the call to place: pittsburgh, pennsylvania

It was my husband Mike’s idea to take a three-day weekend trip to Pittsburgh as his belated birthday treat. The city is a four hour drive from our home in Northern Virginia, yet we’d never visited. Mike was interested in the historical role of the city in America’s industrial revolution. The city is often known as “Steel City” because of more than 300 steel-related businesses.

Boosting the industrial boom was the city’s location at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers; they merge at Pittsburgh’s point to form the 981-mile Ohio River, the largest tributary to the Mississippi River, flowing through or along the border of six states.  These waterways linked the Atlantic coast to the Midwest, allowing for westward expansion and trade. Over the waterways are 446 bridges, thus its other nickname: “City of Bridges.”

Mike says much of Pennsylvania’s value lies underground, as the Allegheny mountains are rich in minerals. He had recently read Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh, a novel which explores how Pennsylvania is both blessed and cursed by its mineral resources.

Large scale philanthropy also started in Pittsburgh with these titans of industry: Andrew Carnegie called on the rich to use their wealth to improve society, and Andrew Mellon, Henry Phipps, Jr. and others spent much of their time and money in philanthropic causes benefiting the arts and other causes.

I was a bit skeptical at first. The city was once barely inhabitable. Flowers in city parks died, buildings changed color, and people got sick, all a result of the black smoke billowing from factories, coke ovens, railroads, and homes.  One visitor in 1868 described the city as “Hell with the lid off.” Because of private citizens, especially middle-class women, the city became an early practitioner of public health and environmentalism.

Now travel magazines tout Pittsburgh as a city worthy of attention. The food, craft breweries, universities, the old hilly neighborhoods, the bridges, the Andy Warhol Museum, and other art museums are all enticements.

So, who were those titans of industry?

Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919) was a Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist. He led the American steel industry’s expansion in the late 19th century, building Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for $480 million. It became U.S. Steel Corporation. He was also a leading philanthropist, giving away nearly 90% of his fortune, or about $350 million, to charities, foundations, libraries and universities. He put a special emphasis on world peace, education and scientific research.


Andrew William Mellon (1855 – 1937) was an American banker, businessman, industrialist, philanthropist, art collector, and politician. He helped finance the establishment of Alcoa, the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Old Overholt Whiskey and other companies. From a wealthy Pittsburgh family, he established a vast business empire before transitioning into politics. He served as United States Secretary of the Treasury from 1921 to 1932, presiding over the boom years of the 1920s and the Stock market crash of 1929.  Mellon also became a prominent philanthropist, helping to establish the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, which is now part of Carnegie Mellon University.

Henry John Heinz founded the H. J. Heinz Company, an American food processing company headquartered in Pittsburgh, in 1869. The H. J. Heinz Company manufactures thousands of food products in plants on six continents, including ketchup and Ore-Ida frozen potatoes.  After the Kraft Heinz merger in 2015, it is the fifth largest food company in the world.


Henry Heinz

Henry Clay Frick (1849 – 1919) was an American industrialist, financier, union-buster and art patron. He founded the H. C. Frick & Company coke manufacturing company, was chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, and played a major role in the formation of the giant U.S. Steel manufacturing concern. He also owned extensive real estate holdings in Pittsburgh and throughout the state of Pennsylvania.


Henry Clay Frick

Henry Phipps Jr. (1839 – 1930) was a steel and real-estate magnate. He was also a successful real estate investor who after selling his stock in Carnegie Steel, devoted a great deal of his time and money to philanthropic works. He founded the Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens in 1893 as a gift to the City of Pittsburgh.


Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

You can read more about the city here: Wikipedia: Pittsburgh.


“THE CALL TO PLACE” INVITATION: I invite you to write a 500-700 word (or less) post on your own blog about what enticed you to choose a recently visited or a future particular destination. If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments.  If your destination is a place you love and keep returning to, feel free to write about that.  You have two weeks! If you want to see the original post about the subject, you can check it out here: imaginings: the call to place.

Please include the link in the comments below by Wednesday, April 25 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this challenge on Thursday, April 26, I’ll include your links in that post. If you’d like, you can use the hashtag #wanderessence.

My next post will be about my upcoming road trip to the Four Corners area of the southwest USA (Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico).

This will be an ongoing invitation, bi-weekly in April, and monthly (on the last Thursday of each month) after that. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!


the ~ wander.essence ~ community

I invite you all to settle in and read a few posts from our wandering community.  I promise, you’ll be inspired!

  • Jo, of Restless Jo, writes endearingly about how her call to Poland came literally in the form of a phone call from a family her father had left behind when he was a teenager.

Thanks to all of you who wrote posts about “the call to place.” 🙂