|Downtown Pittsburgh from the North Side|
Some might ask “Why visit Pittsburgh in February?” Yes, it was cold, cold enough that a trip to Point State Park was ill advised. But Pittsburgh has a lot of indoor attractions. So, with a few free days on my hands, I drove across the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania to return to a city I had not seen in over a decade.
|Bessamer Fountain at Station Square - by Andrevan via Wikimedia Commons|
I made the Sheraton Hotel at Station Square my base. Station Square is a shopping, dining and entertainment complex located along the southern shore of the Monongahela River, across from downtown Pittsburgh. The complex includes five buildings from the historic Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad station, refurbishing them into an area that draws people throughout the day for food and entertainment. Station Square sits at the foot of the cliffs that line the Monongahela River, and you can ride the Monongahela or Duquesne incline funiculars up to the Mount Washington neighborhood and get some beautiful views of the city.
|The Smithfield Street Bridge at sunset|
On my first day, I drove over to the North Side area, on the north side of the Allegheny River. This area was originally Alleghany City, and independent municipality, and it was annexed by the city of Pittsburgh in 1907. What drew me to this area was The Mattress Factory, a contemporary art museum. The Mattress Factory was founded by Barbara Luderowski, and artist who moved to Pittsburgh from Michigan, in 1972. She bought an abandoned building, the old Sterns and Foster factory, and turned it into her studio and living space. Eventually the space became home to a thriving community of artists, and she incorporated it into a museum, holding its first exhibition in 1982. Today, the museum has expanded to include two other buildings in the area and two artist’s residences. It hosts several site specific exhibitions every year in its galleries.
|Solar Grow Room by Meg Webster|
|Sculpting Gravity by Allan Wexler|
|Infinity Dots Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama|
The Mattress Factory is in the Central North Side neighborhood. This area was originally developed in 1847. There are many historic row houses, and it was home to many of Allegheny City’s richest residents. Many streets in the neighborhood are named for generals who fought in the Mexican-American War, and the are is still called the Mexican War Streets.
From here, walking south, towards the Allegheny River, I passed through the Allegheny Center. This area was the commercial center of Allegheny City. During the 1960’s, at the height of the “urban renewal” movement, much of the neighborhood was torn down and replaced with modern buildings. Apartment towers, offices, even a new shopping mall were built in what had been a low rise residential and commercial area. The mall has since been converted to a large office complex. Luckily, the Carnegie Free Library, built in 1890, was not touched.
|Reigning Queens by Andy Warhol|
Continuing south, I passed under the I-279 highway and into the North Shore neighborhood. This former industrial section is now home to Pittsburgh’s two professional stadia – PNC Park, home to the Pirates, and Heinz Field, Home to the Steelers. It is also where you will find the Andy Warhol Museum, 7 floors dedicated to the life, art and all things having to do with the Pittsburgh native.
|Roberto Clemente Statue outside PNC Park|
The North Side is also home to the National Aviary and the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. But for me the real interest here is in visiting the old neighborhoods. Walking among the old row houses of the Mexican War streets, or through the parks of Alleghany Center. It is a great chance to observe the changes that have come about over years, from an urban center, to an area in decay, rebuilding and now gentrification. Much of these changes are visible as they continue even today.
The Mattress Factory – 500 Sampsonia Way. The 13, 16 or 17 busses from downtown to North Ave and Monterey Street. Then walk 3 blocks north on Monterey St to Sampsonia Way. Turn right and walk about 100 m to the museum.
Adults are $20, Seniors and Students $10.
The Andy Warhol Museum – 117 Sandusky Street. The # 1,2, 4, 6 or 8 buses from downtown, across the Andy Warhol Bridge. Entrance is $20 for adults; $10 for seniors, students and children.