Pittsburgh First Impressions

Having never been to Pittsburgh, I didn’t know what to expect.  With a name like Pittsburgh, you can’t really blame me for not thinking about it. Granted, it’s not Pittsburgh’s fault that it has its name. The same can be said for other towns like Hicksville, NY (Long Island.)  However, I knew that the National Trust hosted its annual conference here a few years ago and the American Planning Association is also here this year.  With so many conferences in this city, I figured that it must be promising.

Flying into Pittsburgh provided quite the sight: all of a sudden the skyline appeared surrounded by beautiful fall colors and three rivers converging.  Immediately I was excited for Pittsburgh and a new city to explore; it’s been a while since I traveled to a city (as small town as that makes me sound.)

Pittsburgh skyline from Station Square

Pittsburgh skyline from Station Square

Since the conference does not begin until bright and early tomorrow morning, my colleague and I had some time to explore on foot.  So far we have found Pittsburgh to be an extremely walkable city.  It’s small enough to spend an afternoon walking, but big enough that your feet hurt by the end. 

The architecture in Pittsburgh offers a view into many periods of history.  From the beautiful Romanesque architecture up to obvious examples of urban renewal, which hit Pittsburgh in the mid 20th century, examples span all of history.  Urban renewal, in brief, was a mid 20th century process of redeveloping urban land, which often involved the demolition of many city blocks and neighborhoods.  More complicated than that, it’s important to know that it reshaped cities across the United States, with mixed results. The contrast of historic and urban renewal in Pittsburgh is unmistakable, yet complimentary in a architectural thought provoking way. 

We strolled around looking at the architecture and found the classic Pittsburgh lunch at Primanti Bros. in Market Square.  Chalk this up to culture because a restaurant isn’t exactly historic preservation, save for the fact that the restaurant began in 1934.  Little did we know that a Primanti sandwich is served with fries and cole slaw ON the sandwich.  It was the biggest/tallest sandwich that we have ever seen and would not fit in a normal human’s mouth. I extricated the fries before eating the sandwich (Rajin’ Cajun, which was delicious.)

Rajin' Cajun Sandwich

Rajin' Cajun Sandwich


Afterwards we crossed the Sixth Street Bridge to see PNC Park, where the Pittsburgh Pirates play baseball.  

PNC Park

PNC Park

We continued on to the Andy Warhol Museum, which was recommended to us as a must-see.   We arrived with an hour and a half before the museum closed, which the guides told us was the “perfect” amount of time to spend in the museum.  The recommended visit begins in the introductory gallery and then heads to the seventh floor, from which you then head down to the sixth floor and so on.  We have all heard of Andy Warhol, but I never really knew much about him. The museum’s exhibits allowed for studying his artwork, reading about his life, or just perusing his artwork and related exhibits.

The walk to the Andy Warhol Museum

The walk to the Andy Warhol Museum

My favorite exhibit of Warhol’s artwork is called the Silver Clouds, which is on the fourth floor. The art is silver metallized plastic film pillow shaped balloons filled with helium that move about the room by the breeze created by fans.  Walking into art, almost living art, felt like walking into a playground in the sky. Of course, it’s all up for interpretation. It is truly something to see.

Pittsburgh is great. I’ve only seen a bit of it so far, and even with my tired feet, I like this city.  Walkable, diverse, friendly – I bet it just keeps getting better.  Tomorrow the oral history conference begins with a workshop in the morning. 


One thought on “Pittsburgh First Impressions

  1. pheh says:

    Glad you enjoyed walking around our fair city. If you get a chance (and have a way there), check out the Shadyside neighborhood. The architecture in the area is really interesting, and it’s also relatively close to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University (which also have some wonderful buildings — the nationality rooms in Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning are pretty interesting, and they offer tours).

    Be sure NOT to order your Primanti’s sandwich w/o fries in most of the “city” locations. You can get away with it in the suburban branches, but otherwise, they’ll just look at you funny and throw them on top anyway. LOL!

    Pittsburgh is really a city that you need a tour guide for, because about 80 percent of the really interesting and cool things about it are known only to the locals.

    And if you want a nifty treat, go to the Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville! It’s definitely an experience!

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