I is for Ingenuity – #atozchallenge

I am always intrigued about the ingenuity of humans. Their ability to build and create things that solves problems for them.

There are many examples of ingenuity to can be seen on the back roads of America. Whether it be bridges or towers or buildings. There is always something unique and interesting to see.

Tuckhannock Viaduct – Nicholson, Pennsylvania
Nicholson’s welcome sign features the Viaduct

One of my brightest memories of fascination comes from a town in eastern Pennsylvania called Nicholson. In this town, the train company needed a solution to get the train up high to pass by as the town was down in the valley. So, a giant viaduct was built. Called the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, this giant structure. towered over the town and allowed the trains to pass by way up on top of the town nestled below in the valley. To realize that this was built in 1915 is amazing to me. It is 2375 feet long, 240 feet tall and 34 feet wide. Yes, 24 stories tall!!!!! The bridge was built as

The viaduct is dizzying when looking up from below

part of the Clark’s Summit-Hallstead Cutoff, which was part of a project of the Lackawanna Railroad to revamp a winding and hilly system. This rerouting was built between Scranton, Pennsylvania and Binghamton, New York. All thirteen piers were excavated to bedrock, which was up to 138 feet below ground level. Almost half of the bulk of the bridge is underground. The bridge was built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad and was designed by Abraham Burton Cohen. Construction on the bridge began in May 1912, and dedication took place on November 6, 1915.

Tuckhannock Viaduct towers over the small town of Nicholson, PA
Cleveland’s tallest buildings

One needs only go to some of the older big cities such as New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland or Cincinnati, to see the tall buildings that were built in the 1930s and 40s. Naturally, these were to accommodate offices are in a crowded area. The building designs were amazing and are still beautiful to look at.

I really love the older buildings as they were obviously much more difficult to build and their architecture is so reminiscent of the times. I guess I grew up watching the old Superman movies and saw the old buildings used in these.

New York City 1959 (from an old family picture – I was actually there when this was taken.  Only 3 years old)
New York City, 2013 – taken from Hoboken, NJ
Cincinnati Skyline with its old buildings and numerous bridges
The Ascent at Roebling’s in Covington, KY across the river from Cincinnati

But not all of the buildings are old. There is a unique condominium structure that was built in Covington, which is a suburb of Cincinnati across the Ohio River into Kentucky. The structure is unique in its architecture.  And the amazing PPG Building in Pittsburgh really blows my mind…a true glass castle!

 

A view from below One PPG Place
Bridge over Mississippi River at Cairo, IL

I have also grown a fascination with bridges. These are massive structures that cross rivers great and small. In Cairo, Illinois there are two massive and Long Bridges. Cairo is where the confluence of the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River. The Ohio River is at its deepest and widest point here and when going south through this area one must cross a bridge over the Ohio and then over the Mississippi. These bridges are amazing and it stuns me that the traffic and the years have not worn these bridges away.

The New River Bridge in West Virginia is THREE Statues of Liberty high above the river.  An amazing feat of engineering.

River Crossing near Cairo, IL
A view of the Detroit-Superior Bridge in Cleveland
High Level Bridge in Lethbridge, Alberta was built in 1909. It is 5327 feet long and the largest of its type in the world
Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh
Cut Bank Creek Trestle, built in 1900 in Cut Bank, Montana
Sunset over Tacoma Narrows bridge in Washington
Bridges of Pittsburgh
Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia in August 1995
Green Bridge near Redcliff, Colorado

I once crossed over a bridge in a valley in the mountains of Colorado (see above). This bridge to was stunning to me is you come down off of the hill and see the bridge down below. I wondered out loud at the time how engineers could fulfill this feat.

Golden Gate Bridge in 2016

Another of the great and fascinating Bridges is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Not only is it massive like the bridges in the east, it is also crossing over a giant bay and must also be earthquake proof.

Delaware Seashore Bridge
Veterans Memorial Bridge in Steubenville, OH

 

Some of the newer bridges are more unique and have their own kind of personality. The bridge crosses the bay in Delaware was stunning to me. I was fortunate enough to be at this bridge during sunset and cut the lovely photo of it above.

Many of the newer bridges have dozens of cables attached to large pillars.  They look futuristic and are cool to drive over.  I have seen quite of a few of these in recent years.

