Pittsburgh – July 2018 – Miniature Railroad and Village

The Miniature Railroad and Village located at the Carnegie Science Center has origins dating back 100 years. In 1919 Charles Bowdish created a holiday train display in his home in the small town of Brookville, Pennsylvania.

In 1954 it was moved to Buhl Planetarium where it resided until that closed, and moved to it’s current located at the science center in 1992.

The display features life and times in Western Pennsylvania between the 1880s and 1930s.

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IT’S GROUNDHOG DAY! The famed groundhog of Punxsutawney and his home on Gobblers Knob. Will it be an early spring?

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A steel mill. This one is a replica of one in Sharon, PA. Amazingly there are numerous movements of cranes, lifts and other features throughout.

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The lights of the ovens in the mill are illuminated.

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The roundhouse supports the trains that are running throughout the exhibit.

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Everything in the 83′ x 30′ display is hand made by the volunteers and staff. It is based on the ‘O’ scale, 1/4 inch = 1 foot.

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My personal favorite is Forbes Field, the baseball stadium from 1909-1970. Each ‘person’ is a painted Q tip.

The detail even includes a runner going head first into second base.

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The model features hundreds of actual Western Pennsylvania buildings, but not in any geographic detail. While Forbes Field is exact, there was no train running by the stadium – it was sitting in the middle of a neighborhood.

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For locals they can spend hours searching out the places they knew or grew up near.

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The day we were there a very nice young lady named Nicole offered to show us the back room where they make all of the buildings and accessories.

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They have many completed buildings, just not enough room to display them. As noted previously everything is hand made – no kits here.

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Some spare rail cars.

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The hilly terrain of Western PA is well represented.

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A streetcar that became a diner.

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Rodgers Field, located near Oakmont, was Pittsburgh first municipal airport. It operated from 1925-1935.

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The famed Frank Lloyd Wright home Fallingwater. Fortunately the real one does not overlook a steel mill.

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A small ‘patch town’ – coal mine town.

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The roller coaster at Luna Park. Opened in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 1905, it was only around for a few years before closing.

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The trees and bushes are made from hydrangeas that are collected and dried. From there each one is hand made using a twisted copper wire for the trunk and limbs. Their goal is that no two trees are exactly alike.

After gluing they paint the tree for the 3 primary seasons, summer, fall and winter. Each tree can take up to 1 day to make, and there are hundreds of thousands of trees on display.

There are larger model train displays around, but this one is well worth the visit.

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Pittsburgh – July 2018 – Robot Hall of Fame

The Carnegie Science Center has a section called Roboworld, with a number of exhibits on robotics.

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Much of the exhibit is hands on, so you can control the robots to do things – including displaying dollar signs in their eyes.

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The highlight of the exhibit is the Robot Hall of Fame. It includes fictional robots over the years.

The robot Maria appeared in a movie called Metropolis, produced in Germany in 1927. Maria stands apart in that she is a female robot.

Her art deco form is symbolic of the times she was created.

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Gort is from the 1951 movie classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. As an eight foot tall robot, Gort can vaporize anything he wants with his laser like vision.

The movie stands today as one of the all time sci fi classics, with Gort being the star.

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Robby The Robot was featured in the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet. With his smug superiority towards human, Robby makes the movie (along with a young Leslie Nielsen as an astronaut chasing after the female lead Anne Francis).

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The Iron Giant is supposed to be 50′ tall – he is a genial behemoth as a result of damage to his head.  He is the star of an animated movie of the same name made in 1999 who befriends a 9 year old boy after landing on earth. Of course the U.S. government wants to destroy it.

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Danger, Will Robinson! Everyone I know knew this robot and his famed line, however I never knew his name was B-9. He, like Robby, has human emotions.

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C-3PO and R2D2. Probably the most famous robots in film history.

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Pittsburgh – July 2018 – Art of the Brick Revisited

The art of Nathan Sawaya is so amazing we decided that even though we had previously seen the Art of the Brick exhibit in Cincinnati, we would check it out again since the exhibit was in Pittsburgh.

Despite the fact that much of the exhibit was the same, the opportunity to photograph a second time was more than enticing enough to go. In addition either I had forgotten many of them, or Nathan has added new ones in the last couple of years.

The exhibit still opens with a short video along with a presentation of a hand holding a single brick – keeping with the theme it starts with 1 brick.

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Many feature famed works of art including American Gothic. On this day I tried to vary the angles of the shots to give perspective to the brick work involved.

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A section called The Sculpture Garden.

We were there on a Sunday morning and the place was empty – in part I believe in the additional cost, $20 over the normal museum entrance fee. But it made for great photos without people in them.

