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A Desire to Keep The Streetcars Rolling

There are hundreds of places throughout the region with ongoing connections to the past. Chances are you have not gotten around to visiting them. Maybe you just need a scouting report. Here’s one to check out:

All photos by Leon J. Pollom/NowThenPgh.com

Scott Becker hops aboard a 1911 double-end trolley used in Rio DeJaneiro, Brazil.

Scott Becker hops aboard a 1911 double-end trolley used in Rio DeJaneiro, Brazil.

You Can Still Ride Them Here

A streetcar named Washington regularly rolled 25 miles through the woods south of Pittsburgh. Then, one day it stopped.

Weeds rose above the steel tracks and leaned with the winds of change. Suburban buildings, parking lots and other things of the Automobile Age ripped up the tracks.

Surprisingly, that last trolley to run between Pittsburgh and Little Washington, PA, is not history. It still operates near the southern end of its former route. So do many of its relatives.

There you’ll find the final vintage streetcar to roll over a Pittsburgh street (1999). Its folding doors still clap shut. Steel on steel, its wheels still squeak around curves. Up from New Orleans, is a famous cousin. The one named Desire.

More than 50 such conveyances are available to ride, get married in, celebrate birthdays in, get photographed in, or just nostalgically reflect in — all at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.

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Originally posted 2015-10-28 14:08:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

OMG! Txtng in 1800s PGH

Currier&Ives print is an imaginary scene showing technological advances of the 19th Century, but for all intents and purposes, it could be Pittsburgh. The telegraph figures prominenty. Steam, as manifested in trains, river boats, and even a printing press, powered Western nations into the 20th Century.

Currier&Ives print is an invented scene showing technological advances of the 19th Century, but it could well be Pittsburgh. The telegraph figures prominenty. Steam, as manifested in trains, river boats, and even a printing press, powered Western nations into the 20th Century.

Securing the Steam-Age Internet

Back before most people had indoor toilets, Pittsburghers were texting and encrypting business emails.

Here’s a sample: Maudlin bigamy angel cart.

That’s a secret text message to sell 50,000 gallons of oil in the speculative futures market, and do it fast.

Electronic messages back then were called telegraphs.

It was the start of the telecommunications industry, the Internet, the information age.

Before the telegraph, messages could travel no faster than people — unless you had a really loud voice and a really big megaphone. Or, a reliable pigeon to tie notes to.

Then, as now, some people argued that we didn’t need to communicate any faster. If we did, it would change the world we live in. And so it did.

A portrait painter saw the need.

Death Motivates Invention

He received a week-old letter in Washington, D.C., saying that his wife was ill back home in Connecticut. A day later, a second letter came saying she was dead.

He immediately suspended his painting of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French hero of the American revolution, and rushed home.

“Rush” back then was limited to how fast a horse could gallop and pull a carriage. When he got there, his wife was already buried. He never got over it. It shifted his vocation from painter to communications pioneer.

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Originally posted 2016-07-13 20:26:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

David Bowie died as an old man earlier this week.  Reports indicate it was because he lived beyond his youth and middle age.

Let that be a lesson to us all.

Bowie was 24 when he came to Pittsburgh in 1972.

 . . . And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations. . .

The poster below was taped to shop windows to announce Bowie’s concert.

It goes way back . . . back before cellphones and the Internet, McMansions and SUVs, before the War on Drugs and even before President Ronald Reagan.

It recalls a freer time for Baby Boomers, the ones often described as “disaffected.” According to the Webster-Meriam dictionary, that means they were dissatisfied with the people in authority and no longer willing to support them.

According to me, they aspired to be creative, but not necessarily productive. They saw value in getting wasted.

The pervasiveness of the drug culture is evident in the poster. The main ticket outlets were headshops/record stores.

Pittsburgh-1972-web

Ziggy Stardust in the Burgh

Bowie came as Ziggy Stardust. He would remain so only for another year. Bowie retired his Stardust persona to get away from cocaine and —  to extend his life.

