This is topic Pittsburgh Impressions in forum Books, Films, Food and Culture at Hatrack River Forum.

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Posted by KarlEd (Member # 571) on :
Chris and I spent the weekend in Pittsburgh this LaborDay weekend. We'd been there once before, but that was a very short overnight trip and we didn't see a lot. We saw enough, though, that it whetted our appetite for more so we decided to come back for an end-of-summer thing.

Pittsburgh is a very cool town. Its problems are obvious, but to me so is its potential. We spent most of our time on the North Side. (We found a little gay-owned B&B there last time we were in town, and came back for two nights this time.) The North Side of Pittsburgh (near the river) has suffered from years of neglect, but there are signs of recovery everywhere. The architecture there is very beautiful with ornate brick and stonework on practically every building. There is a very large park that could be a jewel if the city fixed it up and put a little bit of money and effort into landscaping. There are dozens of things to see and do there. Last time we visited the Andy Warhol museum (which mostly served to teach me that Andy Warhol is overrated as an artist) and The National Aviary, but there are several other museums, restaurants and interesting sights nearby. This trip we visited The Mattress Factory, a museum that specializes in "installation art" - which was basically art in which the room itself and the experience of, well, experiencing it is all part of the artwork as a whole. I might write more on that in a separate thread since it was a pretty incredible experience for me.

Another thing that struck me about Pittsburgh was the people. Everyone seemed very friendly. The city seemed to have a pretty large black population, like Baltimore, but unlike Baltimore, there didn't seem to be much obvious racial tension, at least not in the areas we visited.

On our first night in Pittsburgh we wanted to check out the gay clubs, but it was late and we hadn't eaten, so we were looking for a place to grab a bite before the clubs. The clubs we went to first were downtown, and most of the non-club establishments seemed to be closed. We did find one bar/deli that was still open and got a couple of sandwiches. While we were eating them, we learned that the Mayor of Pittsburgh had died that morning. The bartender explained that this was tough for the city because he had only been mayor for 8 months and had just been diagnosed with cancer 3 months ago. He had been seen as a ray of hope for the city, bringing a new outlook and fresh plans for revitalization. Fortunately the new mayor (26 years old!) said that he planned to keep with the deceased mayor's plan and retain his advisors and staff, so the mood, while sad, had a tone of guarded optimism.

I'd really like to see Pittsburgh undergo a rennaisance. It is one of the most beautiful cities I've been in, but right now the beauty is somewhat hidden under the wrinkles and neglect. There are some beautifully cared for homes and businesses that are right next to dilapidated, neglected buildings and some outright gut-jobs. I must have seen a hundred opportunities there. Chris and I kept walking around pointing at building and commenting on how this one could have a fantastic garden and that one would make a great sandwich shop, or boutique or whathaveyou. If I were looking to relocate, Pittsburgh would definitely be on my list of potential new homes.

So, are there any Pittsburgh Hatrackers? Anyone wanna burst my bubble or confirm my impressions?
Posted by MyrddinFyre (Member # 2576) on :
Sounds a lot like Providence before Cianci cleaned it up. It went from historic crumble to blossoming renaissance city, and it is growing and becoming more liveable every day. Amazing what can happen in 10-15 years. They're even moving a major highway to skirt the city center instead of bisecting it. Anyway, I hope something like that can happen for Pittsburg because I've seen it work in Providence and it's a great thing to witness. I'm quite partial to northeastern cities and their old buildings and winding streets.

edit to show off how incredibly cool Providence is [Smile]
Posted by Kwea (Member # 2199) on :
KarlEd, this IS Pittsburg's rennaisance. [Big Grin]

My grandpa was Vice-President of US Steel back in the 60's, and it was a very dirty city because of all the mills and other industry. The rivers were polluted, and people weren't allowed to swim in the rivers or eat any of the fish they caught. The air quality was among the worst in the nation as well.

When the mills closed or scaled back in the late 70's and early 80's, Pittsburg became a very, very depressed area for about 10-15 years. it wasn't until the 90's that high tech jobs began to appear, and the economy started to improve.

For the past 10 years the city has done a wonderful job of revamping both it's image and it's economy. There are always things that still need done, but the downtown area is now safew to go visit again, and there are a ton of parks and waterfront areas that are great. They have a new basball stadium, and right next to that a new football stadium....right in the downtown area.

My dad proposed to my mom at the top of the Duquense incline, which provides one of the best views of the downtown area. At night you can see for miles, and the lights on the streets and buildings are like jewels strung along the ridges. There are two or three really good resturaunts at the top of the incline, and my dad rented one of the rooftop tables at one of them to propose...perhaps the single most romantic thing he ever did for my mom. [Big Grin]

I love Pittsburg, although I moved away from the area when I was 6. For most of my life I had a lot of family in the area so we went and visited at least two or three times a year, sometimes more. There is a building in Bridgeville named after my grandpa too....the Fullerton Building. My dad's first JC Penney store, where he began a 37 year career, was the Bridgeville store.

I hope to take JenniK to the same resturaunt my dad proposed at one day soon. [Big Grin]
Posted by Avin (Member # 7751) on :
I live in Pittsburgh, and have for the past 6 years now. I came to go to college at Carnegie Mellon and loved the place so much that I decided to stay even when I initially couldn't find a job.

