Pittsburgh is layered in steel and bricks and flavored by sweat and ethnicity. Until the mid-70s it was perpetually coated in coal dust from the steel mills that dirtied even the shoes and collars of office workers.
Steel from here helped build the country and fight two world wars.
Today, only one plant operates on the outskirts of the city; the cutting-edge technology and manufacturing have moved overseas.
Health care, education, technology and financial services make up the primary industries, yet Pittsburgh retains its blue-collar soul.
It is a juxtaposition of the mid west and east coast, culturally, and the birthplace of public television and its early ambassador, Fred Rogers; along with hipster artist Andy Warhol and Heinz ketchup, the source material for one of Warhol's installations in the sixties.
There are an estimated 2.4 million in the metropolitan area and just over 300,000 in the city, where multiple bridges span the convergence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers into the Ohio River — a geographical triangle that anchors downtown.
The city also is sectioned into a 90 distinct neighborhoods, with dozens of unincorporated suburbs just outside.
For a west coast chiquita like myself, Pittsburgh was a lot to bite into.
Churches, bars, bridges, tunnels and hills coalesce into the skyline. Dense and architecturally diverse, it's a back-alley photojournalist's dream.
But I quickly realized I wouldn't be able to capture everything. I can only offer you a taste.
Above and below, buildings in the colorful, ethnically diverse Strip District
In the touristy part of downtown, near the rivers, "tomorrow" is a tantalizing promise that never comes and steel mill artifacts are repurposed to make a dancing water fountain.
The houses here are all very different. A lot of humble (but colorful) brick…
…next to turn-of-the-20th century romanticism.
Synagogues punctuate the traditionally Jewish neighborhood, Squirrel Hill.
And there are so many old churches here, some have been converted to restaurants. At least one that I saw is now a bar. (The sacrilege!)
At the University of Pittsburgh, the Cathedral of Learning is an impressive testament to working class residents who donated money during the Great Depression to help build what, at 42 stories, is now the tallest "school room" in the western world.
It's an inspirational place to study, though I was more excited when I thought the stars were as "dew," than when I realized they're as "new."
Oh well! Here is a closeup of the Cathedral's bones
And a detail shot of the Ukrainian classroom, one of several dozen rooms decorated in a distinct historical ethnic or national style
Pittsburgh is the start of older United States history on my journey. Old and new are integrated…
with varying degrees of success, aesthetically.
U of Pitt's mascot is the panther, which just so happens to be my soul animal. Go Pittsburgh!