Friday, January 29, 2010

Historic Locomotive Works On North Side To Be Torn Down

If you want to know the price Pittsburgh is paying for not having a solid transit system and it's highway building binge in the 20th century, here's yet another clue.

Carnegie's historic railroad works were one of his first major business ventures and started building trains on the North Shore in 1865. The loss of this complex of buildings few noticed from the elevated expressway say's something deep and sick about our culture. Amazingly, few (or perhaps none) have talked about their historical value and even fewer the enormous potential value of this land to the city's tax base and the health of the entire North Side.

"Thousands of skilled workmen labored at the locomotive works over the decades; at full capacity the plant employed as many as 1,500. Some lived nearby in the Manchester neighborhood, which built up rapidly in the late 19th century with factories and housing, and attended St. Andrew Church, once located across from the locomotive works on Beaver Avenue.

Over the years, and with the construction of elevated Ohio River Boulevard next to the factory, the buildings lost all of their residential context. Today, they're surrounded by Duquesne Light equipment and a chain-link fence."

That's right-- before this so called "Boulevard" sliced through the area, this was a critical valuable link in a Neighborhood! A place Brian O'neil tries to describe in The Paris Of Appalachia.

"Check out the 1937 photo of old Beaver Avenue on the next page. See the vibrant street of shops in Manchester, and compare it to the desolate, soulless service road it has become today, a mere abutment to Route 65. The big road takes commuters in from the Northern suburbs to earn their bread and then hightail it home, just as the government planned a half century ago. Manchester lost it's commercial avenue, the lifeblood of any walkable community and has never recovered fully."

I would say he seriously understates things. Manchester today is pretty damn damaged. I just can't spell things out more clearly. Here we have an elevated expressway that has so eviscerated and divided Pittsburgh that most people don't even notice this slice of wonderfully located urban waterfront.

Someday, a wise and courageous city leader might say.

Mr Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall.

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