a Gustav Stickley workshop is near American George Sotter’s Six Views of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Oakland (inspired by Monet’s studies of Rouen
Chronologically, paintings begin with 15th-century Italian works. Then Rembrandt’s
Christ Preaching, Albrecht Durer’s engraving of Adam and Eve, Frans
Hals’ Man with a Herring, and hundreds more predate the American collection, which begins with Benjamin West’s Venus Lamenting the Death of Adonis
(1768). Numerous works by Winslow Homer and James McNeill Whistler make the
American collection from the mid-19th century to the present, one of the most distinguished, and the Carnegie is equally praised for three other collections: French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and late 20th century.
I am drawn to the monumental Monet. His Nympheas (Water Lilies) was originally conceived for the Orangerie in Paris.
The metallic mural Chariot of Aurora once hung in the Grand Salon of the
oceanliner Normandie. These are choices everyone admires, but I try to expand my artistic understanding by studying the latest Carnegie International Exhibit. I have "trouble" appreciating some contemporary art, but I finally come to a social-realist piece that attracts me with its deliberate lack of aesthetic appeal. Neo Rauch lived behind the
Iron Curtain in Leipzig, and his 2002 depiction of "inspiration" as a monster kept in a cage is interesting, if not physically appealing.
In the painting, an artist has come to liberate him (Inspiration). Can you identify the artist, depicted as a sexless American hippie from the 1970s? Yes, interesting!
Another work in the contemporary exhibit is To the Unknown Artist by Anselm
Kiefer, who depicts the landscape of postwar Germany, where Hitler had destroyed many artists, now immortalized by Kiefer. As I regard the blotches in browns and reds that really do suggest to me a landscape of destruction, I hear the announcement of closing. I don’t have time to see the large collection of Japanese landscapes.
The 54th Carnegie International Exhibit will be at the museum until March 20, 2005.
There will be others. I can’t resist a few minutes in the gift shop before I leave, but in my last-minute flutter, I can’t find the shop I want. I believe the art museum has its own, but
I have to settle for the "generic" museum shop, where I grab a rain forest umbrella for more than I could have paid at Phipps Conservatory.
From Forbes Avenue, we can walk to Fifth, only a block, for the bus going downtown, but this time we are driving. To see directions, hours, and events schedules, look here. We always walk some first to admire the multi-university neighborhood with all its impressive buildings, diverse cultural features, and residents from everywhere, who are always on their way on foot to some cultural event—there are so many!
Written by kjlouden on 11 Feb, 2005
I have never enjoyed "Breakfast with the Birds," a regular event at the National Aviary, but a few of them have "let go" after breakfast on my head! I must learn to get there earlier--or later--and not to wear good clothes without a coverup…Read More
I have never enjoyed "Breakfast with the Birds," a regular event at the National Aviary, but a few of them have "let go" after breakfast on my head! I must learn to get there earlier--or later--and not to wear good clothes without a coverup and to leave my coat at the front desk. No matter what indignities I have suffered, I return again and again, and I call Benito and Stanley my friends.
Benito doesn’t return my friendship—unless he is out of his cage. On my most recent visit, he wasn’t taken out, so he was surly and angry that day.
The drop-dead gorgeous hyacinth macaw is a comedian when he is on his handler’s arm. About three feet from head to tail, he likes to hang upside down from her outstretched arm before he straightens himself upright and looks at me as though he is proud of himself and expects me to commend him. He wants my attention then, like a poodle walking on two legs, but once he is back in his cage, there is no talking to this guy without his trying to bite! That’s when I inform him that he is no longer the star of the show here, anyway. Stanley, the African penguin, comes out to meet us every day at 1pm, and he is always a little darling! So there, Benito!
Stanley is an African penguin, a little guy who will not grow to more than eight pounds. The aviary was excited about raising him in captivity--another "Pittsburgh First!" His primary handler was not there on the day when we met him, so his second-string handler presented him and told stories about how attached young Stanley was to the other "mother" figure (who happened to be a man).
