About Pittsburgh

The city of Pittsburgh is unlike any other. With its distinct neighborhoods, focus on education, reinvented economic strength, successful sports teams, multitude of recreation opportunities, and hometown pride forged with diversity from every corner of the globe, Pittsburgh is a true great American city.

There's more to this town the deeper you look. Pittsburgh has a language of its own and a surprisingly distinct underground, arts, music, and ethnic culture. The Steel City is also at the forefront of biotechnology and medicine, and its world-class universities are technological drivers of the booming local high-tech economy and of modern cities worldwide.

Pittsburgh has a culture that has grown and shaped the city and the people living here. The low cost of living, low crime, beautiful changing seasons, proximity to city and rural life, central location in the national scene, and the general friendliness of the people living here helped rank it the most livable city in the United States in 2007 by Places Rated Almanac!

A City of History

Pittsburgh has a rich history that extends well before the Revolutionary War. Pittsburgh was a staging point for many expeditions to the west, including the Louis and Clark expedition in 1804. Pioneering spirits would make their way from cities like Philadelphia and New York across the rugged Allegheny Mountains and into Pittsburgh, the source of the Ohio River. From here they would float down the river to St. Louis and further west as they populated the new country.

In the mid-1800s, Pittsburgh began to develop into the industrial manufactory of the world, as it would soon be known. The coal-rich mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, coupled with its major waterways to the West and proximity to the East, would make Pittsburgh a major railroad powerhouse. Lines stretched directly to every major city in the country, transporting Pittsburgh's industrial goods everywhere. From iron to steel, Pittsburgh provided the United States with the precious metal that fueled its very growth into a world power. Virtually every major architectural project constructed in America in the 19th and early-20th centuries was made possible by Pittsburgh industry.

Pittsburgh became one of the most immigrated-to cities on Earth. Millions of Europeans came here in the 1800s and 1900s, many of them to work in the steel mills and coal mines that were booming at that time. (Interestingly, the Pittsburgh area still operates the two largest coal mines on the planet.) At the turn of the 20th century, more wealth was contained in Pittsburgh than any other American city except New York. Take a walk through one of Pittsburgh's older neighborhoods and you'll see many beautiful homes from that period. The strong ethnic identities built in this city can still be experienced directly.

A City of Neighborhoods

Within the last few decades, many older American cities in the north have begun to lose the identity of their once distinct ethnic neighborhoods. Not so in Pittsburgh. Take a walk down the South Side and you will still hear Slovenian spoken in the streets. Haggle with a Strip District vendor and enjoy fresh Korean and Japanese seafood. Stop by an Irish bar in Lawrenceville and listen to stories from the old world. Head over to Polish Hill and attend Catholic mass at one of the most beautiful examples of a Polish church in America. While you're at it, stop in nearby for the largest traditional Latin High mass in the country or visit the largest collection of holy relics outside of the Vatican. Eat at one of the many great Italian restaurants in Pittsburgh's Little Italy, Bloomfield. Or enjoy great Israeli food from Squirrel Hill, a predominately-Jewish neighborhood; Pittsburgh has the second-largest inner-city Jewish population in the country.

Pittsburgh is home to over 80 neighborhoods, each individual and each unique. The old homes in these neighborhoods reflect the lives of their residents, carved into the hills of Pittsburgh or tucked away in valleys. Pittsburgh is often referred to as the second-steepest city in the US to San Francisco, and Pittsburgh's old streetcar tracks running up and down steep brick roads certainly reflects that image. There are even some houses that cannot be reached by vehicle. Public staircases, 700 in all, stretch up these mountains where no roads can go, and they are given city street names. Pittsburgh has more of these staircases than any other city in the US. A walk up one provides spectacular views of the city and its neighborhoods... if you're feeling adventurous. And along all the streets, old trees grow out of the sidewalk and provide shade for passers-by. In fact, Pittsburgh has more trees per capita than any other major city in the world.

The people of Pittsburgh are polite and unassuming. There are no class distinctions in this city; working-class, blue-collar values resonate in every neighborhood. Pittsburgh is a place where anyone can become something great, regardless of wealth.

A City of Education

Pittsburgh's emphasis on equality for all people has made education a continual priority for the city. The old Steel City is now ranked the most literate town in America. Its public school teachers are among the highest paid in the nation, and several public charter schools exist forn the creative and performing arts, gifted students, and students with disabilities. Over 11 universities are situated within its city limits, including the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

The University of Pittsburgh is home to the country's first bioterrorism research center, a brand new facility funded directly by the Department of Homeland Security. Pitt is home to a top-15 medical school and a philosophy department called the number one in the world. The school claims more Marshall and Rhodes Scholars in the last three years than any other university, public or private, in America. The beautiful Cathedral of Learning, shown here, is the world's first university skyscraper and the tallest such building in the western hemisphere. Classes are held year-round in the building.

Carnegie Mellon, previously Carnegie Tech, has brought Pittsburgh to the very front of robotics, computer science, and mechanical engineering with the first Robotics Institute in the world. The university also houses the first computer science school and first drama school ever built. But CMU is also known for its prestigious arts and music schools, and it is arguably one of the best universities for a classical musical education in the US. Diversity is king on campus, and students come from all around the world to study there. CMU's commitment to technology has made Pittsburgh one of the central hubs of the Internet itself and the top robotics city on earth outside of Japan.

A City of Business

With the passing of steel as its main industry, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself in new and exciting ways. Pittsburgh is headquarters to eight Fortune 500 companies. It is within a 90-minute flight from 70% of the American population. The recently redesigned Pittsburgh International Airport is consistently ranked among the top three airports in the country, in terms of style, ease of movement, and comfort. It serves as a hub to several major air-carriers, and is also one of the busiest airports in the world. The airport is simply huge, with more room for additional runways; it could contain Chicago O'Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta within its boundaries.

Pittsburgh is the busiest inland port in the US, with shipments on its rivers reaching the entire central United States. To illustrate the mass of business conducted here, Pittsburgh is New York City's fourth-largest domestic trading partner and Philadelphia's first. Businessmen and residents alike find Pittsburgh attractive because it boasts the lowest cost of living of all major northern cities.

But Pittsburgh is also a city of giving. The Steel City can claim 15 of Pennsylvania's top 20 non-profit and charitable foundations. Famous non-profits include the Heinz Foundation, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Extra Mile Education Foundation, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and the Pittsburgh Foundation for Neighborhood Development. With so many large foundations, it's no wonder Pittsburgh was named the most philanthropic city in the United States in 2004.

A City of Champions

The Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins call Pittsburgh home, and millions of people around the country and around the world are avid fans. The Steelers boast the largest fan-base of any NFL team in the country, with a national identity strengthened by the team's consistent winning-record and rise to dynasty in the 1970s. There is far more Steelers merchandise for sale on eBay than any other team, and Steelers jerseys sell more than any other NFL jersey. And don't even think about walking up to the Heinz Field box office for tickets: for decades every game has been sold out, and the waiting list for season tickets is 11 years long. Locally and family-owned since their founding, the Steelers have attracted fans in cities across the world: you can find a Steelers-themed sports bar in every major city in the United States.

The Pittsburgh area also boasts one of the largest attendance-rates for high school football games in the US. In a land where countless tough sons of coal-mining families have gone on to play sports at the collegiate and professional level, high school football is king of autumn Friday nights.

A City of Entertainment

Pittsburgh was recently named the best city for music in the country, and one stop at one of its many underground music venues will keep you coming back and exploring the city's rich cultural districts. From jazz to its impressive indie rock scene to Pittsburgh's many techno dance clubs, there's music for everyone. Musicals and plays are performed at stages all across the city, and several shows have premiered here which have gone on to become great classics. In the summer evenings, you can catch a free movie on the lawn of Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park. And for those who prefer something a little more refined, the Pittsburgh Symphony is widely hailed as one of the greatest symphonies in the world, and it had the honor of being the first American symphony invited to the Vatican.

Allegheny County is in the top 10 counties for boat registrants in the US. During sporting events, the rivers are filled with tailgaters enjoying the view from the water. The Pittsburgh Regatta, the largest inland regatta in the US, is held yearly, attracting half a million people nationwide to Pittsburgh's beautiful three rivers. A short ride up the Monongahela will bring you to the foot of pristine mountains and prime fishing spots along some of Pennsylvania's finest creeks. And what bass fisherman could resist to anchor at the pillar of one of Pittsburgh's many bridges; the county has more bridges than any other in the US.

