Interesting thread. My home city has undergone enormous changes in the past 30 years, and it continues to change today, as the city gov’t debates whether or not it is time to merge the city with the surrounding county.
When I was a kid, Pittsburgh was going thru very rough times, as the steel industry was dying. Pittsburgh used to by no. 3 in the US in terms of corporate headquartes being located there… but the steel mills closed one after another and we lost in excess of 100,000 jobs. The oil companies (such as Gulf, Pennzoil, Quakerstate) all relocated to Texas, and we were left with nothing but great professional sports teams.
Pittsburgh is still losing population at a higher rate than any other large US city, afaik, yet we have undergone three “rennaisances” which have dramatically changed the look and feel of Pittsburgh. This tradition of renewing was probably started by the likes of Andrew Carnegie, who gave funds to create parks, libraries and museums in Pittsburgh.
When I was a kid I heard stories about what Pittsburgh was like when the mills were going 24 hrs/day, and business men had to change their white shirts during the day or they would look dirty and the street lights were turned on at noon… And the three rivers were filthy… Now the air is clean and there are trout swimming in all three of our rivers.
Despite its continuing population loss and the aging of its population, Pittsburgh continues to renew itself. The mills are closed, mostly, and the largest employer is now the University of Pittsburgh, especially the UP Medical Center (we developed the polio vaccine, did the first liver transplant and the first multiple organ transplant). Carnegie Mellon University continues to lead in robotics and computers (they make the robots that land on Mars and enter volcanic craters and do the computers for the missile defense stuff), as well as in theatre. We have two new stadiums, one for baseball and the other for football. We’ll likely get a new arena for hockey soon… if Mario plays his cards right.
Pittsburgh, when I was a kid, was dying… but at the same time, it was being reborn. While steel died, research and education took its place. Pittsburgh used to be a “shot and a beer town”… “gimme an Imp an’ an Arn” (Imperial whiskey and Iron City beer) was the usual order at local bars. Blue collar to the bone. Now, there are several microbrew pubs (Pittsburgh had the 3rd microbrew on the east coast) and specialty beer bars and nightclubs along the river where the produce used to be delivered by truckers during the late night hours.
Its a long, difficult and often painful process, being reborn. Folks where I come from don’t take to change very well. And even after the change, Pittsburgh still doesn’t know whether its new life will last long.