The City Capitalism Built

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I've been on a trip to Pittsburgh for the past few days, and I fall in love with the city every time I visit. It's a wholly organic city. It's got the grit that a city ought to have. It has the charm, it has character, it has grit, it is in your face, it is -- at the same time -- really grounded. The streets make no sense, nobody lives downtown, and the metropolitan area of "Pittsburgh" is pretty up in the air.

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It's a city that feels like it just happened. Indicated by lots abandoned by steel mills, streets that were very clearly not planned, and entire neighborhoods that were company housing for coal companies, steel mills, shipping companies, and more.

The city feels like it "just happened" largely because it did "just happen." At the turn of the 19th Century, the steel boom in the United States required a city with easy access to rivers, coal, and railroads to produce steel. Moguls like Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, and more chose to do business in Pittsburgh, and the city remained at the front of the steel pack through the 1950s, with a decline after the Chinese steel boom of the 1970s.

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Once described as "Hell with the lid off," the skyline was once clouded with smog from steel mills. Now, it's crystal clear, with hospitals on each horizon, robotics plants popping up in the city, and layer upon layer of technology simply adding itself to the mix.

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The people of the city have a clear, salt-of-the-earth attitude. It is a city that weathered the manufacturing slowdown of America and came out stronger on top.

Even the food reflects the culture of hard work and efficiency. The Primanti Brothers sandwich -- a roast beef sandwich or burger with fries and coleslaw on top -- is the height of lunch-break efficiency.

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Under-appreciated for its sense of entrepreneurship and can-do attitude, Pittsburgh is really the height of the American work ethos. It's a city that was brought into existence by the Industrial Revolution, took its requisite beating with the end of the age of American steel production, but is coming back out on top.

 

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