RBC Buffalo Meetup: Recap!

RBC Buffalo Meetup: Recap!

Party

By Mike Panzitta – Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh

Hey everyone! Did you miss the RBCoYP meetup last month in Buffalo and want to know exactly how many tears you should cry in sorrow? Were you there and you really want to relive the memories? Are you some kind of deep-pocketed philanthropist who is looking for a group of really awesome, fun-having, excited preservationists with a regional organization to fund? Well, come join me and I’ll run down just what we did. July’s meetup brought preservationists from the Rust Belt to New England (and even some Canadians) to Buffalo to live some of the Queen City’s amazing history!

Friday

Friday was just great. As people trickled in, the RBC group started by exploring the Curtiss Malting Building, which is currently housing a fantastic art installation. We chatted about future uses of the building before snagging a great picture with Buffalo’s awesome flag!

BUFFALOVE! #rustbelttakeover #agway #vacantspaces

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And we were off! our next stop was at the Pop In, where we had our official kickoff party. Everyone was showing their Buffalove as we caught up with all our preservationist friends, drinking local beer and eating pizza and (of course) buffalo wings.

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Julia, Liz, and Andrea showing their Buffalove. (Photo credit Andrea Kern)

Saturday

Saturday started early at Silo City, which was in my opinion the best part of the weekend. Like, seriously, if you’re in Buffalo and have the opportunity, CHECK OUT SILO CITY!

 

Silo City is the largest collection of grain elevators on our fair planet of Earth, and it does not disappoint. From the art installations inside the elevators to their connection to the history of Buffalo, they really were amazing. I want to go back just to kayak the canal and see them from the water. Oh, we also (of course) busted out our This Place Matters flags and got a pic:

Saturday continued with some downtime in Larkinville, a really cool section of town with amazing restored and repurposed buildings, some old industrial facilities, and the smallest nano-putt-putt course in the Rust Belt. They have a Preservation- themed hole, so obviously we all played a round (in between beers and taco truck runs).

BYP designed this heart bomb putt putt stop inside Larkin Links! #rustbelttakeover #buffalo #buffalove

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We then headed downtown, to see some of Buffalo’s most famous buildings. From the Guaranty Building to City Hall, each place had a fantastic story, told to us by our impressively-knowledgeable guides.

 

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The ceiling inside the Guaranty Building. Almost as impressive as the building’s exterior. (Photo credit: Andrea Kern)

After a packed Saturday like this, you’d have thought we’d have just gone right to sleep, right? Wrong! We were too excited for that, so we headed to Resurgence Brewing to celebrate our very own Bernice Radle’s 30th birthday!

Sunday

Though all of us wept Sunday due to our imminent departures, we did find the time to tours the Richardson-Olmsted Complex, which was really something else.

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Caitlin, Brad, and Sarah about to enter the Richardson-Olmsted. There were, as you can see, many varying emotions that day. (Photo credit: Sarah Marsom)

The H.H. Richardson-designed buildings and Frederick Olmsted-designed grounds were a gigantic mental health facility built in the late 1800s and are now being restored to use as hotel and conference space. Going through the buildings in their various states of restoration, disrepair, and partial reconstruction really told the story of this fantastic place.

Richardson Complex Tour!!!! #rustbelttakeover #Buffalove #buffalo

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Some people did some stuff after that, but I don’t care about that, since I am a child and I had to head out after the Olmsted Tour.

So that was our Buffalo weekend! We’re really disappointed if you had to miss it, but don’t fret! There are plenty more opportunities to hang out with us! Our next meetup will be in another “Queen City,” Cincinnati, Ohio, in October. So save the date, set your watch, and retune your astrolabes to make sure you get to southwest Ohio for our next meetup. I don’t want to spoil too much, but some of the ingredients so far in our planning stew include preservation-themed beer, streetcar tours, hashtag contests, spaghetti with chili on it (god forbid), manholes, subterranean exploration, bicycles, a continuation of RBC’s love of urban staircases, and (of course) granola. See you there!