This event impressed on us the amount of care, even worry, involved in raising a bird and making him feel happy and secure. Apparently, it takes more than one person to help the little creature adapt to his artificial environment, and then there is the huge task of skills training to help him develop to his full potential. Not to worry, though, because Stanley has a mother—or at least he thinks he has! If you think birds aren’t as endearing as, let’s say dogs, then you must meet Stanley.
I have yet to see the owl encounter at 11:30 am each day, but that is on my agenda for my next visit. Who wouldn’t want an up-close-and-personal visit with this guy?
I expect to find that his stiff, poker-face exterior masks an intriguing personality. Like all close encounters, my next one will certainly change my preconceived notions about this species.
But regularly scheduled events are only part of the attraction of the National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s Northside. The large indoor tropical habitat resembles a conservatory, only with one important addition: birds. Sitting there on a bench is like sitting in a park, but one with extremely lush foliage and a beautiful water feature, complete with bridge. I see parents and grandparents sitting there on benches while the kids run around to investigate every squawk or splash. So, I think of it as an indoor park, a welcome change of scenery in winter. It’s warm in there!
Like any park, this one has pigeons, but Victoria is a beauty, albeit a pacing, nervous type. One doesn’t have to crane his neck peering into the treetops to find her, for she constantly parades, moonwalk-style, across the bridge.
What park in the north has flamingos? This one has them, plus hornbills, spoonbills, parrots, yellow conures, and Bali mynahs, one of the rarest birds in the world (only eight left in the year 2000!). Foliage and water are alive with the songs of many endangered and threatened species.
This isn’t just any aviary. It’s our National Aviary, America’s only non-profit organization of this sort. Concerned primarily with conservation of natural habitats and species, the aim of educational programs here is to promote respect for the environment and for projects that repopulate rare and endangered species on every continent. One of their ongoing projects that I find particularly interesting is called "To Russia with Love," their ten years of ongoing work to restore red-crowned cranes to the Amur region of Russia. Conservationists take eggs from this facility in Pittsburgh to hatch there. Meet a proud (though estranged) parent:
You can read all about the project and the cooperative work of Russians and Americans here. I find this a rather "cute" story about the hassles of traveling with fragile eggs that must hatch within a specified window of opportunity—and we regular travelers think we have problems!
Like the red-crowned cranes, many large birds are kept outside. Windowed walls enable visitors to view them from the warmth of the building.
Eagles, hawks, vultures and others participate in the RAPTOR education program in-house or at a requested site. (They can be brought to you!) A huge selection of programs for students of all ages make the National Aviary a valuable resource for educators, who can also take classes here and get credits for them. Classrooms in the building are state-of-the-art, and so is the facility’s long-distance learning program, called RAVEN.
Whether you want an education about an endangered species or just an afternoon in an indoor park, our National Aviary is a must-see for any visitor to Pittsburgh. Just be sure to take off your coat--and not only for the purpose of staying a while! You might want to wear an old, washable hat, too. Rest assured that the birds are well screened and quarantined for a year before they are admitted to the avian population. Try to choose a bench not under a tree, and take a book if you want.
In a restored warehouse building in the Strip District, John Heinz Regional History Center is not only a storehouse of Americana, but also a grouping of important exhibits on settling the frontier, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Underground Railroad, many American industries, sports, and even George…Read More
In a restored warehouse building in the Strip District, John Heinz Regional History Center is not only a storehouse of Americana, but also a grouping of important exhibits on settling the frontier, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Underground Railroad, many American industries, sports, and even George Washington and Jonas Salk. Near the Allegheny River at 1212 Smallman Street, the banner on the front of the building announces, "The Smithsonian’s Home in Pittsburgh." The windswept roof of David Lawrence Convention Center, visible from the parking lot, reminds us of Pittsburgh’s innovative architecture, while the old warehouse speaks of the city’s preservation efforts. We’ll see six floors of both inside.
