Pittsburgh is a city in western Pennsylvania, United States, and the county seat of Allegheny County. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 334,563 (metropolitan area 2,358,695). Pittsburgh, nicknamed The Steel City, has traditionally been considered the center of the American steel industry.
The first European settlements in the Pittsburgh area were French forts and trading posts. During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the British colonies captured Fort Duquesne, which sat at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, at the part of downtown Pittsburgh now known as "The Point". The British built a larger fort on the same site and named it Fort Pitt in honor of the British statesman William Pitt the Elder.
After the Revolutionary War, Pittsburgh was the center of the Whiskey Rebellion, which was put down by an army under the direct command of President George Washington.
Beginning in the early 19th century, Pittsburgh's proximity to large coal deposits and excellent positioning along major trade routes made it one of the world's leading industrial powerhouses. Steel production was a major industry for many years, earning the city its nickname, "The Steel City". Pittsburgh lies at the confluence of the Monongahela River and Allegheny River, which merge to form the Ohio River, ultimately draining into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. As an industrial city, Pittsburgh was also a major hub of early railroad activity. Millions of European immigrants settled in and around Pittsburgh in the 19th and early 20th centuries to seek employment in the steel mills, coal mines, railroads, or numerous associated industries.
On July 21, 1877, a day after bloody rioting in Baltimore from Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers and the deaths of nine rail workers at the hands of the Maryland militia, workers in Pittsburgh staged a sympathy strike that was met with an assault by the state militia — Pittsburgh then erupted into widespread rioting. Another major confrontation occurred during the Homestead Strike in 1892.
Downtown Pittsburgh panorama, from 1920.
Thanks to the presence of the nearby Bettis Laboratory and the Shippingport power plant, Pittsburgh became the world's first nuclear powered city in 1960.
With the recessions of the 1970s and the advent of cheap foreign labor, Pittsburgh's steel mills found themselves unable to compete with foreign steel mills, and most closed down. This created a ripple effect that decimated the local economy, as railroads, mines, and factories across the region shut down, one by one.
The collapse of the US steel industry in the 1970s marked a major turning point for the city of Pittsburgh, and brought with it an unexpected renaissance as the mills closed and Pittsburgh began to shed its image of a dirty, smoky place. Pittsburgh was spared the fate of other postindustrial Rust Belt cities as the basis of the economy dramatically shifted from heavy industry to services and high technology. Pittsburgh is also home to various new skyscrapers, the tallest being the U.S. Steel Tower, famous for having only three sides. Also notable on the city skyline is the futuristic PPG Plaza.
Pittsburgh's population decline during the last half century is remarkable:
Pittsburgh skyline at night
Pittsburgh is located at 40°26'29" North, 79°58'38" West (40.441419, -79.977292)1.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 151.1 km² (58.3 mi²). 144.0 km² (55.6 mi²) of it is land and 7.2 km² (2.8 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 4.75% water.
Pittsburgh is located at the center of a fairly expansive set of river valleys, and much of the city's residential population is situated on or near the slopes of those valleys with certain neighborhoods (particularly south of the Monongahela) nigh inaccessible by car during the winter. As a result, Pittsburgh is widely believed to be right behind San Francisco as the "steepest" city in the United States. A pair of "inclines", or trams (cable cars on inclined rails) ascend the slope of Mount Washington, assist in local public transportation; several tunnels are major access routes through the slopes. Pittsburgh has more public staircases (700) than any other city in the United States, followed by Cincinnati and San Francisco. Many of these staircases have street names and street signs, and lead to hillside neighborhoods that can be inaccessible by car, especially in the winter. Pittsburgh has been called a "poor man's San Francisco".
See also: List of Pittsburgh neighborhoods
According to the census of 2000, there are 334,563 people, 143,739 households, and 74,169 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,324.1/km² (6,019.0/mi²). There are 163,366 housing units at an average density of 1,134.9/km² (2,939.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 67.63% White, 27.12% African American, 0.19% Native American, 2.75% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.61% from two or more races. 1.32% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 143,739 households out of which 21.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.2% are married couples living together, 16.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 48.4% are non-families. 39.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 13.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.17 and the average family size is 2.95.
In the city the population is spread out with 19.9% under the age of 18, 14.8% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 90.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $28,588, and the median income for a family is $38,795. Males have a median income of $32,128 versus $25,500 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,816. 20.4% of the population and 15.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 27.5% of those under the age of 18 and 13.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Pittsburgh generally has among the lowest, if not the lowest crime rates of any comparably sized city in the United States. However, this is slightly deceptive since some of the most blighted and dangerous areas of the city are actually in adjacent suburbs such as Wilkinsburg, Rankin, and McKees Rocks.
Pittsburgh at night
Pittsburgh is an overwhelmingly Democratic city, owing to its large union and Catholic population. The mayor and all members of city council belong to that party. The Democratic mayoral primary election generate more excitement than the general election. The Democrats have run the city since 1933, when David Lawrence led the party to power.
