Our home base for the weekend will be Pittsburgh’s Northside, specifically the neighborhoods of Manchester, the Mexican War Streets, and East Deutschtown. Check out the yellow markers on the map in A Beginner’s Guide to Pittsburgh, Part 2 for an idea of what the heck we’re talking about.
And we still have space! Pittsburgh YPA members and allies are opening up their homes to host out-of-town guests. We’ll be getting in touch with you directly to follow up about placing you in a YPA house or helping you find private accommodations, depending on what you indicate on your registration. If you told us you can find your own accommodations, then stay tuned for schedule updates to find out when and where to meet up with us! The weekend begins on 7pm on Friday, April 8th, or whenever you get into Pittsburgh.
SPEAKING OF MEETUPS! We are planning lots of great things to do! The purpose of the first meeting of the Rust Belt Coalition is to get to know each other, and we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. Plan on getting together for food and drinks and chit chat on Friday and Saturday night, and breaking off into groups for excursions around Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon (while you’re at it, take our quick survey to let us know what you’d like to do!) Rivers of Steel Heritage Area will be offering a guided tour of Carrie Furnace, a former blast furnace site, for the entire group on Sunday.
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.
The first meeting of the Rust Belt Coalition of Young Preservationists is a little over a month away, and we are toiling away here at Headquarters trying to make sure you have a good time! But we want your input too. Fill out the below survey to let us know what you’d like to see during your visit in Pittsburgh!
Do you like our “Local Brews on Tues” series? Taste it for yourself! Join us on April 8th – 10th to taste the finest beers from around the Rust Belt. To kick off our weekend in PGH, we will be doing a “BYOB” Friday night opening event where everyone brings a six pack or growler of local beer with them. Thanks to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, we will also be able to serve some of the finest Pittsburgh foods drink, talk and meet so many cool young preservationists from across the Rust Belt!!! YES, you heard that right. Regional. Beer. Potluck. #BYOBrustbeltbeerparty
Now, back to our regularly scheduled program….
If there is one thing that is even better than beer, it’s when breweries open and make good beer inside historic buildings. Buffalo just happens to do this extremely well.
Buffalo is known for many things including chicken wings, snow and our 4am bar closings. 4am bar closings? Yes you read that right! We know how to drink beer. A mayor once said “Stay inside, grab a six-pack and watch a good football game,” when a giant snowstorm was coming. We have a grain elevator wrapped to look like a six pack of beer and Labatt Blue moved their headquarters to Buffalo because we drank the their beer the most out of any area. I won’t even begin to talk about our awesome ability to kayak down a river filled with grain elevators and bar crawl at the same time! (Editor’s note: Bernice, don’t lie. You’re totally going to do that in a future post. You’re too excited about it not to.)
On top of that, it is no secret that BYP got its start by getting together to drink beers in local historic taverns and talking about preservation battles. Our happy hours are fairly infamous because they tend to attract 50 – 100 very passionate preservationists from around the area. Another reason why we love local taverns and breweries!
We have something we like to call “Beer Oriented Development” here in Buffalo, NY. Coined by Buffalo City Planner Chris Hawley, BOD is defined as “the ability of local craft brewing and distilling to attract people, dollars, and development.” Basically that means, when a brewery or cool craft tap house opens in a typically underserved area, it kickstarts attention and development in that area. BOD, much like TOD (transit oriented development), is a great way to help grow communities and increase the excitement needed to begin a rebound.
Let’s explore the brewing scene in Buffalo!
Pearl Street Brewery:
Perhaps our oldest brewery, Pearl Street opened in the late 80’s in Downtown Buffalo where saving buildings and drinking locally-made beer was pretty much unheard of. Pearl Street decided to set up shop downtown, saving an incredible set of brick row buildings from the wrecking ball for their brewery! Rumor has it that the owner of Pearl Street has some serious ties in Colorado with Breckenridge Brewery, which is a Denver staple. Try the Lighthouse or Trainwreck – two of Pearl Street’s classics!
