Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

Driving the LH in 1919 ~ part 6, smoky Pittsburgh

June 7, 2018

LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO

Continuing our look at Beatrice Massey’s memoir of a cross-country trip, It Might Have Been Worse:

“We had come 442 miles, from New York to Pittsburgh, over fine roads and through beautiful country. Approaching Pittsburgh, we came in on a boulevard overlooking the river and ‘valley of smoke.’ Great stacks were belching out soot and smoke, obliterating the city and even the sky and sun. They may have a smoke ordinance, but no one has ever heard of it. We arrived at the William Penn Hotel, in the heart of the business center of the city, a first-class, fine hotel in every regard. We found the prices reasonable for the excellent service afforded, which was equal to that of any New York hotel. The dining-room, on the top of the house, was filled with well-dressed people, and we were glad that we had unpacked our dinner clothes, and appeared less like the usual tourist, in suits and blouses.

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Downtown Pittsburgh in 1919. [University of Pittsburgh, City Photographer Collection, 715.1924A.CP.]

“It was frightfully hot during our two days’ stay. You go out to drive feeling clean and immaculate, and come in with smuts and soot on your face and clothes, looking like a foundry hand. The office buildings are magnificent, and out a bit in the parks and boulevards the homes are attractive, and many are very handsome, especially in Sewickley. But aside from the dirty atmosphere one is impressed mostly by the evidences of the outlay of immense wealth. An enthusiastic brother living there took us through a number of the business blocks, and told us of the millions each cost and the almost unbelievable amount of business carried on. I can only describe Pittsburgh as the proudest city I’ve visited. Not so much of the actual wealth represented, but of what the billions had accomplished in great industries.

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Mills lined Pittsburgh’s rivers in 1919. Photo by Hugh C. Torrance. [Carnegie Museum of Art, 83.21.25.]

“We went out in the evening and stood on one of the bridges to look over the river lined with monster furnaces. The air was filled with sparks, jets of flame bursting through the smoke. All you could think of was Dante’s Inferno visualized. And what of the men who spend their lives in that lurid atmosphere, never knowing if the sun shone, nor what clean, pure air was like in their working hours ? I shall never look at a steel structure again without giving more credit to the men who spend their waking hours in those hells of heat and smoke than to the men whose millions have made it possible.”

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PBS's Sebak, Model Ts highlight Frick weekend

April 17, 2009

The Car and Carriage Museum at the Frick Art & Historical Center is hosting a weekend-long Model T Jubilee. The celebration and activities on Saturday and Sunday celebrate the exhibit “A Revolution on Wheels: The Model T at 100,” which opened in October to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1908 Model T. The exhibit, which contains five Model T Fords ranging from 1909 to 1926, will close on May 3. The museum is along the Lincoln Highway in the Point Breeze section of Pittsburgh, Pa.

pa_frickmodeltABOVE: Model T Fords at the Frick’s Car and Carriage Museum. Photo by Pytlik Design Associates.

sebak_terminus Saturday will feature kid activities. The highlight on Sunday is a lecture at 1:30 p.m. by WQED-TV’s Rick Sebak discussing his most recent PBS television program, A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway. (If you haven’t heard it for a while, have a listen to the excellent song that accompanied the video, Goin all the Way on the Lincoln Highway composed and performed by Buddy Nutt.)

The Model T Jubilee is free; Sebak’s talk is $10, $8 for members. The Frick is at 7227 Reynolds St., Point Breeze, www.frickart.org, (412) 371-0600.

Picking top 5 Lincoln Highway sites not so easy

August 29, 2008

In response to our story about PBS producer Rick Sebak filming at the Shoe House, good friend Jess asked what were the top 5 Lincoln Highway sites in PA mentioned by LHA director Mindy Crawford? Glad you asked!