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Tiki Man had interesting lighting for his close up.

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There were some smaller pieces on display as well.

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Ancient Egypt meets plastic bricks.

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Exhibit Name: The Human Condition

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The Lego people of the Human Condition.

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A swimmer (and a voyeur?)

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Note the amazing number of bricks to form the head.

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The Artist’s Studio. Everything, including the paintings in the background are made out of Lego’s.

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Through the Darkness.

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This piece is normally used in all of the advertising.

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Even a simple bucket is very cool when made out of Legos.

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One great feature of the exhibit in Pittsburgh was a 2nd floor balcony where you could view many of the pieces from above.

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Tiki Man is hollow!

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The Human Condition being viewed by a human.

Art of the Brick is one of the best exhibits we have ever had the opportunity to view, and it was not disappointing the second time.

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Pittsburgh – July 2018 – Views of the City

A weekend in Pittsburgh always gives us a chance to check out the sights – some familiar, some new.

First up – the historic Gulf Tower in the morning sun.

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The Strip District (the neighborhood got it’s name because it is a small ‘strip’ of land along the Allegheny River). Once industrial, then vacant, this area is going through a rebirth – including the refurbished Cork Factory – now apartments.

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A great ‘new-old’ sign on a building on Penn Avenue. In this part of the world ‘pop’ is what soda is known as.

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Artwork along the Allegheny. Note the houses on the high bluff across the river – Pittsburgh is a very hilly city.

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Instead of replacing the tracks they just filled them in with mulch to make a path.

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The view down Smallman Street towards downtown Pittsburgh.

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Our final stop in the Strip was a hipster flea market.

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The best views of the Point, Downtown and the Rivers are from West End Overlook.

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From here you get views of the entire valley.

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The pleasure boats were out on this Sunday morning.

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The bright morning sun made the photography challenging.

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A beautiful day for baseball.

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Where the give away for the the fans were fedora hats!

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Pittsburgh – July 2018 – Back to the Furries

It’s July – It’s Pittsburgh – That can only mean one thing – THE FURRIES ARE BACK!

 

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You see them everywhere – in the hotel.

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Wandering the streets.

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Looking cool on the escalator.

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Purrrrr (not so sure about the skeleton suit though – didn’t have the nerve to ask).

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Where could all these furry people/animals be going?

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Cramming into the elevator.

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Calling their other furry friends.

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Looking out for each other with giant eyes.

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Hey lady – a little help with my tail please, I am in a hurry ….

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To gather together to get ready for the highlight – The Furry Parade! (to be fair I found this balcony where I could see them gathering and was promptly kicked out as they said it was off limits because furries don’t like to have their photos taken with their heads off 🙂

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Kicked out of the overview, we made our way downstairs to find a good spot for the parade. A few furries were still making their way to the hall but still stop for photos.

It is immediately obvious if you are going to dress in a furry animal outfit you want your photo taken – so it is the easiest gathering anywhere to get people/animals/whatever to pose.

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And with that the lead furry bangs his symbol and the parade starts.

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Strutting their stuff.

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High fives from this (fill in the blank – I don’t know)

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Some came close by to say hi.

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Ta- Da

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A paw wave was very popular too.

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More ‘Ta Da’

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Hoping the rose wasn’t for me.

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Name that animal.

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The band (yes they were playing their instruments in their furry suits).

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This couple had matching wing suits. She (?) took a tumble and the crowd went ‘oohh’. When he (?) helped her (?) up they went ‘ahhh’. Fur Suit RomCom.

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A local.

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There were a few ‘non furries’. While this, and other things we did this weekend, were repeats, they are totally worth seeing a second time. And thus began our repeat weekend in the Burgh.

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Swissvale, PA – July 2018 – Rust Belt History and Art

The Monongahela Valley of Pennsylvania was once the center of steel production for not only the U.S., but the entire world. At one point 25% of all steel production in the world came from the Pittsburgh area. For a number of reasons though that industry has all but left the area.

Today many of them have been completely torn down and converted into a variety of uses including office parks and shopping areas.

A portion of one remains: The Carrie Furnaces. The first blast furnaces were built in this area in 1884, closing down in 1982.

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Today it serves as a National Historic Site, open for tours of the remaining furnaces (#6 and #7). Interestingly it is also used for weddings, as evidenced by the left over high heel shoe (left side of the sign).

It should be noted the facility is not restored at all, so whomever is wearing these heels to a wedding held here clearly planned poorly.

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The tallest of the furnaces rise to a height of 92′.

