Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Thanks to those of you who followed along on my Philadelphia post and asked for more pictures. We'll make the leap to Pittsburgh here, equally rich in history...

After spending a week in Philadelphia recently, I boarded the train and traveled 300 plus miles west to Pittsburgh, leaving at noon and rolling in around 8:00 pm. The scenery was so beautiful along the way! In the 18th-century this was an arduous journey of at least 3 weeks over mountains and rivers on horseback. No official stagecoach route existed till 1821.

There were a great many Amish in my car. Old order, I think, as they were speaking Dutch. They were very friendly with Englishers like me:) I can see why Amish books are so popular as their way of life is like a living snapshot into the past. The children are just beautiful!

This bronze statue epitomizes Pittsburgh's history. My hero, George Washington, came to the Forks of the Ohio in the mid-18th century and ended up "treating" or meeting with Indians like the Seneca leader here. This statue atop Mount Washington is called "Points of View" and overlooks the city and its three rivers (Ohio, Monongahela, and Allegheny). You can see the Mon as locals call it, to the right at Washington's back.

This is the Pittsburgh I would have loved to witness when it was just a huge arrowhead-shaped piece of land in the 18th-century and a hotly disputed territory.

Pittsburgh as it appeared in the early 19th-century. This is taken from a sketch drawn by Mrs. E.C. Gibson, wife of Jason Gibson, Esquire of the Philadelphia Bar while on her wedding tour in 1817.

Pittsburgh today. I had a hard time seeing past all the steel and concrete to the history beneath even from my perch on Mount Washington. I so longed for an unspoiled view! I'm sure Ezekial Click and Red Shirt wouldn't recognize the place!

Here's an up close view of the point at which the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet and merge into the Ohio. I was unprepared for how HUGE the rivers are and how very hilly Pittsburgh is after the flats of Philadelphia. The white outline on the green is where the original Fort Duquesne was located. In back of this was Fort Pitt which was far more immense and had a surrounding moat around and drawbridges to access it, much like a castle.

The last remaining blockhouse of Fort Pitt. To the right of this is a huge area called "The King's Garden" which once consisted of orchards and vegetable gardens that supplied the fort. Flowers were also planted and people enjoyed strolling through the gardens in the late 18th-century before the fort was dismantled. Sadly, it is no more.

I took a giant leap in time of 100 or so years from the 18th-century to the Gilded Age when I spent a day at Clayton, the home of Henry Clay Frick, one of Pittsburgh's leading industrialists. The Gilded Age is not one of my favorite periods as there was so much excess. But the Clayton estate is a lovely echo of the past and its owners were very interesting, a true rags to riches story.

The entrance to Clayton. Guests would arrive here by carriage and call on Mrs. Frick in the parlor which was quite plush and overdone. I so wanted to take pictures but none were allowed inside the house. I liked the simplicity of the butler's pantry and kitchen best. On the front portico is an immense orchestrion which is like a player piano but creates orchestra music instead with all sorts of instruments. Mr. Frick played this each evening during dinner and it was something of a Pittsburgh sensation:)

The front view of Clayton. The Fricks had another home in New York City where his renowned art collection is housed to this day.

This was the playhouse for the heir, Childs, and daughter Helen with a charming rose arbor entrance. Within is a little parlor where all the furnishings are small and Helen entertained her friends for tea. There was also a bowling alley for Childs and miniature male guests (see photo above)!

The children's entrance to Clayton. Inside this door is the most charming little sink where the children washed up after playing outside. I guess parents were as concerned about germs then as now! A sad bit of history... Clay and his wife, Adelaide, had 4 children, only two of whom survived to adulthood. Tragically, their oldest daughter swallowed a pin at age 3 which festered inside her until she died at age 6. My tour guide remarked how sad it was that a man could have all the money in the world and not be able to help his little daughter. Despite his faults as an industrialist, Clay Frick was a loving father and husband.

The greenhouse is still full of vegetables and flowers today. I believe it services the tea room just across the way which serves wonderful things. I had some chocolate custard there which was delicious!

My hostess, chauffeur, and college roommate, Heather. I think Heather took me to every museum in Pittsburgh! Here she is at home in her kitchen making her amazing fresh berry tart:) Ummm, did we have fun!

