“Part 23-A is my favorite. It’s our 1932 computer powered by a bicycle chain”.
At 137 years, the Dusquesne cars are the oldest, original, continually operating publicly used means of transportation in the country.
The original hoisting equipment is still operating, except for the steam engine which was replaced by a Westinghouse electric motor in 1932. There are two cable car lines: Duquesne and Monongahela with red and beige cars respectively, both restored from the 1870’s. And a fun short ride.
The panoramic view is spectacular with its glassy downtown, freight trains threading the shoreline and myriad bridges lacing the city together.
Is it mere coincidence that a city at the confluence of 3 rivers has brought together arts, commerce and education to create what The Economist calls one of the “World’s Most Liveable Cities”?
Among other things, Pittsburgh has contributed Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine, stainless steel, alternating current from Westinghouse Electric, major advances in organ transplants, the first motion picture theater in the U.S., the oil industry, labor unions, Heinz ketchup and Bingo.
I was wonderfully surprised at how much I liked the 'burgh'. As a photojournalist, I was well aware of the endless project created by former LIFE magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith. Assigned to document the steel mill city in the 1940s, Smith got so involved that his editors fired him for not producing anything after several months of shooting as he reworked his story to perfection. This city can still be seductive but with an allure that's much more refined.
Accolades pour in: “10 best places to pursue the American dream…smartest city in the United States…5th most resilient city in the world.” This is a long way from H.L. Mencken’s 1927 description of Pittsburgh as “Hell with the lid taken off” during its industrial heyday. It's a stimulating place worth exploring.
One PPG Place, 40-story glass skyscraper is world HQ for PPG Industries, a global coatings and specialty products company.
(Below) St. Stanislaus Kostka Roman Catholic Church, built 1881-1882
The Strip District is an unpredictable mix of souvenir shops, designer upstarts, eateries of every description, bars, antique places, nightclubs and you name it.
My room at the the Wyndham Grand Hotel had views of the yellow Pitt Bridge and site outline of Fort Pitt by the park’s 150-foot fountain.
(Best viewed on a computer)
The Andy Warhol Museum is a 'Must See' for pop culture addicts — the world’s most comprehensive single-artist museum. Twenty years old, its 7 floors have undergone an extensive redesign to put more paintings, drawings, film, Andy’s time capsules and changing exhibitions on display. With the help of the staff, I did a Crallé take on Warhol as a creative experiment. It began at the lobby front desk.
What's a town without restaurants? In Pittsburgh each one I sampled was as different as the ethnic groups and energy pulsing through the community.
(L) Owner Enrico exlains the origin of coronets at Enrico's Biscotti Bakery and Cafe in the heart of the Strip District. Enrico's the kind of guy who casually throws an Italian suit over a T-shirt and looks good.
(R) Victoria Mavrogeorgis plays for patrons at Christos Authentic Greek Cuisine.
(L and below) The Church Brew Works is a restaurant brewery in a turn of the century refurbished St. John the Baptist Church. Diners can sit on original hard 150-year old pews while satisfying the cravings they may have entertained during a lengthy sermon.
(L and far R) Butcher and the Rye is the sister restaurant to Meat and Potatoes. It boasts 350+ whiskey bourbons and creative small plate dishes. Upstairs seating is fashioned after an old time supper club and grand cocktail era. You'll need a cellphone or flashlight to read the menu.
Pittsburgh, the “City of Bridges” — 446 to be exact — boasts more than Venice, Italy. The “Three Sisters Bridges” across the Allegheny at 6th, 7th and 9th Streets are named after 3 Pittsburghers: Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson. representing sports, art and the environment. Here's a photo illustration emphasizing their special “Aztec Gold” paint color.
(L) Heinz History Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and Pennsylvania’s largest history museum. It was the venue for the Travel Media Association of Canada 2014 conference awards dinner.
The city's entrepreneurial spirit seems to be at work everywhere. (L-R below) Thomas Jamison, founder and 'chief cone' at DreamCream ice cream; Diana Forsthoffer, proprietor of The Olive Tap in the Public Market; innovator/entrepreneur Robert Xiao from Saskatchewan, who’s working in the Future Interfaces Group at Carnegie Mellon University, developing new ways for people to interact with and use their devices. He gave me a mind boggling demo of how any surface can become a touchpad — and then turned into useful items such as a camera, keyboard or pen!
Who’s Alfred? I was testing my website prior to visiting Pittsburgh when I noticed that an Alfred Cralle popped up on a Google search ahead of me. 'Who’s Alfred?', I wondered. Alfred was born in Virginia in 1866, moving to Pittsburgh where he became an inventor and businessman following work as a porter in Markell Brothers Drugstore and the Charles Hotel, neither of which exist today. The coincidental connection with my planned trip was intriguing.
According to website info, Alfred noticed how difficult it was to scoop ice cream from tubs used to serve customers with this newly introduced novelty. His inventive solution was an “Ice Cream Mold and Disher” — a scoop with a sliding hinge to separate ice cream (and other foods) from the scoop. The first device was made of wood. Alfred patented the idea, although it never made him rich.
I feel that Alfred is not only an unsung hero for his invention, but also as a family member. I discovered that he was African-American whereas my ancestors trace their Anglo-Saxon roots back to the first permanent settlement in Virginia.
It’s likely that Alfred Cralle got his name from slave owners whose name was Cralle, although I don’t have records to prove that. However, I understand that the Cralles were wealthy enough to alternate dinner parties with a Mr. and Mrs. George and Martha Washington, so that scenario was quite possible.
I wanted to celebrate Alfred and ice cream while in Pittsburgh by visiting a preserved (even from the great flood of 1936) 1920’s pharmacy named Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor in the Strip District. There I met Maya Johnson who, upon hearing the story, posed for my camera with a classic Split and a nut crunch Sundae that she prepared for the shot. With people this friendly and ice cream this good, it’s no wonder Pittsburgh is famous for banana splits!
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© 2014 by Gary Crallé
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