City As TExt
City as Text™ refers to structured explorations of environments and ecosystems. Designed as on-going laboratories through which small, self-guided teams investigate contested areas and issues in urban environments, or competing forces in natural ones, these exercises foster critical inquiry and integrative learning across disciplines. Please note that these are NOT guided tours. Students will be given instructions, maps, and reflection questions to consider when exploring different areas of Pittsburgh. Please note that some of these destinations involve entrance fees, depending on what you choose to do in each of the neighborhoods. You will need to purchase your lunch on all excursions, unless otherwise indicated.
Please read the CAT strand descriptions below, and decide which one you plan to attend prior to the conference. QR codes linked to Google Maps with suggested routes and select destinations will be provided at the conference during the CAT Orientation Session.
You should come to the CAT Orientation Session promptly at 9:00 AM, wearing comfortable walking shoes, dressed appropriately for the weather. All will return to the hotel by 3:15 PM to prepare summary comments for a 3:30 PM wrap-up discussion in which participants will share their discoveries of Pittsburgh as Text.
Please consult the Pittsburg Regional Transit site as needed for local fares to excursions.
Suggestion: Bring documentation of student or senior citizen status for discounts. All destinations will have specific assignments, distributed in the opening session of City as Text. Please be prepared with a mask to observe any COVID mask requirements at the respective sites.
Please read the descriptions below and choose your City as Text excursion before you arrive for the conference.
City as Text Schedule - Friday, March 31, 2023
9:00 am: City as Text Orientation and Keynote Address
10 am-3:00 pm: City as Text Excursions
3:30 pm-4:45 pm: Wrap-Up and Reflection
City as Text Options - click on the CaT title for maps and a detailed description
Take a Walk on the South Side - Little remains of the steel, iron and glass industries that were once a staple of the South Side; however, the attempts to preserve the Victorian homes, businesses, and eclectic charm of the neighborhood have been largely successful. East Carson Street is one of the longest business districts in Pittsburgh and features unique, funky retail shops, galleries and restaurants. The lower end of East Carson is especially renowned for its 15 blocks of historic Victorian era architecture. Walk the streets to see row houses that dominate the Southside flats. At the upper end of East Carson, you will find South Side Works, which is a new urban open-air development with various stores and restaurants. This destination is a short bus or ride-share commute from the conference hotel.
The World on Penn Avenue - Locally known as the Strip, this district is a one-half square mile area northeast of Downtown Pittsburgh. Originally the Strip was an industrial area where Andrew Carnegie and George Westinghouse began their careers, and it was the original home of the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, now known as ALCOA. People from all economic classes and ethnicities flock to the Strip for fresh produce, pasta, cheese, meat, fish, and spices, and to shops that sell unusual gifts, art, Pittsburgh souvenirs, and knick-knacks. The Strip District provides a one-stop look at the cultural and ethnic diversity that characterizes Pittsburgh. It’s the best place to get the “flavor” of the city. The Strip comes alive at night with clubs, dancing, and diverse restaurants.
Explore the North Shore - Once part of Allegheny City, Pittsburgh’s North Shore is famous for its sports and music venues, as well as its renowned museums. On the North Shore, you’ll find two institutions of contemporary art, the Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory. Both are located within walking distance of one another and represent the Renaissance of the arts in Pittsburgh in recent years. Opened in 1994, the Warhol Museum invites interaction with the life and art of Andy Warhol from his early days in Pittsburgh to his time in NYC. The Mattress Factory, located in the historic Mexican War Streets District, is housed in a former industrial building and combines private working studios with public exhibit space and works to revitalize local structures and the local community. If you’re more interested in Pittsburgh’s sports history, your exploration of the City of Champions could begin at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in the Heinz History Center (on Smallman Street near the end of the Strip District). After exploring the Sports Museum, you can walk across the Roberto Clemente Bridge to Heinz Field and PNC Park, the current homes of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates. PNC Park is a great example of recently constructed retro baseball venues and offers a dramatic view of Downtown Pittsburgh. This destination is a short bus or “T” ride from Station Square; the “T” can be accessed in Station Square.
