The 'Strip District' of Pittsburgh

 

The Strip District of Pittsburgh is famous for its ethnic grocers and restaurants and not for striptease joints as the name would imply.  When I was a kid back in the 60’s, I remember the Strip District being a place for wholesale produce that arrived in Pittsburgh by rail and river.  Sometimes my parents would take us kids there to buy cheap produce that didn’t get purchased that day by retail merchants.  Crates of veggies would be sitting out on the docks and you could go up and make an offer for a paper bag full of veggies.  My mom would give us raw carrots and other veggies to eat in our car on the ride home. 

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The Strip District has gained fame more recently on a number of TV foodie shows, especially for Primanti Brothers Restaurant and Bar.  The story I was told was that workmen would come to Primanti Brothers for a lunchtime sandwich, and not having but a short lunchtime, the restaurant would pile the French fries on top of the sandwich meats and cheeses.  I guess that was their version of fast food, but I think they washed it down with a local Pittsburgh beer.  Primanti Brothers was very crowded on the weekday we arrived for lunch, but we were waited on very quickly with excellent courteous service.  The stacked sandwiches are still in vogue and I took my daughter Jennifer there since she has recently been interested in our family’s past and genealogy.  There is lots of parking spaces in the area, but don’t let your paid time run out.  I was told by a passerby that the meter maids (his expression) didn’t waste anytime dishing out expensive tickets. 

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The Hermanowski Building mural was quite the early street art.

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My mother was very familiar with the Strip District since she was born and raised on Troy Hill in the early 1900’s directly across the Allegheny River from the district.  George Westinghouse built his first factory here and invented air brakes and started A/C current.  Also, ALCOA began the commercial production of aluminum in the Strip District and HJ Heinz had its beginnings here. 

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The industrial mills and factories supplied by immigrant laborers from Poland, Italy and Germany slowly gave way to the produce wholesalers and auction houses.  Nowadays, the streets are lined with various eateries, sidewalk vendors and ethnic grocers. 

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Across the river, my daughter and I took in the Warhol Museum.  Andy Warhol was born and raised in Pittsburgh where his coal-mining father died when Andy was just 13 and his family had immigrated from Austria-Hungary.  He helped sell vegetables on the street with his father when Andy was a boy.  As a child, Sydenham chorea occasionally kept him bedridden, and he had pigment issues that caused discoloration of his skin, leading to the nicknames “Spot” and “Andy the Red-nosed Warhola.”  I guess bullying has always been around.

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George G

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