Pittsburgh is the second largest city in the US state of Pennsylvania, behind Philadelphia, and the largest city in the Appalachia region. It is located at the point where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers combine to form the Ohio River, and has more bridges than any other city in the world (even beating Venice, Italy by three). It was originally named after William Pitt The Elder, later Prime Minister of the UK, for his role in the Seven Years' War. It is the only city in the United States that was allowed by the Postal Service to end in "burgh" throughout the 20th century; see the entry under Please Select New City Name for details.
Home of KDKA, the oldest commercial radio station in the nation and one of the few exceptions to the "W*** east of the Mississippi, K*** west of the Mississippi" rule. Pittsburgh is more of a Midwestern city than Philly; the two have little in common other than being in the same state. It is also known as Steel City, due to being a booming (and polluted) mill town for much of its history. Most of the steel industry has left, putting the city in an economic slump for several decades. This tends to be the only thing most outsiders know about Pittsburgh.
However, the city is having a renaissance as a health care, high-tech, and media center, helped by the fact that several prestigious universities are in the area. Very few factories remain within city limits (only two steel mills currently exist in all of Allegheny County); all the others have been either replaced by or converted into offices, shops, and upscale housing. This change has proven healthy for the city, as 2011 population estimates showed the first increase in sixty years (incidentally, Philly saw the same thing in the 2010 Census). Some of this is starting to rub off on the mainstream, as the city is increasingly used as a setting for trendy yuppies in film. It helps that many movies are filmed here anyway, the filmmakers are now less likely to call it something else.
Pittsburgh has arguably the best baseball stadium and the worst professional baseball team (the Pirates) in the country. Its National Football League team, the Steelers, have more Super Bowl trophies than any other and has tied with Dallas in having the most Super Bowl trips. They also have a longstanding rivalry with Cleveland (against whom they have a lot of Curbstomp Victories). The Penguins are most known for Sidney Crosby, who you've probably heard of, along with his rival Alex Ovechkin even if you don't watch hockey. All three of Pittsburgh's major league teams—and more than a few minor league clubs—wear blackandyellow, the colors on the city flag (known officially and by every Pittsburgher ever as "black and gold").
Despite rumors (and colorful accent) to the contrary, Pittsburghers do not import R's from New England. The most noteworthy colloquialism is "yinz", which is generally used in the place of "you all". Other, lesser used terms are "nebby" (nosey), "gum band" (rubber band), "buggy" (shopping cart), and "n'at" (a Verbal Tic that stands for "and that," meaning "and so on"). Another habit is to turn the "ow" sound into "ah," such as "downtown" becoming "dahntahn". The city's residents themselves are something of a Broken Base. Depending on whom you ask, Pittsburgh is either a clean, beautiful, artsy, vibrant city with affordable housing, relatively low crime, and plenty of good schools and job opportunities; or it's a rusted-out, blue-collar shithole with no jobs, bad weather, an aging populace, and notorious racial tension.
As a side note, Pittsburgh is also the filming location of our very own Echo Chamber.
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Pittsburgh in Fiction
Pittsburgh in fiction:
(For quotes about Pittsburgh in real life and fiction, see the quotes page.)
In one Calvin and Hobbes strip, Calvin wonders where people go when they die. Hobbes offers "Pittsburgh", which prompts Calvin to ask "if we're good or if we're bad?"
In one Get Fuzzy comic, Bucky asks a travel agent if there are any vacation packages based primarily on smell. She suggests he look at a pamphlet for the tourist department of Pittsburgh. This got Darb Connely into quite a bit of hot water with many Pittsburghers, even though the strip wasn't run in any Pittsburgh papers. Conley claimed the whole thing had been meant as an in-joke towards a friend who lived in Pittsburgh.
Adventureland was takes place in and around Pittsburgh and was filmed at Kennywood in West Miflin, PA. The park itself, however, was based on the actual Adventureland in Farmingdale, NY, where director Greg Mottola worked as a teenager.
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life: More than one local Monty Python fan has been surprised to hear the Steelers name-dropped by John Cleese in the philosophy conversation scene. It was a scene poking fun at Americans, and at the time it was made in the 1980's the Steelers had just won four Super Bowls in the 1970's, so while nice it probably wasn't an intentional reference, but just grabbing the biggest "current" references in sports.
Night of the Living Dead, the original Dawn of the Dead, and Land of the Dead. George A. Romero went to college in Pittsburgh and did a lot of early work there, including a segment of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in which Mr. Rogers gets a tonsillectomy. This experience inspired Romero to get into the horror genre.