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh? In terms of historic places, where would you like to go? Or where have you been that you'd recommend?


  1. Brian and I landed in Pittsburgh, rented a car and drove to a tiny little hamlet in West Virginia. Beautiful rolling mountains. I'd love to do that again, but then I'd head up north to the Mohawk Valley. I'd also like to tool around eastern TN again.

    Thanks for the photos Laura, and a glimpse into your trip. I especially liked seeing the stages of Pittsburgh's development. I've often wished I could stand in a certain place and watch it change around me with the advancing decades... centuries. As historical novelists we strive so hard to do that in our minds. Any time we get a concrete visual, it's like being handed an unexpected gift.

  2. Hey, Laura. What kind of train did you take to Pittsburg? I took the subway (which turned to light rail) out to St Davids when I was in Philly - that was also an Amtrack track. Enjoyed my visit. Am loving hearing about yours - especially with the visit to Pittsburg!
    Jerri Dyer

  3. Hi Laura, wow I love all of your pictures. It sounds like you had a wonderful trip!! I love your Amish family picture, reading about the Amish lifestyle really is glimpse into the past and so interesting and special. Someday I would really like to visit and tour England. One of my favorite times to read about and study is the Tudor era (and the Cousin's War before that, I just finished Phillippa Gregory's new books The White Queen and The Red Queen about the Cousin's War and found it absolutely engaging and interesting!) History is so much fun!

  4. I've never personally been to Pittsburg, but thanks to your beautiful, detailed pictoral post, I now feel as if I have been there. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thank you for the lovely tour! Those pictures are wonderful. :) And the first picture with the train brings to mind the beginning and end of North & South... *sigh* I love trains! :D

    The only place I've been on the East Coast is Washington D.C., which was an amazing experience! As far as here on the West Coast... There are plenty of great places to visit. :) When I was in a "Literature of the American West" class last semester, we got to visit Fort Vancouver, which was really neat! I loved that they had role-players there who could talk to us about the history of the place and what it was like back then.


  6. I so understand what you mean by unspoilt views. I don't like how there seems to be so many power lines everywhere nowadays.
    The Frick history was amazing. I can't believe how much they had, but then again I went to the Biltmore house and that was room after room.
    Enjoyed your journey!

  7. Hmmm, Pittsburgh is one of those places I never think about. But it looks lovely in both your "before" and "after" pics.

    I'm so impressed with you still having a good friendship with your college roommate! What a special time for the two of you to spend together.

  8. These are great photos Laura! Love the one of the Amish children, and of course the painting done by the honeymooning lady in 1817 :) I'm so enamoured of those early painters, especially women. How she must have loved it if she tramped out there with her paint set on her honeymooN! lol!~

  9. Oh, Laura, its such a treat to see these pictures. I love the picture of the Amish children and buggy. I've never ridden in one but they look like so much fun.

    (Can you please enter me in the drawing? Thanks :)

    We didn't really get a chance to see Philly this weekend as we spent the whole time with family get-togethers, but it was a blessing. I hadn't seen one of my cousins in 11+ years and didn't recognize him. It was so neat to visit with my Dad's side of the family. Chris lived in 3 houses in 4 years in Philadelphia area and we were able to see one of them so that was special.

    That's so neat that you are still in close touch with your college roommate even though you're on different coasts. I've really enjoyed being able to "visit" through your pictures.

  10. Thanks for sharing these pics, Laura! I never tire of history-themed trips.

    I think I learned far more about our country's history after my school years were over from trips, novels, and movies. Seems like the textbooks don't include near what they should about America's great men and women.

  11. Haven't been to Pittsburgh but it's on the list. Along with Scotland and Ireland. Historical place I just love is Colonial Williamsburg, and of course any historical place in Kentucky


  12. I've never been there, but my goodness, I want to go! And I have now, through your wonderful pictures! Thanks soooo much for sharing so many! I loved it. :D

  13. Lori, You've named a place I've only dreamed about going - the Mohawk Valley. Talk about rich in history! Pittsburgh is neat in that you can go so many different directions, like you and Brian did. Sounds heavenly.

