Earlier this week, one of the more senior members of the Digs staff stood with a younger colleague on Mt. Washington and watched as the sun set and darkness fell over the city below.
“Pittsburgh at night reminds me of a Christmas gift I got in the 1960s,” the nostalgic, older staff member said. “It was called the Visible Man. It was a plastic model of a transparent guy. You could see through the skin to everything inside — the skeleton, all the organs. The heart, the liver, the colon.”
“That sounds disgusting,” the colleague replied.
“Not if you’re a 10-year-old kid. Kids love to see the guts of things, to see how they work.”
Pittsburgh at night is like that, he continued while his colleague rolled her eyes. Darkness reveals the guts of the thing — headlights surging along boulevards, the “T” smoothly gliding along a bridge over the Mon River, hundreds of office windows glowing, pedestrians struggling against a cold wind as they cross the illuminated Smithfield Street bridge.
Pittsburgh is the Visible City.
“Ok,” the colleague said. “I get it. Only Pittsburgh is much cooler than the Visible Man.”
At its best, Pittsburgh is an elegant marriage of geography, human engineering and architecture. We’ve built a magnificent downtown in a fairly small place. It’s framed by two rivers that become one and is bordered by a perch called Mt. Washington, on which we can stand and look with amazement at this place we call home.
The city is most magnificent after sunset. This is something photographers have understood for decades.
(A new PG gallery of contemporary pictures reflects the stunning, unusual beauty of today’s Golden Triangle.)
The PG archive contains four folders labeled “Pittsburgh at night.” Inside each are dozens of images. We picked but a few to show you here — these seemed to be more unusual views of the city. None are dated, but we took educated guesses that the pictures were made in the 1930s and 1950s.
Which means they pre-date the Visible Man. We found a copy on eBay, by the way. We now have a Christmas gift for our younger colleague.
Sssshhhh! Don’t tell.