Allegheny Commons is Pittsburgh's oldest park, dating to 1867 when the North Shore and North Side were part of historic Allegheny City. When Allegheny was created in 1788 about 100 acres of common pasture land were set aside. By the 1860s this common had turned into swampy dumping grounds, so the city created an elegant 84-acre park featuring "two grand promenades, specimen trees, fountains, a naturalistic lake and ornamental flower beds." In 1966 the park was redesigned again with Lake Elizabeth receiving a face lift. Phipps Conservatory occupied the building that is now the aviary and maintained a formal gardens in the park. Allegheny Commons Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as are its surrounding neighborhoods of Allegheny West, Manchester, the Mexican War Streets and Deutschtown.
Numerous monuments stand in Allegheny Common Park including:
The George Washington Statue in North Park was dedicated February 23, 1891 and features a statue of the General and President on horseback.
The Hampton Battery Monument is a Civil War statue dedicated to Pittsburgh Battery 'F' of the Pennsylvania Light Artillery, which was organized in October 1861. This unit fought in various major battles in the Civil War including Second Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Second Winchester, and Gettysburg.
Spanish-American War Memorial consists of a small canon or mortar in a circular monument. In another location in Allegheny Commons is a canon from the same war which has a plaque that reads, "This cannon presented by the United States Government to Allegheny June 29th 1899. Captured from the Spanish at Santiago Cuba by the Americans under command of Gen'l William C. Shafter July 7, 1898."
While the park may not be the safest place in Pittsburgh today, plans are underway to redesign the park and restore it to some of the former glory. A 10-year redevelopment plan is underway that will cost some $17 million.
The park is known by its three sectors, East Park, North Park, and West Park, though all are connected and are part of the same city park unit. The three units form a U-shape green space around numerous public buildings such as the Pittsburgh Childrens' Museum, the National Aviary, Buhl Planetarium, and Historic Carnegie Library. Old square once held the Allegheny City Hall and the Allegheny Market.
The First Presbyterian Church grounds were donated to the church in 1787 by the family of William Penn. The first church structure on this site was a log building, and the first brick church building was completed in 1805. From 1853 until 1904, a second church building, fronting Wood Street, was used, but part of the land was sold to build the McCreery Department Store. The present church structure was completed in 1905 in an English Gothic style with two square towers similar to many ancient European churches. Thirteen of the church's fourteen stained glass windows in the nave were designed and created by the Tiffany Studios in New York.
This historic structure stands beside Trinity Church on Sixth Avenue.
Trinity Church was founded in 1787 and originally constructed two blocks from the present location at Sixth and Liberty Avenues, in 1805. The location of the current church was long a burial ground for local Indian tribes, French settlers, and British soldiers, because it is just above the flood plain. The second Trinity church was constructed on this site in 1824, and is thought to have been Pittsburgh's first Gothic building. This church building lasted only 45 years until it was demolished in 1869, with the present structure built on the same site in 1872. In 1928 Trinity Church became Trinity Cathedral.
Some of the interior stained glass dates back to 1872 and the carved stone pulpit was created in 1922.
Today, the cemetery at Trinity Church is known as "Pittsburgh's Oldest Unreconstructed Landmark." Some remaining graves include Indian chief Red Pole of the Shawnee nation, Pittsburgh's first doctor Nathanial Bedford, and Revolutionary War veteran General William Butler.
Historic First Lutheran Church was founding in 1837 as the First English-speaking Lutheran church west of the Alleghenies. The original church structure was constructed in 1840 nearby at 7th avenue and Montour Way. The present church building was dedicated in 1888 on Grant Street.
The church pulpit dates from the 1890s, the marble baptismal font from 1889, a mosaic of Christ's birth from 1897, and the pair of gas candelabras from the 1890s. One of the stained glass windows was created by the Tiffany Studios in 1898.
The church's exterior, built at the same time as the Allegheny County Courthouse, has similar features as the courthouse with rustic stonework, tall gabled roofs and a 170 foot spire.
The church is most amazing because it sits surrounded by towering skyscrapers, and has managed to remain virtually unchanged. The front of the outside of the building has a plaque denoting the historical significance of this structure.
In Pittsburgh's old days, industrial wealth was abundant. It is said that Pittsburgh had more millionaires than any other city in the world, and these wealthy families typically made their homes in the Allegheny West neighborhood, which came to be known as Millionaires Row. Today, the area still boasts numerous mansions, but the majority of the neighborhood was leveled to create the Community College of Allegheny County.
Allegheny West's first streets were laid out in the 1840s and the first houses appeared around 1846. In the 1890s the large millionaires' mansions appeared in this neighborhood. Ridge Avenue was always the area's "most fashionable" street and it was home to many who made their fortune in iron and steel. Today on Ridge Avenue you can still see the Byers-Lyons House, Moorhead House, William P. Snyder House, and Memorial Hall--once part of the Western Pennsylvania Theological Seminary.
Some of the most famous millionaires to call this area home included Henry W. Oliver, William Penn Snyder, Harmar Denny, and Alexander M. Byers. Henry W. Oliver was an Irish immigrant and Civil War veteran before forming the Oliver Iron and Steel Company. William Penn Snyder founded the Shenango Furnace Company in 1906. Harmar Denny was a congressman in the 1820s and 1830s, then a railroad magnate in the 1840s and 1850s. Alexander M. Byers made his fortune in steel after founding the AM Byers Company.
Gertrude Stein was born in 1874 in the former city of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, today part of Pittsburgh's North Side. She was the youngest of five children, born to educated German-Jewish immigrant parents, who made their significant wealth in the railroad and streetcar industry. Their house is just a block or two off Pittsburgh's Millionaires' Row, demonstrating the wealth Stein's father had accrued.
In her later life Gertrude Stein lived mostly in Paris, and she gained fame through her numerous novels, plays, stories and poems. She collected large numbers of early Picasso paintings, and it is said she was friends with Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso himself.
The plaque at the house where Gertrude Stein was born reads:
Birthplace of Gertrude Stein. In this house on February 3, 1874, Gertrude Stein was born to Daniel and Amelia Stein. Author, poet, feminist, playwright, and catalyst in the development of modern art and literature.
'In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is.'
Allegheny West Historic District.
Today the area known as the Mexican War Streets Historic District is located in Central Northside near West Park just uphill from PNC Park. A drive around these streets with names like Monterey, Buena Vista, and Palo Alto, reveals an older, poorer neighborhood sprinkled with some great historic architecture and funky buildings.
After the Mexican War, General William Robinson, Jr, returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh. His family owned farming land north of the Allegheny River across from the city, and in 1848 Robinson laid out the first streets here, then subdivided his land. In heroic commemoration of the recently finished war, Robinson named many of the new streets after battles (Resaca, Monterry, Palo Alto, and Buena Vista) as well as a significant hero of the war (Zachary Taylor). This new city just across from Pittsburgh was called Allegheny City and William Robinson became its mayor.
Most of the homes in this neighborhood were constructed in the 1850s and 1860s. The architecture styles here include Greek Revival, Italianate, French Second Empire, Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Classical Revival. By the 1920s many of the neighborhoods wealthier residents had begun to move to newer, more fashionable neighborhoods, and by the 1960s the decline of the neighborhood was so pronounced, it was considered for demolition. Fortunately neighborhood owners and residents rallied to save this historic community.
Horse racetrack and Casino- I have a lot of great memories of the racetrack as a kid- on special days they had pony rides and you could always go to the barn to check out the horses before race time.
The Casino is new and pretty awesome. Unlike Mountaineer (the next closest one) it has the feel of a real casino like in AC.
Moraine State Park is a great place for hiking and swimming. I haven't camped here, but I would assume it is nice too. This is about 45 minutes to an hour north of the city on I-79 (exit 98, I think).
Since most of our family live in the Pittsburgh area, we used to visit often from New Jersey, taking between 7 and 7 1/2 hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to complete the trip. This beautiful vista shows what lies between New Jersey and Southwest Pennsylvania.
The countryside is just gorgeous in this part of the state, so I determined to get a photo on our last trip home. The route travels up and over several mountains dotted with verdant patches of forest, where deer, groundhogs and other wildlife are often seen grazing on the hillsides. You might even see Punxatawney Phil's cousin wandering through the brush!
On September 11th 2001, after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center Buildings in New York, then another slammed into the side of the Pentagon next to Washington, DC, a fourth plane was also in the hands of terrorists. The plane was a scheduled flight from Newark, NJ to San Francisco and had 44 people on board including the pilots, flight crew, passengers, and terrorists. The hijackers' most likely destination for this aircraft was the White House or the US Capitol Building where a joint session of Congress was underway. When the passengers learned from their loved ones on the ground about the fate of the other three aircraft and the thousands that were killed, they decided to not let the same happen to their airplane. After saying their goodbyes to their families, they decided to overrun the four terrorists in the cockpit and either kill them and land the plane, or force the plane into the ground. After they charged the cockpit and began to break down the door plane plane crashed at a high rate of speed in a field near Shanksville in south central PA.
A temporary memorial sits near the crash site. This area hosts 140,000 visitors a year who can view the crash site, look at photos of the deceased, leave trinkets or letters, or talk to the National Park Service guide in the small building. A permanent memorial is planned, and it should be opened on September 11th 2011.
I arrived on a cold day in November 2008. The wind was blowing very hard and the day's rain had turned to sleet, pelting my face and stinging my eyes. After wandering around the benches, plaques, and memorabilia, the security guard invited me into the small visitors center where the NPS guide spoke to me for about 45 minutes, mostly about the people who were on board the plane, the calls they made, and their families.
From Pittsburgh take the PA Turnpike East. From the PA Turnpike take US Rt 219 north, US 30 east, then Lambertsville Road south. The entrance is at Lambertsville Road and Skyline Road, near Shanksville PA. The route is well marked.
If you have kids and want to find a playground, here are some of the most fun, called by their local names.
Blue Slide Park - located in Frick park, it's characteristic is the big blue slide going down the hillside. It's in Squirrel Hill and also part of Frick Park, so there are trails and fields behind it.
Anderson Park - located in Oakland, and at the edge of Schenley Park right over Panther Hollow Bridge. This might be good after a trip to the museum or Phipp's conservatory.
Wooden playground (or castle park, can't quite remember) - located in Highland park in the park loop itself, so maybe good after a trip to the zoo (though the zoo itself has a park like area for kids). You'll know it if you see lots of wooden structures!
Following America's independence, the great westward expansion got underway in earnest. To encourage this huge movement west, the Founding Fathers saw the need for a good road. Starting in Cumberland, Maryland, the National Road made its way across western Maryland and southwestern Pennsylvania. It winds through the Appalachians on its way to what was then the frontier.
Authorized in 1806, it was the first road built entirely with Federal funds. Construction began in 1811 in Cumberland, and ended in Vandalia, Illinois (due to lack of funds). Today, Hwy 40 runs along this same route.
Along the way, taverns opened to serve travelers. Typical of these was the Mt Washington Tavern. Established in 1828, on land once owned by George Washington, it offered food, drink, and a place to sleep. Now, it's a museum that shows what life was then.
Following the French takeover of Ft Necessity, the British Empire struck back. An army led by Major General Edward Braddock entered the Monongahela Valley, intent on driving the French out once and for all.
Braddock was by all accounts a very fine officer and a gentleman. He would have been great on any European battlefield. Not so here in the wilderness of America. French and Indian soldiers ambushed and decimated Braddock's army, killing him.
The General's body was buried in a carefully hidden location, to prevent desecration. In 1804, his remains were uncovered. Eventually, they were reinterred here. In 1913, this marker was erected in his honor.
From Ft Necessity, follow Hwy 40 west toward Uniontown. The site is a few miles away in the right.
The French and Indian War (known in Europe as the Seven Years' War) was a global conflict. Britain, France, Prussia, Austria, Russia, and smaller powers clashed in Europe, the Americas, India, and elsewhere. By its end, the British Empire stood triumphant. This set the stage for the American and French Revolutions.
In America, it all began right here at Ft Necessity in 1754. British, French, and Indian tribes made competing claims to this territory. A young colonial officer named George Washington, then 21, came here to negotiate with the French. The refused to leave.
Col Washington then built this fort here at Great Meadows. Shortly thereafter, his troops clashed with the French at nearby Jumonville Meadows. On July 3, French troops attacked the fort. After a short but sharp battle, a truce was reached. Under its terms, Washington withdrew with honors, with their weapons and baggage (minus their swivel guns). The French took possession of the fort, and burned it. So began the largest war fought up to that time. Later, British General Braddock led an expedition to take control of this region.
Ft Necessity is roughly an hour and a half from downtown Pittsburgh. Follow US 51 south to Uniontown, then US 40 east to the park entrance. It's about 11 miles east of Uniontown.