LIVING IN PITTSBURGH
STEEL CITY HISTORY
Pittsburgh is a city that helped build America. In the early 1800s, Pittsburgh built canal boats, produced fire bricks and glass, manufactured steam engines, made medicine, and was the first place in the U.S. to discover and refine oil. The region’s abundant coal reserves powered factories that forged iron, causing more than 3,000 canons for the Union army during the Civil War. From 1870 through 1910, the city’s population grew six times to more than half a million. At its peak, 60 percent of the nation’s steel was made here, most of it in factories owned by Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie, which was possible due to coking coal abundance, the Bessemer process, and the railroads. Banker brothers Richard and Andrew Mellon helped finance innovators in producing aluminum, railcars, electrical turbines, and engines. George Westinghouse patented his revolutionary air brake; Henry Clay Frick built a vast fortune on coal, and Henry J. Heinz branded consumer products company.
Inhabited for centuries by indigenous Lenape and Seneca people, European traders established settlements here around 1710. The region became a battleground in the 1750s as France and Great Britain fought to control this strategic region. A century later, George Ferris invented the giant rotating wheel bearing his name that was the centerpiece of the 1893 World’s Fair. The first drive-in gas station was here. Sixteen recipients of the Nobel Prize have lived or worked here. The Pittsburgh Chair is used to “save” one’s parking spot along narrow city streets. The city is known for its 440 bridges and its 800+ outdoor, street-named staircases used to traverse the region’s hills on foot. The Pittsburgh Steelers Terrible Towel is the most famous merch in American sports. Thousands of costumed zombie fans of the classic horror Night of the Living Dead amble through the streets annually. Pittsburgh’s Sister Cities include Bilbao, Spain; Israel’s Karmiel; Vietnam’s Da Nang; Saitama City, Japan; Matanzas, Cuba; and cities all over Eastern Europe.
Pittsburgh region pioneers include polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk; environmentalist Rachel Carson; artists Mary Cassatt and Andy Warhol; Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson; and Fred Rogers, beloved creator of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Dr. Thomas Starzl performed the world’s first liver transplant here. Dancer Gene Kelly; actors Jeff Goldblum, Michael Keaton, Jo Manganiello, and Billy Porter were raised here. The city nurtured dozens of jazz musicians and composers, including Billy Strayhorn, Ahmad Jamal, George Benson, Art Blakey, and Roger Humphries. Popular music started with Stephen Foster in 1850; recent notables include Christina Aguilera, Wiz Khalifa, and the late Mac Miller. Sports legends like Pirates’ Roberto Clemente; everyman golfer Arnold Palmer; football greats Franco Harris, Mike Ditka, and Joe Montana; and hockey’s “Great One,” Mario Lemieux. Recent additions to the Forbes 400 list: hedge-fund manager David Tepper, Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle and film financier Thomas Tull.
Any newcomer may encounter Pittsburghese unique dialect, traced back to the region’s early Scotch-Irish settlers. “Yinz,” the you-plural similar to “y’all,” has recently been warmly embraced by locals, appearing on bumper stickers, t-shirts, postcards, and other souvenirs. Those fluent in this rare tongue are sometimes called “yinzers,” but proceed with caution: it’s one of those terms that is OK if you’re describing yourself but may not feel so friendly coming from someone you don’t know. “N’at” (and that) is a kind of verbal ellipses at the end of a sentence. Other terms: Steelers becomes “Stillers;” Pittsburgh “Pixburgh;” downtown “dahntahn;” slippery “slippy;” and nosy “nebby.” If someone is coming over, you might “redd up the haus” by running the “sweeper,” set out some “pop” to drink, and ask if your guest is hungry: “Jeet jet?” If you’re heading “aht,” you’ll hope not to encounter any “jagoffs;” they’re the worst! Duolingo, the king of language apps, is founded here, but Pittsburghese is not offered yet.
Pittsburgh’s civic culture of giving was started by women and flourished in African American community. Pittsburgh industrialists joined a tradition of philanthropy by endowing Carnegie’s libraries, Phipps’s Conservatory, Buhl Planetarium, and numerous public parks. Charitable giving that supports economic development, social impact, and more by top foundations continues today through Hillman Family Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, The PNC Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Jewish Community Foundation, and more. Some smaller but mighty givers include: 412 Food Rescue, which redirects food to needy communities; Brother’s Brother Foundation provides a mobile clinic; Global Links repurposes used medical equipment; Hello Neighbor provides resettlement support; through Building New Hope, Pittsburghers help build sustainable livelihoods in Central America; and Pulse cultivates young servant-leaders to transform Pittsburgh.
After the launch of the U.S. LEED green building rating system in 1998, three of the first dozens of buildings to receive certification were in greater Pittsburgh. Committed local environmentalists and engineers received funding to focus exclusively on greening the region’s commercial building sector. The city ranks consistently high for its number of LEED buildings, including such firsts as the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, PNC Firstside Center, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, PPG Hockey Arena, CMU’s Stever House, the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Phipps Conservatory Welcome Center, the Heinz History Center, WYEP radio station, and the Point Park University dance complex. Some 729 certified green buildings in the Pittsburgh metro area are Children’s Hospital, Frick Environmental Center, McGowan Institute, Arconic Corporate Center, August Wilson Center, Westinghouse Corporate Center, and several Carnegie Library branches. Learn more about green building initiatives and practices at Green Building Alliance.