Now, I come from a Texan suburb and had never experienced any city before, so it may just be my preference for city life in general clouding my judgement, but I really enjoy it here still. You are right, there are a lot of problems in the city with things being run down or neglected because of lack of attention, adequate funding, etc., but those problems are much better problems to have in my opinion than when the actual people are not that great. I enjoy living in a racially diverse neighborhood with no obvious intentional prejudice, having lots of interesting places to walk to to eat, relax in, or play with my daughter at, and the ability to relate to many people from many different walks of life.
Posted by KarlEd (Member # 571) on :
I'm glad to know that the apparent lack of racial tension isn't just a naive outsider's notion. Baltimore, by contrast, seems very racially tense, but otherwise there are many direct parallels between the two cities. Both have a large blue-collar base, both among the people and the businesses. Both have a broad base of fantastic architecture, much of it unfortunately neglected. Both racially diverse, etc. Pittsburgh beats Baltimore, no contest, though, when it comes to parks and greenspaces.
Posted by KarlEd (Member # 571) on :
BTW, Avin, what part of Pittsburgh do you live in?
Posted by Avin (Member # 7751) on :

I'd say more than racial tension is association to "groups" that seem to be defined less by race than by the sort of urban culture they identify with. For instance, all the kids that went to Friendship elementary school near us were mostly black, but there were white kids too that lived essentially the same sort of lives that most of the black kids who went there did - that I might generally describe as bouncing between parents or caretakers that rarely was a nuclear family, and sitting in front of the TV all the time because they knew of nothing better to do and because they recieved little attention from adults anyway. In the meanwhile, there were plenty of other kids in the neighborhood near the school, but none of them actually went to the school because they were all sent off to magnet or private schools, because Friendship school was not the school to send your kids to if your cared about their education. The school was even closed this last year because it had been doing so poorly. But in some cases it's not so bad that people can't bridge those cultural gaps when they are determined to, it's just that many don't.

I wonder how common this is in other urban environments - not having experienced cities in much depth other than Pittsburgh.

I'm also curious why so many people spell Pittsburgh without the 'h' on the end. I know that many cities are "-burg", but for the two posters above which spelled it differently despite the thread title giving away the correct spelling, what gives?
Posted by jasonepowell (Member # 1600) on :
My wife and I are visiting Pittsburgh in a few weeks to go see a ballgame at PNC Park. We're looking for things to do before the game though - any suggestions? We've heard that Station Square, with the lift to Mt. Washington is very beautiful, with lots of food and shopping. We were thinking of going to the Andy Warhol museum as well.
Posted by HollowEarth (Member # 2586) on :
I wouldn't count on Pittsburgh having any sort of rennaisance in the next few years. There are massive problems still.
Posted by MyrddinFyre (Member # 2576) on :
Oops, I never actually noticed the h in Pittsburgh. From Wiki:
* Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, whose official "federal" spelling of its city name was "Pittsburg" from 1891 to 1911.

I must be used to this older spelling, cause that's the way I've always seen it. Maybe it's a New England thing?
Posted by Avin (Member # 7751) on :
The oldest spelling is Pittsburgh. "Pittsburg" was the spelling for a scant 20 years as you notice, but it was spelled Pittsburgh before then too.

See this explanation.

The 'h' comes from the Scotch spelling (hence Edinburgh) from when John Forbes named the place.
Posted by KarlEd (Member # 571) on :
Originally posted by jasonepowell:
My wife and I are visiting Pittsburgh in a few weeks to go see a ballgame at PNC Park. We're looking for things to do before the game though - any suggestions? We've heard that Station Square, with the lift to Mt. Washington is very beautiful, with lots of food and shopping. We were thinking of going to the Andy Warhol museum as well.

I've only been there for two short visits. I haven't done Station Square or the lift. As for the Andy Warhol museum, if you're already a fan of his work, then go for it. I didn't know much about him when I went and all I got out of it was that he's about the most overrated "artist" of the 20th century. There are interesting bits about his life and artistic philosophy (which I'm sure have been influential) but I could have gotten that out of a good biography. Of his works on display, the only ones of any particular note are ones you've probably seen in a hundred other places. There's a lot of art from other artists influenced by Warhol, but if they have done anything spectacular it isn't in the Warhol Museum. There was one room I really liked, but it seemed almost out of place in the rest of the museum. It was a large white room filled with giant silver mylar pillow-shaped balloons being swirled around by opposing fans. It was really neat to stand in the room and have them swirling all around you. But that piece seems like it would have been more at home at The Mattress Factory (a museum of "installation art").

On that note, if you're going to be in Pittsburgh on the weekend, you have to see "In the Dwelling-House" at The Mattress Factory. Chris and I thought it was brilliant.
Posted by Avin (Member # 7751) on :
I've never actually been to the Mattress Factory myself.

I would definitely recommend the Duquesne Incline lift from Station Square, though. Actually what I prefer doing is going to Mt. Washington first, then taking the lift down, then coming back up when I'm done. Anyway, as far as sightseeing sorts of things go, that's the one thing that Pittsburgh's got that's really unique and impressive.

As for other recommendations, I'm not really the person to ask probably, which is why I haven't chimed in.
Posted by KarlEd (Member # 571) on :
Originally posted by HollowEarth:
I wouldn't count on Pittsburgh having any sort of rennaisance in the next few years. There are massive problems still.

I don't think a "renaissance" and "massive problems" are mutually exclusive. Most big cities have massive problems of one sort or another, and in fact, one could argue that a "rennaisance" isn't even possible except from a negative starting point.
Posted by Bokonon (Member # 480) on :
Myr, I see your photo, and raise you:

Old & New


Yes, I am a snooty old Bostonian [Razz] . Providence has good things in store for it, potentially. It reminds me of Boston/Cambridge 15 years ago.

As for Pittsburgh, I hope it turns around. It's definitely one of those cities that just needs a break.

Posted by MyrddinFyre (Member # 2576) on :
Bok, you're cruel. Rubbing in the fact that I can't find any jobs in Boston. Boston is my favoritest city ever [Smile]
Posted by Bokonon (Member # 480) on :
What are you looking for? My place is hiring (would require a car, since the office is in Waltham).

Send me an email if you like.


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