Category Archives: Ongoing History

Looking Out and Looking In (and In and In and In)

As they emerged from the Fort Pitt Tunnels, the painter Robert Qualters asked his far more famous colleague Edward Hopper whether the view would be “good to paint.” The tiny aperture of the tunnel had suddenly expanded to a panorama … Continue reading

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La Hütte Royal (1812 Rialto Street)

“In the steam-heated and electric-lighted homes of today there is no place for the old genii, either of fire or of darkness. The superstitions that once vapored from isolation as miasma exhales from stagnant pools finds no place since we … Continue reading

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A Tale of First-Generation Grease

JoAnn was second-generation grease. Her father, José, born and raised in Corpus Christi, was twenty in 1958, washing dishes in a hospital cafeteria in Pittsburgh, when a man came in and offered twenty dollars for the grease drum in the … Continue reading

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Smoking Break

15th Street Parking Lot (Strip District) — October 17, 2013 — 12:24 p.m.

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The Last Note of the Evening

After Sergey Shepkin finished playing three intricate and beautiful works for solo piano last night — by Bach, Beethoven and Schubert — he stood before his scuffed Steinway, bowed low to enthusiastic applause, bowed again (as is the custom) and … Continue reading

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Carrying Weights (A Story In Four Parts)

These two men got off a bus at Penn and S. Atlantic at 4:01 p.m. on Saturday, each carrying a bag and a free weight. Over the next 90 seconds, they covered one block. 

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A Hole In The Wall

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Daisy

Gross Street — October 3, 2013 — 4:55 p.m.

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No Window (as of September 13, according to Jorts)

Penn Circle West and Baum Blvd — October 3, 2013 — 12:50 p.m.

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Look Beyond, Not Behind

Blvd. of the Allies — September 29, 2013 — 1:02 p.m.

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An Orphaned Press-on Nail

Point State Park — September 29, 2013 — 12:49 p.m.

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Twins

Point State Park — September 29, 2013 — 12:42 p.m.

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Standard

S. Aiken near Ellsworth — September 28, 2013 — 12:16 p.m.

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Chair Spectrum

Liberty Avenue — September 23, 2013 — 6:51 p.m.

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Mikel Leshoure Rookie Card

Penn Avenue — September 23, 2013 — 3:39 p.m.

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Stair Stepping

S. Negley, off Centre — September 21, 2013 — 10:47 a.m.

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Intervention, Prevention

A nun in Velcro shoes tripped over this bump in the sidewalk on Penn Avenue in Garfield this morning, but regained her balance before taking a spill. To be proactive, she refastened her left shoe, much tighter than it had … Continue reading

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Public Works

An early morning rain filled the crevices of this grate on Friday. In the mid-morning, a group of kindergarteners came up Friendship Avenue, by the park, and each child stopped to inspect the grate. The three women chaperoning the group … Continue reading

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Heaven Knows

In an alley off Centre Avenue in North Oakland, Propertea gives props.

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The Frogs

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Green Acres

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Jumbo Eggs

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Burn Brightly, My Fair City

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Obscure Lives

Cynthia Ozick, 84, is a New York writer for whom New York is a grand estate and Pittsburgh is often a rusting generator outback, used only when the power goes out. Here are examples from four of her novels and … Continue reading

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Bumbling

The city was resurfacing Ellsworth Avenue today and the street is striped down to its cobblestones. A guy was speeding along the road on his bike this evening yelling, “Uhhhhhh” and when his tires hit the stones his voice went … Continue reading

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Morningside Diary

A little girl ran down the sidewalk. She had a red cast covered in signatures on her right forearm and two gold medals around her neck that clanked against each other as she ran. * * * “That’s low,” a … Continue reading

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White Balloons

Bloomfield

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The Aristocrats

Penn and Main, Bloomfield

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The First Ten Letters

Friendship Park

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Please Stop

Bloomfield

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Baum Boulevard: No. 111 and No. X1

If you haven’t been keeping up with the story, the narrator recently stepped off the bus, found an October bus pass in his/her pocket and is now pondering a recent Rally. EDIT: It turned out to be a Rally’s Hamburger … Continue reading

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An Untaken Sample

This is not what one usually imagines when one imagines people urinating in the park.

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A Perfect Match

I spotted this older Bloomfield couple walking in lockstep under a single umbrella on rainy Tuesday, but I only managed to get three seconds of footage before tripping.

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“I’m Pittsburgh and proud of it.”

