Finally, a contest tailor-made for my love of the ‘burgh... if only I could focus.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Fireman's Fund Insurance are asking us to send them photos in a contest they call "This Place Matters."
Of all the cities in which I have lived, Pittsburgh has the fiercest home love, and for good reason. We live in the nest from which America sprang loose. We were the gateway to the West. We are at the junction of so many pasts and futures. (OK, most places are in some way, but bear with me.)
Pittsburgh knocks your socks off; it's that simple. And it's not just the "HOLEH MOLEH!" of coming through the Fort Pitt tunnels, or one of the most awe-inspiring views on the planet or the little finiculars climbing half-way to the stars to take you to it
The Trust wants the grand and the small -- the corner store your uncle took you to to buy bread for the ducks in the lake; the diner where your family celebrated Sundays; the grand old corner building that told you you were almost home on your walk from school.
In the first 32 years of my life, I only visited Pittsburgh. The place that mattered most to me as a kid here was Forbes Field. Go to that place and see a couple of bland things from the ‘70s.
I can think of a few more than way too many places in Pittsburgh that matter to me because of my love of architecture and history. So many places that mattered became the rubble of 1950s-60s crap, if you'll pardon my language. Many new buildings look as if they were made to lift off into space. In 2150, they will be venerable -- if their materials last that long.
Here's a smidgen of my long list:
Downtown: the Frick Building, the Buhl Building, the Granite Building, the Century Building, the Arrott Building, the County Courthouse, the Pennsylvanian, the Art Institute, the Duquesne Club, the Koppers building, the Gulf building, all the old churches and beautiful buildings whose names I don't know, notably the green building between the Boulevard of the Allies and 1st Avenue on Market Street.
Oakland: the Cathedral of Learning, the Pitt student union, the Pittsburgh Athletic Club and the remnant of the old Forbes Field wall.
The Hill: the Centre Avenue YMCA, the buildings etched in Hebrew, August Wilson's boyhood home, the Granada Theater, the Crawford Grill.
Manchester: Almost all of what's still standing.
The Mexican War Streets.
East Carson Street and the South Side Market House.
The beautiful old homes of Homewood and Lemington, Highland Park and Brighton Heights, Squirrel Hill and Schenley Farms and the blue collar rows in Lawrenceville and Bloomfield.
The brickwork in the arched walkways between row houses all over the city. At one in Upper Lawrenceville, I stop just to marvel at the craftsmanship of the brick work and to be charmed by the idea of a shared pathway between buildings. Some lovely ones in California-Kirkbride I fear will fall to the wrecking ball soon. Polish Hill has a bunch.
All of these places matter to me because they are the likes of which we will never build again - ever. Their workmanship and materials matter. They tell us what we once had and once were. Over time, if people keep coming to Pittsburgh, it will be to see what they cannot see in most other cities in America.
I hope Pittsburgh is well represented in this contest, so get your batteries charged. The photos have to be digital. Here's some other information, and you can visit http://www.preservationnation.org/take-action/this-place-matters/terms-and-conditions.html for the rules.
The photo with the most on-line votes wins for its owner a Panasonic Lumix ZS3 digital camera.
The sponsors are very excited about this. In their press release, they used more exclamation points than a smitten 13-year-old. Read on:
To enter one (or more!) images, visit our This Place Matters website and use our free photo upload tool.
1. Download our This Place Matters sign -- or make one of your own!
2. Take your photo in front of a place that matters to you.
3. Add it to our pool of places that matter across the country!
You may enter as many digital photos as you wish between now and Tuesday, September 15, 2009. Ten photos will be selected as finalists, after which a public online vote will determine the final winners.
The top ten entries will be determined by the sponsors' judging panel and will be announced and posted online on Sept. 28. The public can then vote for the Grand Prize Winner and two semi-finalists for the next two weeks, and the winner will be announced Oct. 13.
Good luck, Pittsburgh!