    BTW, your thoughts about getting a concrete visual is so true. After coming home from there and editing this next book about Pittsburgh, I have an entirely different take on it than I did before I left home. It really is amazingly helpful! I wish I could go to every place I write about. In my dreams, I guess;)

  14. Jerri,
    It looks like I took the 19th-century kind here from the pic I posted but couldn't find a decent one;) I only wish Amtrak looked like this! I actually took a 6 car Amtrak train (not sure what it's actually called) and oh my, was it crowded! The food was heavenly though (why am I always talking food?)!

    So neat that you loved your time there, too. It's definitely a place to revisit. I feel I only touched the tip of a great historical iceberg. Someday...

    So good to see you here! You're entered in the drawings, BTW:)

  15. Cassie, YES, England!! You'd have a whole new appreciation after reading PG fine books:) I loved England when I went to school there long ago. It is so very different and makes our history seem quite "new." Over the pond they have some real antiques! Some of my favorite books were the Jean Plaidy books on the Tudor period, etc. She also went by the pen name of Victoria Holt. A lot like Phillippa's but a bit older. I even love Phillippa's name:) Hope you get to go in person someday and it delights your historical heart!

  16. Mary,
    You're so thoughtful. Thanks for taking time here and enjoying the post and pics! It was such a blessing to go and if that comes across in even a tiny bit, then I'm thrilled. my ignorance. I have to say I'd not been to your beautiful state till 5 years ago when we went to Glacier National Park on the train. I was struck by how wild and rugged some parts are although I only saw a small part of it by rail. My nephew is attending college in Boise and loves it! Another thumbs up:)

  17. Amber,
    I well remember your trip to DC and your great pics. That was the trip of a lifetime, I think! And it's great that your lit class incorporated a fort into the curriculum. My kind of class:) I wish Fort Pitt was still standing. It was immense - I think I remember hearing it was a half mile from one bastion to another (but I might be wrong). I've never seen anything like it. Makes my Kentucky forts look like toys!

    And *sighing along with you* - I agree about the train and N&S:) Time for another viewing! I last watched it last August. OH MY! Bless u!

  18. Oh Adrienne, I'm ashamed to say I've never been to Biltmore though I've heard so much about it. I'm glad you got in on that history. I don't think any home in America historically has ever matched that - and it's set in such a beautiful place. I remember they filmed Last of the Mohicans there, one of my favorite movies (sans the war scenes)!

    Like you, power lines are so unattractive - as are all those bridges in my photos. I don't like big cities as everything feels so cluttered. Guess I'm a country girl at heart:) Maybe you are, too.

  19. Mary,
    Don't tell Heather but I grew up thinking Pittsburgh was just NOT the place - and then I started writing stories there and sang a new tune. I don't know why I didn't care for it. Maybe because it was so dirty and dingy in the 19th-century. I guess the street lamps would be on during the day because of all the coal dust and smoke, etc. In fact, a Pittsburgher told me that they had to wrap brides in sheets back then to take them to the church, otherwise their lovely white gowns would be soot-smeared just from the very air. Hard to imagine!

    Heather is such a faithful friend. We met freshman year then roomed together our junior year and I was in her wedding 25 years ago:) Oh my, time has wings...

  20. Heather,
    I actually thought of you when I saw this painting!! I KNEW you would like:) In fact, I bought a book while there just because it had this painting in it. I think it's so charmingly done and much prefer it to the Pittsburgh of today! I'd have loved to have seen her sketching from wherever she happened to be (I think she was on a boat coming upriver). Makes me want to write a story about it...

    Or maybe you'll capture this somehow in your art!!

  21. Thank you for sharing these great pictures with us, Laura!! I'm so happy you had a fun time seeing all these great places and hanging out with your old friend from college! Her kitchen is beautiful, BTW!

    Gosh, I wish we could go back in time, at least for a little while, and see the untouched land the way God intended. And maybe we would be lucky enough to stumble across Ezekial Click or, be still my beating heart, Red Shirt!! I'd throw myself in the river if it meant he could save me...sigh... ;)

    That statue is so cool! Dear George, always so handsome ;) And if the outside is anything to go by the inside of Clayton must have been so pretty! And those little Amish kids are adorable! Gosh, such sweet memories to cherish :) Thanks so much for letting us tag along on your adventure!!

