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Containing the courthouse and county offices for Allegheny County, of which Pittsburgh is the county seat, the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail has a distinct medieval appearance, with steep slate roofs, walls of granite blocks, turrets, and arched windows.
The present courthouse is the third building that has served as Allegheny County's courthouse and county seat. The first was a wooden structure that was completed in 1794. The second building was completed in 1841, but burned to the ground in 1884. The present courthouse was constructed on the same site that the second building occupied.
A nationwide design competition held for the new courthouse was won by Boston architect H.H. Richardson. His design involved four-story walls enclosing a central courtyard to allow for maximum sunlight and fresh air. Construction on the granite Romanesque building began in 1884, and was completed in 1886
The courthouse building is connected to the county jail across Ross Street to the east by an arched bridge called the "Bridge of Sighs," whose design was based on that of the bridge in Venice of the same name.
The Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Updated Feb 18, 2013
The focus of the Fort Pitt Museum is the role the fort played during the French and Indian War, the American Revolutionary War, the Whiskey Rebellion, and the founding of Pittsburgh. (See my tip on Fort Pitt for more information about the history of the fort itself).
The indoor-outdoor museum opened in 1969. Outside it features a recreated bastion wall from Fort Pitt, as well as an outline of Fort Duquesne, a French fort that predated Fort Pitt. Inside, the museum's exhibits are displayed in 12,000 square feet (1,115 square meters) of exhibition space on two floors. There are interactive exhibits, as well as life-like historical figures. The museum contains a large collection of artifacts from the 1750s, including American Indian pieces; items from General Edward Braddock's expedition, such as musket balls and rifle locks; General Marquis de Lafayette's 1758 six-pound cannon called "La Embuschade"; and a pewter writing desk inscribed "Fort Pitt Provincial Store, 1761" which belonged to Josiah Davenport, a local fur trader and nephew of Benjamin Franklin. There are also three recreated rooms that detail life inside Fort Pitt as it existed in the 1750s, including a fur trader's cabin, a casemate storage room for munitions, and a British soldiers' barracks.
Updated Aug 5, 2012
The Duquesne Incline is a narrow-gauge inclined cable railway, more commonly called a funicular railway, that scales Mount Washington just across the Monongahela River to the south of downtown Pittsburgh. It offers spectacular views of Pittsburgh below as it makes its way up and down the hill.
Designed by Samuel Diescher, the Duquesne Incline was completed in 1877. It is 800 feet (244 meters) long, rises about 400 feet (122 meters) to the summit of Mount Washington, and is inclined at a 30-degree angle. Its picturesque cars were built by J.G. Brill and Company of Philadelphia. Painted bright red, the cars feature hand-carved cherry panels with birds-eye maple trim and amber glass transoms
The Duquesne Incline was just one of several funicular railways that were originally built to carry cargo up and down Mount Washington. The early funicular railways were steam-operated; now they are powered by electricity. Eventually they started taking on passengers, mainly people who lived at the top of Mount Washington and had no way of reaching their homes, other than hiking up a steep trail. As roads were built to the neighborhoods situated at the top of the hill, the funicular railways saw a significant decrease in passenger and cargo traffic, and most shut down. By the end of the 1960s, only the Duquesne Incline and the Monongahela Incline remained.
In 1962, the Duquesne Incline was actually set to close. It was losing money and needed major repairs. However, the residents of Duquesne Heights launched a fundraising campaign to save their incline. Eventually the Society for the Preservation of the Duquesne Heights Incline, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the funicular railway, took over the Duquesne Incline and saved it from being shut down and demolished.
Nowadays, the Duquesne Incline does a brisk business taking tourists to the top of Mount Washington for incomparable views of downtown Pittsburgh. It is in fact one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Observation decks were added to the roofs of the cars so passengers can sit in the open air during good weather.
Updated Jul 19, 2012
The Andy Warhol Museum features an extensive permanent collection and archives from Andy Warhol, the Pittsburgh-born pop-art icon. Andy Warhol was the leading figure in the visual arts movement, commonly referred to as pop art. His artworks covered a wide range of mediums including hand drawing, painting, print making, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film and video, and music.
The Andy Warhol Museum is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to a single artist. Plans for the museum were announced in 1989, a little over two years after the death of Andy Warhol. An abandoned industrial warehouse was acquired, and after extensive renovations, the Andy Warhol Museum opened in 1994.
The museum contains 88,000 square feet (8,175 square meters) of exhibit space on seven floors. Seventeen galleries display 900 paintings, almost 2,000 works on paper, more than 1,000 published unique prints, 77 sculptures, 4,000 photographs, and more than 4,350 films and videotaped works.
Updated Jul 19, 2012
The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is a nonprofit community arts campus that, in cooperation with the City of Pittsburgh, offers arts education programs and contemporary art exhibitions. Founded in 1945 as the Arts and Craft Center, its name was changed to the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts during a reorganization in 1980.
The center provides services and resources for artists throughout western Pennsylvania and exhibits works by prominent and emerging contemporary artists in gallery, cinema, and public settings. The center also offers annual special awards for the Artist of the Year and the Emerging Artist of the Year.
The Pittsburgh Center for the Arts also provides a venue for the community to create, see, support, and learn about the arts. Members of the public can take classes, join community programs, or send their children to summertime art camps.
The center is located on a campus containing four buildings, including two mansions, a carriage house, and another building with new kilns. One of the mansions was built in 1911 and was owned by industrialist Charles D. Marshall, the founder of Bethlehem Steel (pictured here). The other is next door to the Marshall house and was owned by A.M. Scaife. Both were donated by their owners to the City of Pittsburgh, which leases them to the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
Updated Jul 19, 2012
The Carnegie Museum of Art is housed in the massive Beaux-Arts Carnegie Institute and Library complex, along with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and the Carnegie Music Hall.