The mayor serves a four year term and will face election next in 2005. City council members are chosen by plurality elections in each of nine districts.
The city is currently facing a financial crisis and has been declared a "distressed municipality" by the state. This will result in massive cuts to city programs and debates over which taxes to raise drastically.
Pittsburgh has exhibited amazing adaptability in the wake of the steel industry's collapse. The primary industries have shifted from steel manufacture and heavy industry to high technology, biomedics, banking, and service based fields. Pittsburgh has a very low cost of living compared to other cities in the Northeastern U.S., but a considerably higher cost of living than many large Southern cities.
Wealthy area businessmen of the 19th century, including Andrew Carnegie, the Heinz family and Henry Clay Frick, donated large sums of money to local educational and cultural institutions. As a result, Pittsburgh is rich in art and culture. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is world-class. It owns and performs at Heinz Hall, which also plays host to a number of other events throughout the year. The Benedum Center and Heinz Hall provide venues for numerous musicals, lectures, speeches, and other performances. Pittsburgh is also home to one of only two professional brass bands in the world, the River City Brass Band. There is a large museum dedicated to the works of Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol. The collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art is home to works by such luminaries as Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and many others, along with galleries of sculpture, modern art, the Heinz Architectural Center, a large film and video collection, and various travelling exhibits. Pittsburgh Filmmakers teaches media arts and runs three "art house" movie theaters. The Pittsburgh Playhouse at Point Park University has four resident companies of professional actors. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has extensive dinosaur collections on display, including the complete first Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton ever discovered, and an Egyptian wing. Kennywood Park is widely regarded by rollercoaster connoisseurs to have one of the best collections of functional rollercoasters in the world, including several early 20th century wooden coasters: the Racer, the Thunderbolt, and the Jack Rabbit. Pittsburgh also houses the country's only National Aviary.
Pittsburgh is home to many universities and research facilities. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has over 2.1 million cataloged items available for circulation. The Health Sciences Department at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center operate some of the finest hospitals in the world, and an advanced medical research center that performs pioneering work in organ transplantation, AIDS and cancer research, and many other fields. Carnegie Mellon University is a leading computer science research center, and also has renowned theater and music programs. Carnegie Mellon University also houses famous research centers such as the Robotics Institute, which is the first of its kind in the world and currently considered a leader in the field of robotics, and the world-famous Software Engineering Institute (SEI).
See also: Carlow University (formerly Carlow College), Chatham College, Duquesne University, Point Park University, Robert Morris University
Pittsburgh is connected to other urban centers by the Pennsylvania Turnpike and railroad tracks. Pittsburgh is also served by the Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay Township, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh has a high number of freeze/thaw cycles in the winter which is sometimes blamed for the difficulty of maintaining local roads. The hills and rivers of Pittsburgh form many barriers to transportation within the city. Bridges are ubiquitous around town, as they connect the neighborhoods separated by rivers and valleys. The southern and eastern entrances to the city are through tunnels.
The main artery connecting Pittsburgh to the turnpike on the east is I-376, locally known as "Parkway East", while I-279 (referred to as either "Parkway North" or "Parkway West" depending on the particular stretch of road's location with respect to downtown) connects the city with points west (including the airport) and north. A set of local roads are designated as the beltway system, forming five loops centered on downtown and each identified by a different color. Pittsburgh, because of its radical topography, is a confusing yet rewarding city to navigate.
Local public transportation is coordinated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which maintains a bus service, incline railways and a light rail system called "the T", which consists of street cars which go underground as they enter downtown. The T consists of three largely parallel lines, and only serves downtown and the "South Hills" suburbs -- the small "via Allentown", the 20-year-old "via Beechview", and the recently re-opened "via Overbrook." Construction on two small extensions -- one to the Convention Center, and another to the North Shore -- should begin by the end of 2004; the Federal Government recently agreed to pay for $55 million of the $363 million construction price.
The Port Authority of Allegheny County is the 14th largest transportation system in the United States.
An aging population, steep hills, and variable weather make biking less popular in Pittsburgh than in some other cities. However, some efforts have been made to incorporate the bicycle into the transportation system. The "Jail Trail," formally called the Eliza Furnace Trail, stretches from downtown (at the county jail) out to the East End of the city, where bike trails can be found among some roads. Also, the Port Authority has installed bike racks on some busses. Bicycles are permitted on the Port-Authority-run Incline during off-peak hours; Thus the trek up Mt. Washington need not lead to cardiac arrest. Bike Pittsburgh serves as the local bicycle advocacy group and compiles information about bicycle transportation in Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh in television, film, and literature
- See also: Cities and Towns of Allegheny County
- Baldwin, Pennsylvania, a middle class suburb south of the city
- Blackridge, Pennsylvania, a small suburb
- Carnegie, Pennsylvania
- Crafton, Pennsylvania
- McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania
- Monroeville, Pennsylvania, a large eastern suburb
- Churchill, Pennsylvania, a large eastern suburb
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