Monday, March 27, 2017

Pittsburgh: the old and the new


SAT 11 Mar
Depart 12:35 from Toronto City Aiport, 5 mins late on Porter Bombardier Q400. Steamwhistle Pilsner on plane. Arrive Pittsburgh 13:35, very quiet at the airport. Uber/Lyft stand at the airport shows they are moving with the times. 28X Flyer bus, free for seniors, blagged my way on without proper ID, Annette $2.75. Busway and tunnel to city centre. About 45 minutes.
After short walk from bus arrive at trendy Hotel Kimpton Monaco, 620 William Penn Place, at 15.25. Then stroll round downtown. First impressions: shuttered everywhere. Pittsburgh has contracted so much that it is overprovided with buildings. But the city is an architectural treasure box, to rival Chicago for interest, if not scale. There are all but no cranes to be seen. Nashville it is not - approximately 500 miles and a world away. Nevertheless Pittsburgh has tried harder than most rustbelt cities to recover from the loss of the once-dominant steel industry.
The iconic Kauffmann's Dept Store (later Macy's) is closed, famous for "meet me under the clock." Irish Fair in the Square is underway with band "The Hillbilly Way" grunge-country rockers cranking it out in the freezing cold. "The twang's the thang!" Decided against supper on the square as it was full of drunk revellers celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Bought milk at Rite-Aid, very down home. Retreated to the hotel where more persons in green attire were partying. Free local beer: "Penn Pilsner."
Supper at newly-opened Talia next door. Spendy at $115 incl tip. Food and service good. Farrotto main course - barley-based, similar to risotto, Montepulciano red wine (no house wine here).
SUN 12 Mar
To The Commoner in the hotel for breakfast, pierogis and poached eggs, oatmeal, coffee, $39 incl tip. Duralex glasses at the table.
71C bus to Point Breeze, via Oakland, University of Pittsburgh, Penn Avenue for Frick Museum (at Penn and Homewood). About 40 mins ride. Car museum and small motoring library. Bought book: Meet You in Hell - Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and the Bitter Partnership that Transformed America, by Les Standiford, $16.05 incl tax.
Clayton House Tour (the home of Henry Clay Frick), $12, Seniors $10. German Welte Style 6 Concert Orchestrion in the sun porch facing onto Penn Ave. It was not working when we were there. I wonder who will repair it?
Lunch at The Cafe at the Frick, 7227 Reynolds St. Hot tea, soup and sandwich, $32.64 for two. Supper from Subway, 414 Smithfield Street, $12.95 takeout.
MON 13 Mar

Pic by ALT.
Walk via Union Trust Building ($100m renovation) to Apollo Cafe - veggie omelet and coffee, $14.34 for two. Spotted Uber "driverless" Volvo SUV. The old and the new in Pittsburgh. Purchase 2 x $7 transit passes at Steel Plaza, go anywhere all day. Take subway/street car across the river bridge to Station Square and the old Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railway station, superb interior, now a restaurant. Old railcars outdoors. Subway remarkably clean and safe. Purchased Bomber Harris - His Life and Times, by Henry Probert, $4.98 remaindered at Bradley's Bookshop, in the old engine shed.
Cross the street to the Monongahela Incline for Mount Washington, coffee at Grand Brew, Shiloh St., walk one mile along Grandview Avenue to the Duquesne Incline, spectacular views, descent, then bus to downtown.
Cold. Winter Storm Stella is expected. One O'clock lunch at Au Bon Pain, 625 Liberty Ave., soup and bagel, $11.52 for two. Panhandling conman in evidence.
Supper at The Tap Room bar, at the Omni William Penn Hotel, Fish & Chips, Salmon Salad, $55. We note that the hotel is an old haunt of bandleader Lawrence Welk. Also that former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stayed here on Thursday 24 September 2009. The socialist 'son of the manse' knew how to get his snout in the trough!
TUES 14 Mar
Breakfast at Bruegger's Bagels, "Authetic New York Style," 531 Grant Street, $13.23. A haunt of low-lifes.
Walk to Amtrak station, a magnificent old building, now private apartments. Due to the bad weather the Amtrak train from Chicago is short-stopped at Pittsburgh (engine #112). Parked at the platform is the Ohio Central private rail car "Sugarcreek." Amtrak-employee Richard Mayorsky cheerfully answers our questions. At his suggestion we walk up the side of the station to view an old Pennsylvania Rail Road sign.

Pic by ALT.
Walk on to the Senator John Heinz History Center, 1212 Smallman Street. The man at the cash desk says Pittsburgh is the "most liveable city." We watch a film of old-time city streetcars, sat aboard PCC trolley #1724. There was a time when streetcars inspired composers viz: The Trolley March, J.S. Duss, 1901. Like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh has lost its streetcars downtown (they are now underground). They could have exploited the tourist potential, exemplified by San Francisco.
On display a 1936 stainless steel Ford Deluxe Sedan, built by Allegheny Steel and the Ford Motor Company to demonstrate the practical and promotional uses of stainless steel. Old sign on wall for Horne's Department Store at Penn Ave/Stanwix Street, named changed to Lazarus in 1994. Displays re Heinz Ketchup, which has the keystone on the label. The company started out making horseradish sauce and later became known for pickles. Splendid archive facilities on sixth floor. Lunch at the museum, among the exhibits, $7.76.
In the evening to Earth Inspired Salads, 61 William Penn Place, $21.14, There was enough food for three meals. So we took a doggie bag back to the hotel to make a supper for the morrow.
WED 15 Mar
Breakfast at busy Starbucks, Omni William Penn Hotel, $11.34.
61C bus to Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Library, Forbes & Craig. I do some research at the (free) Library, while Annette tours the art museum and natural history exhibits (nominally $20, but free for school teachers). The Cafe Carnegie, 4400 Forbes Ave, for lunch: Pumpkin Pasta Bake, Veggie Pot Pie, $42. Suitable on a cold day.
After lunch to Caliban's Bookstore, 410 S Craig St., purchased Maigret and the Killer, Georges Simenon, $12. Back to town on #58 bus, going all round the 'burbs. Jimmy John's for cookie and sandwich, 501 Grant St., $9.28. Put together with leftovers made a supper for two.
THURS 16 Mar
Walk to The Strip. In the Kitchen store, 1725 Penn Ave., where Annette scores a Garlic Saver, $5.34. P&Gs Pamela's Diner, fifties style breakfast, $27 incl tip. Backtrack to Bradleys Book Outlet, 2019 Penn Ave: Treasure Hunt, an Inspector Mantalbano Mystery, by Andrea Camilleri, $2.12. Old industrial buildings refurbished as flats. The salvation of Pittsburgh must lie in persuading people to live downtown. Then to The Store at Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman Street, aka Contributions non-profit space, still going after 40 years. Wooden salad tongs and spreader made by Jonathan's Spoons in Pennsylvania, $37.45.
Evening Penn Pilsner beer at hotel happy hour, then Yuengling draft at The Commoner, Half-Chicken, Tofu Tikka Marsala, $51.36 plus tip.
FRI 17 Mar
Breakfast at Einstein Bros Bagels, in the Koppers Building, 2 x Lox Bagels, coffee, $21.14, quiet, no hassle. This chain is known to us from our visit to Scranton, PA. Walkabout to PPG Place. A showpiece development lacking tenants. Coffee at Crazy Mocha Coffee Co in a pleasant atrium. Walk back to hotel, dep 28X Flyer bus for the airport.

Pic by RLT.

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