Where Things Used To Be

I have always found Pittsburgh to very different from most cities in America. Of course, its people separate it from the rest of the country, but also its quirks. None more so than the way natives give directions. Here’s an example. The Pittsburgh Chop House ( which I featured in “Check It Out” ) opened last fall. When they began advertising, they gave the location in what I call a “Pittsburgh” way. On the TV spot, it says it’s located at the site of the Old Red Bull Inn.

Now this may be a small thing, but I find the Chop House is not alone when it comes to identifying what used to be there to indicate where something is. I did a story about two more restaurants weeks ago located at the new Piatt Place building downtown. Someone asked me where it was and even after giving them the address, it did not register. Finally, I said they are located in the old Lazarus building. The light bulb came on after that.

I’m not sure why – as Pittsburgh residents – often identifying where things are by talking about what used to be there. It’s kind of like that on-going joke where someone gives directions and uses the nearest Sheetz as their starting point.

Some would say we do this because we don’t want to let go of the past. I think we often refer to the past because, for the majority, this is where we have spent our lives and putting a new business in an old location does not take away what was there – at least in our minds. This is what makes our town so special: The fact that we have not forgotten about our past, even when something new takes its place.

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