Creepshow, also by Romero, was partly filmed on Carnegie-Mellon University campus, a fact pointed out by most of the tour guides along with that the cricket population stems almost entirely from descendants of a spilled cage during the filming.
Pittsburgh was one of the shooting locations for The Dark Knight Rises. Many folks around here joked about how Alfred would be putting out the "Batchair" to save the Batmobile a parking spot. note Most of the houses within ten miles of the city lack driveways, as the city's growth predates automobiles. Street parking is such a commodity, locals have gotten in the habit of using lawn furniture to secure parking spots near their homes. Once the movie came out, picking out local landmarks and figures became popular with viewers in the city, which had a similar effect with Chicagoans for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
Harry Turtledove's Timeline191 series, depicting a World War II which took place in a world in which the South won the Civil War, featured the Battle of Pittsburgh as the series' analogue to Stalingrad.
Stephen King's novel Christine, was entirely set in Pittsburgh. The narrator, Dennis, has a summer construction job working on Interstate 376note known as the Parkway or Parkway West to locals. . Also, King shows that he was familiar with the area when writing the book, as he mentions Monroeville and it's "miles of malls." At the time the book was written, Monroeville, PA was (and is even more so today) a hub of mall- and strip mall-based retail commerce. It had two: Monroeville Mall and Miracle Mile Shopping Center as well as several other retail stores and restaurants.
Also it could be a reference to King's friend George Romero filmed Dawn of the Dead in that town.
The film was set in Los Angeles, for cheaper production costs. All the snow scenes would have added a fortune to the budget.
Tinker is set in a Pittsburgh which occasionally intersects with a world populated by elves.
Live Action TV
Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (Fred Rogers was born in Latrobe and lived most of his life in Pittsburgh. The show was produced by the local PBS affilate: WQED.)
In the second season of Weeds, Shane went through a phase of being obsessed with Pittsburgh.
Three Rivers based on residence at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals. The pilot was filmed at a hospital in Butler County, but production was moved to Los Angeles to cut down on costs. Shots seen of the city are stock footage.
The TV Movie version of The Stand, the local Armstrong Tunnel (which goes under Duquesne University and empties out onto the 10th Street Bridge), stands in for the Lincoln Tunnel in New York.
August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle, a series of 10 plays, each set in a different decade of the 20th century, dealing with the history of Black America and race relations. As the name implies the plays (except one) are set in Pittsburgh. The most famous installment is the 1950s one, Fences.
Fallout 3's second expansion, The Pitt, is centered on the post-apocalyptic version of the city. Many landmarks like PPG Place and the Cathedral of Learning make appearances.
Amusingly, one of the unique items you can get there is a special suit of Power Armor said to be decorated in livery honoring the natives' tribal gods. It's painted in Steelers' colors.
Screenshots of the demo for The Last of Us show pictures of a post-apocalyptic version of Pittsburgh, featuring such Pittsburgh landmarks such as the US Steel Building, One Mellon Center, Oxford Center, and the Fort Pitt Bridge.
The route of the Chase Scene in Striking Distance only sort of makes sense - you can assume people who live in cities with a lot of chase scenes filmed in them deal with this often. The radio says they are "At the 31st Street Bridge, going westbound on Liberty", so Tom and his father take Bigelow Boulevard to downtown to meet up with the chase. They hook up with 7th Street, passing by the post office and crossing Grant to get to Liberty. Then they connect with Liberty from the other side of the street than they should. They pass Oxford Center and inexplicably pop into the Armstrong Tunnels, under Duquesne University. Out of the tunnels they cross the Monongahela River at the Smithfield Street Bridge... odd considering the tunnels they just pulled out of end at the 10th Street bridge ... why did the suspect backtrack 2 miles to cross the river? note Construction, obviously. There's the standoff at what looks like Carson Street under the Liberty Bridge, and then he manages to escape that and somehow gets to and drives up the PJ McArdle Roadway to Mount Washington. He skids to a turn down Grandview Avenue, runs into an Iron City truck, and from there it's hard to tell where they're going - but there's nothing like the area they end up in down Grandview.
You know when they open the roof of the arena and Jean-Claude Van Dammehangs from it over the ice? That's the last time any Pittsburghers saw it open, too. They never opened it - it got too windy inside. The arena was later redesigned to include more box seats, which made it so the roof could never open again. Now the Pittsburgh Penguins have moved across the street to the Consol Energy Center, and a group of people unsuccessfully fought to save the historically unique building from being demolished...which couldn't even do the thing that made it historically unique anymore.
