#6 Giving Directions Using Landmarks that Don’t Exist Anymore

The next time you get lost on your way to a Yinzer’s firehall wedding/fundraiser, you may decide to stop and ask directions. If you’ve come prepared with your knowledge of historical architecture, or one your grandfather’s Moose club buddies, you’ll be just fine.

(For the record, Yinzer wedding/fundraiser isn’t a joke. It is not uncommon for 50/50 raffles to be held to help pay for the hoagie rolls.)

As an example of the bizarre nature of Pittsburgh’s “grid” layout, downtown Pittsburgh’s roadways are based on two intersecting series of roads — streets on the northern side (named with numbers), avenues on the southern side (also mostly named with numbers) — and they slam together at Liberty Avenue like two drunk Yinzers looking for cross-dressing hookers. As roads travel out from downtown into the various neighborhoods, they will often change names for no apparent reason except to spite the neighboring municipality by forcing them to buy a new sign.

In an effort to help navigate this confusing — even for a lifetime Pittsburgh resident — set of gravel/cobblestone/paved-but-full-of-potholes roadways, a Yinzer will help you navigate by landmarks instead of road names. Unfortunately, at least three of these landmarks no longer exist. Whether it be the five-and-dime that closed in 1967, the family’s home that burned down in 1982, or one of the many neighborhood Islay’s stores that haven’t been in operation since the Steelers won their second Super Bowl, you’re sure to have no better clue where you were going had you just tried to follow the ever-changing street signs.

A typical Yinzer trip plan could sound like this: “Go past the old Owls Club for about half a mile, turn right past where G. C. Murphy’s used to be, make a right and a quick left down the wrong way of a one-way street, then when you come up to the old coke works, it’ll be on your left.”

While this routing may be navigable now — most of these pieces of closed navigation still boast their original signage 40-years later — future generations of Yinzers will have a tough road ahead of them: “After the old Panera Bread you want to turn by where Starbucks used to be…no, not the one on the right side of the street, the one on the left…the one next to UPMC…no, not that UPMC, the one before that.”

For your best chance at getting around Pittsburgh, get a GPS. While directions from a Yinzer are a great history lesson in the Pittsburgh economy, they won’t get you anywhere but lost in Polish Hill. However, in the instances that even TomTom gets confused, pull over and ask for directions. Most importantly, get used to paying attention to faded signs.