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Pittsburgh Parenting Blog by Sewickley Academy

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Explore the History of Pittsburgh with Your Teenager

Explore the History of Pittsburgh with Your TeenagerLooking for activities to do with your teenager? Learn about the history of Pittsburgh one afternoon by visiting the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and then taking a ride on one of the two inclines. Both activities offer older children the chance to learn about the diverse history of the city and the determination of its inhabitants.

Tour the Nationality Rooms

The Nationality Rooms located at the University of Pittsburgh, are inside the Cathedral of Learning on the first and third floors. Arranged to showcase the diversity of immigrants who settled in the Pittsburgh region, each of the rooms is designed in a style that presents the image of the cultural heritage of the country they represent. The rooms are also required to serve as a functional classroom for the university.

The Nationality Rooms total 30 in all, with 28 of them currently being used by the university as classrooms. The public is welcome to tour the rooms during visiting hours but are asked to be respectful and not enter a room if a class is in session. Visitors can walk from room to room on their own, experience a self-guided tour with the use of headphones for a minimum charge of $4, or schedule a guided tour. Guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more and must be scheduled ahead of time. Tours are delivered by a highly-trained group of select Pitt students.

Visiting hours are from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. on Sundays. If you are interested in a particular room, it is recommended that you visit on the weekend to ensure no classes are session. During the holiday season, November through mid-January, the rooms are decorated with traditional Christmas decorations of the host country.

Take a Ride on The Incline

Images of Pittsburgh are easily recognizable because of its iconic mode of transportation, inclines, with two currently in operation located near the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. One is the Monongahela Incline, which has been in continuous use since the late 1800s. The other is the Duquesne Incline, which was revitalized and reopened after a brief closure in the 1960s.  

Originally designed to carry cargo and coal up and down Mt. Washington in the late 1800s, the inclines eventually carried people. They were powered first by steam and then converted to electricity in 1935. With the steel mills located at the bottom of the hill, the mostly German immigrant population, who worked in the mills, lived at the top. The incline became a popular way to get up the hill aside from the stairs.

The German immigrants who rode the inclines fashioned them after the cable cars from their home country. They are at a 30-35 degree angle, depending on the incline, and travel at a speed of 6 mph. Today, the Duquesne Incline costs $5 round trip for anyone ages 12-64; children 5-12 are $2.50, and anyone older or younger is free. It is open everyday of the year until 12:30 a.m. The Monongahela Incline has similar fees and hours. Be sure to make time at the top of the Duquesne Incline to take in views of the city from the observation decks.

Take a few hours to learn about the diverse communities that helped make Pittsburgh the thriving city it is today. Learn about the history of the Cathedral of Learning, each of the Nationality Rooms and how they came to fruition, as well as each community's unique contributions to Pittsburgh or spend an afternoon riding an incline and taking in a bird's eye view of the city.

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