Be there or be 🔲 #rustbelttakeover #cincinnati #youngohiopreservationist

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What We’ve Got Going on in the Near Future, Pittsburgh Edition

What We’ve Got Going on in the Near Future, Pittsburgh Edition

By Mike PanzittaYoung Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh (above image photo credit Emily Pumm)

I was originally going to call this “What We’re Planning to Focus on this Year” but 2016 is already half over! Happy July! I wanted to give a quick rundown of what YPA has planned in the upcoming months to give a quick update to you, all my fantastic Rust-Belt-y friends.

Happy Hour with Carrie

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This is Tour Guide Jim pointing out how awesome he and Tour Guide Tom are. (T.G.T. probably pictured in background Also in background: BIG ASS MACHINERY!) Photo Credit Emily Pumm

As you know if you came to Pittsburgh for our RBC April Summit, we love our industrial history out here in Southwest PA, and the Carrie Blast Furnace site is a prime example of how artists and preservation advocates can come together to create something you really can’t find anywhere else.

Carrie Furnace from the other side of the river. Memories of Tom… #RustBeltTakeover #ThisPlaceMatters #ThisKeystoneMatters

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If you went on the Carrie Furnace Tour in April, this is pretty much the same thing…except imagine after touring a real life going out for beers at a local brewery with your tour guide afterwards! Yeah. Sounds pretty great. This is our second year of partnering with Rivers of Steel for this event, and it promises to be amazing. I missed it last year and cannot wait!

Check out our event page for more info!

Open Streets at the Pedestrian Bridge

So many puns…so little time. Happy Valentines Day from YPA! #ypaheartbombs #ypatop10

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As an engineer and infrastructure nerd, I love infrastructure. And as a North Sider, I love the North Side. What kind of sandwich do you get when you smoosh those two loves together with some preservation mayo? You get the Allegheny Commons Pedestrian Bridge (and a really stretched metaphor).

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Lake Elizabeth in the way-back-times. The Pedestrian Bridge is way back in the left background. (Photo credit: Someone who’s definitely dead now)

The Pedestrian Bridge, which was one of our heart bomb sites last year, used to be an important connection over a rail line that runs through the park. Sadly, the deck has been removed so freight can be double-stacked on rail cars. And as much as I love train infrastructure, pedestrians come first. So we’ve been working with City Government and a couple of the local Foundations to rebuild this connection!

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What the bridge looks like now…

One of the ideas we “borrowed” from BYP is the concept of “Painting for Preservation,” an all-ages event where people are encouraged to sketch, paint, photograph, sculpt, compose music about, dance on, just in general Art a Preservation-ready site. And this time, we’re going to be a part of OpenStreets PGH, a program put on by BikePGH where they close down a bunch of roads to car traffic and people are encouraged to do…whatever they want during it! So if you’re free July 31, come say hi and hang with us! We’ll be right around the star on this map.

Dormont Pool Party!

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The Dormont Pool, pre-restoration.

Who says preservation can’t be fun and relaxing? We’re planning on celebrating one of our proudest preservation victories with a pool party August 20 at the Dormont Pool, one of the largest and oldest public pools in the state. The pool was in continuous operation from the ’20s until around 2006, when upkeep and repair costs caused it to close indefinitely. YPA put it on its 2008 Top Ten Preservation Opportunities list, and since then, the pool has reopened, back and better than ever!

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Dormont Pool today. (Photo credit: Friends of Dormont Pool)

We plan to chill, read, swim, play board games (this may just be wishful thinking on my part), and just have a good time to celebrate the summer and the pool itself. Grab your suits and join us! Read more about the event at its Facebook page. And check out Friends of Dormont Pool for more information and history!

Well, that’s the events YPA Pittsburgh has coming up in the next couple months. As always, we’ll be advocating and educating people about preservation issues in Southwest PA, but these are a couple of the “special” get-togethers we have planned. See you there!

Pittsburgh Brews on Tues: #LoveYourHD Edition

Pittsburgh Brews on Tues: #LoveYourHD Edition

By Mike Panzitta Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh

We love our historic districts for so many reasons, from their unrivaled architecture to their well-established communities to their human-scale intimacy. But there’s another thing we here at the Rust Belt Coalition love about our historic neighborhoods: the blue-collar tradition of the local tavern. And we feel that here in the Rust Belt more than any other region, the unpretentiousness, sense of community, and ubiquity of the neighborhood bars allow them to be meeting places welcoming to everyone.

Pittsburgh, as an old mill town, has no shortage of these taverns where you’d feel just as comfortable ordering a West Coast fancy beer as an Imp ‘n’ Ahrn. We’re going to look at a couple bars in Historic Deutschtown in Pittsburgh’s North Side that are upholding this great tradition.

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A cool dude across the street from the Park House in 1947. Photo credit: Park House

 

The Park House is a Pittsburgh institution, and for good reason. Housed in an 1890s-era storefront in the main business district of Deutschtown, the bar has been continuously operating since the end of Prohibition. Though its narrow footprint makes for tough navigating when it’s packed, the small size of the bar lends to its local feel. And the place does get packed – One of the most well-known Park House tradition is the free bluegrass Wednesday with the Shelf Life String Band, which fills the bar each week.

Plus, Park House always has free popcorn and peanuts, which is awesome.

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One of my favorite things about Max’s are the amazing stained glass light fixtures throughout the bar. Photo credit: Max’s Allegheny Tavern

 

Max’s Allegheny Tavern puts the “Deutsch” in Deutschtown (and I can’t believe I just wrote that). Its German menu is well known in the city, and at least I can attest that their potato pancake reuben is out of this world. Max’s, with significantly more space than the Park House, has a more relaxed, sit-down vibe, and it’s definitely more of a bar/restaurant feel. But that doesn’t make it any less cozy or intimate…wooden booths, gorgeous stained glass light fixtures, and a working player piano give the tavern a welcoming and historic feel. Order their German beer sampler flight and you can’t help but think of the German immigrants who built the North Side and gave it that distinct feel you can’t find anywhere else in the city.

ACBrewing

Allegheny City Brewing is one of the newest businesses putting up shop in Deutschtown. A brand-new brewery from a few Pittsburghers who spent some time in Colorado, ACB looks to have the potential (from the couple times I’ve been in their shop for tastings) to be a new anchor institution in the North Side. Their beer list is incredibly extensive and they have a real connection with the neighborhood and its history. They’re looking to open within a month or so, so keep an eye out!

The Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists loves beer. And we (obviously) love historic districts. So you can imagine how excited we get when a historic district has a robust bar scene like Deutschtown in Pittsburgh. Be sure to hit us up next time you’re in town – we’ll show you around the neighborhood!

#LoveYourHD: Pittsburgh

#LoveYourHD: Pittsburgh

By Mike PanzittaYoung Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh

Though we don’t have the same urgency of potential threats to our local historic districts and landmarks as seen recently in Michigan and Wisconsin, Pittsburgh residents have to navigate through some legal hurdles to push for preservation in our neighborhoods. Whether it’s the City Code, zoning restrictions, or other obstructions, sometimes YPA has a great plan to save a site, only to be stymied by legal issues.

An interesting example of such legal issues is the Albright United Methodist Church. Some of you came by to snap a photo the Sunday of the RBCoYP Pittsburgh Summit…ugh, Ok, let me figure out how to embed Instagram photos…Ok, here it is:

The Albright Church and its congregation has a rich history that is inextricably tied with Pittsburgh’s own  – a great summary can be found here. The congregation formed in 1843 and is one of the oldest continuously worshiping religious groups in the city, having moved from the heart of Downtown during the early 20th century to the then-developing East End as the city expanded. The congregation worshiped in the building at Centre and South Graham for over one hundred years.

Sadly, a mold issue in 2013 forced the Albright Community to stop using the structure, and a developer has struck a deal with the Western Pennsylvania United Methodist Conference to demolish the historic church and construct a suburban-style, single-story commercial building with parking lot and drive-through in its place. When we heard about this story and plan, YPA decided to work with the nonprofit Friends of Albright to save the building from threat of immediate demolition by supporting a city historic designation.

