Monday, 25 July 2011

Why visit Pittsburgh?

After our stay in Chicago it was off to Pittsburgh. Prior to our journey, everyone we knew kept asking us why we would want to travel there! Admittedly it’s not a place that springs to mind when you consider USA tourist destinations, but we were heading to Pittsburgh on a mission. Our plan was to use the ‘Steel City’ as a base for a long anticipated road trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, ‘Fallingwater’. Upon arriving, we caught a bus to the city to catch our first sight of downtown Pittsburgh and were quite surprised with what we saw. Rather than being a flat city, it was nestled within an undulating valley at the meeting point of three significant rivers, creating a triangular cityscape. Its streets are not unlike San Francisco or Glasgow in their steepness. With a history built upon the manufacture of iron and steel, many factories can still be seen close to the river, while a series large steel girded bridges cross the river providing the city with its other familiar title, ‘The City of Bridges’. As we walked around, there appeared to be several distinct areas. To be honest, many of the outlying suburbs appeared quite run down and there is clearly signs of the economic decline. However, as we moved closer to the centre, there was evidence of Pittsburgh’s glory days with some grand old buildings. This was particularly evident near the university where the philanthropy of such notables as Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon can be seen with several notable buildings in their honor. In the shopping precinct, there were signs of more recent building development with its glass castle (PPG Place) forming a centre piece of the city and providing a tangible sign that the city is looking positively toward the future. Following our arrival from bustling Chicago, it appeared that Pittsburgh was clearly much smaller and with comparatively less attractions, although it does lay claim to being the birth place of Andy Warhol and a museum housing one of the best collections of his works. However, Jules and I thought that it had a more significant asset in its favour… it’s people. Everyone we met was extremely friendly and happy to take the time to share aspects of their city with a couple from a far away land. They were clearly proud of their city and encouraged us to enjoy what it had to offer, although, like others before, they continued to ask that same familiar question… why are you visiting Pittsburgh? When we told them of our intention to visit ‘Fallingwater’ we were surprised that few had actually been to see this historic building even though it was only a relatively short drive from the city. They gave the impression that they were essentially city folk who were happy to stay in familiar territory. As for us, we were on a mission and keen to hit the open road in search of a place called Mill Run, a waterfall and a very special house.

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