Although Pittsburgh rarely stars in popular stories, it makes frequent cameos. This is the first in an occasional series of posts tracking those appearances. The way storytellers use the word “Pittsburgh” as a symbol offers insights into how the nation views … Continue reading

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Shadyside: The Keystone Neighborhood

Carnegie Mellon University recently launched Livehoods. It’s a dynamic online map that uses social media to show how people use their cities. The map is built from location tags. When someone “checks-in” somewhere and then checks-in somewhere else, the map … Continue reading

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An Argument

A couple fought in the park this morning. He slouched on a bench while she stood in front of him with her hands on her hips. He said something that made her walk away. He yelled something as she left. … Continue reading

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Rock of Ages

There are two painted rocks nestled in the flower bed of the sitting pavilion at S. Mathilda Street. One is green with orange spots and the other is white with red stripes. But today, the striped rock disappeared from its … Continue reading

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A Second Attempted Bird Feeding

Every so often, some mystery someone sprinkles this mix of dried corn kernels, sunflower seeds and peanuts around the base of the bigger trees in Friendship Park. I’m not sure if the city is doing it, or just a kind-hearted … Continue reading

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An Attempted Bird Feeding

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Cigarette Wrappers

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Every time a car honks…

Because the park separates the lanes of Friendship at Gross, eastbound traffic can go three ways at the intersection: straight on Friendship, left onto Gross or left in a u-turn back onto Friendship. It’s a three-way intersection stuck onto half … Continue reading

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Friendship Mark

Of the twelve benches in Friendship Park, only the four along the southern walkway across from the hospital are made of wood and only those four have been carved up. The carvings include names like “Anthony,” “George,” “Karl,” “Renee” and … Continue reading

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Saturday Sky, 20:00

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Saturday Sky, 19:00

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Saturday Sky, 17:00

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Saturday Sky, 15:00

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Saturday Sky, 13:00

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Saturday Sky, 11:00

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Saturday Sky, 09:00

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Saturday Sky, 08:00

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A Blossom in the Breeze

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On Post II

So much for that whimsical notion! The electricians returned this morning to replace the two telephone poles they took down yesterday. If my memory of the graffiti is correct, though, they switched them. Now, the one with WORD on it … Continue reading

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On Post

Electricians have been working on the lamps in the park off and on this week, digging ditches to repair underground wiring and pulling down some of the older lamps. They dismantled two lamps from the entrance to the park on … Continue reading

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The Sky, 6:48 a.m.

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The Fractured Remains

Friendship Park dictates traffic patterns for blocks in every direction, for everyone. It turns Friendship Avenue into an oblong roundabout and it interrupts two small cross streets, S. Milvale and S. Mathilda. Cars coming down those streets must go around … Continue reading

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The Parking Space-Time Continuum

A two-man team repainted the Immaculate Conception parking lot this morning. As parents pulled into the lot from Friendship Avenue to drop their kids off at the school, a man in a WYEP sweatshirt pushed a rumbling gas-powered spray-painting machine … Continue reading

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Good Catch

It is Palm Sunday and April Fools Day. Throughout the morning, singles and couples and families in their Sunday best cut across the park holding palm fronses and potted plants while neighbors walked their dogs and used plastic newspaper bags … Continue reading

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Friendship Park (April 2012)

The format of the Ongoing History of Pittsburgh will be changing slightly for the month of April. The content will be similar to what it is now — categories, overheard conversations and random oddities — but rather than trolling the … Continue reading

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Palette

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Trees

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Who Pays? Salt or Egg?

A pair of middle-aged women in nursing scrubs were in line for bagels in Shadyside this morning and one asked the man behind the counter, “How many salt do you have?” “All these,” he said, pointing to the bin. “I’ll … Continue reading

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I’m So Mad!!!

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Smiling Hydrant Tiles

The Smiling Hydrant Propertea is a common tag around town. It’s usually spray painted, but these three small tiles recently appeared on objects in and around Friendship Park.

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The Garfield Gators

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Disruption

A meek standoff: three people huddled around a computer terminal at the downtown branch of the library on Tuesday afternoon were talking to each other, in somewhat hushed tones, when a man sitting across from them said, “You all need … Continue reading

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Work Sucks

Lili Coffee Shop

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Grate As Alwase!

Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor

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Fall Down, Rise Up

I saw this sign down in the East Busway while riding on Baum Boulevard this afternoon, between Melwood and Enfield. A little poking around online uncovered these guys.

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Capoeira

These two guys were practicing capoeira in Friendship Park this morning. They wore matching black tank tops and gray sweatpants, and faced off against each other inside the circle of benches at the center of the park, as though standing … Continue reading

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Left Behind

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Hoagies On Bushes

This one speaks for itself: a pair of hoagie buns perfectly situated on a pair of manicured bushes at the corner of Penn and Aiken shortly before sundown on Christmas Day 2011.

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St. Patrick’s Week

A Polish Hill regular came into Lili Coffee Shop on Sunday morning wearing a sparkly green sweatshirt, a green feather boa and a knitted green Tam o’ Shanter covered in four-leaf clovers, and sat down among a group of punks. … Continue reading

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Seeds?

An old man in slacks and a Pirates cap walked up to the counter at Paddy Cake Bakery on Saturday morning and told the young woman, “I want a Vienna loaf, white, sliced, no—” “Seeds,” the woman interrupted as she … Continue reading

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Shadyside Diary

A woman was parallel parking a giant SUV on Walnut Street tonight with the door open, leaning out of the car as she backed up to make sure she wasn’t getting too close to the car behind her. She was … Continue reading

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Pinwheels

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Curiosity

A flock of teenagers descended upon Penn Avenue on Friday night for a show at Garfield Artworks. Before the doors opened, two girls went into Calabria’s for pop. A boy they knew came in a few minutes later. One of … Continue reading

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“You win again!”