1. Grandview Point, site of Ship Hotel, between Bedford and Ligonier
2. The Shoe House, York
3. Dunkle’s Gulf, Bedford
4. Lincoln Motor Court, Mann’s Choice
5. Poquessing Creek Bridge, near Langhorne
6. Dutch Haven, Lancaster

Yep, six! Mindy said couldn’t bear to leave out any of them.

If I had to cut one, it would be Grandview Point, even though I’m writing a book about it and the Ship Hotel there (due out Spring 2010). But if I could replace it, I’d go for Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum between Chambersburg and Gettysburg — Rick is not as enthusiastic about it, but for me it’s a rare throwback to  old-time museum and candy shops. And I’d plead to group two in Bedford and add the Coffee Pot to Dunkle’s since it’s just down West Pitt Street.

When Rick filmed me in Pittsburgh, he asked me about my top 5 around the city. Hmm, I think they were:
1. Lincoln bronze statue, Wilkinsburg
2. Peppi’s Diner, Wilkinsburg/Pittsburgh line
3. Gulf building, art deco skyscraper, downtown
4. Manchester Bridge abutment, North Side, next to Heinz Field
5. Yellow brick road, Glenfield

OK Jess, you have two weeks — can you see them all? Maybe we’d better just make a lunch run to Peppi’s!

How about the top 5 must-see LH sites in the US? Dunkle’s must be one, and maybe the nearby Lincoln Motor Court too. It’s tough but I can pick three more (two of them also very close to each other in the Midwest). Send your top 5 and we’ll gather them into a post next week.

Filming the Lincoln Highway special around town

August 11, 2008

Friday found me with PBS producer Rick Sebak as he filmed around Pittsburgh for his upcoming special, A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway. First up was Peppi’s Diner (known to locals as Scotty’s or Charlie’s) where we talked about the highway and places to see around town.

Then it was on the road to find those places, from the Mullins-made Lincoln statue just down the road in WIlkinsburg …

… to the yellow-brick section of old road in Glenfield.

Camera and sound were handled by Bob Lubomski and Glenn Syska. They do tons of work trying to get the best angle and sound and lots of other things that, when done right, nobody notices. (Same for the crew that will edit the video and sound in a couple months.) Bob and Glenn even climbed up on that overpass to get aerial shots of the road.

Read more of their adventures on Sebak’s blog and tune in two days before Halloween to see the show on your local PBS station.

A Lincoln Highway gathering in Pittsburgh

July 9, 2008

Noontime Tuesday saw cross-country motorcyclists Buddy and Bob pull into Pittsburgh, fresh from a drive across Ohio the previous day. Actually, they stopped at my workplace, the Senator John Heinz History Center. Greeting them too were PBS Producer Rick Sebak (below, middle) and cameraman Bob Lubomski, filming a program about the Lincoln Highway. (Click here to see it larger on Flickr – once there, click All Sizes above the photo.)

There were photos all around, including some of me on one of their Piaggio cycles. I’m not sure I could trade 4 wheels for a cycle, even one with 3 wheels, but it would certainly offer a more intimate experience with the roadscape. We swapped LH stories and then it was off to lunch. Here’s a very short video clip of them riding away from town on Smallman Street.

The History Center is at the eastern edge of Pittsburgh’s downtown and at the western edge of the Strip District, named becasue it’s a thin strip of land along the river. It’s been home to mills and rails and workers and churches but in recent decades it’s known for prduce stands, and more recently, restaurants and nightclubs. Here’s Bob L getting a shot at Penn Mac, a great place to buy cheese, olives, and other Italian specialties.

Then we headed to Enrico Biscotti. If there’s one thing photos and videos can’t do justice to, it’s the aroma of fresh-baked biscotti emerging from the oven. Lunch there is in a tiny alley that really feels like you’re in a European cafe.

It was over all too soon for me since I had to return to work, but the 4 transcontinentalists were heading eastward in search of LH landmarks. I recommended the Abe Lincoln statue in Wilkinsburg and the tiny iron bridge in Turtle Creek in the shadow of the massive Westinghouse Bridge. I loaned them my PA Lincoln Highway guide in hopes it would help them follow the route. And before we left, we got more photos: from left, Bob, Brian, Bob L, Buddy, and Rick.

