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Allegheny Cemetery: Think of it as a historic park. September 17, 2009

Posted by krbradford in National Register of Historic Places.
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Rolling hills of Allegheny CemeteryI think some people find it macabre to visit a cemetery to sightsee, but I think it is one of a city’s most fascinating and telling sites. I’ve heard it said that you can learn a lot about a group of people by how they bury their dead, and I think it’s true. Pittsburgh has a number of beautiful cemeteries, and stunning grave memorials and mausoleums comemmorating important people in history that maybe only Pittsburghers know about. But it’s clear that locals respect the history of this town, its people and and its places. Allegheny Cemetery is located on a picturesque expanse of rolling hills looking out across the Allegheny River. It’s filled with old trees that provide shade and shelter. In my time there, I saw that it was also a haven for wildlife in an otherwise cement-heavy city – I saw a beautiful white-tailed deer, a great blue heron, groundhogs, and a whole flock of migrating Canada geese.

Beautiful statues, wrought iron, and stained glass adorned many of the memorials. People clearly tended many of the graves; even on some of the older sites I found freshMemorial statue flowers, even some planted flowers as well as shrubbery and some Japanese maple trees. And while I was there, I saw people strolling through it like a park – couples, a jogger, a woman with a baby carriage. I was there with a toddler, who delighted in climbing up the stairs of the mausoleums and pointing at and touching the gravestones. I think these people, long dead, would smile to know that their gravesites still had visitors. Truly, it was more a park than a cemetery. There was none of that sense of sadness or eeriness that often pervades a graveyard; instead, I was pleased to enjoy a lovely stretch of green space in the middle of a big city, surrounded by the people who struggled to make Pittsburgh what it is today.

There is a reclining deer in this photo. See her?

There is a reclining deer in this photo. See her?

Allegheny Cemetery, located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, is sited on the north-facing slope above the Allegheny River. It was opened in 1845, and is the sixth oldest rural cemetery in America (I’m not sure what that means, but I think the site where it’s located was rural at the time it was built). It is now 300 acres and memorializes over 100,000 people. Some of the oldest gravesites are of soldiers who fought in the French and Indian War, and many important people in Pittsburgh are buried here.

Have you ever visited Find-A-Grave.com? At this cool site, you can search to find where a famous person is buried, or you can search by cemetery or region to see which famous people are buried in your area. It’s a neat place, and if you visit you can see some of the important people buried at Allegheny Cemetery. All in all, Allegheny Cemetery has been the best surprise of my SiteSee experience so far. I had no idea such a treasure was right in my city. I can’t wait to go back with my boyfriend and stroll around some more. Enjoy the slideshow of photos I took while I was there.


A visit on my home turf: Park Place landmarks. September 9, 2009

Posted by krbradford in National Register of Historic Places, Neighborhoods.

Park Place SchoolLast weekend, I thought it would be nice to enjoy the beautiful weather and walk the streets of my neighborhood with a camera, taking photos of interesting things for all of you in the blogosphere. I live in the itty bitty neighborhood of Park Place, which is not actually big enough to be its own official neighborhood, or even to have its own article on Wikipedia. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to find anything about the history of Park Place on the internet at all. There are rumors – supposedly Gene Kelly, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, lived here in Park Place.* And once upon a time, this whole area used to be Peebles Farm. As one of the flattest neighborhoods in the city, I can see how it would have made nice farmland. Anyway, it’s all hearsay.

Park Place homesBut I think maybe Park Place has remained such a gem of a neighborhood because no one really knows about it. Technically part of Point Breeze, Park Place is separated from the rest of the borough by Frick Park, the second-largest urban park in the US. Because of this separation, it’s actually more convenient to Regent Square than to Point Breeze, and it’s also adjacent to Wilkinsburg, which is probably why the property values remain fairly low. Unfortunately, Wilkinsburg has a lot of crime and poverty, although we rarely see it here in our neighborhood. (Except for the guy who got shot a block away from our house earlier this summer. But that was a fluke.)

Despite being small, Park Place has a very active neighborhood association, which advocates for positive change in the neighborhood. A recent example is the street trees program, which was a grant that allowed us to receive over 40 trees to plant along the street to beautify the neighborhood. One went in front of our house.

Old Heidelberg, 2009Park Place also has two sites with listings on the Register of Historic Places. The first is the Park Place SchoolOld Heidelberg, 1911, which was initially a public elementary school, but has since been converted into attractive apartments. My boyfriend’s older brother went to school there before it closed. The other site is the Old Heidelberg Apartments, designed by architect Frederick G. Schiebler in 1908. On the left you can see what they look like now, and on the right is an old postcard I found on the Web that shows what they looked like in 1911.

So, take a look at the photo slideshow I put together of the walk around my neighborhood. Park Place is a special little spot with lots of Pittsburgh charm.

*9/28/09: My amazing boyfriend did some research and confirmed this rumor. Gene Kelly and his family lived on Kensington Street, part of the Park Place neighborhood directly adjacent to Frick Park.

A visit to the Cathedral of Learning. September 3, 2009

Posted by krbradford in National Register of Historic Places.