View from Mount Washington & Station Square - Mt. Washington is documented as the location from which George Washington first mapped the land and rivers it overlooks. Mt. Washington is famous, not only for its view of the city, but for the unique way of getting to it, using the Duquesne Incline, a funicular (cable railway laid on a steep slope). The Incline ride is brief, about 10 minutes (one way), and costs $2.75 per trip. You can take this fun trip up, explore the view from Mt. Washington, maybe check out a restaurant or two or perhaps Grandview Bakery, and then make your way back down. Follow these walking directions to get to Mt. Washington from the NRHC Conference location. It is a 15-minute walk.
City of Neighborhoods – Squirrel Hill - As early as the 1760s, this region of Pittsburgh was a pioneer farming community, taking its name from the abundance of gray squirrels found there. A century later, Squirrel Hill became an affluent suburb of the industrializing and growing city of Pittsburgh. Squirrel Hill was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1868 and offers its residents and visitors ethnic restaurants, delis, bakeries, and old-fashioned corner markets right next door to chic new eateries, boutiques, movie theaters, and upscale shops of all kinds. (Bus or a rideshare)
Downtown Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle - Just across the river from Station Square, this section of the city occupies a condensed 50-acre area with parks and plazas between office towers and stores. While you explore Downtown, you might visit the Fort Pitt Museum and Point State Park and its iconic fountain, have coffee in Market Square, and then stroll through the Theatre District. Or you might focus your attention on the Triangle’s architecture, as this area includes several prominent commercial and institutional buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Pittsburgh’s central business district: the U.S. Post Office, Union Trust Building, Frick Building, William Penn Hotel, Trinity Cathedral, Heinz Hall, the former Kaufmann’s Department Store building, and the Allegheny Courthouse and old jail, two of the oldest standing buildings in the city designed by prominent architect H.H. Richardson. This destination is walkable from Station Square and can be reached by crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge.
August Wilson’s Hill - A Neighborhood in transition, Hill District native and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson shines a light on the aspirations, energy, and rhythm of this neighborhood through his ten-play cycle, including “Fences”. The Hill District drew waves of immigrants to Pittsburgh, and the lasting influence of 25 different nationalities is etched in the landscape, the architecture, and street names. Jazz is in the DNA of the neighborhood and is reflected in landmarks like the Crawford Grill. Highlights of the Hill include Hill House, August Wilson’s home, Freedom Corner, the Carnegie Library, and the revitalization of new businesses along Centre Avenue, including a Shop n’ Save grocery store, ending a thirty-year food desert in the neighborhood. The Hill is one of the greenest places in the city with five miles of hillsides surrounding the neighborhood and seven hills providing breathtaking views of the city. Short bus ride.
University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University & a Whole Lot More in Oakland - Two renowned universities make Oakland a center of education, research, and technology. The University of Pittsburgh occupies a 132-acre campus in Oakland. Close by is Carnegie Mellon University, one of the country’s leading scientific and technological schools of higher education. Another site to visit in Oakland is the Carnegie Institute, a combination of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Carnegie Public Library. Just down the street from the Carnegie, you will find The Phipps Conservatory. As with most university neighborhoods, Fifth and Forbes Avenues teem with shops, restaurants, and clubs.
The easiest way to get to Oakland from the NRHC Conference venue is to walk across the Smithfield Bridge (closest bridge to conference venue) and walk along Smithfield St. to Fifth Ave (0.9 mile). Take a left on Fifth Ave. and you will see a bus stop right by the intersection. Wait for any 61 bus (61A, 61B, 61C, or 61D) and take it for 18 stops (less than 15 minutes) and exit at the Forbes and Bigelow stop. From here, you can visit the Cathedral of Learning and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Carnegie Library.
East Liberty Presbyterian Church (ELPC) - A soaring neo-gothic masterpiece in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh, East Liberty Presbyterian Church was constructed during the Depression at a cost of $4 million dollars. The Mellon family donated the money, and the church hired Ralph Adams Cram – an architect of international renown – to design the church. Comprising 100 rooms, the building is immense and has many stories to tell. There are dozens of stained-glass windows in the building designed by the leading stained-glass studios in the Northeast. Included in the History of Presbyterianism window is a depiction of the Confederate general, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. How did he end up in this church window in Pittsburgh? What is the church’s current response to this window? What is the church’s role in the community? These questions and others will be addressed on this City as Text exploration. This CaT tour will be a GUIDED tour led by Professor Tom Morton.