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Pittsburgh:
A New Portrait

NOW AVAILABLE
Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009
512 pages; 320 full-color photographs, 20 color maps; $34.95
ISBN: 9780822943716


The resurgence of Pittsburgh as a world-class city of learning, research, steady employment, and culture has been nothing short of remarkable. The New York Times recently cited "Brainy cities [that] have low divorce rates, low crime, high job creation, ethnic diversity, and creative capitalism. They are places like Pittsburgh, with its top-notch universities..." President Obama specifically chose Pittsburgh to host the 2009 G-20 economic summit as an example for other nations worldwide.

From its founding in 1758, Pittsburgh has experienced several epic transformations. It began its existence as a fortress on a site selected by George Washington. A hundred years later, and well into our own time, no other American city was as intensively industrialized, only to be later consigned to “rustbelt” status. Remade as a thriving twenty-first-century city and an international center for science, medicine, biotechnology, and financial services, Pittsburgh is now routinely acclaimed as one of the most promising and livable of America's cities. Franklin Toker shows us why.

Toker highlights this remarkable story of urban reinvention by focusing on what makes Pittsburgh so resilient and appealing--its strong neighborhoods and their rich architectural and social history. The many unique, lively urban communities that make up Pittsburgh are a treasure trove of every imaginable style of structure, from Victorian to Bauhaus, Gothic to Art Deco, and from Industrial to Green. These ordinary homes expressed the aspirations of people who came from around the world to settle in Pittsburgh, while they built the city itself into an economic powerhouse. With the wealth generated by this everyday work, local captains of industry could build their own monumental additions to Pittsburgh's urban landscape, including two of America's greatest buildings: H. H. Richardson's Allegheny Courthouse and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.

With accessible prose, Toker examines Pittsburgh in its historical context (from Indian settlement to postmodern city), in its regional setting (from the playgrounds of the Laurel Highlands to the hard-working mill towns dotting the landscape), and from the street level (leading the reader on a personal tour through every neighborhood). Based on his 1986 classic, Pittsburgh: An Urban Portrait, but with a completely revised text and lavishly illustrated with all new photos and maps, Pittsburgh: A New Portrait reveals the true colors of a truly great American city.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review of August 30, 2009 said: "An incredibly agile writer, Toker moves easily from biography to aesthetics to history, all the while peppering the text with clever turns of phrase that lead to plenty of chuckles and even a few laugh-out-loud moments."