Fifty Years Ago

As I walked around downtown Pittsburgh I noticed a sign encouraging people to celebrate Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary. The one shown in the photo below was next to the William Penn Hotel, which just happened to be where Langley High School held its Senior Prom in December of 1961.

Celebrate Pittsburgh Banner

Celebrate Pittsburgh Banner

The slogan reads “Imagine what you can do here” and provides a web site address. The robot represents how much Pittsburgh has changed over the years. That thought reminded me that fifty years ago I was wandering around downtown taking pictures of the features that were added to commemorate the bi-centennial. Those features were rather significant… the opening of the Hilton Hotel in Gateway Center, the Fort Pitt Bridge, and the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Come to think of it, a portion of the Fort Duquesne Bridge was also built around that time, but it took years before it lost the title of “Bridge to Nowhere.”

The following picture was taken from Point State Park. A museum is in the foreground and the Fort Pitt Bridge and tunnel are in the background… against a backdrop of Mt. Washington.

Fort Pitt area

Fort Pitt area

The park is at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers… and the beginning of the Ohio River. Prior to the Revolutionary War, the land changed hands a few times – between the French (Fort Duquesne) and the English (Fort Pitt). Pittsburgh became the official name in 1758. The item shown in the next picture isn’t quite that old; it was manufactured around 1900.

Heavy Duty Bellows

Heavy Duty Bellows

If I hadn’t already learned what in the heck that thing is, I might’ve put it on my ??? page. It’s officially known as a blowing engine, but I like to think of it as a giant bellows. It was powered by steam and used to force air into the fire of a blast furnace to increase the temperature enough to turn the iron ore into molten iron. Believe it or not, that blowing engine could blow enough air to fill three Goodyear blimps in one hour.

Another thing I spotted during my walking tour included one of the first blast furnaces used in Western Pennsylvania.

Clinton Blast Furnace

Clinton Blast Furnace

Even more surprising to me was discovering that the original University of Pittsburgh consisted of a log schoolhouse on the Boulevard of the Allies.

Original site of Pitt

Original site of Pitt

The celebratory slogan is “Imagine what you can do here”, but we don’t have to imagine what has already been done here. The University of Pittsburgh has moved from a log cabin into the Cathedral of Learning – also known as Skyscraper U – and the iron and steel industry has come and gone. The mills are gone, but the offices continue to grow. Pittsburgh is a vibrant city. It makes you wonder what kind of pictures I’ll be taking in 2058.

Oh! Wait a minute! I’ll have to leave that job to one of my children or grandchildren. It makes me wonder what sort of camera they’ll be using. In 1958 I used a Kodak Instamatic. This past week I used a Kodak digital. My! How times have changed since fifty years ago!

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