A Sneak Peak into the RBC PGH Summit
By Mike Panzitta – Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh
Not familiar with the Steel City, but want to have a voice in what we do in April at the first meeting of the Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists? Here’s a quick breakdown of potential activities we’ve pulled together so you can make an informed vote about what you want to see most! When you’re done reading, take our quick survey and weigh in on the itinerary!
Downtown to Mt Washington Bike Tour
Downtown. Central Business District. Golden Triangle. Whatever you want to call it, it’s the economic hub of the region and the historic location of Fort Pitt and the town that would grow up to be Pittsburgh. While modern skyscrapers might catch your eye, there are plenty of historic sites to check out. Flat and very bikeable, we can cover a lot of ground on two wheels. Mount Washington is right across the Monongahela from Downtown and offers fantastic views of the city and its rivers. We’ll pick up bikeshare bikes from the Northside, head over to tour Downtown, drop off the bikes, and then take the incline up to Mount Washington. What’s an incline? It’s an awesome little trolley that runs up the side of the mountain, and a great way to get up to the summit.
Pittsburgh City Steps Urban Hike (Location to Be Determined)
Pittsburgh is one of the hilliest cities in the United States, and boasts both the steepest public street and the most public steps in the country (eat your heart out, San Francisco). Some hillsides are so steep that there aren’t formal streets: the steps are considered the street itself, and the houses are only accessible from the city steps! We’re planning to go on an urban hike up and down the city steps, taking in vistas that rival Mount Washington and talking about the topography that created Pittsburgh’s many neighborhoods. The City Steps were a YPA Top Ten Preservation Opportunity in 2015, so this is an activity near and dear to our hearts.
“Crossroads of the World”: Hill District Foot Tour
Just east of Downtown, the Hill District is one of the most storied areas of the city. Before some disastrous urban planning mistakes devastated the neighborhood, it was home to a thriving, vibrant middle-class African-American community, among other diverse ethnic and racial groups. From jazz musicians to photographers to playwrights, the Hill provided a cultural melting pot where artistic genius was fostered. However, redevelopment threatens many culturally important sites throughout the Hill. Local historian Terri Baltimore has offered to accompany us on a walking tour through the neighborhood highlighting and telling stories about the buildings and (more importantly) the people of “Little Harlem.”
Blue-Collar to Brooklyn: Lawrenceville Foot Tour
Lawrenceville is one of those things that gets mentioned all the time in any national press about Pittsburgh (right after they talk about the french fry sandwich thing…), and for good reason. In a very short time, it has transformed from a working-class neighborhood during steel’s heyday, to a disinvested section of town after the mills moved out, to the “it” area of the 21st century, while preserving almost all of its historic architecture. Butler Street, its main drag, is full of boutiques, bars, and popular restaurants while supporting antique brick rows behind. Lawrenceville is a living example of the active urban transitions happening in Pittsburgh.
Vacant not Blighted: Wilkinsburg Foot Tour
Wilkinsburg is the definition of a community with “good bones.” The architecture in this borough just outside the City of Pittsburgh is phenomenal, especially in its business district. Served by the city’s East Busway and bordering some great Pittsburgh neighborhoods, it is in a prime location. But Wilkinsburg has seen tough times recently. Lack of a sufficient tax base has caused it to begin sharing services with the city. But there is hope – young artists and artisans have been moving into the area to start up businesses and buy their own homes, and a “Vacant House Tour” highlighted properties which, with some work, could make for fantastic homes. We’re going to take the Busway out and explore this borough with a bright future.
Carrie Furnace Tour
The Carrie Blast Furnace is one of the few still-standing furnaces from the days of Big Steel. Part of the Homestead Steel Works (of Homestead Strike Fame), it was one of the largest mills in the United States and part of Andrew Carnegie’s steel empire. We got a slot reserved for us to go on a tour of the site, led by a Rivers of Steel tour guide. This activity is $15/person.
Rust Belt Capitol: A Stop in Braddock, PA
After the Carrie Furnace Tour, we’ll be hanging out in nearby Braddock, a steel town that has lost 90% of its population from its peak. A neighborhood on its way back, it has amazing history, fantastic buildings, and a really cool mayor. We’re going to check out some of the sites in this great borough until you decide to head home.