The only wrench in the works is – and I’m gonna get a little into potential “boring” territory here – City of Pittsburgh Code, Section 1101.03, which says that religious structures must be nominated for historic designation by their owners. Friends of Albright has used the fact that the Western PA Methodist Conference has been on record that the structure, as it is no longer used for religious worship, isn’t a religious structure, and the statute doesn’t apply. Regardless, after the city Historic Review Commission recommended it for Historic Designation, the Methodist Conference decided to sue the city, Friends of Albright, and a few local residents.

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Albright United Methodist – A beautiful church on a beautiful day. Photo credit: Adam Sellers

 

Nevertheless, the push for historic designation moved ahead, and yesterday (May 3) afternoon, the City Planning Commission voted unanimously to back the designation. The next step, then, is City Council, and if they have no objections, Albright will be a city Historic Structure (yay!). Aaaaaaand then the lawsuit will likely commence (boo!).

So we at YPA don’t know what will come of the suit or the city code that impedes citizens from nominating religious structures to historic designation. But we plan to back the Congregation and Friends of Albright through the mess and prevent this gorgeous and historic structure from being replaced with drive-through, suburban-style “development.” I hope you all are interested in following the push for historic designation! We’ll be posting about it on the RBCoYP Facebook page, and follow Friends of Albright on their website.

Plans for Pittsburgh – 2016

Plans for Pittsburgh – 2016

By Chris Driscoll – Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh

2016 is looking to be an exciting year for YPA of Pittsburgh with a number of projects and initiatives both in the pipeline and coming to fruition. First, it’s the City of Pittsburgh’s 200th anniversary, and YPA has been invited by the City to take part in it! We are planning to make YPA’s annual Top 10 Preservation Opportunities of Southwest PA list and release party bigger than ever as one of a number of celebratory events throughout the city this year. The Top Ten is an annual list of threatened sites in Pittsburgh and the greater region that are nominated by the general public and selected by YPA as a good opportunity for preservation and reuse. The list helps form our advocacy and events in the upcoming year (and beyond).

Perhaps more importantly, we’re confident we’ll see one or more of the previous years’ Top 10 sites saved and/or repurposed. With our recent opportunity to hire an Executive Director, Matthew Craig, we’ve had the opportunity to have someone working full-time researching, organizing, and bringing together people from the City to Community Development Groups to investors to figure out sustainable ways to save historic structures. Simultaneously, our board and members have been taking a ground-up approach, using events from bike rides to (everyone’s favorite) heart bombs to get people interested in historic preservation in their neighborhoods and city. We are so excited to be able to fight on both these fronts, and we are being recognized as a legitimate player in the Pittsburgh preservation scene.

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The Old Stone Tavern in West End, a 2015 Top Ten site and one of the oldest buildings in Pittsburgh!

 

We have so many great events and programming planned for 2016. In addition to mainstays like the Top Ten Event and Painting for Preservation, we have two very exciting projects in the works. First, we will be hosting a roundtable event on saving sacred places to discuss ways to address the growing crisis of historic churches finding their way towards a wrecking ball. We are looking for stories of successes, failures, and lessons learned from both Southwest PA and other regions, and we plan to webcast the event, as we know this is not an issue limited to Pittsburgh. If you’re interested in getting in on the conversation, we’d love to talk about it at the summit in April, so grab a YPA member and start the discussion! Second, we are working on a grant to work with local elementary school students to record and edit (with the help of a local historian) a guided tour of one of the neighborhoods in the city. Our goal is to help the kids learn about both neighborhood history and recording and editing, and end up with a podcast that can serve as a template for future tours in other neighborhoods. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to work with elementary- to middle-school students, as we believe anyone of any age can be a young preservationist!

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We heart bombed the Crawford Grill with a group of high schools students through the Student Conservation Association.

 

Lastly, we look forward to hosting everyone in April. We hope that you will enjoy experiencing our city, making some new friends and sharing ideas on how we can all work to preserve our past for the future, and I’m excited to meet you all, especially at the opening kickoff at the Inn on the Mexican War Streets. I’m eager to talk to all the regional preservation groups about the other side of these organizations: administration. I know we’re all excited to talk about buildings and people and neighborhoods and preservation, but we all need to worry about things like financials, grant-writing, and membership engagement, and it’ll be interesting to discuss the similarities and differences in the ways our organizations have approached them.