Read about their further adventures that day HERE.

Forbes Trail was precursor to much of Pa’s LH

February 27, 2008

A new web site commemorates the 250th anniversary of Forbes Trail, hacked through the forests of Pennsylvania in 1758 during the French and Indian War. General John Forbes led an expedition from Philadelphia over the Allegheny Mountains to capture French-occupied Fort Duquesne, at what later became Pittsburgh. Among the 6,000 British and colonial troops was young George Washington, a 26-year-old colonel with the Virginia troops. The www.forbestrail.org site is a project of French and Indian War 250, the organization spearheading the commemoration of the French and Indian War.

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Forbes Trail (also commonly called Forbes Road) was closely followed or paralleled by the Lincoln Highway and US 30 across the state. Only mid-state does it deviate, when the military road jogs north to Carlisle, near Harrisburg. The Lincoln/30 stays south through Gettysburg and Chambersburg.

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The web site features seven “gateways” – Philadelphia, Lancaster, Carlisle, Fort Loudoun, Bedford, Ligonier, and Pittsburgh – where visitors can click to learn its connection to the trail and what historical remnants survive.

A long-anticipated book is due in May. Pennsylvania’s Forbes Trail: Gateways and Getaways along the Legendary Route from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh ($18.95) will feature more than 40 themed tours with info on activities, lodging, and dining.

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I asked French and Indian War 250 Marketing Director Karen Lightell about the difference between calling it Road and Trail. She said they “chose ‘Forbes Trail’ to avoid confusion because many people see the Forbes Road as extending only from Carlisle to Pittsburgh—i.e., the road the Forbes Expedition actually built. They traveled from Philadelphia on existing roadways. ‘Forbes Trail’ is meant to imply the entire experience ‘today’ of the corridor along the original Forbes route as described in the book.”

Pgh Automobile Row dealership to be demolished

January 15, 2008

Don Allen Auto City, a well-known car dealership on Pittsburgh’s East End, is set to be replaced by a $230 million development. The c. 1920 showoom and related areas cover seven acres where Baum Boulevard intersects Liberty Avenue, and at the confluence of three communities: Shadyside, Bloomfield and East Liberty. All buildings will be demolished and over the next four years, the site will fill with townhouses, condominiums, a 9-story hotel, 1,200 parking spaces, and 700,000 square feet of office and related space. A triangular park bordered by Liberty, Baum and South Aiken Avenue will also be built. Numerous publications and sites are covering the story including Hotels, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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Don Allen opened 52 years ago and has been owned by the Voelker family for 50 years. The building long had a 1960s metallic facade, but it was removed in recent years, exposing the brick underneath. A mural from that period remains in the parts department, its fate unknown. The business stretches a few blocks along Baum Boulevard, once the city’s Automobile Row. It was a main road into Pittsburgh’s wealthy eastern suburbs, and so became a leading retail, repair, and manufacturing center for bicycles, and then for cars by the 1910s. Scattered remnants survive, including a former Ford assembly plant a couple block west, a 1933 Modernist Chrysler showroom designed by Albert Kahn a few blocks east, and a showroom turned drug store across from that. A few blocks farther eastward is a marker for the first drive-in filling station, which is more correctly the first architect designed drive-in station, built by Gulf in 1913

This video report below includes a woman who says “they need something that’s more affordable…. It’s just outrageous trying to find a place that people can afford.” Another questions whether more housing and hotels are needed. Click on the image to open the video’s web page:

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Inventory liquidation is ongoing, and site preparation should start this summer, pending city approval and funding; according to the Post-Gazette, “The project partners acknowledge that they hope to secure public financing to assist with the project, although they were not willing today to specify what type or how much.”