Nobody could miss the trolley on first floor. It isn’t there just to look at. We went inside, sat down, and turned on the audio, which recounts life in American cities in the era of trolleys, companies that made them, and more. Other Pittsburgh "firsts" are displayed on this floor and a bit of Americana, such as an old gas station pump and a ‘57 Chevy, some Isaly’s ice cream mementos, and Kennywood Park memorabilia. We were looking for more "hard core" history, so we hurried to the elevator.
One of the most spectacular museum exhibits I’ve ever seen, "Rediscovering Lewis and Clark: A Journey with the Rooney Family" is a must-see for any visitor to Pittsburgh. (Yes, it’s the same family who own the Pittsburgh Steelers.) The journey was commissioned by the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania for this display, but the Rooneys’ photographs, journals, and artifacts they collected are only a small part of what is on view. Although any IgoUgo guide would be excited about a press trip that received as much publicity as the Rooneys’ retracing of the journey of Lewis and Clark, I was more interested in the original expedition--and was not disappointed.
Literature explains the difficulties involved in getting the keelboat built at Greenough’s Boat Yard in Pittsburgh, and I remember that the builder drank a little too much to make deadlines! We learned about the details of getting together the crew and provisions, what they ate, even what they sang. Words to the river song "Trois Beaux Canards" (Three Beautiful Ducks) are posted, along with the journal entries of Patrick Gass from 1807. While we read, the soundtrack with original tunes that were played on the journey made the present time slip away, and we were travelling on the Ohio River in 1803 to Brunot’s Island, where poor Betsy Brunot was accidentally shot by her cousin with Lewis’ new airgun he had brought to demonstrate to her father, Dr. Felix Brunot, who had come to America with Lafayette.
Oils on canvas attributed to Charles Wilson Peale, famed portrait artist of Washington, Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Lewis and Clark, illustrate the incident and characters at Brunot’s Island, as well as Lewis’ return to civilization in a full-length ermine robe given to him by a Shoshone chief. Other artifacts and stories depict Pittsburgh as "The Gateway to the West."
As I said before, the soundtrack lulled us into another century, and soon it was closing time. However, we were impressed enough with this museum to return the next day and see the rest of it. Two hours was not enough. The Lewis and Clark exhibit will be on site until 2007, and there is much more.
Lovers of Americana will want to visit the Heinz Kitchen, reminiscent of a decade long ago, perhaps the 1940s or '50s. (Remember, this is the Heinz Center, so we paid our respects to the company.) Alcoa is also on site with artifacts from their contributions to American industry, such as fabrics for work suits for steel, space, and other industries. A photograph and scale model of the Alcoa Building in downtown Pittsburgh is displayed with an explanation of how the innovative aluminum structure influenced the course of architecture.
My favorite exhibits (outside of the Lewis and Clark) include those on the Whiskey Rebellion and the Underground Railroad. The flag of the rebellion and the drawing from 1794 of local rebels tarring and feathering an excise officer are absolutely amusing. (The burning of General John Neville’s, the tax collector’s, mansion sent federal troops to end the dispute.) More heartwarming is Allegheny County’s precocious freeing of all slaves so that there were none in the county by 1840, long before the Emancipation Proclamation. Visitors can sit on a rounded booth and turn on the audio to learn more about specific local businesses and their owners who housed slaves escaping from the South.
Other displays represent Henry Clay Frick’s fight with steelworkers before 1900. Photos of Pinkerton guards at Carnegie’s Homestead plant and of Frick in his office recreate the drama. (You can visit his mansion and art gallery in the Schenley Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh.) One group of artifacts records George Washington’s survey of the area, and even his leather pouch and equipment are here. Other displays narrate the tales of immigrant groups who came to the area to start businesses and trades. Among this latter group, as well as in the Pioneer exhibit, are names of prominent local families and place
names that haven’t changed.
