Keeping an Eye on Uptown: Introduction

Inspired by my post from this summer, I decided to start a photographic series of Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood. This neighborhood is a hodgepodge of abandoned and renovated townhomes, parking lots, car-oriented businesses, corner stores, industrial uses, and new construction residential buildings. It is predicted to be on a tipping point from being mostly ignored to experiencing intense growth fueled by activities in and around the neighborhood. These activities include:

  • UPMC Mercy hospital is currently building a 410,000 sq ft vision and rehabilitation center in the middle of Uptown.
  • The Penguins hockey team is supposed to be finally getting off the ground with their redevelopment of the Lower Hill neighborhood, which is adjacent to Uptown.
  • June 2019 saw the groundbreaking for the CAP project to reconnect the Lower Hill to Downtown over the freeway that bisected the two in the 1960s.
  • The Bus Rapid Transit system currently in the planning stage will one day connect Downtown and Oakland through Uptown.

As these projects move forward, there will likely be more investment and changes to Uptown. This photographic series is intended to capture these changes by revisiting the same sites at regular intervals over the next several years.

In the coming months, I intend to release two related series to record the progress of the CAP and the Lower Hill redevelopment.

Cleveland Guitars

As I mentioned in my Maps Are Awesome! post, I intended to walk over some of Cleveland’s bridges, but got distracted.  First I got distracted with some of the artwork on the street, such as the sculpture and fire hydrant below.


Then I got distracted by the gardens and the way the vacant property was dressed up as discussed in my Oh, Cleveland! post.  I also became fascinated by the map kiosk scattered throughout downtown (see Maps Are Awesome!).  Finally, and probably what clinched the deal, was the Guitar Mania.  Guitar Mania is one of the latest of fiberglass art fundraisers put together by a city.  In these fundraisers, a figure that is iconic to the city is chosen and artists decorate each uniquely and they are displayed all over the city.  After a certain time period of being on public display, these sculptures are auctioned off and the money goes to support charities and such.  An article I found online about Cleveland’s Guitar Mania mentions a few of the other cities that have done this, though they left out Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh has actually done this twice now.  First was Penguins on Parade in 2002.  This was followed by DinoMite Days in 2003.  Though I haven’t seen a penguin since they were publicly on display in 2002, some of the dinosaurs can still be spotted around the city, mostly on corporate or institutional properties, but at least one is in someone’s private yard.  Other cities were I have personally experienced these kinds of events are Willimatic, CT, which had frogs sitting on spools (the city symbol due to a pre-Revolutionary War legend about frogs and the city and the city’s past as the headquarters of the largest thread company in the world) and Mystic, CT, which did whales.

However, getting back to Cleveland, this was the first time I was in a city while the statues were on public display and when I had the freedom to hunt for them.  I intended to still get to a bridge; however, I kept getting sidetracked as I spotted a guitar down one street or another.  In the end, I found 19 of the 100 guitars and photographed 18 and I decided it was a much better use of my time as the bridges will still be there the next time I’m in Cleveland, but the guitars will not be.  Later, I noticed a couple of decorated fiberglass Chinese dragon sculptures, but as I was passing in the car I was not able to take photos of them.  It turns out that Cleveland is doing a separate display of the Chinese dragons (see website, with link to locations) in addition to the guitar event.