    Praying the rest of your week is beautiful and blessed, dear friend!

  22. Welcome home, Julia! I prayed for travel mercies for you all and am so happy to had a wonderful time. Weddings and family reunions are great this time of year. How neat that you saw where Chris lived. And that you connected with a long lost cousin. Been there, done that:) Sounds like some great memories were made - and I bet you took some pictures:)

    And touring Philly can wait:) When the littles are little bit bigger, you'll find so many great things to do. Right now they'd probably love the zoo, one place I didn't go and wish I had.

    So happy you're in the drawings! Every person here today is and I can't wait to draw some names:) So glad you're back safe and sound!

  23. Renee Ann, Such a great point! As I get older I have a much greater appreciation for history and those things than I did even 20 years ago. And it seems I learn a lot more now:) Maybe there are some benefits to aging! As a teacher, I think you have a unique perspective on history and literature. I sure enjoy your blog posts. Thanks so much for taking time for mine.

  24. Carissa, I think we must be sisters!! We Kentucky girls think alike. You've just named every place I love:) I have a particular hankering to go to Scotland. Must be those Scottish heroes of mine... I wonder if you have Irish roots like I do? My maiden name is Feagan which is truly Irish. I'd love to go dig up some family roots. So many Scots-Irish settled in Kentucky in the colonial period, etc. Oh, I'm making myself homesick!!

  25. LOL, Amanda, YES, the river and Red Shirt - my thoughts, exactly:) And George does look dashing, even in bronze! Thanks so much for checking out the pics. It's such fun to share them and read your comments. Makes me feel like we all traveled together a wee little bit...

    Heather's kitchen is amazing. Talk about a kitchen diva! I really liked her cookbook collection. I came home and made her tart which my men gobbled up posthaste. It has a divine gingersnap crust. I've wanted to share it here but guess I should ask her permission. Heather, you out there?

    You summed up my thoughts exactly about the way things were - love that you wish we could see the untouched land the way God intended. You say things so well, my friend:)

  26. You've been to the places I've been and would have recommended. Though I do have to say, if you ever get back there, you need to head up into the Pocono Mts. It' is gorgeous up there, especially in the fall. Hubby and I went to Bushkill falls and hiked along the trails to see all the waterfalls. They're beautiful, especially the Bridal Veil one. I'd love to get back in that general area and explore. One day, I hope.

  27. Sorry I'm late but yay! So glad to see some familiar sites! I absolutely love the pics that you took of the Frick house, Clayton. I LOVE the Victorian era with all the opulence and elegance even in some of the not so wealthy family's homes. Although I've never been to the Frick house the local PBS station aired an in-depth special that was basically a tour of the house AND the parts of it that aren't open to the public. It was amazing. I can't imagine living like they did but it sure must have been nice to love when the pace was a bit slower.

    This is an article that was in the Pittsburgh Trib of a home similar to the Frick estate that had been restored and is now up for sale and it is absolutely stunning. Maybe you should consider a move to the area? LOL

    XOXO~ Renee C.

  28. I've never been to Pittsburgh, but it looks like a fascinating place full of history. Your photos are wonderful!! I especially love the one of the Amish family -- so beautiful!

    Also, it was very interesting to see how the Pittsburgh area has changed over time.

    Historic places that I've been include Washington D.C. (8th grade trip), Jamestown, Mount Vernon, Arlington National Cemetery, Old Sacramento, Knights Ferry, CA, Columbia State Historic Park, CA, and probably more places that I can't remember. ;-)

    The thing about going to Washington D.C. in the 8th grade, is that I honestly don't think I had the capacity to appreciate it as much as I would now. Would be wonderful to take that trip again!

    Thank you for sharing more you your trip with us!

    Have a blessed day,

  29. Laura, I love this post, thank you. We live just an hour away from Pgh. but most of our trips there have been to the hospital or the zoo. So I enjoyed your perspective and beautiful photos.

    And, I got TCL for my Kindle app and am jealously waiting untill I have an uninterupted bit of time to enjoy every word. The preface and first few paragraphs are delicious. I sort of am reluctant to start it because I will be sorry when it ends. Is that crazy of me? lol.. have a blessed day!

