This painting was completed as a portrait project for Ryan McCormick’s Drawing & Painting class at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.  It’s based on a portrait by Teenie Harris: “Portrait of Lucille Cuthbert” c. 1940-1950, Charles Teenie Harris, gelatin silver print, Carnegie Museum of Art 1996.69.48

You can see the original portrait at Historic Pittsburgh.

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A Song of Fog and Smoke

Lately the mornings in Pittsburgh have been chilly and lovely with fog.  Seeing the nearby hills obscured by fog makes me wonder what it must have been like to live here when things were instead obscured by smoke from industry and coal burning.  Luckily, my favorite of digital collections, Historic Pittsburgh, has digitized images of Smoke Control Lantern Slides from the 1940’s and 1950’s, before and after smoke control ordinances were passed in Pittsburgh:

Carnegie Museum of Art Collection of Photographs, 1894-1958, Carnegie Museum of Art.
Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940s-1950s, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh
Smoke Control Lantern Slide Collection, ca. 1940s-1950s. Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh.

And nowadays…

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Polish Hill

Image from Google Street View
Image from Google Street View
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Then and Now.

The Post-Gazette has a great interactive site where you can see photos of Pittsburgh past right next to those from Pittsburgh present:

Photo by George Kukic

Please forgive the title of this post; I couldn’t resist. 🙂

Trombones and trains.




This blog has died because I got a new job. I guess I have bigger fish to fry now but I do miss having the time to blog some nonsense now and then. I’ve.migrated from the world of libraries to that of
information and referral.
And I work in the Strip now so when I walk to and from work I see things like trombone playing older gentlemen and trains overhead. And fountains.

Pittsburgh, lord god, Pittsburgh

(post title from this song)

I’ve been answering an abnormal number of reference questions about Pittsburgh history lately, especially regarding photographs of old Pittsburgh. I think there’s a class that has to find an old photo and then go to the same place in the city and take a new one. Much like what Walter C. Kidney did in his thoroughly enjoyable book, Pittsburgh Then and Now. The lovely and forever engaging (to me, at least) Historic Pittsburgh image collection is still growing, with many images having been added to the Pittsburgh City Photographer collection this year.

And then, today, I found out about how the Dallmeyer Building downtown has been restored to it’s original facade from the 1800s. There’s an interesting thread about it, and about historic building restoration in Pittsburgh, on city-data.

See also:
Pittsburgh Photographic Archive – Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania Photographic Archives
Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation
Historic Photos of Pittsburgh by Miriam Meislik
Photos & Scenes of Pittsburgh recommended by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

All I want for xmas is to be able to ice skate

Winter is here, and once I’m done with the required seasonal illnesses, I’m going to be a sledding, skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, ice skating maniac. I would even snowmobile if it was possible. Okay maybe not. But I really wish we could still ice skate on the various ponds and “lakes” in Pittsburgh’s parks…

Highland Park’s Carnegie Lake: summer / winter

Schenley Park’s Panther Hollow Lake: summer / winter

At least we have an extra place to skate this year because of the Winter Classic. Not that I’m even a habitual ice skater! I do like the romance of it, though. Which is why I can’t NOT post this video, even though I will probably regret it later. (Do you ever find videos and feel compelled to post them just because someone took the insane amount of time to make them?)

So I’m hoping this year will be the year that I try ice skating one more time, and succeed in staying on the ice for longer than 15 minutes before giving up! If that doesn’t work, at least it’s still fun to drink hot chocolate and watch other people fall down.

In my search for historic ice skating images, I stumbled across this article about the Schenley Park Casino, which is one of those Pittsburgh things that aren’t there anymore (as Sebak would say…yet he never featured anything this cool in his movies). It burned down within 2 years of opening. It seems, though, that this may have been the site of Pittsburgh’s introduction to hockey!

The following day The Pittsburgh Press had this account: “Between 2,500 and 3,000 (despite bad weather) showed how hockey and ice polo should be played when business is meant. Before 9 o’clock the boys lined up and gave an exhibition of hockey. This game has never before been seen in Pittsburgh, and it was a revelation. The Casino players, in truth, didn’t know just what to do with that little flat “puck” used in hockey. They didn’t know whether it was good to eat or whether it was a holiday toy. No account was kept of the hockey score, but the crowd marveled at the work of the visitors.”

1895 - the earliest known image of ice hockey in Pittsburgh?!

Happy holidays, and GO PENS


dream project! – “Dane, a senior at Carnegie Mellon University studying design and human-computer interaction, has created the Retrographer Project designed to geotag historical images of Pittsburgh. “Geotagging” adds latitude and longitude data to an historical image so that its geographic location can be identified on a map.” It does seem like it still needs work, but I’m glad someone is doing this.

Not only am I mildly obsessed with Pittsburgh history,  I also recently started geocaching.  Ever since I read this book I’ve been wishing that someone would make an online version that would juxtapose Pittsburgh of today with Pittsburgh of the 1970s and the 1800s. Well, “Retrographer” seems like just the sort of thing I was imagining.

I’ve never done any “geotagging”, but I have recently become hooked on geocaching.  I think it’s fun because it gives you extra incentive to explore your city and its surroundings, and finding the caches can be tricky, and thus rewarding.  I already liked walking in the woods, now I can just find hidden treasure while I do it. And right when my bff and I started doing this, I was reading about the history of Schenley Park, my favorite park in Pittsburgh.  I immediately started imagining caches I could create that would share some of the history of the locale where the cache was hidden.  I like the thought of creating collages out of historical photographs and text, so the contents of the cache would be like a mini-artistic homage to what was.

Another recently publicized project that combines Pittsburgh history with archival material and geography is Public Record, a “multimedia documentary project that Justin Hopper [turned] into a [walking tour of downtown] you can take with your iPhone, cell phone or MP3 player” (Post-Gazette).

While I’m really into these geo-projects that make use of technology like mp3s and digital maps, I also really like the simplicity, slowness, and tactility (yes that is a word, i just found out) involved in creating a physical cache and finding a physical cache using only a GPS reader as your technology.  While it’s cool to use digital media to experience the history of places, there’s something ironic about using a form as intangibile as digital media to recapture the most ephemeral thing of all – history! I’m not implying that the creators of the aforementioned digital projects are unaware of this tension or that they’re not exploiting it (in the positive artistic sense).  I think, though, that when I create homages to history I want them to be graspable (apparently this too is a word).  I want people to be able to stand with something – even if it’s just an image – in their mittens and say “This was here, but now it’s not anymore.”

ice skating on panther hollow pond
ice skating on Panther Hollow pond in Schenley Park


So much global positioning to do, so little time.

Best Thursday night in awhile

Last night my pardner and I saw Rush play the album “Moving Pictures” (and more) in its entirety at Pittsburgh’s jaw-dropping (and vertigo-inducing)  new arena.  I can’t believe those guys have been killing it like that for so many years.  WHAT A SHOW.


“Musically, do we even have to bother saying that it was epic and tight? Or do you already know that Mr. Lee, underrated guitar hero Alex Lifeson and drum god Neil Peart are a Swiss watch of a machine? […]

From “Moving Pictures” Rush moved toward a third hour with Mr. Peart’s funtastic drum exhibition and, at last, ’70s show-stoppers like “Closer to the Heart,” the “2112 Overture” and a reggae-fied “Working Man.”

It was so generous that at the end it was hard to imagine any of the 13 shows the band played at the old arena topping this one. Thirty years from now people will wish they had a time machine to go back to Thursday night.”

“Rush Makes Time Stand Still” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette