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Pittsburgh: America's Renaissance City

(July 2001)

Once cocooned in soot, this former "rustbelt" town is blossoming into a scenic river city with green parks and a skyline to die for. Yes, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood has never looked better. Pittsburgh is undergoing the final phase of a two billion dollar downtown development, adding two sports stadiums, a convention center, theaters, hotels, and shopping areas. These new arenas, along with the rebuilding of the old, are turning this old steel town into an attractive destination.

Around the Golden Triangle

The heart of downtown Pittsburgh, a vibrant ten-block district, is known as the "Golden Triangle." At the tip of the triangle sits Point State Park, a popular gathering place that offers stunning views of the city and rivers. By far, the highlight of the park is the dramatic 150-foot tall water fountain symbolizing the meeting of three major rivers, the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela. The 36-acre park is designated as a National Historic Landmark for the strategic role it played during the French and Indian War, when the French and British armies were fighting for control of the Ohio Valley.

Across from the park is the Gateway Center, a business and shopping center, and Stanwix Street, where all of the city's main streets lead. There are numerous boutique and specialty shops to browse, and at every turn, you'll see an interesting blend of old and new architecture. Of the newer buildings, PPG Place is the coolest looking building in town. Designed after England's Parliament building, PPG (Pittsburgh Plate Glass) is literally all about glass—built with one million square feet of reflective glass!

On some of the city's older buildings, there are reminders of the past. For example, at Penn Avenue Place, look up and see a plaque with a watermark to commemorate Pittsburgh's devastating 1936 flood—waters crested at 46.4 feet above flood stage, the highest in the city’s history. A few blocks away, the Trinity Cathedral offers a good example of what the soot from industry has done to the city's older buildings. On the church, one stone block was sandblasted to show what the air must have been like during the industrial age.

After Venice, Pittsburgh boasts the largest number of bridges in a city—720 within city limits. Both cities also have a "Bridge of Sighs," leading from the city's courthouse to a jail. If the Allegheny County Courthouse's gothic exterior looks "chillingly" familiar, it is because jail scenes for the movie Silence of the Lambs were filmed there.

Cultural District and Museums

When considering the great artistic centers of the world, Pittsburgh probably doesn't spring to mind. However, the philanthropy of the city's present and former business barons has created numerous cultural assets. For the performing arts, Pittsburgh's Cultural Arts District anchors the city's world-class symphony, opera, ballet, dance, and theater. Here is where many Pittsburghers and visitors gather. In fact, Pittsburgh's theaters sell more tickets than the Penguins, Pirates, and Steelers combined!

This part of town also boasts one of the best examples of Pittsburgh's commitment to historic building preservation and restoration. The historic Fulton Building underwent a $45 million transformation from office spaces and a nightclub to become one of the most stunning hotels anywhere, the new four-star Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel. Just to give you an idea how much restoration was done; the hotel was the largest copper restoration project in the eastern U.S. since the Statue of Liberty, and over 300 pounds of coal dust were removed from the building's domed rotunda.

Directly across the street from the hotel is the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which you can use to get to the new PNC Park to watch a Pittsburgh Pirate game, or to visit the world-renowned Andy Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh was Warhol's hometown, and the renovated warehouse built to commemorate his work holds more than 500 pieces of the artist's pop art. The Warhol Museum is one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, which also include the Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Carnegie Science Center. Other museums of note are the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, Frick Art and Historical Center, Mattress Factory (A Museum of Contemporary Art), and Pittsburgh Children's Museum.

Station Square & Mount Washington

For another great example of Pittsburgh's renovating spirit, stroll through the restored 19th century railroad station and warehouses now called Station Square. Browse around the eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and nightclubs that offer a great view of the city. From here, you can also take a boat ride on the Gateway Clipper Fleet of riverboats, which provide dining, dancing, and sightseeing.

No trip to Pittsburgh would be complete without taking an incline ride up to Mt. Washington. Across the street from Station Square, you can hop on the Duquesne Incline for the trip to the top. Inclines (part train, part elevator) are a unique answer to Pittsburgh's hilly topography and are as iconic as San Francisco's cable cars. The incline's cars are the oldest mass-transit vehicles with daily operation in America. At one time, Pittsburgh had about 15 inclines; today, only two remain.

Other Areas

Strip District

The Strip District is one area of the city that attracts young and old alike. This warehouse area houses an eclectic mix of ethnic food vendors and is where many Pittsburghers like to shop for fresh produce and other sundries. Many of the old warehouses have been renovated to accommodate bars, clubs, and restaurants, making it the hippest nightspot in town.

North Side

The North Side is host to many of the city's popular attractions, including the PNC Park, the Andy Warhol Museum, and some of the other museums mentioned before. Other attractions include Heinz Field, the new home of the Steelers, and the National Aviary, host to more than 500 exotic birds representing over 200 different species.


Oakland is home to three of Pittsburgh's thirty-three colleges, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and Carlow College. You'll also find the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History along with Phipps Conservatory's two-acre collection of different types of flora.

Pittsburgh is 90 minutes or less from 20 major U.S. cities by air, and is within easy reach of more than 70 percent of the nation's population. If you are looking for an authentic American city that's easy to reach, free of pretense, and full of world-class amenities, Pittsburgh is your place.

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