A missed opportunity - Pittsburgh would be great for one of those "drive anywhere" video games. We have some of the most confusing side streets and steep surprise hills you'll find in a major metropolitan area. We have spots that could give San Francisco a very good run for its money.
Not to mention the road conditions.
"I think there's a bug. My car keeps taking damage while I drive down the road." "That's not a bug. That's a feature."]
Liberty Avenue is an average downtown street in real life and not Pittsburgh's Gayborhood, which the city lacks (gay-owned bars and business are scattered amongst downtown and the city's trendier neighborhoods). This may be due to the fact that Pegasus, once Pittsburgh's most popular gay club, used to be located on Liberty and the annual Pride festival is held there.
The city's distinct terrain is conspicuously absent, as the show was filmed in Toronto.
There is no such town in Pennsylvania named Stanton. There's a New Stanton in Westmoreland County, and Stanton Heights is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh proper, but there's no original Stanton anywhere in the state.
Judging by the views outside the windows of both the office and meeting room, the headquarters of AVWR Railroad seems to jump between Mellon Center and Fifth Avenue Place.
They visit Pittsburgh in one episode (with a healthy dose of Vancouver doubling), because Bobby's visiting a friend of his who's a doctor at what is only referred to as the university, which is an obvious stand-in for UPMC.
At the very beginning the white van is driving east, away from the city, down 376, about a mile from the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. In the next shot it's still on 376 eastbound... but it's coming out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel into the city, several miles west from its previous eastbound location.
And later in the film it is suggested the shooter would have been better off stopping on the Fort Duquesne Bridge to have all of his targets lined up. Anyone who has driven across that bridge on the lower deck knows the traffic is insanely busy there during all daylight hours, and the shooter would never have time to line up a shot before he started getting honked at.
42: Forbes Field is missing its thirdbase bleachers, "Greenberg Gardens," its distinctive ivy covered walls, and the Cathedral of Learning is turned the wrong way.
Pittsburgh provides examples of these tropes
Pittsburgh provides examples of:
Alien Geometries: The downtown area is a triangular, but the angles are wide enough, and streets that curve ever-so-slightly that you can think you're making three 90 degree turns but somehow ended up right back where you began.
You get get that quite a bit throughout the entire city. Since the roads have to follow all the hills, Pittsburgh is one of the least beginner-friendly cities in the country to navigate.
It doesn't help that downtown has both numbered avenues and numbered streets - Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street are right next to one another, in particular.
American Accents: The famous Pittsburghese accent. As for how much it comes up in actual practice, your mileage may vary depending on what part of the town you are in. People still toss the words around ("yinz" still gets used), but the decline of the population with the collapse of the Steel Industry and the influx of out-of-town students for the many colleges deciding to stay in the area have had a diminishing effect. People are aware of the accent, but it's the families who have stayed in the area through the decline who still heavily use it.
At the Crossroads: Two rivers join to form another here, and the National Road passed just south. Through history lot of people stopped here on their way west - Pittsburgh was (and still is) the first major city past the Appalachians.
In a more modern sense, we have several colleges and Universities. Many young people find themselves at a crossroads here when they graduate.
Berserk Button: for the love of God, don't badmouth the sports teams or the fans of said teams.
Aside from the Pirates, anyway. They are, or were, the Butt Monkey of Pittsburgh's sports.
California Doubling: Goes both ways. Pittsburgh has long been a popular filming location, though this doesn't stop shows based here from being filmed elsewhere.
Common Knowledge: Almost every Steelers fan knows about the Immaculate Reception, one of the most surprising plays in Football history. Many people and fans who were born after that reception took place are surprised to hear that the Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs the next game after that game. It is simply the play that heralded in the Super Bowl Dynasty Steelers who brought in four Super Bowl wins over the next few years.
Dying Town: For the second half of the twentieth century due to the loss of steel and manufacturing jobs. However, the region is starting to turn itself around and 2011 population estimates have seen the first increase in decades.
Eiffel Tower Effect: PPG Place, the castle-like glass tower in the picture, is often used in establishing shots of Pittsburgh.
Fan Nickname: Steeler Nation for the gigantic fanbase of the Steelers
Cradle of Quarterbacks- named since some of the best Q Bs in NFL history came from the region
The Bucs or Buccos for the Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pens for the Penguins
Yinzer- A local of the Pittsburgh area
Fans of Fallout will never stop calling it The Pitt
Gayborhood: As mentioned earlier, this is averted. GLBT residents and related businesses are decentralized and scattered throughout the city. However, the real Liberty Avenue, in addition to hosting a couple gay bars and the annual Pride, also has a reputation for transsexual prostitutes.
