The Mexican War Streets

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Nestled into the heart of the North Side is one of Pittsburgh’s many hidden gems, The Mexican War Streets. Originally named The Buena Vista Tract, by Alexander Hays is the cobblestone street neighborhood between Drovers Way and Sherman Ave. Alexander Hays was responsible for the planning of the streets’ layout as well as their unique names. The majority of their names were derived from various battles and generals of the Mexican-American War like Buena Vista, Monterey, Sherman, and Palo Alto. General William Robinson owned the tract of land which encompassed the Mexican War Streets and had a vested interest in maintaining the historical heritage of the neighborhood. As a veteran of the war he sought to bring a little piece of it to his new home in Allegheny.

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One of the most strikingly unique attributes of the Mexican War Streets stems from it’s rich historical past.  Despite the recent number of new structures being built, many of the homes have retained their original Victorian Era character and grace. Their architectural style is a mix of Greek Revival, Italianate, Richardsonian Romanesque, and the French Second Empire. Built during Queen Victoria’s reign 1837-1901, some of these homes still bear signage from when they were constructed.

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 Pictured above is the Mattress Factory’s Monterey Street Gallery “Within”. It is the work of New York native, Janine Antoni and Stephen Petronion, who’s creative vision is showcased in the various exhibits on display. Antoni’s affinity for natural elements is evident in her use of trees and intricate bone sculptures. If you’re in the area this is definitely something to check out, just be prepared for a nontraditional gallery experience.

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As far as interesting places to grab a bite to eat, the Mexican War Streets are residential, but just around the corner are two great restaurants tucked away. Wilson’s Bar B-Q on North Taylor Ave and Buena Vista Street specializes in home-cooked southern style cuisine. Wilson’s looks a little like a hole-in-the-wall but their primarily takeout food, the creation of Mr. George Wilson and his secret rib sauce is known and loved throughout Pittsburgh.

If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, Lola’s Bistro is just a short walk from the Mexican War Streets at 1100 Galveston Ave. Started by husband and wife duo Michael and Yelena Barnhouse, Lola is a “gourmet comfort cuisine” restaurant with an eclectic international twist.

Coffee wise, Buena Vista Café is one of the Mexican War Street’s best kept secrets. Nestled in between Jacksonia Ave and Buena Vista Street, this little shop is stocked with delicious brews and baked goods. The Italian Breakfast Cake is said to be “to die for” and I definitely will be making a point on my next trip back to try some. The café is only a few steps away from Sampsonia Street, making it an ideal stopping point for those touring the Mattress Factory museum and in need of a quick caffeine fix or bite to eat. For those on their way to the National Aviary on Arch Street on just into the city, Buena Vista is absolutely not to be missed.

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By Katie Dallaba

Schenley Park and Phipps Conservatory

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Schenley Park is the second largest Pittsburgh park, beaten only by Frick Park, and consists of 465 acres of land between the neighborhoods of Oakland, Greenfield, and Squirrel Hill. Most of the land was donated to the city by Mary Schenley in 1889, and the city purchased additional areas from the family in the following years. The park borders both Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

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Schenley Park is famous among exercise enthusiasts in the area for its extensive trails that wind through the hilly terrain. Hikers, runners, and bikers can go for miles on the gravel paths through some amazing scenery. Schenley Park is also home to the Schenley loop; a favorite for runners. This 1k loop is located at the highest point of the park, making it a great place for interval training while enjoying the breeze and the view.

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In the warmer months, Schenley Park is home to a variety of outdoor activities. Families can enjoy the tennis courts or the pool during the day, and gather for a movie in the park on weekend evenings. In the winter the park also sports an outdoor skating rink.

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Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens were erected Schenley Park grounds in 1893 by Henry Phipps as a gift to the city of Pittsburgh. The large Victorian style steel and glass greenhouse is both an architectural and cultural wonder within the city. The conservatory is currently a non-profit that aims to educate people on environmental issues while enabling them to develop a love and wonder of plants.

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Phipps Conservatory places a high value on educating the community on the importance of green and sustainable living and the role plants play in that lifestyle. They currently have educational programs and classes available for both adults and children. They also partner with schools and teachers in order to supplement the curriculum of local schools. The conservatory offers seasonal exhibits throughout the year in order to make repeat visits worthwhile.

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The conservatory can be rented our as a beautiful location for weddings or receptions. There is also a tea room just across the street that makes for a perfect stop to end your visit to the conservatory. If you are in the mood for a more substantial meal, there are restaurants of every cuisine imaginable located in nearby Oakland.

