Sierra Green, archivist, Detre Library & Archives at the History Center:
One of the images that made its way into the exhibit that really struck me is a photo of the Monongahela River Wharf that was taken in 1929.
Now, at this moment in time, it’s a formal celebration. All these people are gathered to celebrate improvements that were made to the Ohio River and these improvements made more efficient the travel along the Ohio River from one city to another.
This photo piqued my interest because perhaps a lot of Pittsburghers like myself have really never seen a photograph of the Monongahela River Wharf as such a lively part of our city.
You can see the people gathered and you can tell in this photo that it was such a vibrant place of community and business at this time in the 1920s.
As early as 1912, the city of Pittsburgh established the Monongahela Wharf as one of the few places in downtown Pittsburgh where daily automobile travelers could park their cars throughout the course of the day.
Over ensuing decades, with waning river traffic and with the strain of daily car traffic in and out of the city, cars began to encroach, and encroach, and encroach on the Monongahela Wharf.
What I found to be so compelling, again, in looking at this photo and thinking about the changes over time of this region in our city, is that it’s a powerful place where you can track how the transportation needs of the city of Pittsburgh have dramatically changed over time.
And so initially, you see steamboats, and you see packet boats, and later coal barges, and wagons and carriages, and railroads, and then you fast forward in time, and that’s when the cars start to encroach.
The improvements that were made to this Monongahela Wharf over time are a reflection of the needs of the city at any given moment.
If you visit the Monongahela Wharf today, it really reflects the at times competing priorities of Pittsburgh in 2017, this contemporary city in which we live.
Over the past 10 years or so, thanks to the efforts of city government, as well as the nonprofit Riverlife, and local foundations, parts of the Monongahela Wharf have been transformed back into a community space.
We have a riverfront trail and park that cyclists and pedestrians are currently able to enjoy and see this beautiful view of our river.