Genre Roulette: With regard to the weather. It can go from rainy to sunny back to rainy (or even snowy) again in the span of a few hours.
"If you don't like the weather in Pittsburgh, wait five minutes."
Government Conspiracy: On January 31, 1956, a Mitchell B-25 bomber crashed in the Monongahela River, just outside of Pittsburgh. The crew of 6 survived the crash, but two were later claimed by the icy waters of the Mon river. No one ever found the bomber. Theories abound in the area that the government covertly brought it up because of a top secret payload.
Have a Gay Old Time: Inverted. "Mill Hunky," or just "Hunky" is a term that blue collar people of Eastern European descent use affectionately regarding themselves and their culture. At worst, it is a good-natured jab. However years ago it was a derogatory term for Eastern European immigrants, particularly Hungarians, who worked in the steel mills. The term was almost completely reclaimed, but in the 1990s it was still a sensitive topic at least for a small group who complained until the sculptor of a statue depicting a steel worker that was on display in Point Park for a summer had to change its name from "Mill Hunky" to something else.
It's Pronounced Tro-PAY : Inverted. The suburb of North Versailles is pronounced "ver-SALES" rather than the French "ver-SIGH". Other Pittsburgh area towns with French names are pronounced similarly. The only exception is anything with "Duquesne" in the name, where the French pronunciation "du-KANE" is kept.
Michel-Ange Duquesne de Menneville: Was instrumental for the French in the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War) and Fort Duquesne was named after him.
And Duquesne University and the Fort Duquesne Bridge
John Forbes: Who took Fort Duquesne from the French and named his new fort "Fort Pitt" (after William Pitt, see the next name down), thus becoming the man responsible for naming the area "Pittsburgh".
Forbes Field is long gone, but is steeped in Pittsburgh sports history. Forbes Avenue is one of the longest streets in Pittsburgh.
William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, who led England in the French and Indian War (Called the 7 Years War in England).
Pittsburgh itself. Even today his coat of arms forms the template of the City of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh. There's also Fort Pitt, and the Fort Pitt tunnels and bridge. Chatham College in Pittsburgh is also named after his title.
Andrew Carnegie: Moved to Pittsburgh from Scotland when he was 12. Started as a factory worker and worked his way to the top and beyond. The Carnegie Steel Company was the largest and most profitable industrial enterprise in the world. In his later years, he turned to philanthropy building libraries and schools. Despite all his giving, he still died a very wealthy man. The local/Scottish/correct pronunciation is "Car-nay-gie".
The Carnegie Library System, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, The Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie-Mellon University, the Borough of Carnegie...
Henry Clay Frick: Was an American industrialist, financier, and art patron. He founded the H. C. Frick & Company coke manufacturing company, was chairman of the Carnegie Steel Company, and played a major role in the formation of the giant U.S. Steel steel manufacturing concern. Did not get along well with Carnegie at all - partly due to Carnegie ignoring his suggestions. When Carnegie tried to make amends late in life, Frick famously said to the courier "Tell him Iíll see him in Hell, where we both are going."
Frick Park, Frick Art and Historical Center, the Frick Building...
Andrew Mellon: was an American banker, industrialist, philanthropist, art collector, and Secretary of the Treasury from March 4, 1921 until February 12, 1932.
Carnegie-Mellon University, Mellon Bank, Mellon Park, Mellon Arena (Now demolished), Mellon National Bank Building, The BNY Mellon Center is the second tallest building downtown...
General John Stanwix: The English General who oversaw the construction of Fort Pitt. The fort's blockhouse still remains and has been turned into the Fort Pitt Museum, currently located in Point Park. Stanwix Street was named after him.
Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The Mexican War Streets. It's actually a lovely, diverse neighborhood even if the name sounds like a violent gang movie. In reality, the streets in this district were named after battles and generals in the Mexican-American War. Palo Alto Street, Resaca Place, etc.
Neologisms/Separated by a Common Language: Pittsburghese — In the Burgh, yinz redd up your room, buy pop and p'rogies at Jye Neegle note Giant Eagle, the local grocery chain, eat hoagies, bind things with gumbands, and jagoffs neb in your business n'at.