By Joanna Abraham

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Mt. Washington, Chatham Village & the Inclines

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Sitting six-hundred feet above the city of Pittsburgh and south of the banks of the Monongahela River stands Mount Washington. Well known for its overlook of the Pittsburgh skyline, tourists from around the world come to Mount Washington to gaze at the river valley that surrounds the city and to ride two of the world’s oldest operating inclines. Mount Washington’s history, like many of its surrounding neighborhoods, is closely tied to Pittsburgh’s rich history of coal and steel industry.

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Mount Washington was named after General George Washington, who was commissioned by the British army to survey the area during the French and Indian War. Following the war, the mountain was referred to as Coal Hill, due to its large coal deposits. Coal Hill became a vitally important local mineral deposit, providing coal to early settlers at the Point, to garrisons at Fort Pitt, and first to the glass industry and then to the steel industry on the Monongahela River. The Penn family began selling rights on Mount Washington beginning in 1784, and by that point Pittsburgh was already being referred to as the smoky city due to its use of coal. Coal Hill’s coal was unusually accessible, and according to some accounts at one point people could simply loosen coal from the surface of the Mountain and toss it down the hillside. Later on, men mined Mount Washington for this valuable commodity.

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By the 1860s, industry in Pittsburgh was exponentially expanding, resulting in a lack of housing for industry workers and their families. This is when people began turning to Mount Washington as a source of land. German and Eastern European immigrants mainly settled on the Mount, the majority working in plants on the south banks of the Monongahela. In 1872, the Borough of Mount Washington was annexed into the City of Pittsburgh.

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The main way early inhabitants traversed Mount Washington was the Indian trail step, which was a mile long switchback running the entire length of the mountain’s face from Grandview Avenue to the base of the Mountain at Carson Street. This changed with the introduction of inclines in the 1870s. By the 1950s, the face of Mount Washington was completely deforested, due to over a century of mining and industrialization. Rebuilding and re-foresting efforts thus ensued and today Mount Washington has gained back most of its former beauty.

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In addition to its view of the Pittsburgh skyline, Mount Washington is known for its funiculars, which is French for the inclined railways that run up the side of the Mountain. Though around the 1890s there were over 17 inclines in Pittsburgh, only the Duquesne and Monongahela inclines exist today and are two of the oldest continuously running inclines in the world. Inspired by the steilbahns in their native country, German settlers thought of the idea of inclines as a way to more easily get up and down Mount Washington.

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The Monongahela incline, the oldest operating funicular in the U.S., opened in 1870. The Duquesne incline, originally built for cargo and wagons, opened up to passenger travel in 1877. Its cable cars were designed by Samuel Diescher to run at six miles per hour. The Castle Shannon incline serviced the Mount Washington community until 1964, when it was tore down. Today the two remaining inclines give tourists a breathtaking view of Pittsburgh as well as give transportation to several thousand of Mount Washington’s inhabitants.

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Today, Mount Washington is one of Pittsburgh’s most desirable neighborhoods and is home to some of the city’s most sought after real estate. The community is home to young professionals, families, and retirees. It contains a solid number of restaurants, coffee shops, taverns, and bakeries. Though hilly, the community is walker-friendly and pleasant to explore. An excellent half day trip to Mount Washington should include a ride on the Duquesne Incline, a leisurely walk along Grandview Avenue, from which you can see the city skyline, and brunch at the Micro Diner. You are sure to run into locals at this affordable, cozy diner. On one of my trips, I conversed over a bacon omelet with an elderly woman who lived in Mount Washington, golfed at Sewickley country club, and currently sits on the board of Duquesne University. We bonded over our shared love for Pittsburgh and she recommend that I try La Tavola, one of Mount Washington’s oldest Italian restaurants that is owned by her friends Joe and Pam Tavola.

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By Clara Limback

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Regent Square, Bakery Square & Google

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Bakery Square is described in PLAY, Pittsburgh’s Official See and Do Guide, as being “the city’s up-and-coming urban lifestyle and retail center.”  However, the area now known as Bakery Square had much different beginnings.  In 1918, Nabisco was built in East Liberty where it operated for 80 years.  After Nabisco closed in 1998, the area was rented to two different baking companies until eventually in 2004 the building became vacant and was left vacant until Walnut Capital, who is now one of Pittsburgh’s largest and fastest growing real estate management, development and brokerage companies, purchased the property in 2007.  Walnut Capital named the area Bakery Square because of its history.

