The only thing that can be guaranteed in life is that nothing will ever stay the same. Pittsburgh’s Historic Strip District was originally an industrial hub with trains running down the street center. Mills, foundries and glass factories dominated in the 1820s and 1830s. Steel mills pumped out steel and Alcoa produced aluminum. An Air Brake factory, built in 1869, has now become Pittsburgh’s Opera. A 1901 cork factory has been transformed into stylish lofts. Produce wholesalers, once dominant, were eventually nudged out of business due to a chain of events including the Great Depression, the flood of 1936 and WWII, which caused food supply shortages. Large grocery chains began to buy directly from growers.
In the Strip, some companies have hung on and still thrive after over 100 years, such as Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, begun in 1902. Now the Strip is a bustling area of restaurants, markets and shops owned by immigrants of every nationality, from Italians, Greeks and other European immigrants to Asian, Middle Eastern, African, Mexican and others.
And then, of course, there is Pamela’s Diner, which is known to serve the best breakfast in Pittsburgh with its crepe style pancakes. Though we tried to go there for lunch on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday, the lines were too long. Both times, we gave up and went elsewhere.
From The Strip, we walked all through downtown and to Point State Park and back again, putting in 9 miles of walking!
We took a self-guided tour among historic buildings. The August Wilson Center for African-American Culture, built in 2009, celebrates the region’s black heritage and is a performing arts center as well. It is named for playwright August Wilson (1945-2005), who wrote a 10 play series referred to as the Pittsburgh Cycle; each play depicts African American life in a different decade of the 1900s.
The Omni William Penn Hotel, the oldest hotel in the city, was renovated extensively in 2004. The Union Trust Building sits on the site of three churches, and was once a shopping and office complex known as the Union Arcade. Its shops are long gone. The unusual Allegheny Courthouse and Jail was once named for its architect as Richardsonian Romanesque. The jail was closed due to a class action suit by a prisoner and was converted to the family division of the court in 1995. The 1953 31-story Regional Enterprise Tower was once headquarters for Alcoa until that company moved its HQ to the North Shore. Trinity Cathedral and First Presbyterian Church sit across the street from the famous 1873 Duquesne Club, Pittsburgh’s oldest private club, frequented by Pittsburgh’s titans of industry. Dubbed “the citadel of Pittsburgh tycoonery” by Time magazine in 1940, it finally started admitting women in 1980. PPG Place was built to show off its product, glass, and is a neo-Gothic castle with 231 spires covering several city blocks (Moon Handbooks Pennsylvania).
Point State Park marks the point where the Allegheny and the Monongahela merge to create the mighty Ohio River. The British and French fought over it in the latter half of the 18th century. Then British victors and Native Americans fought over it. Now the park offers festivals, concerts, and fireworks displays. Across the Allegheny, we can see two big Pittsburgh stadiums, Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The yellow Three Sisters Bridges, virtually identical, connect Downtown with the North Side, and all can be crossed on foot. Built between 1924-1928, they are named for famous locals: Roberto Clemente Bridge, named for the National Baseball Hall of Famer; the Andy Warhol Bridge, named for the Pittsburgh pop artist; and Rachel Carson Bridge, named for the nature writer whose 1962 Silent Spring initiated the contemporary environmental movement.
On the other side of the Andy Warhol Bridge sits the current Alcoa Headquarters.
By the time we finish our walk, our feet and legs are awfully sore, so we drive to Grandview Avenue and West End Overlook to see the city from South Side.
The 2006 Point of View sculpture shows George Washington and the Seneca leader Guyasuta in a face-to-face meeting in October 1770; the two men met while Washington was in the area scouting land for future settlement along the Ohio River.
From Grandview Avenue, we drove to West End Overlook, where we saw a limo bus in the parking lot. A couple walked ahead of us in dressy spring clothes with no coats, surprising considering the freezing temperatures. The blonde wore a pink flowered maxi dress split down the front and pink sandals. Her handsome dark-haired boyfriend wore all black. At the top, with the view of the city behind them, they kissed while he took a selfie. Suddenly, shouting and cheers erupted behind us, and a large group of young people dressed to the nines burst out from behind a hill and surrounded the couple, congratulating them on a successful marriage proposal. What a good thing she said yes!
After relaxing with a glass of wine in our Airbnb on South Side, we went to dinner at Church Brew Works, a church converted to a restaurant in Lawrenceville. Here, I enjoyed a Pious Monk Dunkel, a mellow beer with a “clean and roasty aroma and a hint of chocolate flavor” and shrimp with grits with a Cajun cream sauce. Giant brew vats occupied the altar, its walls painted in royal blue. Some of the seats in the restaurant were old pews. The food was fabulous, although it was a bit noisy, packed as it was with families and open-air acoustics.
“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write a 700 to 1,000-word post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose. In this case, I tried to meet some of my intentions: discovering the overlap between history and everyday life, finding the essence of a place, and telling what is surprising about a location. (I don’t recommend setting this many intentions. For my next journey, I hope to simplify.)
You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose & poetry. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.
Include the link in the comments below by Monday, May 28 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this challenge on Tuesday, May 29, I’ll include your links in that post. My next post will be about our third day in Pittsburgh, and, again, I’ll be using the same intentions. 🙂
This will be an ongoing invitation. 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!
- Suzanne, of Being in Nature, wrote beautifully about humanity in the face of nature in Standing vertical in the storm.
- Jo, of Restless Jo, wrote a fabulous piece that draws us into the life of a Roman soldier: The Roman Army Museum.
Thanks to all of you who wrote prosaic posts following intentions you set for yourself. 🙂