The City of Bridges: Pittsburgh

The view of the city from Mt. Washington

I lived in Pittsburgh from August 1984 – June 1985. I moved there because my first husband had the Steelers beat for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It was the first time I had ever lived in a big city. I loved it! I’m doing some training in Pittsburgh this week, so I thought I might share some of the facts of the city with you. It is really a lovely place and has an interesting history. In the last decade, it has been consistently ranked among America’s Most Livable Cities. Pittsburgh sits at the intersection of three rivers:

  • Allegheny River
  • Monongahela River
  • Ohio River

The cleanup of the rivers is an interesting story unto itself. But, I’ll focus a bit on the city here in this blog. Read this story if you want to know more about the greening of the Pittsburgh rivers.

In the early part of the 20th Century, Pittsburgh was a steel manufacturing city. I had some relatives who lived here, and my Uncle told me that you couldn’t wear white shirts downtown because they would be gray by the end of the day. The pollution and ash would be all over you. In the 1970s and 1980s, the steel industry went overseas, and Pittsburgh faltered. I moved there in 1984, so the city and its people were in the middle of that struggle. I remember talking to several people whose husbands had been out of work for years. The economy was depressed. There was a major effort at that time to retrain steel workers to be technology workers. The city visionaries wanted to make Pittsburgh a technology capital. Today, that dream has been realized. Google, Apple, Microsoft and numerous other technology leaders have offices here.

FedEx Office in Moon Township

I came here to train some IT Managers from FedEx Services. The headquarters of FedEx Ground is located in Moon Township, PA, right outside of Pittsburgh. It’s a beautiful facility and houses about 5,000 workers. It is constructed of glass and steel. Large, open areas take advantage of an abundance of outdoor light. The feeling is one of spaciousness and modern design. FedEx has found a place in Pittsburgh’s economy. The Great Hall at Heinz Stadium (the new stadium built when Three Rivers Stadium was demolished) was named The FedEx Great Hall just last week. The FedEx employees here were pretty proud of that.

Pittsburgh is a big sports town now and in 1984. The Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins are the big professional teams locally. All of the stadiums sit in the midst of the downtown area. The city is nicknamed the “City of Bridges”. Legend has it that there are more bridges in the city than any other city in the world. At last count, there were 76 bridges in the city limits. Wikipedia has information on Pittsburgh’s bridges if you are interested.  It is truly beautiful. I remember seeing icebergs for the first time floating in the rivers in Pittsburgh. That was pretty impressive for a Louisiana girl who was lucky to see a large mud puddle freeze over in the winter. I was astounded that rivers could freeze.

My first wedding was here.  Our small wedding party had a celebration dinner at The Le Mont’ Restaurant on the side of Mt. Washington that overlooks the city of Pittsburgh. I remember it being a fabulous view and a very wonderful and romantic evening. For a young 23 year old hick from Louisiana, it was pretty impressive. I was on top of the world, literally.

One of my favorite places to eat here was Vincent’s Pizza Park. We called the pizzas Vinnie’s Pies. OMG…that was the best pizza ever. I’m sorry, Chicago pizza fans, Vinnie’s beats you hands down. But, I’d love to have them side by side and judge a contest between the two. I remember going there with another couple we knew and stuffing ourselves with Vinnie’s Pies. I thought about finding the store tonight, but, apparently Vincent’s Pizza Park abruptly closed its doors in May of this year. Dang….I guess I’ll just have to remember it.

Heinz Stadium

Some of my favorite movies were filmed in Pittsburgh. Groundhog Day with Bill Murray was filmed in the city and in a small town outside of Pittsburgh. The Deer Hunter was filmed here and, of course, Flashdance. Locals here told me that Pittsburgh is a big film location now. The Dark Knight Rises is one of the more recent big name movies shot in the City of Bridges.

Famous foods that started in Pittsburgh are Clark Bars, Klondike Bars and Heinz Ketchup. The owner of Heinz, Henry Heinz, bought all of the products of a local competitor and sank them in the Allegheny River in the 1880’s. Clark Bars were started in 1886 on the North Side of town. Klondike bars came from a local grocer named Isaly’s.

I loved Pittsburgh. Maybe it was because of the excitement in my life when I lived there. Maybe it was because of the city itself. It could have been because of the rolling hills and the four seasons that were new experiences for this southern girl. Whatever it was, I loved it and have fond memories of this city. Maybe you can visit here someday to see if you would enjoy it, too.

Information on visiting Pittsburgh:

Imagine Pittsburgh

4 Comments on “The City of Bridges: Pittsburgh

  1. One of my favorite travel memories is the first time that I visited Pittsburgh. I’d flown in so I came into town through the tunnel, with no idea what I’d see as we exited it. Imagine my delighted, mouth-open surprise when I saw the city spread out before me as we crossed the bridge. A WOW moment, for sure.

    I, too, have found memories of Pittsburgh sports. Have been a Steelers fan from the days of Mean Joe Green (his Coke ad remains an all-time favorite), and during one of my business trips to PIT, I was able to attend a Pirates game, eating first in the stadium club and then sitting in box seats behind home plate. Heaven! (and courtesy of a FedEx Board member who lived PIT…we were there for a Board meeting.)

    • Oh, I meant to include that description of coming through the tunnel. That’s one of my best memories of my first trip there. You’re right! It’s a WOW moment!

  2. Thank you for remembering Pittsburgh so kindly. We like to think a lot has changed since you lived here, but our spirit stays the same! Once a Pittsburgher, always a Pittsburgher, welcome home, we hope you enjoyed your visit!

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