When the steel industry moved out of the area, the unemployment rate skyrocketed-nearing 25% in the 80s-and the region went into economic meltdown. Some still refer to the area as "economically depressed" despite the fact that many international corporations are headquartered here in addition to the area being a large hub of education and health care, resulting in a relatively low unemployment rate compared to other areas of the US.
Andrew Carnegie for as awesome as that Scotsman was, never lived down the Johnstown Flood and the Homestead Strike
Older Than They Think - though many hockey fans like to look down at Pittsburgh fans as up and comers and bandwagoners. However, Pittsburgh's hockey history is nearly as old as the sport. In fact the first artificial ice arena in North America was in Pittsburgh and the first professional players were in Pittsburgh while the sport was still amateur in Canada.
Polluted Wasteland in the 1960s, though it has cleaned itself up significantly since then. There were times during the steel industry's heyday when the smog was so bad the streetlights had to be left on at midday.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: In city terms Pittsburgh is usually the Blue Oni to Philadelphia, unless you trigger the Berserk Button above.
Short Cuts Make Long Delays: The roads weren't planned as the city grew and usually follow the hills rather than going over or through. You can take what you think is a short cut and if you're lucky you'll just end up right back where you started an hour later. If you're unlucky, you wind up in a river.
The Rival: Cleveland, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, primarily involving pro sports, though it does trickle into everyday attitudes. Each rivalry has its own flavor:
Philadelphia is a Sibling Rivalry. Despite being in the same state, they're culturally a world apart (Philly is thoroughly East Coast while Pittsburgh is a mix of East, Midwest, and Appalachian). There is a reason why when the Penguins and Flyers play, it is called the Battle of Pennsylvania.
The rivalry with Cleveland is mostly geographic, since it's the closest major city and is similar in culture and industry (though Pittsburgh has fared better economically). But while the Browns are almost always inferior to the Steelers, making the rivalry a bit one-sided, Cleveland still tends to support Pittsburgh at the Superbowl.
Baltimore is a Worthy Opponent. Despite all the trash talking between players and fans, the Steelers and Ravens show great respect for one another due to their similar ways of playing the game.
This could also be considered a legacy rivalry, as the Baltimore Ravens were created as a result of the original Cleveland Browns being moved to the city of Baltimore.
This doesn't stop Pittsburghers from coming up with interesting epithets for the Ravens, such as the "Ratbirds" and "The Maryland State Work-Release Program" (thanks mainly although not entirely to Ray Lewis' legal troubles).
Scenery Porn: The hilly terrain provides some truly beautiful views, especially in the summer and fall. Mt. Washington is particularly famous for this; that's why every photo of the Pittsburgh skyline is taken from the exact same angle.
Trademark Favorite Food: The Primanti Sandwich, named after Primanti's Restaurant. It's a sandwich, fries, and cole slaw all in one. The story goes that they started putting the fries and cole slaw on the sandwiches so the truck drivers in the strip district could eat the full meal as they drove.
Pierogies are another favorite, particularly among the Eastern European crowd.
Don't forget the hotdogs and fries down at the O note (Original Hot Dog Shop) in Oakland!
Oh and Vincent's Pizza Parlor...or pizza in general, as the greater Pittsburgh area seems to have a pizza parlor on every street corner, to the point that anyone who resorts to Pizza Hut or Papa John's is simply not trying (unless one did try and honestly prefers them over the local options).
Considering that Fox's Pizza Den actually started in Pitcairn, and the large Italian population that's still there, this isn't particularly surprising.
Young and in Charge: Former mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who was the youngest mayor of a major city in American history, taking office at 26 years old. This fact was not lost on political cartoonists, who often portrayed him as a toddler. Fun trivia: he played the kicker for the football team in The Dark Knight Rises.
Zeerust: Many buildings in the city are over a hundred years old and have ornate outer fixtures as was common back then. In the 1960's and 70's however, there was a push to "modernize" many of the buildings by covering them with cheap metal or concrete facades. Unfortunately, these efforts have not aged well and most of these facades became eyesores◊ over time. Nowadays, the older buildings are either being restored to their former beauty, or torn down and replaced with current modern architecture such as the PNC Tower◊, which is replacing the previous photo subjects.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair (founder of the American Atheists)
Charles Taze Russell (founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses)
Rush Limbaughnote Originally from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, just south of St. Louis, but before he became the king of American talk radio and the unofficial spokesman for the nation's conservative-leaning citizens, Limbaugh — who used the name "Jeff Christie" — spent some time in The Seventies as a DJ for Pittsburgh's KQV-AM radio.