Pittsburgh has contributed greatly to the cultural fabric of the United States but is most known as theindustrial power house of the 19 th century. The nearby coal fields of western Pennsylvania and the strategic location on the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers propelled Pittsburgh to being America’s largest producer of Iron, Steel, Aluminum, and Glass. Steel production was often round the clock creating a never ceasing source of smoke and pollution that had caused 19 th century visitor James Parton to describe Pittsburgh as “hell with the lid off.”
Early Settlement 1753-1816 The Delaware Indians, French Colonists, and George Washington all saw the strategic value of Pittsburgh . “ I spent some Time in viewing the Rivers, & the Land in the Fork…The Land at the Point is 20 or 25 feet above the common Surface of the Water; & a considerable Bottom of flat well timber'd Land all around it, very convenient for Building” George Washington 1753 Fort Pitt 1795
The original occupants of Pittsburgh, the Delaware and Shawnee Indians had virtually vanished from the area due to diseases brought on by contact with the first French settlers. Although initially a French territory that extracted great wealth in the fur trade, the area was earmarked for British colonial expansion. In 1753 The Virginia Ohio Land company hired a 23 year old George Washington to survey the area. Washington proclaimed the area “…extremely well suited for a fort.” He returned to Virginia and left a party behind to build a small fort called Fort St. George. British expansionism was met by French aggression. Shortly after the fort was built the French led a canoe born assault and captured the fort. In its place they built Fort Duquesne. Thus begun the French and Indian war.
Pittsburgh circa 1770
In 1763 the Fort returned to British Control via the Treaty of Paris which ended the war. To strengthen control of the rivers the British built a formidable Fort and called it Fort Pitt in honor of William Pitt the prime minister of England. In Just twenty years another treaty of Paris would end the revolutionary war putting Fort Pitt under American control. Shortly after the war commercial desires supplanted military needs as a plan or outline was drawn up for a new Pittsburgh that did not include Fort Pitt. In 1794 The area was incorporated as the “Borough of Pittsburgh.” In that Same year Pittsburgh would test the powers of the President and fledgling federal government. Pittsburgh 1787
Pittsburgh's agrarian community grew beyond subsistence farming to local and regional trade. Farmers converted surplus grain into whiskey which they sold and bartered. Under the advisement of Alexander Hamilton Washington’s first act to create revenue and establish the power of the federal government was a tax on whiskey. Despite farming success Pittsburgh’s farmers were located on what was still considered the western frontier of the united states. As such transportation of large quantities of grain was limited. Distilling grain into alcohols made it more portable and profitable. With their most lucrative commodity threatened the Farmers of Pittsburgh rebelled against the tax and threatened to upset the balance of the new nation. Washington acted swiftly and sent troops to crush the rebellion. When Pittsburgh was so emboldened as to test the federal government and the new president, its population was a mere 300 people. In 1816 The City of Pittsburgh was Chartered. Washington and Hamilton riding to put down the whiskey rebellion
War spurred on industry in Pittsburgh. The “armory of the Union” emerged from the civil war as a finely tuned manufacturing city. The allure of better opportunity was met with surge in population as Welsh, Scotts Irish, and Germans flooded the city. Again the explosive growth almost doubled the population from 74,000 in 1850 to 140,000 in 1860. The mills of the time especially those making steel, required master craftsman, skilled, and semi skilled labor, but as technology and demand increased the need for skilled labor was all but eliminated. In 1875 Andrew Carnegie brought inexpensive high volume steel to Pittsburgh when he opened his Edgar Thompson works, the first to use the technologically simple “Bessemer process” on the bank of the Monongahela river. Steel Workers circa 1890
Carnegie also gave birth to the modern corporation when he merged his company with Henry Clay Fricke’s coal mining and processing operation. Carnegie’s introduction of inexpensive steel changed the Pittsburgh landscape as Steel plants began to spring up on every river bank. Carnegie shifted the social landscape as well. He hired teams of engineers to streamline the manufacturing process so that it could be run by unskilled labor. At the same time immigrants from all regions of eastern and western Europe including Poles and Italians were coming to the city in droves. As a result wages were forced lower and lower due to the never ending supply unskilled labor. Andrew Carnegie Henry Clay Fricke
In an effort to compete and maximize profits Carnegie and Frick cut wages in 1892. Workers of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, at the Carnegie homestead works went on strike to reinstate the higher wages. At time labor and capital were having conflicts throughout the United States. Unions were becoming strong. In reaction to the strike Fricke closed the plants and locked out the workers. The amalgamated workers negotiated to concede almost every demand except the dissolution of their Union. Fricke then sent hundreds of Pinkerton detective up the Monongahela river to break the strike.
