Sunday, February 28, 2010

Coexisting... and a New Culture Group!

By Brittany Reno

Different ethnic groups live in peace in Pittsburgh today. Every Saturday morning, the streets of the Strip are bustling with all sorts of people from many different ethnic backgrounds and income levels. The idea of peace that is promoted by the people who happily purchase rare goods from one another at the market is beautifully illustrated be this sign on the side of a building in the area. It shows the true harmony of the different cultures that convene in the Strip District.

A thriving culture today is represented by all ethnic groups in Pittsburgh; the Yinzers have an affinity for Pittsburgh sports and the local slang. You cannot walk for more than a few feet in the Strip District without seeing a GO STEELERS! sign or a table full of Penguins sweatshirts and other memorabilia. Yinzers do not have a set color or level of wealth; they are just people with a common love and appreciation of all of the cultures that make up their own.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Past to the Future

By Brittany Reno
Following the severe winter weather of 1874-75, many people of Pittsburgh were out of work or even homeless. To alleviate the poverty of many city-dwellers, the Association for the Improvement of the Poor was established in 1875. Though many do not know about the organization, it has helped innumerable Pittsburghers down on their luck. The triangle pictured on the giant mural in the Strip District, above, notes the group's special interest in family welfare, helping homeless men, and creating fresh air camps for children to play and frolick in safely.

In 1890, the Association pioneered the cause of helping to provide and care for local widows and orphans in the area. Today, the group is still an active non-profit in the area. It provides "an industrial home for men, a free employment office for women, a fresh air farm for children, [and] a boys' industrial home."

Development of the old Acme Banana Company building was being planned by the Rugby Realty Company as early as 2008, but that endeavor fell through. Today, the Acme Banana Company building stands as an homage to the produce wholesalers that truly developed the Strip from a land of industry to a bustling marketplace.

A Taste of Italy in Pittsburgh

By Brittany Reno

Pittsburgh also has a strong Italian ethnic presence. At the Strip, you can buy a type of Italian fruitcake called Panettone. Panettone makers Maini and La Florentine sell their famous cakes to the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company in the Strip District. Panettone, invented in Milan, Italy, is now a popular food in Switzerland, China, and all throughout South America.

Likewise, Nutella was created in Italy in the mid-20th century. Created by world renowned chocolatier Pietro Ferrero, Nutella was soon branded and exported around the world. It is now the third most popular spread for breads in Australia and has developed a dedicated fan base in the United States.

The Strip District is a wonderful example of a cultural melting pot, especially with all of the diverse foods that are blended together in the small market area.

The Asian Grocery Stores

By Brittany Reno
The Strip District has a small but proud Asian presence. The two Asian grocery stores, Lotus Foods and New Sam Bok's, offer a distinct and authentic taste of the East. The top photograph is covers the side of one of the stores, and it depicts a group of Asian children, a tank of whole, frozen fish, and an advertisement for whole farm raised rabbits that one can find within the store.

The photograph below is from inside one of the stores. This store is very big and features not just different Asian foods but also decorations like these. Though the building itself was old and the paint on the walls fading, the decorations inside were warm and inviting. Also, the store was filled with frantic shoppers, but that hectic feeling was offset by a relaxing thrum of Asian-sounding music.

S&D Polish Deli

photo courtesy Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette
By Brittany Reno
Local ethnic merchants play an integral role in fostering diversity in the Strip. Given the strong presence that Polish immigrants have in the community - most notably on the very proximal Polish Hill - it is no surprise that this delicatessen is a popular store.

The S&D Polish Deli, owned by Dorota and Slawomir Pyszkowski, opened in December of 2008 but is already a mainstay of the Strip. The store sells an abundance of Polish foods, though it is especially revered for its Polish sausages, imported cheeses, halushki, and homemade pierogies.

This isn't just a deli, though; S&D Polish Deli is an escape to Poland. Aside from meats and cheeses, the deli also has a vast aisle filled with Polish candies. The shop displays beautiful jars of preserved fruits and syrups, and exotic soups and vegetables line shelves and baskets. The family-centric store also sells baby foods and magazines from Poland, and the Pyszowskis close the deli on Sundays to spend time together at their home. The S&D Polish Deli truly embodies the Polish presence in Pittsburgh.

Works Cited

History -

S&D Polish Deli -

Italian Foods -

The Past to the Future -
- History of Pittsburgh and environs: from prehistoric days to the beginning of the American revolution, Volume 3 (p 573)

St. Stanislaus-

Wholey's Seafood-

Penn Mac-

A Bit of History!

By Brittany Reno
Although the land that comprises the Strip District today was once owned privately by one man in the 1700's, by the 19th century it became a bustling center of industrial commerce. The vast flat land of the area, coupled with its prime location next to a river, quickly made it the perfect spot for shipping and other commercial ventures. Wealthy businessmen and immigrant workers flooded into the area, and the Strip District was born.

Iron mills, glass factories, and metal casting foundries thrived in the industrial Strip District, surging with the advent of the railroad to Pittsburgh mid-century. Captains of industry and their companies (most notably Carnegie, Westinghouse, and Alcoa) established a powerful presence in the Strip, heavily developing the area on the flood plain shore of the Allegheny River.

Towards the end of the 1800's, factory owners began to relocate out of the Strip, and the void left by the steel and glass industries was quickly filled by wholesale produce sellers. Gigantic warehouses and trade and auction houses that are still standing today crowded the area, and the Strip District became a thriving marketplace. When interstate highways and chain stores ousted the once modern railroads and independent wholesalers, the future of the Strip was up in the air.

Today's Strip District began to take shape when Benkovitz Seafood and other family-run food wholesalers arrived in the area. Wholey's, Consumers Produce, Stamoolis Brothers, Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, and Parma Sausage, among others, swiftly filed into the Strip to enjoy the same success as Benkovitz. Shortly after that, ethnic merchants, diverse restaurants, and hip night clubs were added to the Strip, enhancing the cultural diversity and depth of the area.

Today, many of the old factories and trade houses still tower above the street markets that are especially active on Saturday mornings. The friendly local restaurants and family operated sidewalk shops that line the streets of the Strip make even the most foreign visitor feel like he's at home.

First Post!

We are a group of four Pitt students working together on a project for our Media & Global Culture class. Our names are Meg Dellas, Brittany Reno, Taylor Reynolds, and Anna Small.

The assignment was to study the history of a specific place and to examine the changing relationship between industry and nature. We chose the strip district because of its distinctive local vibe and its long running history as the epitome of industrialization and culture.

We decided a blog would be a fresh take on class assignments. This way it is clear who contributed what, whose voice is whose, and how we worked as a cohesive group.

We will each post five mini-articles about our experiences and research. In the end, we will post a list of our sources. Most of the photos were taken by Meg and Brittany, but some of them we found online (which we will source in our final post).