LHHC grant for Roadside Giants school projects

December 21, 2007

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor has been awarded $49,340 to build giant roadside attractions along its 200 miles of the Lincoln Highway. The projects will be designed and built by vocational/technical school students in themes that honor the 250th anniversary of Pittsburgh and its region. This and another article in Pop City calls them “roadside giants,” and in fact, the LHHC’s Kristin Poerschke tells me they hope to give each of the vo-tech schools a copy of my and Sarah’s Roadside Giants and Roadside Attractions books as part of the grant to help them with their designs.

LHC map

The LHHC is one of 100 regional and grassroots organizations and artists who received a total of $1 million in grants to help celebrate the anniversary. LHHC director Olga Herbert says they are honored because only 12 were selected from the 230 regional applications.

LHHC will collaborate with four career and technical schools in Greensburg/Hempfield, Latrobe/Ligonier, Somerset, and Bedford/Everest as well as with four communities along the Lincoln Highway, giving studens a chance to be creative and contribute something permanent to the communities:

The project envisions the sculptures to include items like vintage motor vehicles, historical figures like George Washington, images from popular culture like Texaco gas attendants and diner waitresses, old fashioned bicycles and gasoline pumps. The project will call upon graphic arts students to design the super sized metal sculptures. Other students will weld the metal, and design and printmaking students will be in charge of the brochures. Not to be left idle, the culinary arts students will bake gigantic models of the sculptures.

LHHCThe LHHC, one of 12 such heritage areas in the state, promotes economic development through tourism along the historic route of the Lincoln Highway in Westmoreland, Somerset, Bedford, Fulton, Franklin and Adams counties.

PA's Westmoreland County plots future of US 30

November 21, 2007

The two developments mentioned yesterday are just a small part of Route 30’s spiraling growth east of Pittsburgh. Concern for the corridor led the Smart Growth Partnership of Westmoreland County to host a 5-day design charrette atPA Growth logo the University of Pittsburgh’s Greensburg campus (its home base). The focus was the future of U.S. 30/the Lincoln Highway—how to specifically preserve the rural landscape, revitalize towns, and enjoy the benefits of growth while avoiding clogged roadways, vanishing open spaces, and soaring home prices.

A 4-year study started in 2005 covers 40 miles and 12 municipalities from Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs to the Laurel Highlands, known to Lincoln Highway travelers for the steep winding road on the west side of Laurel Mountain. A master plan being developed will present a prototype for safe, efficient, attractive, and connecting land use. The finished plan is expected in April 2008, followed by a year of implementation. According to Smart Growth, the project is unique in that a non-profit entity is taking a proactive, collaborative approach to help shape communities.

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Above: The Lincoln Highway east of Greensburg, Pennsylvania. With 4-lane US 30 to the right, and houses rising on farmland to the left, how long can this rural roadscape survive?

An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette summarized the concepts developed by the group with help from a team of design professionals, engineers, architects, urban planners and landscape architects:

• Mixed use development with the highest density centered on Route 30.

• Public open spaces providing gathering places throughout the site.

• A gateway at the intersection of Route 30 and Route 981 serving as an “arrival point” to Latrobe and the Laurel Highlands.

• Retaining the Route 30 corridor as a regional connection with parallel roads providing local “circulation.”

• Greenways defining the development areas as well as connecting the rural context of the development.

Visit www.route30plan.com to see the plan, photos, and more information.

Also from that stretch of US 30/Lincoln Highway, here’s a view of the nice-looking building mentioned in yesterday’s post – the headquarters of the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, courtesy of that group via Susan Schmucker, whose brother’s construction company (Dill Construction) built it in 1964. It’s faced in Delaware River sandstone and topped by a metal cupola that conceals the chimney. Cost, including fountain and parking lot, was $312,500 back then. The authority moved out the end of October and it’s set to be demolished. Susan says they outgrew the facility, and traffic had increased dramatically due to retail development, but they will miss it.

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