Literary Tourism

Literary Tourism: Pittsburgh, PA

Jessi Lewis

Staff Writer

Jessi Lewis has her MFA in fiction and an MA in Writing and Rhetoric. She was one of the founding editors of Cheat River Review and now works to bring her own fiction, poetry and essays to eyes each month.     Twitter: @jessiwrit

Pittsburgh is one of those cities that’s bouncing back from the collapse of industry to be something of a secret gem. You can eat so much pork here, it’s unbelievable, while the rivers of the city frame a surprising horizon of buildings. I’m a fan.

For book nerds, the most exciting events can be found through the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures series. Their Monday Night Lecture Series are fantastic in the Carnegie Music Hall, where writers regularly come to speak. Check it out—James McBride and Elizabeth Gilbert visited this year, Jesmyn Ward will speak in February and Dennis Lehane will speak in March.

Of course, Michael Chabon is from Pittsburgh, so there’s lots to keep an eye out for. From Wonder Boys, you can see the University that inspired Chabon’s novel setting of academia: University of Pittsburgh. From The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, the memorable “Cloud Factory” is still located as the heating source for the Carnegie Museum, though it no longer burns coal.

For library lovers, the structures of Pittsburgh are unbelievable, but little compares to the grand quality of the Carnegie Library system. In Pittsburgh there are 19 branches, but the main is in Oakland. The building itself is a sight to see. Andrew Carnegie gave a nice chunk of his wealth to make it happen.

In small cities like Pittsburgh, you come across some of the more unique literary references. If you were a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood lover and read The World According to Mister Rogers, you may be interested in visiting the Children’s Museum where you can see parts of the Mister Rogers exhibit, including the famous trolley, King Friday’s castle, and, of course, one of the original sets of Mister Rogers’ sweater and shoes. You just can’t go wrong with the sweater.

For historical book lovers, you have to check out Out Of This Furnace by Thomas Bell, who wrote about three generations of steel workers based in Pittsburgh from 1880-1930. You can find lots of elements of the historical steel culture in Pittsburgh and use the book as a guide. I haven’t checked it out myself yet, but I’m excited to hop on it this holiday as my “serious” read.

Finally, in a city full of museums, there may be some perfect for you. There’s the Toonseum, a museum dedicated to comics and comic books, and of course, there’s always the Andy Warhol Museum (he was born and grew up in Pittsburgh), which is pretty overwhelming for lovers of art in general.

And since I’m a newbie in this town, I’m absolutely positive I forgot something. Recommendations welcome.


Editor’s note: Pittsburgh University was corrected to University of Pittsburgh and a correction was made to the name of the lecture series.