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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
City flag City seal
City nickname: "The Steel City"

Location in the state of Pennsylvania
Founded 1758
County Allegheny County
Mayor Tom Murphy (Dem)
 - Total
 - Water

151.1 km² (58.3 mi²)
7.2 km² (2.8 mi²) 4.75%
 - City (2000)
 - Metropolitan
 - Density

Time zone Eastern: UTC-5
40°26'29" N
79°58'38" W

Pittsburgh is a city in Western Pennsylvania, United States, and the county seat of Allegheny County. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 334,563 (metropolitan area 2,358,695). Pittsburgh, nicknamed The Steel City, was traditionally considered the center of the American steel industry. In recent years the city has turned to technology, especially biotechnology and robotics, leading the Wall Street Journal to dub the city "Roboburgh." The Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute and numerous private companies have made Pittsburgh perhaps the top robotics city outside of Japan, while the University of Pittsburgh boasts a top-15 medical school and one of the best organ transplant institutes in the world. The city is also one of the nation's major nonprofit centers, home to major foundations such as the Heinz Foundations and thousands of nonprofit organizations. Pittsburgh also has a booming art scene and a long history of supporting culture and the arts.



France was the first European country to send settlers to the forks of the Ohio River. They did so after capturing a small English garrison founded by William Trent . The Virginia colony sent Major George Washington with a scout named Christopher Gist to scout the area to see whether it was worthy of development. Washington was sent with a small regiment of colonial soldiers and was easily forced into surrender by a much larger French force from the north. During the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the British colonies captured Fort Duquesne, which sat at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers, at the part of downtown Pittsburgh now known as "The Point ". The British built a larger fort on the same site and named it Fort Pitt in honor of the British statesman William Pitt the Elder. Fort Pitt was garrisoned in case of French attack during the French and Indian War, but by the time the improvements were made the war was over.

After the Revolutionary War, Pittsburgh was the center of the Whiskey Rebellion, which was put down by an army under the direct command of President George Washington.

Beginning in the early 19th century, Pittsburgh's proximity to large coal deposits and excellent positioning along major trade routes made it one of the world's leading industrial powerhouses. Steel production was a major industry for many years, earning the city its nickname, "The Steel City". Pittsburgh lies at the confluence of the Monongahela River and Allegheny River, which merge to form the Ohio River, ultimately draining into the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico. As an industrial city, Pittsburgh was also a major hub of early railroad activity. Millions of European immigrants settled in and around Pittsburgh in the 19th and early 20th centuries to seek employment in the steel mills, coal mines, railroads, or numerous associated industries. The production of glass, for both industrial and decorative use, was also an established industry in the city.

On July 21, 1877, a day after bloody rioting in Baltimore from Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers and the deaths of nine rail workers at the hands of the Maryland militia, workers in Pittsburgh staged a sympathy strike that was met with an assault by the state militia — Pittsburgh then erupted into widespread rioting. Another major confrontation occurred during the Homestead Strike in 1892.

Pittsburgh skyline
Pittsburgh skyline

Thanks to the presence of the nearby Bettis Laboratory and the Shippingport power plant, Pittsburgh became the world's first nuclear powered city in 1960.

With the recessions of the 1970s and the advent of cheap foreign labor, Pittsburgh's steel mills found themselves unable to compete with foreign steel mills, and most closed down. This created a ripple effect that decimated the local economy, as railroads, mines, and factories across the region shut down, one by one.

The collapse of the US steel industry in the 1970s marked a major turning point for the city of Pittsburgh, and brought with it an unexpected renaissance as the mills closed and Pittsburgh began to shed its image of a dirty, smoky place. Pittsburgh was spared the fate of other postindustrial Rust Belt cities as the basis of the economy dramatically shifted from heavy industry to services and high technology. Pittsburgh is also home to various new skyscrapers, the tallest being the U.S. Steel Tower, famous for having only three sides. Also notable on the city skyline is the futuristic PPG Place.

Pittsburgh's population decline during the last half century is remarkable:

Year City Population City Rank [1] Population of the Urbanized Area [2]
1950 676,806 12 1,533,000
1960 604,332 16 1,804,000
1970 540,025 24 1,846,000
1980 423,938 30 1,810,000
1990 369,879 40 1,678,000
2000 334,563 51 1,753,000
2002 327,898 (estimate) 54 Next Data: 2010 Census


Pittsburgh skyline at night
Pittsburgh skyline at night

Pittsburgh is located at 40°26'29" North, 79°58'38" West (40.441419, -79.977292).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 151.1 km² (58.3 mi²). 144.0 km² (55.6 mi²) of it is land and 7.2 km² (2.8 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 4.75% water.