All of Pittsburgh’s history is divided into eras, from settling of the frontier, beginning in 1750, to recent decades, and each segment of time has its own exhibit. In its heyday, pictures of the popular city were reproduced on china all over the world, and one display features plates and other porcelain from 150 years ago with paintings of the three rivers and the city’s landscape. These are particularly valuable, since pictures before the fire of 1845 are rare. The china also played a part in promoting the city’s growth and reputation. Other displays are of glassware made in Pittsburgh, and a great amount of literature on the city’s glassware industry is posted.
We also saw the Smithsonian exhibit, "The American Presidents," which is now gone. I’m looking forward to the French and Indian War exhibit, which begins May 1st, and I believe "Breath of Hope," a history of Jonas Salk and others’ work to control disease, has already started, as well as "A History of Western Pennsylvania’s Italian Americans." The Blum Collection of wrought iron work is on top floor. (The Blum company made doors and other items for European palaces, such as Versailles.) Other special ethnic and sports collections are expanding, and so is the museum. The new sports museum, which will occupy two floors, is slated to open soon. You can visit the Heinz History Center’s website to see schedules, times, and directions here.
One cannot see all the treasures in just an hour or even two. Plan at least a half day, maybe longer with a break for lunch. We were gratified to find good, cheap food in the little cafeteria on first floor, and the atmophere is nostalgic, in keeping with an old Isaly’s ice cream parlor. As we enjoyed our delicious chili and bread pudding, we expressed our amazement at the amount of important history this mid-size city boasts.
The museum is relatively new, opened in 1996, but it is constantly expanding before our eyes. With the new wing just opened at the end of 2004, more Smithsonian traveling collections are now on view. One can look for the Heinz Regional History Center to be a growing force in the preservation and display of this nation’s history, and because of it, the history of western Pennsylvania looms ever more important. At any rate, the Heinz History Center is the largest history museum in the state of Pennsylvania. Every visit is sure to be an exciting one!
Written by crashbowman on 30 Aug, 2006
When I arrived at PNC I was excited and I had high expectations from some of the things I had heard about the stadium, but at the same time I had been disappointed by stadiums so many times that I was prepared for a let…Read More
When I arrived at PNC I was excited and I had high expectations from some of the things I had heard about the stadium, but at the same time I had been disappointed by stadiums so many times that I was prepared for a let down. The area I normally am disappointed with is the ability to watch a baseball game with ease. It seems that for some reason baseball stadiums are not built to watch a baseball game, but maybe watch the left fielder chew sunflower seeds or see the guys in the bullpen shoot water balloons at the camera men. If you think I am joking on that one I’m not, just stay tuned to my reviews and you will learn all about that when we make our way to the West Coast. As for watching the game at PNC, this was the biggest surprise of the day.Whenever I go to a new stadium I always make it a point to check out the ability to watch a game from the best to worst seats in the house. PNC was constructed with a baseball fan in mind and to this point I have not found a stadium that has done better yet. First of all the average MLB stadium seats about 50,000 and PNC decided that since they do not have the largest fan base in the game they could make their place a little smaller. So they decided to bring the max capacity in at slightly less than 40,000. This move allowed them to do some really interesting things. First of all this move allowed a stadium that will have a hard time selling out to feel like it has more fans on a regular basis. Now that is something that benefits the team, but it is in other areas where they helped out the average fan.Here is what made this place the best in the business. First of all the smaller stadium allowed them to make the rows wider and give everyone more leg room. I’m not that tall of a guy, but I will take everything I can get. Second of all every seat is angled toward home plate. Back in the 70’s when teams were building multi purpose stadiums that could be used for baseball and football everything looked straight ahead. For some reason teams are still doing this even though they are building baseball only stadiums. PNC did not make the same mistake. Another very interesting attribute is that the game can be seen from the stadium concourse and concessions. I don’t mean by watching it on a 13” television like at all other stadiums, but I mean by looking out at the field while you wait on your nachos. No matter where the seat is at PNC you will feel closer to the action, you can even go way down the lines in the upper seats and still feel closer than most other stadiums. There are at least 25 teams in baseball that need to sign up the architect of PNC, because he has built a masterpiece. You might as well just call him the Picasso of baseball stadiums. Close