Franklin Toker is professor of the history of art and architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, and past president of the Society of Architectural Historians. He is the author of numerous books, including the definitive work on Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater Rising, and Buildings of Pittsburgh in the prestigious Buildings of the United States series.
From its founding in 1758, Pittsburgh has experienced several epic transformations. It began its existence as a fortress, on a site originally 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 surprisingly rich architectural 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). Lavishly illustrated with photos and maps, Pittsburgh: A New Portrait reveals the true colors of a truly great American city.