Pittsburgh: hilltop panoramas, major museums, and great architecture highlight this revitalized city

Pittsburgh: hilltop panoramas, major museums, and great architecture highlight this revitalized city – If You Only Have A Day In …

Tom Bross

Start your short visit at Point State Park, triangular terrain shaped by the confluence of three major rivers: the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio. Punctuated by a grandiose fountain, this wedge of recreational open space (where Pennsylvania’s second-biggest city came into existence in 1758) gets you oriented, with downtown’s skyscrapers in close proximity.

Local topography becomes apparent, too. Forested hills dominate surrounding outskirts; south-side Pittsburgh’s 600-foot Mt. Washington rises steeply above the Monongahela. For one of urban America’s most spectacular panoramics, ride the vintage Duquesne Incline up to that ridge’s Grandview Avenue summit.

During the bygone Rust Belt decades, riverside flatlands were clogged with steel mills, iron foundries, glassworks, coal heaps, and freight yards. Now, though, heavy industry has given way to financial-services and high-tech enterprises. Result: environmental cleanup and renewed livability throughout the city’s 88 neighborhoods.

On the Allegheny riverfront, football’s Steelers play their NFL home games in Heinz Stadium. Nearby, baseball fans root for the Pirates in comparably new and accessible PNC Park. A few blocks away, a warehouse-turned-music store now attracts museum-goers to native Pittsburgher Andy Warhol’s quirky pop art, videos, and memorabilia.

The 50-acre Golden Triangle comprises plazas and mini-parks amidst a diverse mix of prominent buildings. They’re adorned with such corporate names as ALCOA, Koppers, Westinghouse, Mellon Bank, and USX (formerly U.S. Steel)–the latter containing headquarters offices in an especially tall, 841-ft. tower. Pointy-topped spires crown internationally acclaimed PPG Place, completed in 1984, with locally produced mirror-glass panels covering the complex’s six sleek structures.

Watch for older architectural landmarks while delving into the Golden Triangle. Dating from the 1800s, H. H. Richardson’s neo-Romanesque Allegheny County Courthouse covers a mammoth chunk of real estate. From there by way of Grant Street, look up at the Gulf Tower, a 1932 Art Deco classic, bathed in multicolored floodlights after nightfall. Tiffany windows embellish the First Presbyterian Church; a pre-Revolutionary graveyard flanks Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

Department stores and shopping gallerias line Fifth Avenue and crisscrossing streets; PPG Place looms over Market Square’s cluster of small shops and restaurants. The Cultural District (for symphony, opera, ballet, and theatrical performances) exemplifies downtown’s revitalization.

Strolling above the Monongahela via the 19th century Smithfield Street Bridge gets you to specialty stores and snack stands at Station Square. While there, dine or at least peek into the opulent, Edwardian-style Grand Concourse–what used to be the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie railroad terminal. Or ask directions to the north side’s Penn Brewery for a meal in a Germanic beer hall.

Meanwhile, the east-end Oakland neighborhood beckons, its focal point the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. A small fee provides admittance to the building’s Nationality Classrooms, evoking the cultures of 26 countries. The Gothic-influenced, 42-story academic skyscraper shares an expanse of campus greenery with Heinz Memorial Chapel, illuminated by remarkably tall stained-glass windows and featuring a 4,272-pipe organ. Another university building memorializes Pittsburgh-born songwriter Stephen Foster.

A pair of distinguished cultural institutions, standing side by side on Oakland’s Forbes Avenue, are legacies of steel tycoon and philanthopist Andrew Carnegie. The Carnegie Museum of Art excels in French Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and 19th/20th century American paintings. The adjoining, kid-friendly Museum of Natural History is the world’s third-largest repository of dinosaur fossils (more than 500 specimens), and also features a monumental Hall of Architecture.

If time allows, tour the Point Breeze estate of Carnegie’s fellow industrialist Henry Clay Frick, who lived in a Gilded Age mansion called Clayton. A palatial museum showcases his daughter’s collection of European paintings, while the estate’s garage houses 30 antique, mint-condition carriages and automobiles–including billionaire Henry’s 1914 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost touring car.

Contact: Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau (TravelAmerica Magazine), Regional Enterprise Tower, 425 Sixth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219-1834; (412) 281-7711 or (800) 359-0758. Website: www.visitpittsburgh.com.

COPYRIGHT 2002 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group