The world's first Nickelodeon (movie theater) opened in Pittsburgh in 1905. The city has also been the location for more than 120 motion pictures and television productions last four decades and is currently home to the most significant sound stage outside Los Angeles and New York. The skyline, topography, eclectic look, and drama of the “Hollywood of the East” and its surroundings make it an attractive and affordable choice. Pittsburgh is featured in several iconic films: the Night of the Living Dead series, The Deer Hunter (1979), Flashdance (1983), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Adventureland (2009), Striking Distance (1993), The Next Three Days (2010), Unstoppable (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Jack Reacher (2012), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), Lorenzo’s Oil (2012), Foxcatcher (2014), Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015), Concussion (2015), Fences (2016), A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) and A Man Called Otto (2023).
CITY OF CHAMPIONS
Sporting News magazine awarded Pittsburgh the coveted "Best Sports City" title. Three major professional sports teams are here: football’s Steelers, with more Super Bowl visits than any other team; hockey’s Penguins, winner of six Stanley Cups (and playing in North America’s only LEED Gold-certified arena); and baseball’s Pirates, playing in one of the nation’s highest-rated ballparks. All these teams share the primary colors of black and gold. Collectively, Pittsburgh holds 16 national championships – and some of the most fiercely loyal fans anywhere. Pittsburgh is home to a soccer club, the Riverhounds, and dozens of college sports teams, most notably from the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, and Robert Morris University. Other sports attractions include the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, the Roberto Clemente museum, and the annual Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. We also boast a women's football team and roller-derby squad and players of ultimate frisbee and e-sports.
ARTS & CULTURE
Pittsburgh is a thriving city for artists and art lovers with its wealth of museums and galleries: the renowned Carnegie Museum of Art hosts Carnegie International, The Warhol Museum is dedicated to the “king of pop art,” Mattress Factory has contemporary art installations, the August Wilson African American Cultural Center celebrates the African American journey, and the Heinz History Center is PA’s largest history museum. Pittsburgh has world-class music and theater organizations: the Grammy award-winning Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in the opulent Heinz Hall, while the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and The Kelly Strayhorn Theater celebrate bold and innovative artistry. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust manages such performance venues as the Benedum Center and the Byham Theater. Fairs and festivals like the flagship Three Rivers Arts Festival attract thousands of art and music enthusiasts annually, while the City of Asylum offers sanctuary to writers worldwide.
The Pittsburgh region is rich in outdoor fun, with 15,000 acres of public parks and 400 miles of biking, hiking, and walking trails. Playgrounds and trails abound in the city’s Schenley, Frick, and Highland parks, and the county’s green spaces are even more significant, with North Park boasting a 65-acre lake. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail System is a 37-mile trail snaking through Downtown Pittsburgh and along the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers, culminating at picturesque Point State Park. You can bike traffic-free along the Great Allegheny Passage of the trail, all 335 miles to Washington, DC. There are excellent opportunities for rafting, kayaking, wildlife watching, and overnight stays at the vast Moraine State Park. Venture Outdoors helps beginners and experts alike take advantage of the kayaking, hiking, biking, fly fishing, and geocaching opportunities across southwestern Pennsylvania. Ski bums and snowshoers will love the Hidden Valley and Laurel Mountain resorts, just an hour or so from downtown.
Pittsburgh’s traditional fare includes Polish pierogies, chipped chopped ham, and the infamous Primanti’s sandwich. Some sweet, locally made treats are Sarris Candies’s chocolate, Prantl’s Bakery’s burnt almond torte, and Pamela’s Diner’s pancakes. Heinz ketchup, one of the world’s most recognized brands, was created in this region, as was the banana split. Pittsburgh has become a destination for some of America’s most inventive chefs, including James Beard 2023 Award nominees Nik Forsberg with Fet-Fisk, and Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski with Apteka. ZAGAT and the BBC have called Pittsburgh “the destination foodies shouldn’t miss.” Pittsburgh was an early entrant in the farm-to-table scene and is rife with food trucks, craft beer, freshly roasted coffee, organic and vegan options, and cuisine from every corner of the earth. Don’t miss “Burgh Bits and Bites," a food-tasting adventure across several historic neighborhoods. Pittsburgh Magazine is a good resource for the best local restaurants.
Pittsburgh is packed with things to see and do for kids. The city has world-class museums, attractions, parks, and top-ranked schools. Must-go places for kids are Carnegie Science Center, which offers hundreds of hands-on exhibits. Carnegie Museum of Natural History, with its vast dinosaur collections, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, offers tactile play. Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens have kid-friendly exhibits, Senator John Heinz History Center has an interactive play zone, the National Aviary is home to 500+ birds, and Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is where the wild things are. Kennywood Amusement Park, Idlewild Park, SoakZone, and Sandcastle round out the venues. The Annual Children’s Festival each May brings troupes of performers from around the world to town, as does the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival. Kidsburgh is a collaborative online resource with even more information.