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Notes on the Geography of The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh

Funny thing about demographics. Pittsburgh is shrinking: between 1990 and 2000, it lost 35,000 people, about 10 percent of its total population. In the decade after that, it lost almost as many. Yet walking around downtown, you'd never know it.

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The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 1

Looking west, toward the Westend Bridge (U.S. 19), which crosses the newly hatched Ohio River. The Monongahela is visible at the left; the Allegheny has to be imagined, just to the right of the Point Fountain.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 2

Periodically, the fountain erupts in the breeze. The view here is from the other side, looking east, toward the city center.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 3

The Point State Park is not very welcoming.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 4

Here we're walking upstream along the last few hundred feet of the Allegheny River. Can you feel the vibration from the traffic on the Fort Duquesne Bridge?

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 5

Better to arrive by train. Here, almost a mile to the east of the last picture, is the entrance to the old Pennsylvania Railroad station. It was designed by none other than Daniel "Make no little plans" Burnham. The Pennsylvania Railroad is gone, however, and passengers catching the Amtrak train go in from a side entrance, out and around the left corner here. Hold your breath.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 6

Can you imagine what Burnham would say?

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 7

We can wander around downtown.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 8

Not every tower is so anonymous. Here's the USX Tower, formerly the United States Steel Tower, which sounds a lot better, except that steel suggests the Old Economy. No matter: the architects (Harrison Abramovitz and Abbe, 1970) made sure to put plenty of steel on the facade.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 9

PPG, known until 1968 as Pittsburgh Plate Glass Industries, used plenty of glass in its headquarters building, completed in 1984 and designed by John Burgee and Philip Johnson.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 10

You'd think there'd be signs warning off kids on skateboards.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 11

Talk about gravitas: here's H.H. Richardson's Allegheny County Court House.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 12

The tower from the courtyard.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 13

Just inside the north entrance.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 14

Dentils up top are the only indulgence of this warehouse in the Strip District along the Allegheny.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 15

A cathedral of commerce, on the other hands, needs to look the part. Here's Pittsburgh's premier department store, Kaufmann's, designed by Benno Janssen and Franklin Abbot and completed in 1913. It's become a Macy's; Kaufman himself is also known as the patron for whom Frank Lloyd Wright built Fallingwater.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 16

The store's medieval attic.

The Eastern United States: Pittsburgh picture 17

Speaking of cathedrals: here's the University of Pittsburgh's modestly named "Cathedral of Learning."  Pray for a "B" but settle for a "C."


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