Monday, March 16, 2009

PITTSBURGH: WHAT YOU MORE THAN LIKELY DIDN'T KNOW AND WHAT YOU NEVER BOTHERED TO THINK ABOUT. PART I


"P.B.& G." is a blog about Pittsburgh sports, primarily Steelers, Pirates and Penguins. We'll throw in an occasional Pitt story and even a West Virginia "couch burning" piece now and then, but history? We were thinking in the editorial department that it's important that we share some of our knowledge about Pittsburgh's early years so that you can pass it on to your children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren. So once again, we encourage you to, "Print out this story and save it with your other important documents." One fine day you can whip it out and totally entertain these kids for hours, maybe even teach them something too! So here it is:

PITTSBURGH: A PICTORIAL ESSAY PART I

Above: This is the first structure ever built in Pittsburgh, the Fort Pitt Blockhouse located in Point State park. This was the first fort that was built to protect this strategic area. Today, people like Bruce Willis (who was a Pittsburgh River rescue officer) secure the Three Rivers with motorboats, thus rendering the Blockhouse useless. Now it is used to store fireworks for the various Zambelli shows that take place in Pittsburgh every third night.

Above: The only movie to accurately portray life in Pittsburgh, Bruce Willis in "Striking Distance". In this police drama, Dennis Farina plays the police chief . He has two neurotic sons who are former cops. One, "Tommy" is particularly insane and speaks with a lisp as he says, "Who's the better cop now?" as he attempts to kill Bruce Willis, but I digress.

Above: Here it is, the reason why you have all of those Black & Gold Steeler shirts. It's the official flag of Pittsburgh, which incidentally "borrowed heavily" from the family crest of William Pitt, the city's namesake. The "Burgh" (as it is now affectionately called) now has two teams that proudly wear these colors always and a third that sometimes wears San Diego blue for some unknown reason.


Above: Famous picture of William Pitt holding "the letter". This letter had instructions on the outside that it was not to be opened until Feb. 2, 2009. When it was opened on that date recently, it mystically had instructions for the mayor to change the city's name to "Sixburgh".
Above: Believe it or not, this building is the first-ever to house the University of Pittsburgh. Today, ironically, the athletic department now uses it to store Pitt's football helmets during the off-season. Dave Wannstedt can often be seen smoking a corncob pipe on the front porch on warm summer evenings.


Above: This picture captures the essence of what moved author James Parton to write: Pittsburgh is, "Hell with the lid off." Indeed Pittsburgh was so smoky that a famous "family story" concerning my grandfather has it that one night between the fog and the smoke that you couldn't even see your hand in front of your face. My grandmother had gone to the North Side to shop and as it got dark, my grandfather was in a panic. So he began walking from Troy Hill to the North Side. During the walk he plowed right into someone that he never even saw coming...you guessed it, my grandmother! There are at least 18 smokestacks depicted in the scene above.

Pittsburgh was founded in 1758, incorporated in 1794 and Chartered in 1816. Its' name was officially changed to "Sixburgh" in 2009 by Mayor Steelerstahl.

Above: Mayor Steelerstahl lover of contact sports except of the sexual variety.

Above: The Pittsburgh waterways are busiest in the country since Pittsburgh is the largest inland port in the United States. With all of that barge traffic, it means small boaters had better have their "heads on a swivel" as they say. It also means that these particular rowers are in imminent danger. Notice the oncoming barge on the right! HEY WATCH IT!

Pittsburgh is also a city that has won many awards over the years. Some are good, some.... The "Places Rated" almanac has ranked Pittsburgh 4th in 1987, 1st in 1988, 3rd in 1989, 5th in 1993, 14th in 1997 and 12th in 2000. It was once again ranked #1 in 2007. Believe it or not, Pittsburgh is the only city to finish in the top 20 in every edition.

In 2005, "The Economist" named Pittsburgh the most livable and also ranked the Burgh number 26 worldwide, while "Cities Ranked & Rated" listed Pittsburgh #28 in 2004.

On the other hand, The American Lung Association ranked Pittsburgh's air as still being the second most-polluted in the nation, behind only Los Angeles. This finding has been vigorously disputed by the Allegheny County Health Department.

Above: Pittsburgh is often referred to as being "The city of bridges," which no one is about to dispute. But did you know that there are 446 bridges in the city? That's actually more bridges than they have in Venice, Italy!

Above: Venice may be romantic, but God help these people if they ever try to get barges going through there! What must their basements be like too? Don't store your important papers there, that's for sure!

TOMORROW: Tune in for part 2 of this important historical feature!