The museum was founded in 1895 by Pittsburgh industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Its permant collection contains about 35,000 works of art, 1,800 of which are on display at any one time. Works include European and American decorative arts ranging from the late seventeenth century to the present, works on paper, paintings, prints (especially Japanese prints), and sculptures. The museum has an extensive collection of modern art, and it was arguably the first modern-art museum in the United States.
The curatorial departments of the Carnegie Museum of Art include Fine Arts (contemporary art and works on paper), Decorative Arts, Architecture, and Photography.
The museum's collections are exhibited in seven galleries which total 125,000 square feet (11,613 square meters). The Sarah Mellon Scaife Gallery (pictured here) was built as an addition to the existing Carnegie Institute and Library complex, and more than doubled the museum's exhibit space. It also contains a children's studio, theater, cafe, bookstore, and offices. Designed by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, the gallery was constructed in 1974.
Updated Jul 19, 2012
Built by the British during the French and Indian War, Fort Pitt protected the strategic confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. It was constructed between 1759 and 1761 on a site previously occupied by the French-built Fort Duquesne, which had been demolished. It was named in honor of William Pitt the Elder.
The fort saw no action during the French and Indian War. However, its was attacked by a combined force of members of the Delaware and Shawnee tribes in an attempt to drive settlers out of the region in an action known as Pontiac's Rebellion. The American Indians attacked the fort on June 22, 1763, but it was too well fortified to be taken. On August, 1 most of the American Indians broke off the seige to intercept an approaching force under the command of Henry Bouquet. He fought off the attack and relieved Fort Pitt on August 22.
After Pontiac's Rebellion, the British no longer had any use for the fort and turned it over to the colonists in 1772. Shortly after that, both Pennsylvania and Virginia claimed the region around Pittsburgh. Virginia forces took control of Fort Pitt and renamed it Fort Dunmore. The fort was the staging ground for the short-lived Dunmore's War of 1774.
After the American Revolutionary War, there were no longer any threats from American Indians or European powers, so the fort became obsolete. It was therefore decommissioned in 1794.
The Fort Pitt Blockhouse, sometimes called Bouquet's Blockhouse (pictured here), is the only intact remnant of Fort Pitt. Constructed in 1764, it is the oldest structure in Pittsburgh, and is probably the oldest structure west of the Allegheny Mountains and in the Mississippi River Valley.
Updated Jul 19, 2012
Point State Park is situated on a point of land, called the "Golden Triangle," where three rivers meet. The 36-acre (15-hectare) park features a 150-foot-tall (46-meter-tall) fountain, promenades along the riverfront, and the ruins of Fort Pitt, one of the four forts constructed on the site by the French or British during the mid-1700s. Point State Park has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The park is the place where many of Pittsburgh's annual festivals and concerts take place, such as the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the Three Rivers Regatta, the Head of the Ohio rowing competition, and the Mellon Jazz Festival.
This picture is looking north toward the start of the Ohio River, which is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny River (upper right) and the Monongahela River (lower right).
Unfortunately, during my last trip to Pittsburgh the fountain was being rebuilt, and much of the park was a construction zone.
Updated Jul 19, 2012
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is housed in the massive Beaux-Arts Carnegie Institute and Library complex, along with the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Music Hall.
The museum was founded in 1896 by Pittsburgh industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Its extensive collection of specimens and artifacts documents life on earth, the earth's geology, and human cultures. The museum's curatorial departments include Anthropology, Birds, Botany, Herpetology, Invertebrate Paleontology, Invertebrate Zoology, Mammals, Minerals, Specimen/Exhibit Conservation, and Vertebrate Paleontology.
With over 22,000,000 specimens organized into 20 galleries, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History is included among the top five natural history museums in the United States. About 10,000 specimens are on display at any one time in the museum's 115,000 square feet (10,684 square meters) of exhibit space. In addition to exhibit space, there is an extensive research library and office space in the museum.
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has one of the finest collections of dinosaur fossils in the world. Its collection of fossils from the Jurassic Period is the largest in the world, and its dinosaur exhibit, Dinosaurs in Time, is the third-largest collection of mounted and displayed dinosaur fossils in the United States. Notable specimens include the world's only fossil of a juvenile Apatosaurus, the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex in existence, and a species of oviraptorosaur that has yet to be described to science.
Some of the most popular exhibit galleries include the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems, the Alcoa Foundation Hall of American Indians, Polar World: Wyckoff Hall of Arctic Life, the Walton Hall of Ancient Egypt, and the Benedum Hall of Geology.
Updated Jul 18, 2012
The North Shore neighborhood of Pittsburgh is located on the north banks of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers, and includes the hillside to the north. Many of the city's sporting and cultural facilities are located on the North Shore, including Heinz Field, PNC Park, the Carnegie Science Center, Rivers Casino, the Andy Warhol Museum, the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, and the Carnegie Library/Hazlett Theater.
However, most of the neighborhood is a mixture of middle-class and wealthy residential areas. There are many Victorian-style homes on quiet, tree-lined streets.
Construction of the two stadiums has resulted in redevelopment of the riverfront area. Millions of dollars of construction and development are planned for the next few years, including two light-rail stations. New restaurants, sports bars, and nightclubs attract post-game visitors to an area that used to be relatively quiet and empty after dark.
The North Shore was originally an independent township called Allegheny City that was incorporated in 1840. However, it was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907, and is becoming one of that city's most vibrant neighborhoods.
Updated Jul 17, 2012
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