The workers met violence with violence and in a 14 hour battle the Pinkertons were repelled leaving 12 dead and hundreds seriously wounded. Victory was short lived as the State militia swooped in and enforced the rights of capital setting the entire labor movement back until the pro-labor government of Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930’s. Even with labor setbacks People continued to migrate to in 1900 344,000 people called Pittsburgh home Homestead Strike 1892
During World War Two the steel industry in Pittsburgh experienced unprecedented growth. Steel companies expanded their operations and produced 95 million tons of steel. The city grew rich and prosperous but at a environmental price. The combination of steel, glass, and aluminum production created smoke so thick that street lights were often turned on at noon. These photographs of Pittsburgh During WWII were taken in mid-day. If you look in the lower right hand corner of the picture on the left you will see a clock that reads 11:00 am
Along with oppressive pollution The boosts in production created by the war strained the public services resources of the city. Overcrowding led to poor sewage sanitation and inadequate housing. Politicians and business leaders strove to remake Pittsburgh. In 1945 the newly elected major David L. Lawrence and industrialist Banker Richard K Melon enacted what began as smoke control laws but transformed into a region wide Public/Private urban development plan that would the “renaissance.” Lawrence created the Urban Redevelopment Authority as a governmental agency designed to interact with private developers and organizations such as the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. In this way the URA could act as agent and partner of the private developer. The power of eminent domain would be used to acquire and consolidate small private sections of land to create parcels large enough to be attractive to developers
David L. Lawrence At the opening of Point State Park.
The first target was the oldest and most historic section of Pittsburgh; The Point where the river meet. The point or “golden Triangle” had become a ramshackle dangerous collection of rail yards and factories that belched smoke and dirt at all hours of the day. A 36 acre park was planned for the area. A commitment by the State of Pennsylvania to build the park helped the URA to convince Equitable Life insurance to build a large office complex with 1,500,000 square feet of space, called the Gateway Center. More than one nearby neighborhood that was to be revitalized by the development of the Point was destroyed by it instead. One such community is the largely African American enclave known as “The Hill.” The Hill 1950s
The Hill was an active community that split into three sections; The lower Hill was called Haiti named after the origin of runaway slaves that settled there. The middle ground was called Laceyville and the upper Hill was called Minersville, named after the Welsh, Irish, German, and Scotch miners who live there. Starting In the 1880s blacks from the south and Europeans of every origin moved into the area until it was a mosaic of ethic Identities; including Slovaks, Armenians, Poles, Jews, and Chinese. The residents worked in the mines mills, factories, shops, and went to the local schools. They had a bustling business community with shops markets restaurants and Night clubs. The Hills night clubs were recognized spots on the Jazz circuit of the early 20 th century.
Although it was a vibrant community the infrastructure of the Hill suffered from years of neglect. Many of the residents of European origin moved to outlying suburbs in the years after world war two. The black community remained behind largely due to the racial and economic inequality that left them unable to afford a move or a commute to work. In 1943 a Pittsburgh city council member wrote that due to the substandard condition of the Hill “..there would be no social loss if these(Homes) were all destroyed.” In 1955 the Federal Government approved the Hill redevelopment plan, giving the green light to raze 95 acres of populated residential neighborhood. Although done in the name of Urban renewal many suspected that project was designed to create a neutral corridor from the outlying white neighborhoods to the newly developed Point area. Hill District Businesses
IN June of 1965 the first Demolition began. In all the Hill development displaced 8000 residents; of which 1,239 were black families and 312 were white families as well as 413 businesses.35 percent went to the social and economic isolation of public housing, 31 percent into private rentals and 8 percent bought homes. Very little compensation was provided for relocation. Lower Hill Demolition 1957
The corner stone development slated for the Hill was a cultural district to be known as “The Center for The Arts” The plan failed and was never built. Its sister project the Civic Arena , was completed in 1961 originally intended for opera, the Arena now named The Melon Arena and is home to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Concept drawing for The Hill Cultural Center Civic arena construction
Renaissance I lasted until 1969 but was followed by renaissance II in 1980 and development still continues. Pittsburgh’s 2006 Population at 324, 732 is less than half of its 1950 all time peak of 676,806 the beginning of the renaissance. Today Pittsburgh’s largest employer is the University of Pittsburgh, just one of eleven universities and colleges in the city. In addition many major corporation still call Pittsburgh their home. Among them are H.J Heinz, Alcoa PNC financial Services, American Eagle outfitters, PPG Industries, and stalwart U.S .Steel. Despite the decline in population and industry Pittsburgh has survived through consistent if not always careful planning.
Now in Its 250 th Year Pittsburgh is routinely listed as one of the ten best places to live reaching most livable city in 2007. Here is link to a video outlining the last 250 years of Pittsburgh innovation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o75yBx8XBK0