Pittsburgh hosts the second largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the US, and nearby Canonsburg (population: 8607) commands, what has been in recent years, the fourth largest Fourth of July Parade in the country. Patriotism runs deep here, but there's always a good excuse for fireworks in Pittsburgh. The famous local Zambelli family produces fireworks displays for many cities, although the most dramatic displays are in Pittsburgh. And if you feel like some baseball, ESPN named PNC Park the best stadium to watch baseball in the major leagues.

Kennywood, America's oldest traditional amusement park, offers some great rollercoasters and rides many of which have been denoted national historic landmarks. The park also claims three of the most famous wooden roller coasters in operation today, including a continuous top-10 favorite, the "Thunderbolt." And if you're looking for a way to get out of the heat, check out Sandcastle Waterpark, or take a dip in a public swimming pool; Pittsburgh has more city-owned swimming pools per capita than any other American city.

The Pittsburgh Zoo houses one of only six public aquariums in the US, a brand new facility with over 40 exhibits. The city also operates the only indoor bird zoo in the country, the United States National Aviary. The Carnegie Museums, world-famous for their exhibits ranging from one of the most complete dinosaur exibits in the world to the world's first modern art show, include the Museum of Natural History, Museum of Art, the Children's Museum, and the Science Center. The Science Center sits along the North Shore of the Allegheny River and offers tours of a real navy submarine docked in the water. And if you're looking for something to do indoors, the museum's four-story Omnimax IMAX movie theatre plays the latest blockbusters. Additionally, you can check out the Andy Warhol Museum, the Heinz History Center, Phipps Conservatory, the Mattress Factory Museum, the Allegheny Observatory (at one time the second-largest telescope in the world), and many Revolutionary War and Civil War -era museums.

Leave the city for a while and enjoy the beautiful countryside of southwestern Pennsylvania. Take a walk through the area's many small towns, bike along an old railroad trail, kayak down the rapids of a stream, ski on the slopes, or go mountain climbing. Additionally, Pittsburgh has many sportsmen who find the forests and waterways of southwestern PA some of the best in North America.

A City of Firsts

Pittsburgh can claim many world "firsts" in its long history. Some notable ones:

First radio broadcast
First public broadcasting station
First McDonald's Big Mac
First professional football game
First World Series
First retractable roof
First baseball stadium
First pop can
First T-rex skeleton
First motion picture theater
First uranium production
First nuclear powered city
First nuclear submarine
First robotics institute
First suspension bridge
First gas station
First petroleum refinery
First air brake
First long distance electricity
First steamboat
First polio vaccine
First heart transplant
First liver transplant
First kidney transplant
First labor union
First banana split
First bingo game
First ferris wheel
First aluminum-siding building
First Internet emoticon :-)

A City of Pride

For its beauty alone, Pittsburgh instills warmth in the hearts of its residents. The view of Pittsburgh from Mount Washington was recently named the second-most beautiful view in the United States by USA Weekend. Anyone who has seen southwestern Pennsylvania in the fall season with its many lush mountains in full color knows how pretty Pittsburgh can be. But there is more.

Pittsburghers have a pride in their city that is genuinely refreshing. They enjoy seeing their city given the national spotlight it so truly deserves. In numerous business seminars, concerts, musicals, plays, and events held in the city, (in recent times such as the 2005 Senior Olympics, 2005 Bassmaster Classic, and the 2006 MLB All-Star Game), Pittsburghers wear their black and gold on their sleeve. And it works: Pittsburgh is second only to New York City as the most recognizable skyline in the country.

In relation to the mid-Atlantic cities of the United States, Pittsburgh has more midwestern sensibilities and a more relaxed lifestyle than its neighbors in the East. It is a place for living, for raising a family, for feeling a sense of community and a real life-long connection with people and place. Yet even though it is not a mid-Atlantic city, it has the rich history of one, and it enjoys a heritage rarely found in the midwest. It is positioned in between two worlds, figuratively and literally, and the result is a unique and inspiring place different than any other. Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh, and we love it.

All images on this page Copyright © 2003 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette