90.5 WESA's 'Good Question' Series

Credit Erin Keane-Scott / 90.5 WESA

90.5 WESA's Good Question! series is an experiment where you bring us questions—and we go out to investigate and find answers.

So: What have you always wondered about Pittsburgh? Are you curious how your neighborhood originally received its name? Or maybe why the Mon and Allegheny Rivers are different colors when they merge at the Point? Or maybe you've always wanted to know what happened to all of our street cars and inclines? From serious to silly, we're here to help.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


Frick Park’s 644 acres include extensive hiking trails, hundreds of species of wildlife and old fire hydrants that seem out of place. As stir-crazy Pittsburghers take advantage of the city’s many green spaces, Good Question! askers took notice of the peculiarly-placed manmade objects.

“Why do we cry?” “Why does it rain?” “What is the moon made of?”

 

Maybe you’ve heard one of these questions from a kiddo in your life. Well, The Confluence thinks these are good questions, and we’re calling upon Pennsylvania teachers to help us answer them.

 

Kids can’t ask their teachers questions in the classroom, but they can over the airwaves.

 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


Four bronze panther monuments keep watch over the Panther Hollow Bridge in Oakland. Weathered over a century, the statutes appear to stalk passersby. 


Pittsburgh developed from a hodgepodge of former boroughs and municipalities, and its hills and river valleys prevented planners from creating a traditional street grid. These factors make the city difficult to navigate in a vehicle. On top of that, local drivers have some idiosyncratic behaviors. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


Pittsburgh is home to dozens of hospitals and medical facilities, from Level I trauma centers to neighborhood health clinics. Nearly one out of every five workers in the city is employed in health care. 

Ray Stubblebine / AP

 

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, a group of a few dozen people wearing baseball caps and athletic gear carry bags of baseball bats and buckets of balls to Gardner Field in Pittsburgh’s Troy Hill neighborhood.

Charles R. Martin Photographs / University of Pittsburgh


Lenore Williams was living in Homewood when civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

The southern hilltop neighborhood of Allentown is a walkable community with a number of historic buildings and beautiful murals. 

Archives & Special Collections / University of Pittsburgh Library System

Archives & Special Collections / University of Pittsburgh Library System


Before highways and railroads crisscrossed the commonwealth, a series of linked waterways and inclined planes brought people and goods across the state. The Pennsylvania Canal was a significant engineering achievement when it was constructed in 1826.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Lawrenceville is one of Pittsburgh’s oldest and largest neighborhoods. Founded in 1814, it was named for Captain James Lawrence, who served in the War of 1812 (of “Don’t Give Up The Ship!” fame). 

 

 

Kailey Love / 90.5 WESA

From Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh, the Koppers Building somewhat blends in with the city’s looming skyscrapers. But when it was first constructed, the 475-foot limestone and granite tower was one of the most distinctive buildings in Pittsburgh. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Going a little stir crazy? Pittsburgh residents can take a break from idle time and work-from-home routines and get to know the city’s history while taking a stroll. Here’s a guide to one of a number of upcoming tours WESA is compiling for history lovers throughout the region.

Courtesy Evolve EA

Two massive stone arches tower over Washington Boulevard in Pittsburgh’s Homewood and Larimer neighborhoods. The intersecting structures over Silver Lake Drive appear out of place along this curving, concrete road.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Brunot Island sits quietly in the Ohio River. Overgrown grass carpets the banks of the island and driftwood thuds against remnants of old steel slabs and “No Trespassing” signs. Electrical towers loom over the tallest trees, connected by dozens of wires. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A weathered stone structure sits quietly on the corner of Fifth and Bellefield avenues in Oakland as students, cars and buses hurry past. Six sandstone steps guide visitors to a big red door framed by black wrought iron fasteners.

Courtesy of Mitch Dakelman

The Pennsylvania Turnpike: the concrete connector of the commonwealth and America’s first superhighway. The roadway was once called the “World’s Greatest Highway” and helped lay the foundation for what would become the federal interstate highway system.

Charles "Teenie" Harris / Carnegie Museum of Art/Teenie Harris Photographs

Many of the country’s most prolific piano players got their start in Pittsburgh. The city has long cultivated a deep bench of musical talent from jazz greats to classical performers.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


Fundraising is essential to nonprofits, and many organizations don’t just accept cash donations anymore. Public radio listeners may recognize the messages that describe how to donate old cars, RVs and other vehicles.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Along Fifth Avenue where Pittsburgh’s Oakland and Hill District neighborhoods meet, sit the remnants of concrete foundations and staircases. Trees and wildflowers wrap around broken brick walls and peak through crumbling retaining structures all the way up the hillside.

From Saw Mill Run to Nelson Run to Glass Run, there are about 80 roads in Allegheny County that include the word “run” in their names. No one sprints down these streets, but the word is ubiquitous in the region.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Atop Mount Washington, in the sprawling Chatham Village community, is a large brick home with large windows and spacious balconies. Chatham Village resident, architect and amateur historian David Vater said it used to be known as the Bigham House, and was the residence of abolishionist lawyer Thomas Bigham. It was also a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

This month, most of the Pittsburgh’s iconic water features gushed to life for the first time this year. Fountain designs range from ornate Renaissance-style to modern, marble staircases. They greet park visitors and provide moments of tranquility among downtown skyscrapers.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Riders on Pittsburgh’s Light Rail T system at Steel Plaza station may have noticed four tracks: one goes inbound, one goes outbound and two veer off to the east. But signs for the two east-bound tracks have been covered or removed and trains don't use them.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA


On a sunny spring day, a helicopter takes off from UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood. The whir of the blades echoes across the nearby Monongahela River as the aircraft makes it way into the sky.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Kennywood Park is a staple for many Pittsburghers. The amusement park isn’t the largest and doesn’t have the fastest rides, but visitors return each season for a taste of nostalgia and the classic, rickety wooden roller coasters.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

 

On a recent Friday, Ross Mantle searched for the right angle to photograph a landslide site in Millvale. He adjusted the settings on his camera like a photographer from an old movie: his head under a sheet as he prepared his shot. Overhead, the sky was completely gray.  

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Visitors to the Historical Society of Carnegie typically come for two reasons: they love former Pittsburgh Pirates great Honus Wagner or they have a connection to the small, southwestern Pennsylvania borough. 

Allegheny Conference on Community Development Photographs / Detre Library & Archives at the History Center

A harsh winter with nearly 63 inches of snow, a sudden spring thaw and little to no water regulation combined to cause the worst flooding in Pittsburgh history: the St. Patrick’s Day flood of 1936.

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