Pittsburgh is located at the center of a fairly expansive set of river valleys, and much of the city's residential population is situated on or near the slopes of those valleys with certain neighborhoods (particularly south of the Monongahela) nigh inaccessible by car during the winter. As a result, Pittsburgh is widely believed to be right behind San Francisco as the "steepest" city in the United States. A pair of "inclines", or trams (cable cars on inclined rails) ascend the slope of Mount Washington, assist in local public transportation; several tunnels are major access routes through the slopes. Pittsburgh has more public staircases (700) than any other city in the United States, followed by Cincinnati and San Francisco. Many of these staircases have street names and street signs, and lead to hillside neighborhoods that can be inaccessible by car, especially in the winter. Pittsburgh has been called a "poor man's San Francisco".

See also: List of Pittsburgh neighborhoods


According to the census of 2000, there are 334,563 people, 143,739 households, and 74,169 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,324.1/km² (6,019.0/mi²). There are 163,366 housing units at an average density of 1,134.9/km² (2,939.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 67.63% White, 27.12% African American, 0.19% Native American, 2.75% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.61% from two or more races. 1.32% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 143,739 households out of which 21.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.2% are married couples living together, 16.5% have a female householder with no husband present, and 48.4% are non-families. 39.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 13.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.17 and the average family size is 2.95.

In the city the population is spread out with 19.9% under the age of 18, 14.8% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 90.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $28,588, and the median income for a family is $38,795. Males have a median income of $32,128 versus $25,500 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,816. 20.4% of the population and 15.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 27.5% of those under the age of 18 and 13.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Pittsburgh generally has among the lowest, if not the lowest crime rates of any comparably sized city in the United States.


From the Civil War era to the 1930s, Pittsburgh was considered a Republican stronghold. Since the Great Depression, Pittsburgh has been dominated by Democratic candidates.

Although socially conservative, Pittsburgh citizens tend to be members of the Democratic party, this is primarily due to the city's labor union population, which has continued to dwindle with the decline of the U.S. Steel market. Democratic candidates have been elected consecutively to either the mayor's office or city council since 1933, when David L. Lawrence led the party to power.

The mayor serves a four year term and the next election will be held in 2005. City council members are chosen by plurality elections in each of nine districts.

The city is currently facing a financial crisis and has been declared a "distressed municipality" by the state. This will result in massive cuts to city programs and debates over which taxes to raise drastically.


Pittsburgh has exhibited amazing adaptability in the wake of the steel industry's collapse. The primary industries have shifted from steel manufacture and heavy industry to high technology, robotics, biomedical technology, finance, and service based fields. Pittsburgh has a very low cost of living compared to other cities in the Northeastern U.S., but a higher cost of living than many large Southern cities. The average price for a 3- to 4-bedroom, 2-bath family home in Pittsburgh is $162,000, which is well below the national average ($264,540 as of October 2004, according to the Federal Housing Finance Board ). Fixer-uppers and smaller homes in the city can be found for under $50,000.

See also: List of major corporations in Pittsburgh


Wealthy area businessmen of the 19th century, including Andrew Carnegie, the Heinz family and Henry Clay Frick, donated large sums of money to local educational and cultural institutions. As a result, Pittsburgh is rich in art and culture. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is world-class. It owns and performs at Heinz Hall, which also plays host to a number of other events throughout the year. The Benedum Center and Heinz Hall provide venues for numerous musicals, lectures, speeches, and other performances. Pittsburgh is also home to one of only two professional brass bands in the world, the River City Brass Band. Also included in the Musical arts are the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra (PYSO, pronounced PIE-SEW) and the River City Youth Brass Band, both of which include top musicians from the Pittsburgh area. These programs are intensive and produce top-notch performances, usually viewable free by the public.

Fans of the visual arts and architecture are also well served by the region's offerings. The Warhol Museum is dedicated to the works of Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol, while the Carnegie Museum of Art is home to works by such luminaries as Edgar Degas, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and many others, along with galleries of sculpture, modern art, the Heinz Architectural Center, a large film and video collection, and various travelling exhibits. The Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, Fallingwater, is a short drive from downtown, and the North Shore boasts an 1895 neogothic church, Calvary Methodist, whose interior was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany; the church's stained glass windows are some of the largest and most elaborate work Tiffany ever created.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers teaches media arts and runs three "art house" movie theaters. The Pittsburgh Playhouse at Point Park University has four resident companies of professional actors. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History has extensive dinosaur collections on display, including the complete first Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, and an Egyptian wing. The building may be distinguished by a life-size statue known as "Dippy the Diplodocus" to the right of the main entrance. Other dinosaur statues are visible around the Pittsburgh area, these decorated by artists nationwide and sold as a benefit to the Carnegie Museums. The Carnegie Science Center is more technology oriented. Pittsburgh also houses the country's only National Aviary. Phipp's Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, in the Oakland region of Pittsburgh, feature seasonal and global plants in a recently-remodeled Victorian-style greenhouse. More additions to the Conservatory are scheduled to begin in 2005. Kennywood Park is widely regarded by rollercoaster connoisseurs to have one of the best collections of functional rollercoasters in the world, including several early 20th century wooden coasters: the Racer, the Thunderbolt, and the Jack Rabbit.

