Monday, December 15, 2008

Inclines, History and a Mattress Factory... In That Order

View of the Golden Triangle

On our first half-day in Pittsburgh, before the business dinner at Monterey Bay, we killed time by visiting the Duquesne (pronounce "do-cane") Incline and the Mattress Factory. The incline was how miners hauled easily accessed coal down by the river up to the top of Mt. Washington. Later after the coal played out, it was a shortcut for inhabitants on Mt. Washington to commute back and forth to work in downtown Pittsburgh. Now, the two surviving inclines haul tourists up and down the tracks with the Duquesne Incline taking you to an observation platform where almost every postcard picture of Pittsburgh is taken. From there you can see what is referred to as the Golden Triangle.

Because I am currently reading a biography on George Washington, I have recently gathered a lot of knowledge on the geographical spot. A young George Washington sent to deliver a message to French troops in the area to vacate the premises ended up shooting a few of them in an early morning ambush. It didn't work and the French beat the English by building Fort Duquesne in what is called the Golden Triangle where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers join to form the Ohio River. In the context of the mid 1700's, there was no better place to build a fort than in the Golden Triangle. George would lead a group of soldiers to build nearby Fort Necessity and try to destroy the French fort only to have his fort and army slaughtered, with George being one of the few who survived. He surrendered, gave away two of his officers as prisoners of war and sulked home. He tried again as a Colonel under British General Braddock only to have his army slaughtered and this time, he was the sole officer to survive along with a handful of soldiers. On his third attempt under British General Forbes, Washington was involved in another debacle, this time a case of friendly fire that cost him some more soldiers. Gamely he pressed on only to find that the French had decided their jig was up, burnt the fort and left. A British Fort named Fort Pitt after William Pitt, the Secretary of State at the time, was built and would eventually become Pittsburgh.
View from the Incline Bottom

A young George Washington, though technically an utter failure as a military leader so far, came out of all this as a hero and that is how I suppose Mt. Washington where I now stood overlooking the site below became so named. I was glad to have known all this before visiting the site otherwise it would have just been a site with a view.

The rest of the day we decided to spend at what I would term an alternative art museum called the Mattress Factory. It is a former mattress factory had been turned into an art museum with each floor consisting of several rooms devoted to one artists room sized art projects. To get to it, you had to drive down a narrow one-way alley with nowhere to park except squeezed to one side so someone could still squeeze by you with their vehicle. A second building a few blocks away could only be accessed by pressing the buzzer and having some unseen person let you in. In both places, you were allowed to wander as you pleased among the art with nary a roped off barrier to be found. I would honestly try and describe some of the exhibits if I knew how but I honestly don't know how to describe them. Instead click on the link and see for yourself. I must say it was probably the best art museum I have been to in awhile and a definite change from the painting and statue scene found at most art museums.
View from the Incline Top


Cherie said...

I lived in Pittsburgh for a year and loved it. What a great city (if a bit gray this time of year). I also loved the Mattress Factory. Unpredictable and uneven, yes, but I always appreciate seeing the "rawer", less polished side of art. I would also recommend the Warhol Museum if you have some time.

Sage said...

Ah, Pittsburgh! In your history, you noted how both Washington and Pitt got their names attached to the city, but so did Braddock and Forbes--they're major streets within the city and there's even a 'burg named Braddock and Forbes was the name of the old ballfield of the Pirates (before 3 River Stadium was built, which was torn down several years ago for their new stadium). The home plate of Forbes Field is still there (in the middle of a library at the University of Pittsburgh). If I remember correctly, Babe Ruth's last homerun was from that plate.

That top photo is telling--it's a beautiful sight to behold, but the Chamber don't let you know that most days are cloudly, like in your photo!

Ed Abbey said...

Cherie - I didn't know that you lived there before the home with the half finished siding, woodstove surround but kickass finished bathroom vanity! :)

Sage - I did notice that and wish I could spend a day there just seeing the history. There is also a Louther street named after a brother to my 4th great grandfather who laid out a part of Pittsburgh. More on that family in a post this Friday.

Beau said...

Interesting- My folks both graduated from Duquesne. Wish I rememered more stories... Growing up, I always liked a tall, narrow bookcase with doors on it that sat in our living room. Finally remembered to ask my Dad where it came from one time, and he said they lived in a rented house "down the street" from one of the Carnegie families. One time that family was rebuilding some rooms, and broke up a nearly complete library. My father was friends with the daughter of the family, and they offered a bookcase to my father's family. They gladly brought it home- it was very ornate, carved eagle heads, leaded glass, etc. Dad passed away a few years ago, and one of my brothers has the bookcase now. I kept a beautiful picture I always loved instead.

The Real Mother Hen said...

I have no idea 'bout the history. I'm glad to read it though.
It's strange to re-visit the place in my mind by looking at your pictures. They look so familiar, yet so distant.

geri said...

The Golden Triangle is picturesque. The Duquesne Incline somehow reminded me of something I have seen in Dubuque, Iowa.