“Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy, and cannot be torn out.” – Andrew Carnegie
One of the most unexpected views in all of urban America: I-376 in western Pennsylvania. As the farmland gives way to suburban strip malls, the past an airport, the highway winds toward the hills which ultimately leads into the Fort Pitt Tunnel. On the other side, still a shock to many who’ve seen it more than once, lies the skyline of one of country’s most underrated cities, Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh has relied for much of its existence on the lasting maxim of real estate: location, location, location. At the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, the city’s downtown compacts into what locales refer to as “The Golden Triangle”. The settlement grew to fame during the French and Indian War, as a young British solider named George Washington realized the strategic importance the French had by controlling Fort Duquesne, which was located on what is today Point State Park in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Ultimately, the Pittsburgh region fell into British, and then American hands, becoming the western urban anchor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At the height of the American Industrial Revolution, the name Carnegie became synonymous with the economic boom that put Pittsburgh firmly on the map. The Bessemer process of producing steel – one of the most important innovations of the last millennium – was put to use as Andrew Carnegie helped to make Pittsburgh the capital of steel production. However, by the 1970s and 80s, Pittsburgh saw a collapse in its steel industry, and the city’s growth quickly stalled.
The city built from steel, however, has reemerged over the past few decades as a center of “Eds and Meds” – as it capitalized on its several research institutions, including the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie-Mellon University. The city’s dense neighborhood and unique topography have also spurred grassroots reinvestment and increased civic pride. That civic pride is only amplified from the legions of fans of the city’s three professional sports teams as well as the dozens of museums and galleries add to the city’s cultural fingerprint.