Many Pittsburgh area residents speak a regional dialect called the Pittsburgh accent or Pittsburghese. Residents of the area are sometimes referred to as yinzers because "yinz" means "y'all" (you-plural) in the Pittsburgh dialect. However, some may consider that term mildly derogatory. Other Pittsburghese phrases are included in this theoretical exchange of two Pittsburghers having an informal discussion around lunchtime:

     1: D'jeetjet? (TRANS: Did you eat yet?)
     2: Naw, D'joo? (TRANS: No, did you?)
     1: Naw, lez go dahntahn an' haff a coupla cold Arns and a Jumbo 
        Sammitch. (TRANS: No, let's go downtown and have a couple of cold 
        Iron City Beers and a bologna sandwich)

The Pittsburghese dialect can be described as a combination of a New England twang with a Virginian drawl, resulting in something that sounds like the speaker having just gotten a shot of Novacaine; one resident put it as "extreme laziness of the tongue".


Pittsburgh is home to many universities and research facilities. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has over 2.1 million cataloged items available for circulation. The Health Sciences Department at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center operate some of the finest hospitals in the world, and an advanced medical research center that performs pioneering work in organ transplantation, AIDS and cancer research, and many other fields. The University of Pittsburgh is also known for its departments of engineering and philosophy of science and for its Tier 1 law school.

Carnegie Mellon University is one of the world's leading computer science and robotics research centers, and also has renowned theater, fine arts and music programs. Carnegie Mellon University also houses famous research centers such as the Robotics Institute, which is the first of its kind in the world and currently considered a leader in the field of robotics, and the world-famous Software Engineering Institute (SEI).

See also: Carlow University, Chatham College, Duquesne University, Point Park University, Robert Morris University, Pittsburgh Youth Ballet, Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, Pittsburgh Flight Training Center


Pittsburgh is connected to other urban centers by the Pennsylvania Turnpike and on the rails by passenger railroad Amtrak and various freight railroads. Pittsburgh is also served by the Pittsburgh International Airport in Findlay Township, Pennsylvania. General aviation enthusiasts may prefer Allegheny County Airport, a 1920s art-deco marvel that once hosted Charles Lindbergh and now handles 139,000 private and corporate-jet flights a year.

Pittsburgh has a high number of freeze/thaw cycles in the winter which is sometimes blamed for the difficulty of maintaining local roads. The hills and rivers of Pittsburgh form many barriers to transportation within the city. Bridges are ubiquitous around town, as they connect the neighborhoods separated by rivers and valleys. The southern and eastern entrances to the city are through tunnels.


The main artery connecting Pittsburgh to the turnpike on the east is I-376, locally known as "Parkway East", while I-279 (referred to as either "Parkway North" or "Parkway West" depending on the particular stretch of road with respect to downtown) connects the city with points west (including the airport) and north. A set of local roads are designated as the beltway system, forming five loops centered on downtown and each identified by a different color. Pittsburgh, because of its radical topography, is a confusing yet rewarding city to navigate.

Mass transit

Local public transportation is coordinated by the Port Authority of Allegheny County , the 14th largest transportation system in the United States, which maintains a bus service, incline railways and a light rail system called "the T", which consists of street cars which go underground as they enter downtown. The T consists of three largely parallel lines, and only serves downtown and the "South Hills" suburbs -- the small "via Allentown", the 20-year-old "via Beechview", and the recently re-opened "via Overbrook." Construction on two small extensions -- one to the Convention Center, and another to the North Shore -- should begin by the end of 2004; the federal government recently agreed to pay for US$55 million of the $363 million construction price.


An aging population, steep hills, and variable weather make biking less popular in Pittsburgh than in some other cities. However, some efforts have been made to incorporate the bicycle into the transportation system. The "Jail Trail," formally called the Eliza Furnace Trail, stretches from downtown (at the county jail) out to the East End of the city, where bike trails can be found along some roads. Additionally, the Port Authority has installed bike racks on some buses. Bicycles are permitted on the Port-Authority-run Incline during off-peak hours. Bike Pittsburgh serves as the local bicycle advocacy group and compiles information about bicycle transportation in Pittsburgh.


Pittsburgh in television, film, and literature

See List of fiction set in Pittsburgh

The Pittsburgh Film Office coordinates film and TV shoots in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.

Many TV shows and movies have been shot in Pittsburgh. The following list is far from all-inclusive.

  • Silence of the Lambs (1990)
  • Flashdance (1982)
  • Mr. Roger's Neighborhood (TV, 1968-2001)
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  • The Guardian (TV, 2001-04)
  • The Deer Hunter (1978)
  • All the Right Moves (1983)
  • Robocop (1987)
  • Bob Roberts (1991)
  • Lorenzo's Oil (1991)
  • Inspector Gadget (1998)
  • Dogma (1998)
  • The Wonder Boys (1999)
  • 10th & Wolf (2004)

External links

See also: Cities and Towns of Allegheny County

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