 

William H. Harsha Bridge from Maysville, KY into Ohio.
Rexburg, Idaho LDS Temple

Ingenuity is this not stop just at skyscrapers and bridges. There are many religious structures that can be seen across the country that are also amazing feats of engineering. Take for instance today LDS temple in Salt Lake City. The stones gathered to build that building came from the canyons and had to be hauled by horse drawn wagons.

Many of the other LDS temples are also spectacular.  But they are not the only religious buildings.

Old Church “San Xavier del Bac” in Tucson

The old church in Tucson, Arizona called San Xavier del Bac, was built in the 1700s and one can only wonder how the Spaniards built this beautiful and unique structure in the middle of the desert.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Galveston
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ
St. Mary’s Basilica, Marietta, OH
Central Presbyterian in Cambridge, ON
Hoover Dam and Bridge (photo credit hdrinc.com)

I have crossed over the Hoover Dam in Nevada and the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona numerous times. These are some of the largest dams in the United States and when you stand on the edge and look down it is dizzying. And to think that these damn’s were built in the 1940s and 1950s is amazing. The ingenuity of the engineers that designed and manage the construction of these is beyond words to me.

On the top of the world on Beartooth Highway that borders Wyoming and Montana south of Red Lodge, MT
Sumoflam at the Oak Creek Canyon Overlook in 1982. You can see hairpin turns at right

And finally, some of the highways themselves are stunning pizza engineering. Have I overused those words already? The Beartooth Highway in northern Wyoming and the highways that go across the Rocky Mountain National Park are a couple prime examples of this. Even the winding hairpin turns of Oak Creek Canyon Road from Flagstaff to Sedona are quite amazing.

Ingenuity from the 1880s — Longest Covered Bridge in Canada, West Montrose Covered Bridge, West Montrose, ON opened in 1881

Though I am more drawn to the unique and quirky things to see around the country and perhaps closer to the nature of birds and animals and trees and clouds, I am nevertheless grateful and overwhelmed by the ingenuity of humans in the spirit of design and innovation. What needs only open their eyes on the highway and think about some of the things that have been built whether they are bridges, buildings or even monuments to fallen heroes. There is always inspiration to be seen and felt from the ingenuity of the human spirit.

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An Afternoon in Pittsburgh

Welcome to Pittsburgh
Welcome to Pittsburgh
Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh
Fort Pitt Tunnel in Pittsburgh

As noted in my previous post about Prosperity/Canonsburg/Washington areas of Pennsylvania (see post HERE), we took an afternoon with my wife’s sister and her family to take a drive around Pittsburgh.  Obviously, an afternoon does no justice to a large beautiful city like this, but that was all the time we had. Fortunately, I have been to Pittsburgh before and have knocked out a few places worth visiting (see my post which includes some Pittsburgh sites HERE).

Bridges in Pittsburgh
Bridges in Pittsburgh
Crossing into Pittsburgh
Crossing into Pittsburgh

 

The PPG Glass Castle in downtown Pittsburgh
The PPG Glass Castle (One PPG Place) in downtown Pittsburgh

Our drive took us past the amazing glass structure built by PPG — their headquarters.  Some call it the “Glass Castle” and indeed, it looks like one.

Actually named PPG Place,  this amazing building is one of six structures designed by architects Philip Johnson and  John Burgee and completed in 1984.  The six buildings cover three city blocks and five and a half acres. All of the buildings are of matching glass design consisting of 19,750 pieces of glass. The complex centers on One PPG Place, a 40-story office building.

A view from below One PPG Place
A view from below One PPG Place
Artistic view of One PPG Place
Artistic view of One PPG Place
Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh
Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh

We also crossed over the famed Roberto Clemente Bridge, named for the 60’s era Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder. We passed by the Andy Warhol Museum (but didn’t stop to visit).

A study in 2006 noted that there were 446 bridges in Pittsburgh thus giving the town the nickname “The City of Bridges.” Of course, not all of them are the massive structures crossing the three major rivers.  There are nine or ten prominent bridges, including the Clemente, which is one of the “Three Siblings,” which are three parallel, nearly identical self-anchored suspension bridges that cross the Allegheny River at 6th, 7th, and 9th streets. They were named for prominent Pittsburgh residents: Roberto Clemente Bridge, Andy Warhol Bridge, and Rachel Carson Bridge.