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The old Nabisco factory has been revamped and is now home to many high-tech companies.  One of the most notable companies is Google, who moved into the building in 2009 and rents out two of the floors.  Google is not your typical office space.  The area is filled with unusual pieces such as a giant hammock, vintage pinball machines, a foosball and pool table, and a music room.  The building is also home to UPMC’s Technology Development Center and the University of Pittsburgh’s Masters of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics Program and School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

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Bakery Square is just as appealing and fun to walk around outdoors as it is to actually go inside the shops and restaurants.  There’s plenty of fun and funky outdoor furniture to relax in, with pieces shaped like couches and brightly colored chairs and umbrellas.  One of my favorite features were the little speakers scattered around the area to ensure wherever you walked you could enjoy music.  Another cool feature is the Bakery Square Bike System.  Unfortunately it is only available to Google employees and Carnegie Mellon students, but it is a great concept and yet another unique element in the area.  Qualifying members can sign up for a bike on bikebksq.com, take the bike  and keep it for up to 48 hours before returning it to the Google Station in Bakery Square or at CMU’s campus.

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Bakery Square has a variety of unique options whether you are looking to do some shopping of to just spend an afternoon with friends.  There are unique, hard to find clothing stores in the area such as Anthropology which opened in 2010 and Free People which opened in 2011.  For dining options, there is a Jimmy John’s, Panera Bread, Coffee Tree Roasters, and Social.  Other draws to the area are a Marriot Springhill Suites, an LA Fitness, and a Verizon Fios.  Bakery Square has a surprising variety of attractions for its size, making it a great place to go and spend time exploring.

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By Olivia Forish

Carnegie

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Carnegie, Pennsylvania is home to two neighboring orthodox churches. One is St. Peter and St. Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the other is Friends of the Holy Virgin Russian Orthodox Church. This church was founded at the beginning of the twentieth century when many Eastern European immigrants were moving to the Pittsburgh area. There were many industries in Carnegie that attracted these immigrants to the area, such as coal mining, railroad work, glass mills, and steel mills. With many immigrants not speaking English, there was a great desire for community among themselves. As different churches were established, factions broke off as people realized their ties among themselves with others of the same nationality as themselves. Thus is the loose beginning of both St. Peter and St. Paul and Holy Virgin churches. Both were created in the first few years of the twentieth century, and both remain in operation today to members of the community.

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 Carnegie gets its name from none other than Andrew Carnegie himself. Carnegie was, of course, one of the largest benefactors to the architecture, culture, and even education of Pittsburgh. Carnegie began as two separate boroughs which merged into one at the end of the nineteenth century. The name “Carnegie” was adopted not as a result of the gifts that Andrew Carnegie had given to the community, but rather it was a precursor to Carnegie’s donations in an effort to get him to support two community structures. One was Carnegie High School, now named Carlynton High School as a conglomeration of the names of the communities it represents, and the other was the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, one of the first of thousands of libraries that Carnegie funded throughout the world. This institution is today a central part of the community of Carnegie and it operates as a library and music hall and contains a lecture hall, gymnasium, and Civil War Room.

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The town is surrounded by many residential communities and thus it used to be a central location for these residents. Before the steel and coal mining came to town, Carnegie was a farming and whiskey-producing community. Carnegie’s location in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area is convenient due to its proximity to the city, and its easy accessibility to interstate highways 79 and 376, as well as PA route 50. This makes it a convenient location to live, as the commute to downtown Pittsburgh is no more than a few miles down the road. Carnegie is south west of downtown Pittsburgh and Chartiers Creek runs through the town. In 2004, Carnegie suffered from flooding as a result of Hurricane Ivan. The flood caused significant damage to the town and the buildings, closing down many shops and businesses. The town has since worked to recover from this damage.

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Carnegie’s Main Street is lined with a variety of businesses. From specialty shops, to florists, to local eateries, to offices, to churches, Carnegie has much to offer, and its main road is also a sight to see. Lined with trees, teal colored meters and lampposts and many murals, the color and life brought about by these additions counteracts the infrastructure of the buildings which have obviously withstood the test of time. The store displays are lively and inviting, and are a testament to the life within. Its eating establishments range from pizzerias, pubs, diners, Italian eateries, and Asian cuisine, to name a few. One of the more recent businesses to come into town is Carnegie Coffee Company, a coffee shop selling coffee classics and specialty drinks, as well as pastries, baked goods, and a variety of sandwiches. Its décor is modern and simplistic and lounge chairs and bookshelves filled with books welcome patrons into this high-ceilinged building. The atmosphere is light and airy, the color palette is subdued, and the reasonable prices are sure to please.

