For seven years I felt like a taxi driver winding on the back routes–up and down hills, over bridges and through tunnels. I knew the ethnic neighborhoods and quirky nature of the terrain that divided communities all over the county. But when I was downtown, I walked. The Pittsburgh Press offices were near the Point and the territory between there and Grant Street – what’s known as the Golden Triangle—was where I looked for photographs between assignments.
I remember the Mayor of Pittsburgh making a proclamation that during his administration, the city was going to work to get at least half of the downtown street to have signs up to identify them
I came to Pittsburgh in 1986 to work for the afternoon newspaper. After the Press died, I began freelancing. Most of my assignments after that began by getting on an airplane to go somewhere else to work.
The assignment for the Heinz Endowments—Pittsburgh Downtown Now—brought me back to connect with people and places. After 20 years, it was interesting to see Pittsburgh with fresh eyes. The city is handsome—a mixture of old architectural marvels and new ones cropping up on the skyline. Spaces in between are undergoing a metamorphosis. The whole notion of Pittsburgh as a Green City was entirely new to me. Market Square, the Mon Wharf and the Point—iconic, familiar haunts are being revamped to make them friendlier places, but with a mind on preservation that has maintained their integrity. For two years on this project, I discovered a new city and it was cool because I understood it’s past.
Snow squalls blew into downtown in explosive bursts. On that February afternoon, the streets were wet, and ice mixed with salt crunched under my boots. I felt the kind of damp, cold chill that penetrates into your bones. Throughout the year I noticed that the city’s moods are a reflection of the seasons and times of day.
Although it was a familiar pattern, I often chose a different route walking from Market Square to the Mon Wharf all the way to the Point and back. Wandering through the streets as the evening rush was winding down, the last of the afternoon workers headed home. Stanwix Street was quiet. It felt particularly wide and empty as darkness settled into concrete canyons between steel gray buildings. People waiting for a bus appeared to be unaware of each other—yet their arrangement was near perfect as they took positions evenly spaced. They seemed respectful of each other’s own private world.
Snapshots with the President
August Wilson Center Opening