Cue the Creepy Music in East Liverpool, Ohio, Which Hopefully Isn’t Doomed

Broadway and E. 5th Street in East Liverpool, Ohio (Photo by Michael E. Grass)

Broadway and E. 5th Street in East Liverpool, Ohio (Photo by Michael E. Grass)

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio — Heading west out of Pittsburgh on the Lincoln Highway, you’re confronted with a few options to reach this well-worn Ohio River town opposite the tip of West Virginia’s northern panhandle and just west of the Pennsylvania state line.

The original route of highway stayed on the north bank of the river via Beaver, Pa. The second-generation route, according to the Lincoln Highway Association’s official map, kept the highway on the south bank to Monaca, Pa., before crossing to Beaver and onward to East Liverpool. The road conditions in this part of Pennsylvania were notoriously bad, so the Lincoln Highway Association pressed for a new road to be built.

But the third-generation route, today’s U.S. 30, took the Lincoln Highway on a much more southern alignment via Chester, W.Va., “an unintentional byproduct of the bad roads in Pennsylvania,” according to a 2004 National Park Service assessment of the Lincoln Highway. Beyond Pittsburgh’s western suburbs and exurbs, U.S. 30 — which lacks any Lincoln Highway signage — meanders through some beautiful hilly farm country and forests.

But I barely realized I had crossed into West Virginia — the Lincoln Highway is only about five miles long in the northern panhandle — when I reached the Ohio River, crossed over into Ohio and quickly passed downtown East Liverpool on the modern expressway hugging the riverbank. Strangely, “Foot and Mouth ’68,” an eerie and uncomfortably ambient instrumental track from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci‘s The Blue Trees album, just happened to be playing in my rental car’s CD player.

I should have taken it as a sign that venturing into the town itself was going to be very, very creepy.   Continue reading

Pittsburgh Is a Paradise of Infrastructure

Pittsburgh's Point Bridge, seen here in 1900, was the first of three bridges to span the Monongahela River right before it meets the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River. (Photo by the Detroit Publishing Co. via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Pittsburgh’s Point Bridge, seen here around 1900, was the first of three bridges to span the Monongahela River right before it meets the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River. (Photo by the Detroit Publishing Co. via the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

PITTSBURGH — When Fort Duquesne was situated at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela¬†rivers by the French, this area was obviously strategic. It protected the gateway to the Ohio Valley and was fought over during the French and Indian War. But as cities go, the spot where modern Pittsburgh would eventually take shape wasn’t necessarily an easy place for future growth.

Most cities thrive on level ground, something that is a scarce commodity here. Constrained by its rivers and hemmed in by mountains, Pittsburgh had no such level-ground luxury.

San Francisco faced similar issues with its hilly terrain, but instead of growing organically with its setting, its street grid system brazenly defied it, creating the often steep streets that have become one of San Francisco’s signature urban elements.

While San Francisco conquered its topography with a uniform street plan, Pittsburgh conquered its difficult terrain with its infrastructure, allowing the city to expand into its higher elevations, across its rivers and other areas where the terrain would normally limit any ordinary city.

Pittsburgh functions because of its bridges. They’re everywhere.

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