The International Writers Magazine: USA TRAVEL
Ari Kaufman in Pittsburgh
website for the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, recently claimed
that, "if you haven't been to this Renaissance City in the
last five years, you haven't seen the new Pittsburgh!"
While I wouldn't
put this erstwhile mining, smokestack-laden town along the same lines
of "Renaissance" as Florence or Madrid, there is little doubt
that Pittsburgh would be nearly unrecognisable to someone who had not
visited since as recently as the Clinton Administration.
Any discussion of Pittsburgh should pay attention to what the city has
always had: a visually striking location, divided by three rivers and
countless bridges, surrounded by hills, including Mount Washington,
which provides one of the best urban panoramas in America. Further,
as the NY Times once said, "Pittsburgh is the only city
in America with an entrance," referring to the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
As I stood on the Mount Washington Overlook (just west and up from the
tunnel) on a brilliant fall afternoon last week, the elderly man with
his tripod and camera next to me said of the tunnel, "you come
out of it, and bam, the city just smacks you right in the face."
This is factual, and only rivaled (domestically) in my mind by the Brooklyn
Bridge's view of the length of Manhattan as you cross the East River.
recrudescence, which began just over a decade ago, has centered
around such major landmarks as the new football and baseball stadia,
America's shortest, cleanest free subway system.
The Roberto Clemente
bridge (which links the heart of downtown to beautiful PNC (baseball)
Park) via a pedestrian walkway, the three nearby universities with their
distinct communities and medical centers, the unique Andy Warhol Museums,
the revival of the Southside and Strip neighborhoods, the preservation
of the two inclines (Fort Duquesne and Monongahela), and the revitalization
of the downtown skyline highlighted by One PPG Place, constructed in
1984, and now one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the country.
The removal of any remnants from the hiedous smokestacks, still etched
in the memories of many, also contributes to Pittsburgh's newfound "glory."
Although it cannot be ignored that Pittsburgh has run budget deficits
for more than a decade and the population has been dwindling due to
surprising lack of job opportunities, the city still hosts two of the
nation's biggest financial institutions, Mellon Financial and PNC Bank.
It is the headquarters for Alcoa, US Steel and HJ Heinz, from which
the immaculate, riverside, new football stadium drew its name. The city's
schools are quite good, in comparison to most major US city school districts,
and the University of Pittsburgh, the city's largest employer, boasts
one of the nation's best-run hospitals. All of these factions led Rand
McNally to label Pittsburgh as America's most liveable city in 1985,
and that was prior to most of the "renaissance" efforts. Pittsburgh
continues to rank high in quality-of-life comparisons.
I have been to the city three times as an adult; all of these forays
have occurred in the past 14 months. The first two were cursory visits,
lacking an overnight stay, in which I did little more than attend a
baseball game and briefly walk around on a warm summer day and a rainy
summer night. My most recent tarriance was an extended one, in which
I was able to breathe in Pittsburgh en masse, walking and driving through
the bulk of the city and its outskirts, encompassing the sights, sounds
and smells of this majestic midwestern marvel.
With much of my family hailing from nearby Cleveland (Ohio), my only
prior knowledge of Pittsburgh had been from what they recalled of the
"Steel City" in the 1970s and 1908s: "ugly, smokestacks,
bleak, or worse..." But they had never been recently, for certain.
The only two people I knew who had made the two hour trek southeast
along the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes were my uncle and a friend
from high school. Their description was 180 degrees the opposite: "awesome,
cool, unique, picturesque." With those contrasting views, I knew
that I had to explore this further.
Maria (my girlfriend) and I arrived in the mid-afternoon of a brilliant
mid-October day with temps in the high 60s. After climbing through the
Appalachains of Western Maryland (we started in DC and were on our way
to a wedding in Cleveland) and through the rolling hills of Southwestern
Pennsylvania, we entered - of course - through the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
After taking U-turn to go back up Mount Washington via the Wabash Tunnel,
in order to gaze at the city and snap some photos from elevation, we
parked the car along the Allegheny River on Fort Duqesne Boulevard,
and began to stroll through downtown.
With a myriad of yellow bridges in the backdrop across from the downtown,
connecting the "North Shore," sports complexes, Carnegie Science
Center and college areas, we quickly found the Theatre District (highlighted
by the Byham Theatre) which later drew many middle-aged, well coiffed
couples on this Friday night.
Rush hour drew nearer as time passed, and although many roads became
congested, with so many various (free) bridges to choose from, Pittsburgh
did not seem to suffer from major traffic problems. Many folks rode
the inner-city free subway, and others stood in reasonable lines to
board buses as they smoked cigarettes to pass the time. Overall though,
in comparison to other sizeable cities, Pittbsburgh seemed melancholy
and clean at the heart of pre-weekend rush hour.
As we emerged from the theatre and cultural district, passing some trendy
shops and restaurants, Maria pointed out how "airy" the city
seemed, even with the numerous skyscrapers dotting the perimeter of
each street corner. This is doubtlessly true, as Pittsburgh, unlike
a city like New York, spreads out their tall edifices in order to achieve
more light throughout the downtown. Architecturally-speaking, and I
have never claimed to be an expert on architecture, the buildings seem
to be a mix of old and new, rustic and shiny, mid-size and gigantic.
After seeing antiquated photos of Pittsburgh at a small museum store
later that evening (where I bought a fantastic aerial photo of the demolition
of the old Three Rivers Stadium), I deduced that many had been built
in the past 20 years and others have been standing for nearly a century.
Later, ambling through a welcome lack of construction, past some innocuous
looking panhandlers, down Liberty Avenue (home of many of the aforementioned
financial institutions), and through the hotel areas, Maria and I finally
came to the gorgeous Point State Park. The park, replete with a majestic
geyser, sits along the confluence of the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers,
just west of the heart of downtown, replete with a majestic geyser.
Its view looks out to the west at the Ohio's snake-like format as it
disappears toward Northern West Virginia and Ohio. The Carnegie Science
Center and Heinz Field are directly in your view. It's quite quaint
By the time we headed back into the city (no more than a quarter-mile),
darkness was settling in. One minor negative about Pittsburgh is that
it shuts down quickly. While bars, nightclubs, coffee shops and book
stores are open fairly late, most stores, malls and restaurants close
by 7pm. While this is surely unfortunate, it does make the city quieter
and easier to navigate when dark. Pittsburgh, overall, seemed very safe,
even late at night when more desolate.
In my three visits to Pittsburgh, I have taken two friends of mine and
my girlfriend. Each had pre-conceived notions about the city, and each
were overwhelmingly stirred. One even opined, "maybe they should
take the "pitts" part out of the name, since that is like
false representation." My high school friend, who originally implored
me to visit when I was traversing the midwest watching baseball last
summer, recently called me to ask how I enjoyed the city. After we discussed
what I saw and what I enjoyed, we both laughed at how our acquaintances
never want to go to Pittsburgh, but when they do, they are impressed.
Josh mused, "yeah, I think the Chamber of Commerce should add us
to the payroll, or at least give us some recognition." Well, that
most assuredly will not occur soon, but I hope this informational piece
will aid everyone in their future travel choices. Getting to Pittsburgh
and staying there is certainly cheaper and more feasible than the Bahamas.
© Ari J Kaufman October 2005
Rockville Centre, NY
"Did you see the new Pittsburgh? It’s awesome!
More Destinations here
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.