The $5 ticket price may seem ridiculously inexpensive, but that was back when performers made their money on record sales not concerts. Concert tours were just a way of selling albums.

That changed in the 1990s as music became downloadable. Bowe’s last concert here in 2004 would have cost you 10 times as much as the first. Tickets prices doubled and tripled again over the next decade.

More interesting is where you took your $5 in 1972 to buy a ticket.

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Originally posted 2016-01-13 11:12:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Pittsburgh’s Worst Flood Ever? See What That Really Means

The following film clips preserve flickers of a disaster that is fading from memory.

Few of today’s Pittsburghers and Johnstowners were around in 1936 when  much of the Mid Atlantic region flooded like never before or since.

It was March, after a particularly cold and snowy winter.

Heavy rain combined with melting snow and ice to make what became known as the St. Patrick’s Day Flood. It actually occurred over two or three days.

The flood was in the midst of the Great Depression. Petitions for projects to control and slow the amount of water flowing toward Pittsburgh went unheeded by a cash-strapped Congress for years — until after the disaster.

Actually, it wasn’t until after it happened again to a lesser extent in 1937.

Even then, floodgates of money didn’t open wide. Enough funding trickled through in the 1940s and 1950s to build dams, locks and other projects on tributaries to the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers.

Several small upriver towns disappeared from the map after they were sacrificed for Pittsburgh. High water is stored where they once stood.

Extensive river flooding has not occurred since, making these flood films all the more stark to modern Pittsburgh eyes.

 

 

Cleaning Up

Flood Control

 

A few notes:

  • The first 1936 newsreel estimates damage at $25 million in Pittsburgh. It was actually $250 million, or the equivalent of $4.3 billion today. It is said 100,000 structures were destroyed.
  • The danger of typhoid was real, but no cases developed. A boil-water advisory may have prevented an outbreak.
  • The final death figure was estimated at 69 in Pittsburgh. More than 500 were injured.
  • Electricity was out for eight days. It was quite cold, but most homes were heated by coal furnaces that did not use electric blowers, so houses had heat — if they weren’t flooded.

Originally posted 2016-05-18 11:12:57. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It Ain’t Easy Saving the Past

So, you want to preserve an old historic building? Of course not. You want someone else do it.Blockhouse1

Let’s look at two examples where people did come forward.

First we’ll detail the effort, setbacks and determination of a group of women who ensured the Fort Pitt Block House was not broken up and dumped into a hole somewhere. They also kept it from being moved out of context to Schenley Park.

Then, we’ll look at a tavern that served drinks for at least 234 years before anyone outside the West End noticed its age. It was 2011-04-30-west-end-old-stone-tavern-02about to bow before a bulldozer when local preservationists stepped up to the bar.

They want it to be preserved and studied. Maybe for a tourist attraction, maybe for a cool professional office. So far, all that’s been delivered to their table is bulldozer protection. They can take heart in knowing it wasn’t easy for the block house saviors, either.

Rich Women vs. Rich Men

The block house saga was a story of rich women donning their hats (striking by today’s standards), meeting rich and powerful men in their corporate and political domains, and not taking “No” for an answer. Well, sometimes they did. Then, they made the most of it.

We are talking about the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

They were actually granddaughters and great-granddaughters of men who fought in the revolution. True, those men helped create a new Democratic nation, but that was not their prime motivation.

They wanted personal wealth.  They got it and gave it to their descendants.

It came from speculating on land, Indian land. There’s a reason why George Washington, a surveyor, died the richest man in the country.

Those who fought in the Revolution, or otherwise advanced the cause, were promised Indian land when it was over.

Land-hungry colonists thought their British overlords were too protective of Indian treaties. The Indians, not surprisingly, didn’t think Britain protected them at all. Americans also did not want to pay taxes to cover the war that had driven the French out of their way in Indian territory.

So, the Revolution flared. It created what was considered “old money” by the time the local DAR chapter formed in 1891.

Appreciating their rich roots, members took on a never-ending project: obtain, restore and display the Fort Pitt Block House.

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Originally posted 2016-05-04 18:39:52. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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