From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

Travel Notes – April 1996, Pittsburgh

A series of conferences, meetings, and special events brings me to Pittsburgh for eight days this month and reconfirms the rich historical legacy of this city and region. Despite the enormous changes that have occurred in recent decades, there remains an abundance of physical reminders of the past.

I begin my visit, as I always do, at the Forks of the Ohio. This historic site evokes a complex tangle of events and personalities in which the great powers of England and France challenged each other and the native populations for dominance of the New World. The consequences of that struggle not only shaped the history of western Pennsylvania but were of global proportions as well. The Fort Pitt Museum graphically recounts this saga and the three rivers provide a dramatic backdrop (see “Forts at the Forks: Frontier History Comes to Life at the Fort Pitt Museum” by Jane Ockershausen in the spring 1996 issue).

Walking through downtown Pittsburgh is a visual treat. My tour-a virtual textbook of nearly every architectural style of the nineteenth and twenti­eth centuries-includes such landmarks as the Allegheny Courthouse and Jail, Union Trust Building, PPG Place, and the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. Receptions at Station Square and in the Strip District offer ample evidence of the successful reuse of historic buildings and districts to sustain a vibrant cultural atmosphere.

Perhaps the most exciting develop­ments in Pittsburgh have been the recent openings of new museums. The Andy Warhol Museum, a tribute to a native son and one of the most influential artists of this century, attracts visitors from throughout the world. The impres­sive Senator John Heinz Regional History Center near the convention center is an ambitious facility that provides a new home for the venerable Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. The center, consisting of state-of-the-art galleries, library, and archives, sets a new standard for innovative history programming in both the state and nation.

I finally had adequate time during this visit to enjoy an evening at Kennywood Park. My route to the historic amusement park took me through many working-class neighbor­hoods that have suffered serious economic decline but stubbornly survive, in spite of reversals. Kennywood Park is a time capsule, well deserving of its prestigious designation as a National Historic Landmark. Its roller coasters sweep past views of aging steel mills. Yet, in the distant horizon, I see the vibrant skyline of the city. These rides, with their valleys and crests, are metaphors for the history of this region where so many chapters of our national experience have been written.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director