While I was filming these birds on Tuesday afternoon, a woman and her daughter burst out of a daycare center nearby, both playfully screaming. “I’m ahead. I’m beating you,” the woman said as she walked down the sidewalk, but pretended … Continue reading

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Venting

A basement vent in Bloomfield making steam on the cold morning of February 10, 2012.

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Valentine’s Day

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Thank You For Watering Me

One of the eight surviving planters of the Guerrilla Gardening Pittsburgh project.

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“I can’t find anything in this place.”

An old couple at the Edgewood Town Center Giant Eagle wandered aimlessly in front of the shelves of bread this morning. The woman stood by the cart at the end of the aisle while the man hobbled slowly down to … Continue reading

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Cranky Turkeys

On a detour through Sheraden, I found two dozen wild turkeys waddling up from the woods and blocking the road. They looked raggedy and cold and uncomfortable, feathers blown about, generally cranky. The two above snipped at each other while I watched.

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“Does he know how fresh these are?”

As the man behind the counter at Better-Maid was tying up the box this morning, he said, “See these nails.” The cuticles on his thick fingers were ringed in white powder. “That’s how fresh these donuts are. I haven’t even … Continue reading

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House Demolition

This family was watching a crane demolish a house in Highland Park on December 30, 2011. At the end of the video, the kid on the far left starts to raise his arms triumphantly.

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Ongoing History: Greenfield Giant Eagle, Friday Afternoon

A guy with a goatee and paint-splattered work clothes was pushing his cart down the narrow produce aisle in a long deliberate arc — similar to the curve a bowling ball takes at the end of the lane, but slower. … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: Freudian Slip

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Ongoing History: Bloomfield Diary

A couple of guys were walking up Liberty Avenue around dusk on Wednesday evening, hands deep in pockets, when one said to the other, “It’s like the South Side… but nicer.” The next morning, just past ten, the DJs on … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: The Howley Street Ball Field

The pentagon shown above appears in the middle of Howley Street, in Lawrenceville. It seems to be the home plate of an improvised neighborhood stick or kick ball field. A few blocks up, on the brick exterior of the abandoned … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: What Does That Mean, Deepens?

A woman talking on a cell-phone pushed her cart into Lane 13 at the Shadyside Market District on Wednesday night, around half past eight, and thumbed through the supermarket tabloids while she waited for the line to move. “Oh! Beyonce!” … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: Building a Better Robot

Before it took over Pap’s Bar on Penn Avenue last fall, The Mr. Roboto Project spent 10 years in Wilkinsburg, hosting shows for “free-thinking weirdos” of all ages. Building a Better Robot tells the story of that first decade through … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: Tribute

A group of women were digging through a barrel of fabric scraps at the Center for Creative Reuse on Saturday afternoon when “At Last” began playing on the radio. One of the women said, “This is definitely one of my … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: “Is it a corridor or is it a place?”

As part of a much larger project, the city is redoing everything on Penn Avenue between Evaline and Mathilda starting early next year, all the sidewalks, streets, intersections, lights, trees and traffic signals. (Given the scope and location of the work, … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: The Highest Point in Pittsburgh

Toward the end of the Hyperlocal Mapping Party last night, a guy named Devon came over to check out the Protractor Map. He just finished a shift at a demolition crew in the South Hills, and swung by Assemble on his way home, … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: Verbalization

Shortly before noon today, a woman pushing a stroller through Friendship Park hit a bump in the sidewalk and a blue sippy cup bounced onto the ground. Her daughter leaned out of the stroller and pointed frantically at the cup. … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: The Word of God

As part of its ongoing Word of God exhibit, the Andy Warhol Museum created a “pilgrimage” of culturally significant sites around the city, and last week they offered a guided tour of two: St. Anthony’s Chapel in Troy Hill and … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: The Plunge

The loveliest and most annoying thing about jumping into the Monongahela River on New Years Day is the clutter. The Polar Bear Club is responsible for the tradition, but there is no leader, no order and no rules. The river … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: Wedding Photos

A man and a woman decked out in traditional wedding regalia and big smiles trotted out of the Heinz Chapel on Sunday afternoon. They walked up Bellefield Street in the cold, followed by a five men in tuxedos, and around … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: A Wandering Cat

A woman standing telling a story outside the East Liberty Presbyterian Church on Friday evening, shortly before seven o’clock, interrupted herself to say, “Look, a cat.” It was stalking through the shrubbery outside the church. “That cat shouldn’t be here,” … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: Commitment

A scruffy, but tidy couple eyed a sales display in the produce section of the Shadyside Market District around half past one on Thursday afternoon. The woman crossed her arms and asked the man, “Can we really eat five pounds … Continue reading

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Ongoing History: An Assessment

With the sky still a deep dark shade of pre-dawn blue, a man stepped out of his house on 42nd Street this morning and called out, to no one, “PERFECT WINTER WEATHER!”

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