One reason I’m particularly excited to meet everybody in April is that the majority of our board are not Pittsburgh natives, which I believe speaks highly of the way the city and region resonates with us and the renewed passion for preservation in Pittsburgh. We are excited to inspire even more people in Southwest PA to share our passion and we look forward to learning about the ways you’ve inspired preservationists in your cities. See you soon!

Steel City Boozin’

Steel City Boozin’

By Mike PanzittaYoung Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh

Most American cities that grew from a strong manufacturing economy have a long tradition of beer drinking and local taverns, and Pittsburgh is no exception. Pittsburgh may not boast a 4 am closing time (whatever, Buffalo), a brewery in a jail (have fun with that, Indiana), or have underground brewery tours (ok great, Ohio), but we did earn the title of  highest number of bars per capita of any city in the US in 2014! The brewing scene is only growing stronger (And bonus points if you get the Game of Thrones reference).

Now, since this Coalition (and by extension, this blog) is focused on historic preservation, we’re going to stick to that topic. So whether it’s adaptive reuse of a historic structure or incorporating the neighborhood’s history into a brand, Pittsburghers take their history – and their booze – very seriously.

War Streets Brewery

War Streets Brewery

One of the most exciting developments in the ‘Burgh’s beer scene, especially to Northsiders, is the soon-to-open War Streets Brewery. Housed in a 138-year-old firehouse in the historic Mexican War Streets neighborhood, the brewery is a phenomenal reuse of a vacant structure that will be a great addition to a dense, walkable neighborhood.

The War Streets Brewery, sadly, isn’t slated to open until Spring. But since we’re so very charismatic, we’ve conned convinced the owners to let us in for a sneak peek of their building and beer during the April meeting of the Rust Belt Coalition in Pittsburgh.

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Some of the offerings at Arsenal. (Photo courtesy of Arsenal Cider House)

Arsenal Cider House

The Arsenal Cider House is another Pittsburgh institution that jumped from nothing to huge success in the seven years they’ve been in business. Arsenal, which operates out of a Victorian rowhouse in the Lawrenceville neighborhood, quickly grew from an unknown growler-fill-only operation to being tapped all through the city.

Why “Arsenal,” you might ask? Fun fact – Pittsburgh was a major supplier of munitions during the Civil War, and the enormous Allegheny Arsenal was the epicenter of it all. It was on the plot where Arsenal Park now resides, and you may be wondering where it is. Well, in 1862, it exploded. Boom. Gone. True story – look it up. There’s only a few original buildings still standing, but in that area there are many buildings and businesses named after the Arsenal, and the Cider House is one of the newest to honor the neighborhood’s history.

Seriously. Look it up.

Spring Hill Brewing

Not to return to the Northside, but we’re going to return to the Northside. Up in Spring Hill, a hundred-year-old social hall and nursery are going to be transformed into a self-contained farm-style brewery. At the site of the old Workingmens’ Beneficial Union Hall (which is a fantastic name…I can’t get over it), beer and grub grown, brewed, and cooked on-site will be served at Spring Hill Brewing.

There’s not a huge amount of info out there about this project yet, but it’s supposed to be up and running in the fall. Check out this article for a pretty good breakdown of the concept behind the project and where the founders envision it going. We’re excited!

Well, that’s just a sampling of some of the businesses in the Steel City getting in on the small-scale, local alcohol boom we’re finding ourselves in. And luckily for us preservationists, the owners of the breweries, distilleries, and cider houses in Pittsburgh tend to have a respect for and interest in our local history and preserving our buildings and neighborhoods.

We’ll definitely be showing more alcohol-related preservation successes during the Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists meetup in April. And get excited – local brews from throughout the Rust Belt will be the centerpiece of our reception on Friday! We’re encouraging everyone to bring a six pack of beers from their respective metro to see who brews the best booze. See you then!

