Monday, July 13, 2009

History, with a side of Primanti's

PITTSBURGH - The steel mills no longer belch black smoke out of their stacks, but that doesn't mean residents here are not aware of Western Pennsylvania's rich heritage. That's why my girlfriend, Tiffany, and I dropped by the sprawling Heinz History Center in the Strip District last Friday to check out the museum.

The Lincoln exhibit was somewhat disappointing, including a bed that our 16th president may, or may not, have slept in when he visited the Monongahela House Hotel in Pittsburgh in 1861. A former colleague, Scott Beveridge, dissected this supposed artifact on his own blog last month, so like me and Tiffany at the History Center, we'll move right along.

After the Lincoln section, we walked upstairs to the sports museum that showcases more than just Pittsburgh's major sports teams. The sports exhibit highlights local champions, pro golfers, racers and, of course, probes Western Pennsylvania's high school football heritage. We then checked out the Pittsburgh innovation section that tells the story of how the area became an industrial powerhouse, among other important technological achievements.

Finally, we checked out the Heinz section, which seemed more like a walking commercial, although was special nonetheless because my great-grandfather worked for the ketchup giant a century ago. But it also reminded me of a story I wrote two years ago about John Dryer and the Heinz Hitch, which is pictured above. The company eliminated its marketing dollars for the hitch and thundering draft horses, leaving Dryer with no other options but to shut it down. He apparently donated the hitch to the history center, where it sits in the museum lobby.

After spending about three hours in the six-floor museum, we walked a few blocks down Smallman Street through the heart of the Strip District. There, we settled into a table at Primanti Brothers and grabbed an ice cold brew to go with our sandwiches. It's not often that I get a dose of Pittsburgh history with a side of Capicola and cheese, but it definitely was an afternoon fit for a yinzer.


  1. The missus and I went to the History Center recently, and I was highly impressed. Much better, IMHO, than the Warhol.

  2. Both museums do outstanding stuff.

  3. I agree, but for me, personally, the History Center had more to offer. I'm a history buff, so that's probably the reason.

  4. The next stops on this guy's PGH tour is the Warhol art museum and Roberto Clemente photo exhibit (is that still open, by the way?)

    But the thing I love about Pittsburgh is the cultural attractions. Sure, you can find a lot of things to do in other cities, but since I returned home in 2006, I've been to the opera, plays, rib cookouts, history centers and Pirates and Steelers games. This is a special place, and I think the rest of the country is starting to realize that.

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