Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
United States of America

Introduction

Pittsburgh, city in western Pennsylvania and seat of Allegheny County. Pittsburgh was the nation’s foremost industrial city of the 19th century and was famous for its steel production. Beginning in the 1970s it underwent severe deindustrialization as its massive steel complexes began to close. Today Pittsburgh is a postindustrial city, with an economy based on services, especially medical, financial, corporate, and educational, rather than steel.

Pittsburgh sits astride the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers where they unite to form the Ohio River. Much of the city lies on hills surrounding this historic river junction, although Pittsburgh’s downtown core is clustered on a wedge of level ground framed by the rivers and dubbed the “Golden Triangle.” Winters in Pittsburgh can be cold and snowy and summers hot and humid, but seasons are usually moderate. The average high temperature in January is 1°C (34°F) and the average low is -8°C (19°F); the average high in July is 28°C (83°F) and the average low is 16°C (62°F). The city annually receives 936 mm (36.9 in) of precipitation, with accumulations evenly distributed throughout the year.

The city developed around a frontier fort used by both the British and the French in the 18th century. In 1794 Pittsburgh was incorporated as a borough and in 1816 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania granted it city status. It is named after William Pitt, prime minister of Britain in the late 18th century.

Pittsburgh and its Metropolitan Area

Pittsburgh occupies a land area of 143.7 sq km (55.5 sq mi). Over the years it has grown primarily by annexation. Between 1868 and 1900, for example, the city increased its land area nearly 16 fold to 73 sq km (28 sq mi). In 1907 it annexed the neighboring industrial city of Allegheny, increasing its land area by 21 sq km (8 sq mi) and its population by 150,000. Average elevation of the city is 226 m (743 ft).

Pittsburgh is the center of a metropolitan area covering Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington, Beaver, Butler, and Fayette counties, a region of 11,976 sq km (4,624 sq mi). The metropolitan area has several small cities and substantial towns, including Butler, Greensburg, McKeesport, Uniontown, and Washington. Among Pittsburgh’s suburbs are Bethel Park, Fox Chapel, McCandless, Monroeville, Mount Lebanon, Penn Hills, and Sewickly. Pittsburgh has many distinct neighborhoods; 90 are officially recognized.

The city is remarkable for its grand entrances, especially if approached from the west through the Fort Pitt tunnel and bridge or from the north on Interstate 279 and the Fort Duquesne or Veterans bridges. The city’s core remains hidden by hills until travelers come upon its central business district, the Golden Triangle, centered where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio River. Greeting visitors is Point State Park, with its tall lighted fountain at the triangle’s tip, and a number of uniquely designed skyscrapers.

Notable among Pittsburgh’s buildings are the Gateway Center Complex (1950-1953), the Gothic towers of the PPG World Headquarters (1984), One Mellon Bank Center (1983), One Oxford Centre (1983), the Columbia Natural Gas Building (1987), Fifth Avenue Place (1987), and the USX Tower (1971), at 64 stories the tallest building between New York and Chicago. Other architectural landmarks within the Golden Triangle include the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail (1888), designed by the noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson; the Trinity Cathedral (1872); the First Presbyterian Church (1905); and the Union Trust Building (today Two Mellon Bank Center, 1916).

Population

The population of Pittsburgh has steadily declined since 1950, when it peaked at 676,806 residents. While some people left the city proper for suburban communities within the region, many moved out of the area in search of jobs.

In 2000 the city had 334,563 persons, compared to 423,938 in 1980. Pittsburgh was the nation’s 30th largest city in 1980, 40th largest city in 1990, and 53rd largest city in 2000.

The population of Allegheny County dropped from 1,450,085 in 1980 to 1,281,666 in 2000. While the number of residents in the six-county metropolitan area fell in the 1980s, it remained fairly stable in the 1990s. In 2000 the metropolitan region had 2,358,695 inhabitants.

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have a relatively elderly population compared to many other cities—in 2000 some 16.4 percent of city residents were age 65 years or older, compared to 12.4 percent for the country as a whole.

