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Pittsburgh’s Past, Present, and Future

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Once known for its steel industry and industrial past, Pittburgh has transformed itself and is looking to the future.  Pittsburgh is in the middle of its third renaissance and many cities should be taking notes from this world-class leader.  It’s no wonder why so many people #LovePGH.

Carrie Furnaces – Remembering the Past

Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark

The steel industry played an important role for both Pittsburgh and the entire United States.  The industry began revving up in the mid-to-late 1800s and came to a screeching halt in the 1980s.  Though it has been more than 30 years since the closure of the steel mills, people can visit Carrie Furnaces and learn more about what made Pittsburgh great, thanks to the conservation efforts of Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation.

Carrie Furnace railCarrie Furnaces 6 and 7 are the only two blast furnaces still standing in Pittsburgh, a reminder of Pittsburgh’s role in America’s steel industry.  The furnaces produced iron for Homestead Works from 1907 until 1978.  In 2006, the site became a National Historic Landmark.

Art on the wall at Carrie FurnaceVisitors can take a tour (May through October) and learn more about the site that produced more than a thousand tons of iron per day.

Frick Environmental Center – Teaching Today’s Youth

Frick Environmental CenterThe largest municipal park in Pittsburgh is Frick Park, named after Henry Clay Frick who bequeathed 151 acres to the city after his death.  In 2002, the old Frick Environmental Center burned and was structurally unstable.  Through the partnership of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the City of Pittsburgh, a new Frick Environmental Center has been built.

The new facility was designed to be LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certified and may be the greenest building in the world that is free and open to the public.  The building  was constructed to collect as much energy as it uses through innovative design that includes solar panels, rainwater collection, and geo-thermal wells to name a few of the features.

Solar panels on top of parking lot at Frick Environmental CenterThe solar-panel covered parking lot during construction.

The new center boasts more than 15,000 square feet of usable space with only a 6,000 square foot footprint.  Inside the state-of-the-art facility there are classrooms for hands-on, experiential environmental learning programs.  The surrounding woodlands, streams, meadows and trails also provide children with up-close learning experiences with nature.

The Cultural District – Revitalization of the City Center

The Cultural District in Pittsburgh
What was once considered the, ahem, Red Light District, has been transformed into Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.  In 1984, the non-profit Pittsburgh Cultural Trust made the cultural and economic revitalization of a 14-block arts and entertainment/residential neighborhood their mission.  The area includes over 90 retail shops, 50 dining establishments, seven world-class theaters, eight public parks and art installations and a dozen art galleries.

Wood Street Galleries in downtown Pittsburgh
The Trust manages one million square feet of property, including The Benedum Center for the Performing ArtsByham Theater, and Wood Street Galleries.  Over 2,000,000 people enjoy performances by the Pittsburgh Ballet TheatrePittsburgh CLOPittsburgh OperaPittsburgh Public Theater, and Pittsburgh Symphony in the Cultural District.

Inside theater in Pittsburgh
This month, Pittsburgh is hosting Drap-Art at its Re:NEW Festival.  It is “provocative and compelling art from reused materials.”  This is Drap-Arts North American debut – it has been showcased in Barcelona for nearly 20 years.  (Drap means “rag” in Catalonian.)  Artists from 17 countries will be represented at the free festival which takes place September 9 – October 9 (the Drap-Art exhibit ends on October 8th) at the PPG Wintergarden.

Tower at PNC Plaza – “LEED”ing the Way

PNC Headquarters in PIttsburgh
PNC’s history can be traced back to the middle of the 19th century when Pittsburgh Trust and Savings Company opened.  Fast forward a hundred years or so and the bank evolved into the Pittsburgh National Bank, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh National Corporation.  In 1982 it merged with Provident National Corporation to form PNC Financial Corporation.

Inside the lobby at PNC headquarters in Pittsburgh
Today, the company’s new corporate headquarters occupy a beautiful 33 story high rise that incorporates state-of-the-art green technology.  The building was designed to exceed LEED Platinum certification and to be the greenest office tower in the world.

view of the river from inside PNC in Pittsburgh
The Tower at PNC Plaza, which overlooks the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, is not PNC’s only LEED certified building.

  • PNC Firstside Center, which opened in 2000, was the nation’s largest green building and first building certified under LEED version 2.0.
  • Three PNC Plaza opened in 2009 in downtown Pittsburgh as one of the nation’s largest green, mixed-use buildings.  It’s LEED Gold certified.
  • The PNC call center located at 500 Smithfield St has achieved LEED Gold certification.

Quick Fact: Pittsburgh is ranked 8th in the nation in number of LEED-certified buildings – there are currently 39 LEED-certified buildings in the city.

Green Ways to Get Around Pittsburgh

bike rack in downtown Pittsburgh
The City of Pittsburgh has become bike-friendly with the transformation of some streets to include bike paths.  Also, the community group Bike Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust collaborated on artist designed bicycle racks on sidewalks that have been installed in various locations throughout the city so that riders have a place to park their bikes.

subway station in Pittsburgh

A surprising fact to many is that Pittsburgh has a subway.  It’s operated by the Pittsburgh Port Authority and known as the T.  Riding the T within downtown and the North Shore is free and a is a great way to explore the city.  (You can find out more about getting around Pittsburgh by visiting the Port Authorities website, PortAuthority.org.)


If you haven’t been to Pittsburgh, then you don’t know Pittsburgh.


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