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The shop building is used to check people in to the tour, as well as the aforementioned weddings.

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The site is also used for various metal based artists. The pile of automobile rotors have nothing to do with the mill, although it is likely the steel for the rotors was produced in the Mon Valley.

The rotors are used to teach high school students how to weld and make metal based art.

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As we progressed through we found a number of pieces of ‘Rust Belt Art’.

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One of the first buildings we went in is the railroad car offloading facility. The large arms in the photo would pick up railroad cars full of coal or coke and tip them over the side into the holding bin.

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Deer were a recurring themes in the artwork. This painting is on the bottom of the railroad car offloading building.

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A large steam shovel bucket was brought in to add to the atmosphere.

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The area sat vacant for many years so the park has adopted a ‘controlled’ urban art approach, since much of it had been covered in graffiti anyway.

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A large retaining wall was covered in various paintings, including this one as a tribute to the steel workers.

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Another way back in the corner of the property was very impressive with the integration of the deer with images of the mill.

I was warned of significant poison ivy in the grass and weeds that went to this far corner, but came home no worse for wear, and with a great shot.

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This far corner also provided a nice overview of the remaining furnaces. The buildings that are left are just a fraction of what would’ve been there when the mill was running.

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The tour continued underneath where the coal and coke would moved into the mill from the holding building seen previously. On this day it was quiet and comfortable. For the mill workers this was a loud, dusty, dangerous place.

Our tour guide Doug pointed out that the average steel worker in the early 1900s lived only to their mid 40s, dying of accidents, black lung, or just over worked.

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The tours final stops were in the furnace itself (or rather the buildings that house the main blast furnaces).  Outside is another large sculpture.

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While inside is an amazing collection of massive old steel components that kept the blast furnaces running.

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For the workers this again was a hot, dirty, dangerous place to work. In the early 1900s most were recent immigrants from Italy, Slovakia, Poland and elsewhere in eastern Europe.

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To me the remains provide an awesome setting for photography.

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While virtually the entire place is as it was left, for some reason this crank is recently painted yellow.

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The tour ended in front of Carrie herself. An impressive structure, she was a critical component in the building of America and the World. The steel that came out of her built such impressive structures as the Empire State Building and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our tour guide Doug did a great job mixing history, steel making process and personal anecdotes making the 2 hour tour quickly pass by.

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Pittsburgh – Then and Now

I have always been a fan of old photographs of cities, especially Pittsburgh. Since we had lived near there much of our lives, I always found it fascinating to see what was once there, so one day I took a bunch of old photos I found online (Pittsburgh History website), printed them out, and tried to line up the ‘today’ shot.

Given that many of the old buildings are still there I had hints to getting the correct angle and size. The ‘today’ photos are actually from 2009 so I am certain there have been  a few changes, but I recently rediscovered this post and realized it needed edited.

 

Then – Forbes Field   Now – University of Pittsburgh Law Library

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Mon Wharf – note a few of the smaller buildings along the river are still there. 

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Kaufmanns – Sadly since 2009 this venerable store has closed

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6th Street – you can still get lunch on the corner, only now it is a 7-11.

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Another 6th Street view closer to the bridge

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Smithfield Street Bridge

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7th and Smithfield

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Smallman Street in the Strip

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The Mon Wharf from the Smithfield Street Bridge – They still park on the Wharf and the cars still do occasionally get flooded.

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Liberty and Grant – The train station is still the large building on the right, only now it is a small section on the side. 

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Fort Pitt Boulevard and Smithfield Street – The large building in the old photo was another train station, long torn down.

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Forbes Avenue in Oakland – The large building in the background is the Cathedral of Learning – built in the late 1920s early 1930s.

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Boulevard of the Allies & Smithfield Street – amazingly little change here.

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Forbes Avenue near Pitt – no 15 cent gas now.

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Boulevard of the Allies ramp to the Liberty Bridge

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Civic Arena – Sadly too this one of a kind building was torn down, yet to be replaced by anything other than a lame parking lot. Tearing this down was the equivalent of taking down the original Penn Station in Manhattan.

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Fort Duquesene Boulevard and the Allegheny River Bridges

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Fifth Avenue in Oakland

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Forbes Avenue towards Market Square. This too has changed significantly since 2009. 

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Fourth Avenue & Smithfield

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The Point from Mount Washington – Pittsburgh has had one of the most impressive transformations in the world, from an old steel town to a center of education and research.

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Penn Avenue

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Gateway Center – This was the start of the Renaissance of Pittsburgh.

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Liberty Avenue

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PJ McCardle Roadway and Grandview Avenue

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Craig Street in Oakland

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