Pittsburgh had many immigrants from Britain, Ireland, and Germany through the first century or so of its existence. Later the nationalities of those arriving shifted to Poles, Hungarians, Serbs, Croatians, Italians, and Russian Jews. Most emigration to the city halted at the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Since then relatively few people have come to Pittsburgh from other countries, even though the nation as a whole has seen a large increase in Hispanic and Asian immigration.

While foreign-born persons made up only 4.6 percent of the city’s population in 1990, Pittsburgh retains a strong ethnic character. Many neighborhoods have a clear ethnic identity, such as Bloomfield (Italian), the South Side and Polish Hill (Polish), and Squirrel Hill (Jewish). The eastern neighborhoods of Point Breeze, Shadyside, and Squirrel Hill are attractive city living areas, while other sections of the city afford views of the rivers and the Golden Triangle from houses constructed on steep slopes.

Pittsburgh’s black population began to arrive far back in the city’s history, but its biggest growth came in the first half of the 20th century largely through migration from the South. Blacks predominate in several areas throughout the city, the largest being Beltzhoover, the Hill, Homewood-Brushton, and Manchester. The black community possesses a rich cultural heritage in jazz and art, as well as having been the sponsor of the two of greatest baseball teams in the former Negro League, the Crawfords and the Homestead Grays.

According to the 2000 census, whites are 67.6 percent of the population, blacks 27.1 percent, Asians 2.7 percent, Native Americans 0.2 percent, and people of mixed heritage or not reporting race 2.3. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 111 at the time of the census. Hispanics, who may be of any race, are 1.3 percent of the people.

Education and Culture

Pittsburgh is a major educational center. The city’s most prominent universities are Carnegie Mellon University (founded as the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1900 by Andrew Carnegie); the University of Pittsburgh (founded as Pittsburgh Academy in 1787); and Duquesne University (1878). The Mellon Research Institute, at one time the largest private industrial research laboratory in the United States, is now part of Carnegie Mellon University. The University of Pittsburgh campus features the 42-story Cathedral of Learning, the tallest school building in the United States and a major medical center. Other educational institutions in the city are Point Park College (1960); the women’s schools Chatham College (1869) and Carlow College (1929); Robert Morris College (1921), in nearby Coraopolis; and the Community College of Allegheny County (1966), with branches in the city and suburbs.

Pittsburgh has many outstanding cultural institutions. The Oakland district is where Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh are located. The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh include The Carnegie Museum of Art (including the Scaife Galleries), which holds a distinguished motion-picture and video collection and a unique study of architecture; the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which displays an extensive collection of dinosaurs, gems, and Greek and Roman sculpture; the Carnegie Science Center, which includes a planetarium and a submarine from World War II; and The Andy Warhol Museum, which has a collection of works by Andy Warhol, an influential 20th-century artist and Pittsburgh native. The city is also home to the Carnegie Library, one of the nation’s most important, and the Carnegie Music Hall, which is noted for its opulent foyer.

On the city’s North Side, in the old Allegheny city post office, is the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum, and the Mattress Factory, exhibiting contemporary art. In the Point Breeze neighborhood are the Frick Art Museum and Clayton, the former home and estate of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, now open to the public.

A major development in recent years has been the construction of the Pittsburgh Cultural District in the center of the downtown. It includes the Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony; the Benedum Center, where ballet and live theater are performed; and the Byam Theater, featuring live theater and cultural films. All three theaters are redesigned and redecorated movie palaces from the 1920s. Other cultural features include the City Theatre (South Side), the Pittsburgh Playhouse (Oakland), the Pittsburgh Public Theater (downtown), the Bach and Mendelssohn choirs, and the Nationality Rooms of the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning.

Notable as memorials to men who made their fortunes in Pittsburgh are the Phipps Conservatory (1893) in Schenley Park and the 77-m (253-ft) tall Heinz Memorial Chapel (1938) on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

Recreation

Pittsburgh is home to many professional and college sports teams. The Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball play in PNC Park, which opened in 2001. The Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League are scheduled to move into a new stadium of their own for the 2001 season. The Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League play in Mellon Arena (1962). All three professional teams have won world championships.

The city possesses a number of large parks. Ball fields and trails can be found in Frick and Highland parks; Riverview Park contains an observatory; and Schenley contains a golf course as well as hiking trails.

