Happy Birthday, Pittsburgh! How To Celebrate The City's Bicentennial

Mar 18, 2016

Bring out the birthday cake, Pittsburgh is turning 200!

While 2008 marked the 250th anniversary of the founding of Fort Pitt, 2016 marks the bicentennial of the city’s incorporation. One of the people leading the celebration will be Heinz History Center President and CEO Andy Masich. An expert on the city’s history, Masich sat down with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer to discuss the upcoming events.

While a town existed around Fort Pitt for many years after its founding in 1758, Pittsburgh was not officially made a city by the Pennsylvania Congress until 1816. Before that it was a township and later a borough.

Two centuries ago the city was very different, according to Masich. Industry was focused around iron, glass, textiles, and a brand new invention, the steam boat. No bridges had yet been built in the city at the time of its incorporation.

The Burgh’s first mayor was Revolutionary War hero Ebenezer Denny. While Denny only served for six months, due to failing health, Masich said the ability to elect their own officials gave the city’s residents confidence and a sense of permanence.

As to the bicentennial, Masich has promised that the city will “not be out done” by the centennial party of 1916.

“Well we’re gonna have a great party here in Pittsburgh in 2016,” Masich said. “In fact, we’ll probably have 200 parties.”

Despite not having revenue to build something like the City-County Building, as they did in 1916, Masich ensured there will be no shortage of ways to celebrate. He said events would range in size, promising parades, symphonies, exhibitions, and more.

“If we all pitch in what we do best, what we’ve got, we can put together the best party you’ve ever seen,” he said. “And that’s the great thing about Pittsburgh; not only do we have an abundance of riches of cultural organizations and art and recreation, but we’ve got a can do spirit and people are willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in and cooperate.”

However, even as the city celebrates how far it has come, one part of Pittsburgh’s past is being dug up for the anniversary… literally.  At Pittsburgh’s centennial, residents buried time capsules inside the City- Council Building. Now the city has their bomb squad searching for those capsules with metal detectors, hoping to take a look at the Steel City of 100 years ago.

For a full list of events, check out the city’s bicentennial website.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.