Like most older cities planted inland from the coast, Pittsburgh was founded because of rivers. In western Pennsylvania, the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio River, one of America’s great, historic waterways. From there, the Ohio winds all the way down to the border of Illinois and Kentucky, where it meets the Mississippi. Even before Pittsburgh was founded, this confluence of rivers attracted significant human attention. It was an important part of Native American civilizations along the Ohio River, and was quickly claimed by the French after they first ventured there in the 17th century. In the 1750s, a young George Washington led British troops to the location of present-day Pittsburgh to dislodge the French, sparking the French and Indian War, which would result in almost a decade of fighting and the French Empire’s withdrawal from North America.
This important positioning, at the headwaters of a major river just east of the Appalachian Mountains, made Pittsburgh a natural place of settlement for North America’s earliest Europeans. Coincidentally, these factors also make Pittsburgh a beautiful and interesting place. Given that long, wide rivers served as highways both for North America’s indigenous peoples and for later settlers, cities established alongside such rivers not only tend to maintain a relatively verdant, lush appearance, but also major historical significance. As the Appalachian Mountains formed the first significant barrier to inland settlement for the earliest European settlers, Pittsburgh grew quickly as a jumping-off point for expansion into the Midwest.
By the 1770s, Pittsburgh was establishing a government, and by the first half of the 19th century had become an early major industrial city, producing important metals and glass. This led to its predominance by the early 1900s as a producer of steel. Legendary steel producer U.S. Steel is still based here, though North America’s steel industry is no longer what it once was.
Prohibition injected Pittsburgh with another dose of quintessentially American history. Thousands of distilleries and illegal speakeasies flourished in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas, and organized crime and police raids accompanied them. Around the same general period, Pittsburgh was a major beneficiary of the Great Migration of African-Americans leaving the Southern states. This development bestowed Pittsburgh with cultural gifts including jazz, and the city propelled greats such as Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, members of Miles Davis’s and John Coltrane’s bands, and dozens of other masters, to nationwide and international fame.
With the decline of the steel industry beginning in the 1970s, Pittsburgh began to lose population and jobs, but managed to take potential losses and turn them into a win-win transition and exemplar for the many other cities with similar experiences. Today, Pittsburgh is home to a wide range of high-tech firms, and was one of the few American cities that continued to thrive through the years of the Great Recession. Tourism also played a significant role in this transition, making Pittsburgh a hub for the arts, entertainment, and shopping, with continued jazz and classical activity as well as the growth of popular new rock and hip-hop acts. Dozens of museums, libraries, and close to 40 malls offer a stunningly wide range of options to Pittsburgh’s visitors. Vine Vera Pittsburgh is based in the upscale Ross Park Mall, with close to 200 stores for hours of luxury shopping.