A recent Midwest trip involved a brief stayover in Pittsburgh, where my husband and I met as graduate students at Pitt. Whenever we’re in town, we seek vainly for traces of those days!
We drove into town late one afternoon and up to Mt. Washington, the neighborhood overlooking the Golden Triangle where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River. We had dinner at a restaurant cantilevered over the steep cliff, which you can reach by funicular (the red car in the photo), as well as by auto.
The meal was great, and we watched the pleasure boats, one big barge, and the Cruisin’ Tikis meandering around the rivers below. Also of interest, but not in a good way, was the swarm of Spotted Lanternflies in that part of town—and all over Pittsburgh, really. I stepped on as many as I could, but they tend to be too fast for me. We have these dangerous pests in New Jersey where we live, but not in numbers like this. We even saw one crawling up the inside of the restaurant window!
Over the years, we’ve visited many of the Pittsburgh’s museums and attractions and used this visit to catch up on two we’d missed. Neil had read David Randall’s The Monster’s Bonesabout the fierce competition between Andrew Carnegie and NYC’s Museum of Natural History to acquire dinosaur bones being discovered in Montana and Wyoming in the late 1800s. Neil wanted to see what Carnegie’s team had found, so we visited the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Wow! Dinosaurs obsession skipped me, but the curatorial staff has done a remarkable job of presenting the skeletons and the paleontology. Much else of interest to see there too. Like gemstones—more up my alley.
We stopped for a nourishing lunch at the Milkshake Factory. Exactly what it sounds like, though they sell ice cream sundaes too. Oh, and chocolate candy. The branch we visited was near the Pitt campus, and we strolled around, working off maybe 1% of those milkshake calories and visited the Stephen Foster memorial on campus—who knew?—near the Cathedral of Learning. (The University boffins were very proud of the Cathedral of Learning and showed it off to Frank Lloyd Wright, whose reaction was, “Nice lawn.”) Anyway, the Foster memorial seemed mostly closed, but it’s nice to know the composer of “Oh! Susanna” and “Camptown Races” is honored in his home town.
The visit to the Heinz Memorial Chapel (yes, that Heinz, Mr. 57), dedicated in 1938, was something else again. It’s a beautiful small nonsectarian chapel, also near the CofL, which hosts about 2500 events every year. Its brilliantly colored stained glass windows depict leaders from science, literature, governance, religious, and human aspiration—with an equal number of male and female figures. Thus you find Sir Thomas More just above William Penn (pictured) and Queen Isabella above Florence Nightingale. The windows were designed by Bostonian Charles J. Connick, whose first training was in Pittsburgh, and contain almost 250,000 pieces of glass.
You can’t visit Pittsburgh without traveling over some of its many bridges, most painted an unexpected, bright yellow. We naturally had to cross the Andy Warhol Bridge to visit the Andy Warhol Museum. This was an attraction I enjoyed more than expected to. I was thinking, “I don’t even like canned soup,” but there was much to see, as the artist worked in so many different styles and media.
He was born on Pittsburgh’s South Side to an Austro-Hungarian family named Warhola. They were poor, had no indoor plumbing, and yet he became one of the most famous celebrities of his era. The exhibits included a how-to video about his method for creating his blotted line works (like those pictured in this article), which was fascinating. Well worth a visit!