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The relatively small community of 3000 people maintains many community events. From the holiday Light-up Night, to a fundraising 5K to benefit the Volunteer Fire Department, there are many activities to get involved with and connect with others in the area. The town also has 3 parks, one of which is a borough park, the other two are located in the neighborhoods. The murals are also a reminder of the community in Carnegie. One such mural, painted by Bill Borcik and Karen Mahoney, shows many recognizable features of the town, such as the standing clock on the street outside the Carnegie Coffee Company, the orthodox churches, the railroad, and other significant items and people that represent the town, including Honus Wagner, a baseball player from Carnegie. Another mural represents the recovery after the flooding. Entitled Rebirth, this depiction of a large blue phoenix spreading his wings along the main street of Carnegie gives a message of hope and the ability to recover from adversity to all who see it.

By Michelle Shimrock

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The Priory Hotel and The Andy Warhol Museum

The Priory Hotel

The Priory Hotel was originally a monastery, founded by German and Swiss immigrants in 1848. The parish building is an example of the architectural style known as Italianate classical, brought over by European immigrants. The Priory was then added as a home for Benedictine Priests and Brothers, and served as a place for those traveling to St. Vincent’s Archabbey to stop for a night on their way through.

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The building was acquired by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in 1981 to be destroyed to make way for I-279.  A local community group fought back against the destruction of the church, and forced PDOT to relocate the highway. The Priory was then bought and restored by the Graf family to a 19th century furnished hotel. There are currently 42 rooms inside guests can stay in, as well as a Grand Hall that can hold up to 500 people. The now hotel is located on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, and is a historic landmark of Pittsburgh in the 19th century.

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Like many of Pittsburgh’s cultural gems, it is tucked away in an old and unassuming neighborhood, away from the foot traffic of downtown. The Priory offers a peek into the keyhole of Pittsburgh’s past, one that has remained because of the foresight and devotion of many.

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The Andy Warhol Museum

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Andy Warhol was one of the pioneers of the American pop art movement in the 20th century. Warhol is widely known for his paintings of Campbell Soup cans and the use of techniques such as silk screening and blot technique. However, Warhol produced a massive amount of art work across a whole range of mediums. Many critiques believe his art largely contributed to the “collapse of boundaries between high and low art.

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The Warhol museum is located on the North Shore of Pittsburgh, and is the largest museum in the U.S. dedicated to a single artist. The building itself is a 73,000-square-foot converted warehouse on Pittsburgh’s North Side, which stands only a few miles from what was Warhol’s childhood home. The museum contains thousands of Warhol’s paintings, sculptures, numerous prints, films, and video and audiotapes.

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It is hard to even begin to unravel the impact Warhol had on the culture of art, as well as the city of Pittsburgh. Warhol’s unique take on art, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit he brought to his craft left a mark on how art is seen and defined.

Written by: Ethan Tuxill

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Squirrel Hill

Squirrel Hill, a mostly residential area, is located on the East End of Pittsburgh. While the Hill was an evident part of the landscape, squirrels were scarce to be seen, which, needless to say, outraged our author. Nevertheless, the area was rich with culture, which made up for the lack of squirrels. According to the 2010 census, 40% of Squirrel Hill’s residents are Jewish. This ethnic density makes the area a geographic hub for the Jewish community, a unique feature in North America. Jewish schools, synagogues, Hanukkah decorations, and orthodox attire are just a few of the marks the culture has left on the neighborhood.
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Above is Squirrel Hill Cafe, on the corner of Murry and Forbes. The cafe resides in the heart of the neighborhood, making it a great starting point when visiting the area. Nearby is a Coldstone Creamery (yum), the Jewish Community Center, Frick Park, and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
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On the edge of the neighborhood lies Homewood Cemetery. Since the author shares a special affinity to cemeteries, and since this one was recommended by a Pittsburgh resident as one of the most beautiful, a special visit was necessary.
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Homewood was founded in 1878 for the East End residents of Pittsburgh. At the time, it was the burial ground for some of the most wealthy and influential families. Consequently, many unusual and majestic family crypts rise out from the rolling hills of the 178 well-tended acres.
 
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By Johnny Sikma
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