  30. Winter, You've sure sold me on Bridal Veil Falls and all the rest. I used to hike a lot and waterfalls are among my favorite things. It's fun to think that you've been to the Pittsburgh area. Makes me want to move east! I bet it's breathtaking in the fall - all that color and the crunch of leaves and a bit of coolness in the air. Oh my... Like you said, one day, I hope! Bless you for this:)

  31. There you are, Renee! Mz. Pittsburgher:) I can now officially say I'm in love with western PA! And I love knowing that you know about the Fricks and this was just a little more icing on that Gilded Era cake. I would give anything to see that special! Quite a few rooms were closed to the public and I just had a terrible hankering to see them, plus push on up to the third floor where Childs, the son, and others lived. Lucky you!

    I think one of the best things was that Clayton is still in possession of much of Mrs. Frick's wardrobe. They bring out her various gowns throughout the year in her dressing room, which I thankfully managed to see. The one on display while I was there was so exquisite I can't even describe it adequately, except to say the train of the gown was actually a garland of dogwood blossoms and other flowers. I've never seen anything like it and probably never will. It's a treasure trove of a house, that's for sure.

    Another interesting thing that you may know is that when the daughter, Helen, was in her 90's, she returned to live out her final 3 years there. She moved into the room she'd had as a girl (adjoining her mother's room) and it was virtually unchanged for her with her dolls and desk there, etc. A lovely, lovely room that really takes you back in time. It's such a blessing the house stayed in the family so long and they were scrupulous about keeping it as it was so it's truly like stepping into the past 100 or more years ago.

    Thanks so much for the link! You're a gem:)

  32. Michelle,
    Love reading your list of places! You've seen some that are on my list, too. Jamestown, especially! Now I know why you love history, too:) Like you, I appreciate travel so much more as an adult. I could just kick myself having been in some places and NOT enjoying them properly in my younger years. I almost took my Wyatt on this trip but he has a summer job and the cost was prohibitive. In hindsight I see it's probably wiser to wait.

    Glad you like the Amish pic. The train passed right through Amish farmlands. I saw the most winsome sight up close - right off the track was a farm wagon being driven by a young Amish woman while her husband was haying off the back. When we went by they waved at the train and then kept on working. The day was so beautiful and the sun was shining and everything was so rich and green. Like something out of a portrait:) I wanted to step right in...

    Bless you for your comments. You always add so much!

  33. Maggie Ann, I so understand! I waited so long to read another much anticipated novel recently because I knew I wouldn't see another one of this particular author for a couple of years or more! Love that you read a bit and think it's delicious. That's delightful to this author:) And something I'll long remember.

    I thought you lived near Pittsburgh! I didn't expect it to be so hilly and green but it was - and I love your heat! So like my Kentucky home. I really wanted to go to the zoo in both Philly and Pitt. but stayed with history this trip. I know you love visiting the zoo with your grands:) That sounds like so much fun. I must admit I wanted to leave the city limits and explore, probably right where you are! The history just spreads in every direction!

    Thanks so much for stopping and enjoying your beautiful state with me, Maggie Ann.

  34. One thing I forgot to ask - Did you get to go through the Liberty Tunnels into Pittsburgh? THAT is absolutely one of the most breathtaking man-made views you will ever see. It's nothing but hills, trees, highway on one side of the tunnel and once you go through it BAM! you see pretty much the entire city. It's like two different worlds.

    BTW that special did feature all of the dolls, toys, clothing that they had in storage that the public doesn't get to see and it was pretty amazing stuff. I'm so glad you had a nice time.

    XOXO~ Renee

  35. Gorgeous pictures! Glad you had a good time:)

  36. Kristen, Thanks so much for stopping by:) This trip was such a blessing. The Lord knows when we need them! I came home feeling much better than when I left, even with all that walking! Hope your summer is going great!

  37. Renee,
    Yes, I did:) The tunnels were amazing! I wish that had been my first view instead of the Amtrak station! Heather said the same thing as you - how impressive it is at first view from there. Oh, to do it all over again:)!!

