Places now gone but not forgotten
Published: Sunday, December 1, 2002
Three Rivers Stadium
It was ugly, lousy for watching baseball and surrounded by a dead sea of asphalt. But for three decades Three Rivers Stadium was Pittsburgh’s multi-use “House of Thrills.” It was where Clemente, Stargell, Bonds and Kendall starred. Where Harris, Bradshaw, Stallworth and Bettis brought national glory to the City of Champions.
When Three Rivers was demolished Feb. 11, 2001, to make way for PNC Park and Heinz Field, it became a major civic event. Many fans cheered when the old place turned to rubble. Many others shed tears. Today, Three Rivers’ site is a parking lot, waiting for commercial development. All that’s left are the memories.
Top of the Triangle
A restaurant boasting a view from the top of the U.S. Steel Building — the tallest skyscraper between New York and Chicago — probably could have served sloppy Joes and hot dogs and made a go of it.
But the Top of the Triangle had loftier gustatory goals.
It offered dining as fine as that panorama — and some of the city's grandest New Year's Eve bashes — for 31 years until it closed in September 2001.
In a terse statement, Cleveland-based Select Restaurants Inc. said that "the landlord is unwilling to accept any new terms and conditions for the Top of the Triangle to extend its lease."
G.C. Murphy, the national five-and-dime chain whose home offices were in McKeesport, took a long time to die. Founded in 1906, and once an important presence in nearly every western Pennsylvania mining town and neighborhood, the chain was bought in the mid-1980s by the Ames Corp. Ames, which closed G.C. Murphy’s home office in 1992, soon sold the chain to the owners of McCrory’s. When McCrory’s closed its 193 stores in November 2001 and went out of business, a few remaining G.C. Murphy stores — including the one in Downtown's Market Square — died with them.
Pitt Stadium was so old and uncomfortable it made Three Rivers Stadium seem cozy. The steep oval concrete bowl was built in 1925 when Pitt was a national college powerhouse and fans didn’t mind climbing "Cardiac Hill" and sitting on hard wooden seats with no backs. Pitt stadium was a living relic when it was torn down after the 1999 season to make way for Pitt’s glitzy new rec center and basketball palace, the Petersen Events Center.
Stevie Ray Vaughn was here.
So were U2 and The Police — when the national music scene in general, and Pittsburgh in particular, didn't know who they were.
Those three were among the artists who made their local debuts at the Oakland club that for 22 years presented some of the city's favorite home-grown rock 'n' roll bands, including the Iron City Houserockers, the Silencers, Diamond Reo and the Mystic Knights of the Sea.
Even Bruce Springsteen, in town early for two concerts at the Civic Arena, hopped on stage to perform three songs with Bon Ton Roulet.
In August 1995, owner Dom DiSilvio sold the landmark to spend more time with his family.
Old Greater Pittsburgh Airport
Everyone who doesn’t live in Pittsburgh is head-over-heels in love with the gigantic, modern Pittsburgh International Airport. It opened in October 1992 with great and deserved fanfare and has since won high praise from travel magazines and the millions of US Airways customers who switch planes here. But what about old Greater Pittsburgh Airport — the tackier, cozier, you-don’t-need-a-hike-and-a -train-ride-to-get-to-your-gate airport the new $850 million one replaced• Closed in 1992. Greater Pitt’s fenced-off parking lots sprouted trees and wild grasses for a few years. Then, in spring 1999, the terminal where generations of baby boomers saw their first jet planes take off was demolished to make way for the Airside Business Park, a $14 million center for corporate jets and air-cargo facilities.
Joseph Horne Co.
Horne’s department stores — a major destination of the Pittsburgh shopping experience since 1849 — disappeared in 1994, when the financially foundering local company was bought by Lazarus, a division of mighty Federated Department Stores. Ten Joseph Horne Co. stores were bought, including Horne’s mammoth Downtown store, which was closed and transformed into offices and ground-level retailers including Old Navy.
National Record Mart
Started in Pittsburgh before World War II, when Sinatra was king, National Record Mart boomed to nearly 200 stores in 30 states but later fell into bankruptcy in January 2002. National Record Mart, which opened its first store on Forbes Avenue, at one time had six locations Downtown. Once the place in town to buy concert tickets and the latest Beatles LPs, it was killed by slumping record sales and competition from giants such as Wal-Mart.
To this day, many Pittsburghers think they are still reading "The Press."
They aren’t, of course. The Pittsburgh Press — the afternoon paper owned by the chain Scripps Howard — died and was buried a decade ago, a victim of the Great Newspaper Strike of ’92.
The confusion of readers is understandable. Ten years ago, The Press — then the city’s circulation leader — also printed, delivered and sold ads for the city’s much smaller morning paper, the Post-Gazette.
But on Dec. 31, 1992, after an 8-month strike by Press unions that kept both papers off the streets, Scripps Howard’s bosses in Cincinnati sold The Press to Blade Communications Inc. of Toledo, Ohio.
Blade Communications immediately closed The Press as part of a plan to make the Post-Gazette the only major daily in town.
That plan was foiled, however, when the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review was born during the strike.
Lycos and Fore Systems
For a while there in the mid-1990s, it looked like Pittsburgh was going to become an important outpost of the digital revolution.
Lycos, which started inside Carnegie Mellon University as a search engine, became Lycos Inc. in 1995, thanks to an infusion of capital from a Boston-area investment company.
And Fore Systems, a company founded by four CMU professors, was a fast-growing industry leader in making mysterious products like Internet routing devices.
Unfortunately, today there’s little trace of either company in Pittsburgh. Lycos’ main North American office is in Massachusetts and, in 2000, it merged with Terra Networks of Barcelona, Spain, to become Terra Lycos, a global Internet company.
Meanwhile, in 1999 Fore was bought for $4.5 billion by Britain’s General Electric Corp., since renamed Marconi Communications — and now, sadly, owned by its creditors. The only tangible evidence of the homegrown Internet startup is Fore’s oddly tilted corporate office cube in Wexford.
The shrinking jazz festival
The Mellon Jazz Festival, a local fixture since 1987, shrunk to four days in 2002, a big decline from its two-weekend, 10-day form that ran through 1999. A successor of festivals that began in 1982 under different sponsorships, including the city of Pittsburgh and KDKA-TV, it once had shows in several counties and events that numbered into the 40s. This year it was city-bound and reduced to eight shows.
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