Use of the rivers for recreational purposes has increased in recent years, and the city has improved river access by building marinas and boat launching sites, converting former railroad lines to trails, and sponsoring riverfront housing. Notable among the developments is Washington’s Landing on a former industrial island in the Allegheny River about 3 km (about 2 mi) from the Point. Marinas, the Three Rivers Rowing Club, tennis courts, and housing have been developed on the island as well as light industry, in addition to the preservation of large natural public areas for hiking and jogging.

The Pittsburgh Zoo was rebuilt in the early 1990s and offers a wide variety of animals in natural habitats. The National Aviary, located on the city’s North Side, has major bird collections in natural settings.

The South Side, a former steelmaking area, boasts a shopping area for arts and crafts and has many restaurants. Station Square, a rehabilitated railroad station and freight center, offers numerous restaurants and shops set on the river across from downtown. Visitors to Station Square can take one of the city’s two inclined plane railroads to the top of a bluff, called Mount Washington, that provides dramatic views of the Golden Triangle.

Economy

Because of its location west of the Allegheny Mountains, excellent river transportation, and high quality bituminous coal deposits, Pittsburgh in the 19th century became one of the nation’s most industrialized cities. It was best known for its steel production, but it also produced many other products. Manufactures included aluminum (from the Aluminum Company of America, now ALCOA); electrical generators and appliances (Westinghouse Electric); glass (Pittsburgh Plate Glass, now PPG Industries); coke-making machinery (Koppers); railroad cars and locomotives (Pressed Steel Car Company and Pittsburgh Locomotive); coke and coal chemicals (H. C. Frick & Company and Pittsburgh Coal Company); and food products (H. J. Heinz). Extensive coal mining was also carried on in the Pittsburgh area as well as the processing of coke, essential to the steelmaking process, from soft coal.

By the mid-1980s, however, many of the region’s manufacturing plants had gone out of business or left the area. The greatest losses were in steel, with the elimination of over 100,000 steel and steel-related jobs between 1978 and 1983. By the mid-1990s what once was the world’s greatest steelmaking complex had been reduced to only one major integrated mill (the Edgar Thompson Works); a specialty steel plant (Allegheny Ludlum); a strip mill (the Irwin Works); and two plants where coke was produced as a by-product. A dramatic sight is the empty land lining the river banks in the Monongahela Valley where steel mills formerly stood. Numerous projects, however, are planned for these sites. For example, the Pittsburgh Technology Park was built on a former industrial site on the north side of the Monongahela River.

The economy of Pittsburgh is now based on services rather than manufacturing. The region’s largest employer is the University of Pittsburgh, especially the University Health Center. Other universities and colleges, such as Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University, are major employers. In addition, the region’s corporate headquarters, as well as branch offices of other firms, provide considerable employment. Pittsburgh also serves as the U.S. center for a number of foreign corporations. The region’s high-technology sector has grown, as has the number of firms involved either in environmental cleanup or the manufacture of pollution control equipment. Today the number of workers in service jobs far exceeds those in manufacturing.

Pittsburgh’s transportation network includes a new airport, opened in 1992, that serves as a major airline hub. Principal highways are the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76 running east and west), Interstate 376 (the Parkway East), Interstate 279, Interstate 79 (connecting with Interstate 279), and State Route 28 (from the north) as well as on other state roads. Amtrak provides rail passenger service east to New York and west to Chicago. Freight lines still carry large amounts of coal and other heavy goods in and out of Pittsburgh. The Port of Pittsburgh is a leading inland port. City and county residents are served by Port Authority Transit of Allegheny County, which operates an extensive network that includes two major busways and a light-rail system with a downtown subway loop.

Government

Pittsburgh has a mayor-council form of government, with the mayor acting as chief executive and the nine-member council setting city policy. All are elected to four-year terms. The Port Authority Allegheny County (urban transit) and the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (waste disposal) offer service throughout the county, while the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and the Pittsburgh Parking Authority operate only in the city.