This brewery decided to land inside one of Buffalo’s very few saw tooth buildings on the West Side of Buffalo. Resurgence is known for their Sponge Candy Stout, giant Jenga and their large patio. Before Resurgence, houses were selling for $1, if they dodged the demolition. Now? Two art galleries and a local fitness company have opened and a wood fired pizza place on the way.
Community Beer Works:
CBW wins the “first in” award. In 2012, these guys took the
plunge in Buffalo when very few would. They serve delicious unfiltered beer and do it very very well. They teamed up with Hydraulic Hearth to create a satellite brewery so Hydraulic could serve the freshest beer to their customers. CBW is nearing a big change – soon enough they will have a large tap room inside of a historic building located on the lower west side in an area that is ripe for BOD.
Big Ditch Brewing Co. :
Big Ditch Brewing Co. champions our Buffalo history all day, every day. “Strength, Pride and Ambition, the history of the Erie Canal” is a mural that looks over the brewery and happens to be one of the most highly instagrammed photos of 2015 in Buffalo. Well, Big Ditch took over a nondescript warehouse and turned it into an epic brewery equipped with meeting spaces, garage doors for the summer and a second floor. Located in Downtown Buffalo, Big Ditch helped to inspire others to invest in what now is known as “restaurant row” along Ellicott Street.
Gene McCarthy’s :
Perhaps my all-time favorite chicken wing spot is also a brewery! Gene’s has done a lot for the old first ward over the last 100 years. Despite the fact that it hasn’t changed much over the years, Just recently, there have been proposals for a new cafe and their first shipping container house. If you go here, order the McCarthy’s wings – they are delicious!!
And there’s so much more! Including Flying Bison, Ellicottville Brewing Co., 42 North and many others… I feel like I could write forever but luckily for us, someone already did! You can read this powerpoint equipped with some of the best beer quotes I’ve ever seen. And if you’re thirsty for more, click here for the official buffalo beer guide.
We are skilled tradesmen/women, social service workers, stay at home dads, young couples restoring their dream home, bankers, political science majors, archivists, entrepreneurs, developers, local historians…we just about have it all! WYPs may come in many forms, but we have one common thread: Our passion and determination to maintain positive momentum as we usher in Wheeling’s new era of rust-belt resilience.
WYP has several ongoing projects from years past that we are excited to continue and expand upon in 2016.
Last year, WYP launched a monthly hands-on workshop series geared towards equipping young, DIY-minded preservationists with the knowledge to tackle some of their own restoration projects. Our workshops included a 3-part plaster restoration workshop, a wood epoxy consolidation workshop and a lead safety workshop. The 2016 workshop series will run from June – October; more information will be released on WYP’s Facebook page soon!
Mt. Wood Cemetery
Preservation efforts began in the summer of 2012 when a grassroots movement of several local organizations and volunteers began meeting on Mt. Wood’s behalf.
Incorporated in 1848, it is resting place for many of the area’s prominent and hardworking citizens and offers breathtaking views of the city and the Ohio River. Volunteers come together monthly to participate in the physical restoration of long-neglected headstones and monuments, and to survey, document and research each grave.
Information on the progress at Mt. Wood Cemetery can be found here.
New in 2016
WYP is excitedly planning a month-long celebration for May. This fun and education-filled Preservation Month will kick off with an Instameet on the 1st that will encourage the use of the National Trust’s #ThisPlaceMatters campaign as well as our own local version, #WheeLove. Additionally, we will be featuring local preservation success stories on our blog throughout the month, organizing community service days at The Blue Church, participating in First Friday festivities with a Plein Air-style paint and sip, and releasing a printed walking tour of Centre Market, Wheeling’s historic shopping district.
To follow our events in May, get up-to-date information on upcoming workshops and service days, please check out our website and follow us on Facebook.
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.
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!
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!