Bridges across Pittsburgh
Bridges across Pittsburgh
Crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh
Crossing the Smithfield Street Bridge in Pittsburgh
Crossing the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh
Crossing the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh
The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh
The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh
Old Wall Sign in downtown Pittsburgh
Old Wall Sign in downtown Pittsburgh
Old Byham Theater in Pittsburgh - built in 1903
Old Byham Theater in Pittsburgh – built in 1903
Welcome to the Monongahela Incline
Welcome to the Monongahela Incline

After driving around a bit, we headed to the Monongahela Incline to take a ride up Mt. Washington, a hill that provides amazing panoramic views of Pittsburgh. This proved to be the highlight of this trip.

Monongahela Incline
Monongahela Incline

The Monongahela Incline is the oldest continuously operating funicular railway in the U.S. It opened on May 28, 1870, and has since then transported millions of passengers.  Built at a cost of $50,000, the incline opened up Mount Washington to development, enabling people to live 600 feet above the city and still have easy access to factories and businesses along the river.

Monongahela Incline
Monongahela Incline
Heading down on the Mongahela Incline
Heading down on the Mongahela Incline

At one time Pittsburgh had 15 inclines. Today the Monongahela and its younger sister the Duquesne (about a mile away) are the only ones that remain.  The cars are not self-powered, and do not even have operators on board. Instead, they are pulled up and down the inclined track by a cable driven by an engine in the upper station, where the operator works. The cars operate in pairs, permanently attached to opposite ends of a single cable, with one going uphill and the other going downhill simultaneously. The cars therefore counterbalance each other, so the engine needs to provide only enough power to overcome friction and the difference in the weight of the passengers in the two cars.

Monongahela Incline
Monongahela Incline
View of the city form the car on the Monongahela Incline
View of the city form the car on the Monongahela Incline
Riding down
Riding down

The ride up the hill is about 635 feet and climbs a little over 365 feet in altitude at a grade of about 35 degrees. At its max speed of 6 miles per hour, the ride takes about three or four minutes. There is no air conditioning in the buildings or on the actual trains.  So, on a hot day like we experienced, it was a warm wait.

 

Enjoying the Ride!
Enjoying the Ride!

Each car holds about 23 people, with room for about 8 persons in each section of the car.  It is certainly something I would want to sit down on rather than stand in.  The view from the window can be kind of scary.

 

Monongahela Incline going up
Monongahela Incline going up
Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Panoramic View of Pittsburgh from atop Mt. Washington
Mount Washington
Mount Washington

Once atop Mt. Washington, the view is breathtaking with expansive views of the three rivers (the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio) and the many bridges over these rivers.

While at the top, we took in the view, walked over to DiFiore’s for an ice cream treat and a rest.  From there I caught sight of an amazing wall mural.  Titled “Bloom,” this giant mural was painted by Gerard Tonti in October 2007. This is one of a number of large Art Murals funded by the Sprout Public Art project of Pittsburgh.  According to the website Pittsburgh Murals and Public Art, there were 32 original Sprout murals, but there are many more throughout the 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods.  Looks like my next trip may be a mural hunt!!! (Pittsburgh Murals has created a great spreadsheet for the mural/public art seeker HERE.)

Family shot from Mt. Washington
Family shot from Mt. Washington
Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Fort Bridge with stadium in background
Fort Pitt Bridge with stadium in background
Another Bridge
Smithfield Street Bridge as seen from the top of Mt. Washington
Ice Cream anyone?
Ice Cream anyone? DiFiore’s on Mt. Washington
Bloom by Gerard
“Bloom” by Gerard Tonti
Detail of old Pittsburgh on Tonti's "Bloom"
Detail of old Pittsburgh on Tonti’s “Bloom”
Point of View by
“Point of View” by James A. West

Also while driving along the top of Mt. Washington we came across a lovely statue sitting on the edge of the hill (at Greenbriar Avenue and Sweetbriar Street).  Titled “Point of View,” this 2006 bronze sculpture by James A. West depicts George Washington and the Seneca leader Guyasuta, with their weapons down, in a face-to-face meeting in October 1770, when the two men met while Washington was in the area examining land for future settlement along the Ohio River.

Overlooking Pittsburgh with wife Julianne
Overlooking Pittsburgh with wife Julianne

That pretty much ended the day trip to Pittsburgh for us.  It was fun, but certainly warrants another visit in the near future.

 

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