Cathedral of Learning

Dear Reader,

I had intended to visit all the historic sites on my list in alphabetical order, but my boyfriend and I found ourselves looking for something to do on a beautiful Saturday afternoon last weekend.  High on our list of sightseeing tasks in Pittsburgh was a tour of the Nationality Rooms at the Cathedral of Learning – and seeing as how the Cathedral is on my list anyway, I figured it couldn’t hurt to go a little out of order. 🙂

I’ve been to the Cathedral, as it’s known here in Pittsburgh, countless times, as I have taken university courses here on several different occasions. It’s part of the University of Pittsburgh campus, and it’s famous for being the second-tallest university building in the world (42 stories, or 535 feet tall). It was started in 1926 and finally completed in 1937, and local lore states that the beautiful Gothic-style Commons Room on the ground floor was the last area of the building to be completed. I haven’t been able to find any confirmation of that info, but this photo seems to show it might be true.

Truthfully, when I moved to Pittsburgh, I found the Cathedral to be an eyesore. It’s much taller than the buildings around it, and I’m still not sure that such a tall, lean building lends itself to Gothic-style architecture. The building was created to form a happy marriage between beautiful Gothic architecture and the modern skyscraper. Whether it has done that successfully or no, I can’t say, but you can’t deny it’s an impressive building.

Ukrainian Heritage RoomYou certainly can’t deny the coolness of  the Nationality Rooms, either. There are currently 27 rooms, with 8 proposed additional rooms. They are museum-quality representations of the typical architecture, furnishings, and decor of the nation they represent. Each room took anywhere from 3 to 10 years to complete, were created by a colloboration of skilled artisans and architects from their respective nations, and many of the materials came from the native area – in some cases, the entire room was built overseas and shipped in pieces to Pittsburgh.

Even cooler still, 25 of the 27 rooms are functional classrooms, used every day by professors and students for university courses. As a student, you can often stroll down the hallway and peek into a room and see the beautiful decor of Norway or Japan. Anyone can tour the rooms every day for only 3 dollars, which I think is amazing, since each room cost about 300,000 of today’s dollars during the height of the Great Depression. They are rife with beauty, quality, and history, and I think the tour is a real gem in Pittsburgh that is often overlooked.Greek Heritage Room

If you’re far away from Pittsburgh, you can take a virtual tour here, complete with 360 panorama views, audiorecordings and representative music – but it doesn’t beat a real visit, where you can linger and admire details for only 3 dollars.

You can also enjoy a slideshow of the 211 (!!!!) photos I took during my visit to the Cathedral, the Nationality Rooms, and Panther Hollow Lake – which I’ll talk to you about tomorrow. Be sure to click “Show Info” to read detailed captions about many of the photos.

Flickr Slideshow Tour of the Nationality Rooms

With love,


109-115 Wood Street, downtown Pixberg. August 27, 2009

Posted by krbradford in National Register of Historic Places.

109-115 Wood StreetDear Reader,

Today I visited my first site on the National Register of Historic Places. The photo on the left shows a building on the corner of Wood Street and Boulevard of the Allies that is now part of the Point Park University campus. I did a little bit of nosing around on the internet before I went to visit, took a peek on Google Street View… so I was actually pretty surprised when I arrived and saw just how darn pretty these buildings were (building? technically, I’m not sure whether this is one building or multiple).

This structure was built in 1897, designed by architect Charles Bickel, and was owned by the Hartje Brothers Paper Manufacturing Company. My understanding is that this company moved its headquarters to Steubenville, Ohio, and the building experienced periods of vacancy over the years… during the dotcom boom it was home to companies named ComputerM and Inrange Technologies (who occupied it at the time it became a historic landmark), but it again fell vacant. In 2006 the space was purchased by Point Park University, which has been quickly expanding in downtown Pittsburgh, fixed it up, and it now houses dorms and classrooms. I just happened to arrive on move-in day, which made parking super fun.

109-115 Wood Street PlacardPoint Park has done a very nice job of cleaning up these buildings. They’re very attractive and they really have some particularly lovely architectural details. I did not go inside, however, because there were students with sweatpants and stressed out parents crawling all over the place.

I was immediately struck by the incredible amount of construction going on downtown. Market Square – the entire square – is completely fenced off and ripped apart. The reason for all this construction is, of course, the upcoming G20 Summit in September, during which pretty much every important leader in the entire world is going to be in Pittsburgh, judging us. I’m just curious how on earth they’re going to finish all these construction projects in less than a month. I mean, there was construction everywhere.

109-115 Wood Street Architectural DetailSo, what does this building tell me about Pittsburgh? Well… it became a national historic place in 1979, during a tumultuous time in Pittsburgh’s history. The steel industry was collapsing, and the entire backbone of the local economy was disintegrating. The city government established a second “Renaissance” program (the first being after WWII) to help improve and beautify the city, and improve the economy by drawing business from new sectors. Many of Pittsburgh’s historic sites were registered in the late 70s and early 80s, and I think that was in an effort to revitalize the city after the economy began to fail. Pittsburgh really struggled for a while, but it managed to attract a lot of business, and now has a relatively strong economy – Pittsburgh has not lost jobs but actually gained them during the recent worldwide recession. Finance, healthcare, robotics, biotechnology, and tourism are big business in Pittsburgh. Point Park University lives in this building now… and has helped to make it the beautiful place it is today. The universities in Pittsburgh are crucial, adding a lot to the culture and also to the economy. In the city limits, there are ten colleges and universities that I’m aware of.

Check out the rest of the photos from my visit in my slideshow. Be sure to click on “Show Info” at the top right to read the captions.

Site #1: Success!