  38. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Laura, with all the wonderful pictures and descriptions of your trip. That statue is amazing. It says so much. And I love that greenhouse. I want one! (though I'm afraid I lack a green thumb)
    I'm so glad you were able to spend time with your friend on the trip. That must have been very special for you in addition to seeing all the great sites.

    I'll be off on my road trip next Tues. to Ohio and back through Colonial Williamsburg! I've never been and can't wait. Also, I look forward to visiting Jamestown. I've been to Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts many times so it will be fun to see the earlier village.

  39. Carla, You said it so well. This statue does speak volumes and sums up the area so well with one look! The body language is amazing! Thanks so much for stopping as you pack for your own trip! I can't wait to hear about CW and Ohio and all the treasures ahead for you. I think that's one of the best parts of writing - researching and travel. I never get tired of it. Prayers with you all the way!

  40. Love the pictures. It looks like you had a wonderful trip to Pittsburgh.

    I love that you traveled by train! I bet it was just a wonderful trip, just beautiful.

    The George Washington statue is just great, I love it! I was thinking, as I read TCL, that one of the things I love best about your novels is your portrayal of Native Americans. :)

    I must admit I grinned over what you wrote about the Gilded Age and the Frick estate. I've always found myself very drawn to the Gilded Age, probably because of the excess of that time. It's always been one of my favorite times to study.

    After seeing your pictures, I think Pittsburgh would be a great place to visit.

  41. There you are, dear Michelle:) I was hoping you'd stop by! Glad you like the Frick estate photos. I remember you're a Gilded Age fan as is Ruth and others. I bet you read Siri's She Walks in Beauty:) And maybe even Nancy Moser's latest set in that time period? It's certainly a fascinating era. I tend to prefer the Georgian era, obviously, as that's where my books are set but there was much excess even then. I guess it goes with any age - except stone age;)

    Pittsburgh surprised me as I'd grown up not thinking much about it down in Kentucky - or thinking of it in negative terms (not sure why). But we Kentuckians tend to have a bias toward Ohioans, too (not sure I spelled that right) and even those in Louisville, of all places!!

    Oh my, just realized your email didn't load. Grrr. Having problems with Blogger again...

    So good to catch up with you again here!

  42. Hello Laura, Just wanted you to know, I'm well into your book and LOVE it. That part where Cass accidentally kills Richared Rowan so touched my heart. That scene sticks with me, him bending over Richard, the tears painted a poignant picture...a work of art, sad though the scene. You ae a wonderful author. God has richly blessed you and you richly bless your us in our reading. I am at the place where Dovie admits she is expecting. And now, I must hurry off to bed, Lord's Day is tomorrow. Wishing you a sweet Sunday, Maggie. ( no way was I saving your TCL for winter reading! in case you thought I

  43. Dear Maggie Ann, Happy Lord's Day to you! Oh, I just love following you as you read - that early scene was hard to write but I'm glad it comes across as vivid and heartfelt. Your gracious words sure minister to me. And they help so much as I get ready to turn in this next novel Sept. 1. And oh, that Dovie! Bless her wayward heart!!

    I hope you have a wonderful day of rest there. You've helped me start off my day in a very blessed way and I can't thank you enough!

  44. So late to the game for this Pittsburgh conversation! My family has Pittsburgh roots, but I grew up with Amish neighbors in central PA. After a brief stint in South Carolina (about an hour from Asheville and Biltmore!) my family returned to Pittsburgh. If you're out this way again, Ft. Ligonier and Old Bedford Village offer some interesting perspectives and are a short trip East of Pittsburgh on the PA turnpike. :)

  45. CP, I SO appreciate the tips about Old Bedford Village and Fort Ligonier. You know what I like! I've often found that locals like you really know what to see or not. I think Pittsburgh is just fascinating, past and present. Didn't realize it was so beautiful or so historic, even though several of my books have roots there. I have a feeling your family was glad to return there though SC is another very different, lovely spot. My love for the Biltmore/Ashville area goes way back as my granny was a Virginian and so we were always going that direction, south...

    Thanks so much for taking time here. My trip to Pitt and Philly were among the best experiences of my life. It's wonderful to share it with a native!