National Geographic : 1949 Jul
Three Rivers Frame Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle, Seat of American Industrial Might On the point where the Allegheny (left) and Monongahela merge to form the Ohio, Fort Pitt-forerunner of Pittsburgh-was built in 1758. Through tunnels, across bridges, along cliff-skirting highways, hundreds of thousands swarm daily to work, shop, and play in the Triangle's compact mass of steel and stone. A white limestone pyramid crowns the 42-story Gulf Building, the city's tallest, where executives guide the destinies of a far-flung petroleum empire. Gulf's across-the-street neighbor houses headquarters of the gigantic Koppers Company, Inc., whose interests range from piston rings and plastics to railways and coal mines. In an average month, barges plying the rivers haul more tonnage than passes through the Suez or the Panama Canal. There are very few branches of the larger stores and relatively few specialty shops as compared with many other cities. On Monday night, from scores of coal-min ing and steel mill towns, the miners and mill workers themselves, as well as their wives, come in to town. The great stores cater to every economic group and all classes feel at home in them. Thirty years ago the department stores be gan to build up departments as if they were specialty shops-junior misses, beauty parlor, gifts, ready-to-wear, and the like. In no other large city does this type of store do such a large proportion of the total retail business. But how can such a horde of people be transported in and out of the Triangle in a single day? In addition to those who drive their own automobiles, who use the trunk-line railroads and the more than a dozen inde pendent bus lines, approximately 350,000 are carried by the streetcars of the Pittsburgh Railways Company. In most cities I have taken streetcars for granted, but not in Pittsburgh! Here 60 separate streetcar routes enter and leave the small Triangle. Outside of it a map of the lines looks like the bad dream of a modernistic artist. Confused and Complex Street Plan For one thing, the street plan itself is neces sarily confused and complex. Streets come to a dead end in hillsides, and in the different sections of the city they do not run according to the points of the compass, but at right angles or parallel to the three rivers. Then, too, most of the lines cannot proceed directly through paying territory, but must follow very indirect routes, around, over, or through an unproductive area or barrier of barren hills, to reach spots flat enough for residential settlements.