History

Pittsburgh has undergone a number of striking changes in identity throughout its history. The site was originally occupied by the Shawnee and Delaware peoples. In the late 18th century it served as the location for a frontier fort for both the British and the French. In 1753 George Washington surveyed the area for the Ohio Land Company of Virginia and described the land where the Allegheny and Monongahela converge as “extremely well situated for a fort, as it has the absolute command of both rivers.” The only Native American settlement in the area at that time was a small Shawnee village on the Allegheny. The British began building a fort, but before they could complete it the French captured the point and built Fort Duquesne. General John Forbes reestablished British control in 1758, renamed the site Pittsburgh, in honor of the British prime minister William Pitt the Elder, and built Fort Pitt, the largest structure the British constructed in North America. Although Native American uprisings delayed white settlement until the 1770s, by 1783 there were about 100 families living in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh developed initially as a commercial city because of its location west of the Allegheny Mountains at the headwaters of the Ohio River, a major transportation route. In 1811 the first steamboat to ply the Mississippi River system was built in Pittsburgh, and the New Orleans steamed down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to its namesake city in Louisiana. The Pennsylvania Mainline Canal reached Pittsburgh in 1837 and the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1851. As the 19th century progressed, Pittsburgh became one of the nation’s greatest industrial cities, and was a leading producer of glass, iron, and textiles. Cheap energy in the form of high-quality bituminous coal found nearby in a coal field called the Pittsburgh Seam played a major role in the city’s rise.

During the American Civil War (1861-1865) Pittsburgh became a major supplier of ordnance to the Union, and its iron industry and its shipyards benefited accordingly. In the 1870s Andrew Carnegie pioneered the integrated steel mill (a mill that has all the material and equipment needed to produce steel from ore), and Pittsburgh became the world’s leading steel producer. Transportation improvements facilitated the growth, and by 1900 nine railroad lines entered the city. Pittsburgh also became a major inland port due to construction by the Army Corps of Engineers of an extensive series of locks and dams that improved shipping. Pittsburgh’s industrial expansion produced vast fortunes for entrepreneurs such as Henry Clay Frick, Charles Michael Schwab, and George Westinghouse.

Pittsburgh, like other industrial cities, suffered from strife between workers and industrialists. Several major strikes occurred in the second half of the 19th century, the most severe of which were the 1877 railroad strike and the 1892 Homestead Strike. In the violent Homestead Strike, Carnegie and his partner Frick, with the help of hundreds of hired Pinkerton Agency detectives and the Pennsylvania State Militia, defeated the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers. The defeat of the workers halted the formation of unions in Pittsburgh steel companies until the 1930s. While the steel industry, Pittsburgh’s largest employer, generally prospered before 1930, it lost market share compared to steel producers further west. The Great Depression of the 1930s dealt the city crippling blows, but even before it began Pittsburgh was declining as an industrial leader. In 1936 the city suffered one of the worst floods in its history, causing many millions of dollars in damage.

World War II (1939-1945) and the industrial demand it created boosted Pittsburgh’s industry temporarily. But at the war’s end conditions in the city were grim, as Pittsburgh suffered from heavy smoke pollution, poor services, and deteriorating housing. A pall of heavy smoke frequently required that the street lights be turned on during midday. In response, business and political leaders, led by banker Richard King Mellon and Mayor David L. Lawrence, in 1945 launched what became known as the Pittsburgh Renaissance, a unique attempt to renew a major industrial city. The Renaissance was the product of a new type of partnership that combined public authority with private funding. It was directed by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a nonprofit committee with the city’s most powerful business leaders as members. The goals of the Renaissance were environmental improvement (controlling smoke pollution and floods and treating sewage), downtown renewal, and transportation revitalization. The city undertook urban renewal projects in the Lower Hill, the North Side, and East Liberty, removing slums but also causing major social dislocations.

The Pittsburgh Renaissance lasted until 1969, when Mayor Peter H. Flaherty ended the public-private partnership and instead advocated neighborhood renewal and tax reduction. Richard S. Caliguiri became mayor in 1976 and restored the public-private partnership with the beginning of Renaissance II in 1980. As a result, Pittsburgh’s downtown remained viable and service jobs grew, despite a severe downturn in the steel industry. Pittsburgh is both a modern postindustrial city and a city that retains remnants of its industrial past. Pittsburgh was once called the “Smoky City,” but today the “Renaissance City” is still in the making.