A Beginner’s Guide to Pittsburgh, Part 1

By Mike Panzitta – Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh

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So you want to learn a little about Pittsburgh before you make your big journey to the first meeting of the Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists in April? I don’t blame you…the City of Steel can be intimidating for a first- (or even fortieth-) time visitor. There are formidable obstacles like rivers, bridges, and tunnels, and more neighborhoods with the word “hill” in them than you can shake a fist at. Let’s start with two of the basics: Rivers and Neighborhoods.

Rivers

Pittsburgh is defined by its rivers. Our rivers are the reason Pittsburgh was able to grow from Fort Pitt in the mid-18th century to an industrial giant in the mid-20th century, and they shape a singular topography that confuses even the most geographically-inclined residents. There are three of them, so repeat after me – Allegheny (“al-uh-GEY-nee”), Monongahela (“muh-non-guh-HEEL-uh”), and Ohio (“Ohio”).

Hydrologically, the Monongahela (colloquially known as “the Mon”) flows into the Allegheny to form the Ohio. If you want to know more about the rivers, ask me (Mike)…I’ll bore you to death with both fun and less-than-fun facts.

Vocab word of the day: “Confluence.” It’s the meeting of two or more bodies of water. In Pittsburgh, we call our confluence “The Point,” and it’s the home of Point State Park. Point State Park was the site of two of Pittsburgh’s original structures – Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne – and was declared a National Historic Landmark just one year after the Park was built in 1974. It’s also home to a much-loved and recently renovated fountain, the marketing campaign for which is one of our favorites (“If there is no fountain, what’s The Point?”).  Fun fact – one of the alternate plans for the park was designed by some guy who went by the name Frank Lloyd Wright. The plan was rejected by the city…sorry, Frank!

Neighborhoods

This section title is a bit misleading since there are something like 92 neighborhoods in Pittsburgh city-proper, and even some of those are questionable (I’m looking at you, Hays). But I’ll run you through a few of the areas you’d expect to encounter on this visit so you can act as cool as an old pro.

The Golden Triangle is what we call Downtown (pronounced “Dahn-tahn”). It’s sandwiched between the Allegheny and the Mon, which determined the original triangular street grid of the city. It’s home to incredible architecture, and is currently experiencing a boom in residential occupancy like many downtown areas across the country. The tip of the Golden Triangle is the Point!

The North Side is what we call pretty much all the neighborhoods north of the Allegheny. Formerly a separate entity known as Allegheny City, it was annexed by the City of Pittsburgh in 1907 (think: Brooklyn). The North Side has an abundance of historic buildings and neighborhoods. It’s where most of you will be staying, so you’ll get to know it really well!

Mount Washington, formerly “Coal Hill,” is technically not a mountain. It’s at the elevation the land was at before the rivers came through and made it really tough to bike around, probably on purpose. If you look at a photo of Downtown Pittsburgh, there’s like an 86% chance it was taken from Mount Washington. The riverside slopes of Mount Washington are also home to these funky things called “inclines” that take you directly from the waterfront to the top of the mountain, which will afford you one of the best-known views of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas (more on what inclines are and why they exist in future posts).

The South Side is sandwiched between Mount Washington and the Monongahela and is known for a crazy high concentration of bars and restaurants. It’s a pretty common place for newly-minted 21-year-olds to go out, but there’s a lot of great less-frequented places, and the residential section is full of beautiful intact sets of historic row houses. Our row houses are one of our pride and joys! The South Side Slopes, though they sound like a ski resort, also have some of the best views of the city.

The East End lies…wait for it…east of downtown and is home to probably the greatest variety of neighborhoods. Oakland, the Hill District, Lawrenceville, and East Liberty are all prominent neighborhoods in the East End, some of which are experiencing a lot of gentrification. YPA has advocated to preserve more and more sites in the East End in recent years, and we have also seen some great examples of adaptive reuse (such as the Union Project) and some disappointing demolitions (like 6012-6018 Penn Ave).

Well, that’s enough to digest for now. See you next time, when I cover the Inclines and City Steps!