Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Heinz History Center

The largest history museum in Pennsylvania is the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, with 370,000 square feet of exhibit space. It's made up of the historic ice house seen below as well as a sizeable modern addition. I've visited here many, many times over the years and have seen several temporary exhibits, but in this post, we're looking at the first-timer highlights!

Here's a video of the amazing neon sign.
At left, we see a "Ford DeLuxe Sedan with stainless steel body from Brackenridge, Pa., 1936." The "Heinz Hitch" on the right dates from the late 19th century; it was restored in 1978 after being neglected for decades in a Central Pennsylvania shed - it had a tree growing through it. From 1986 to 2006, the wagon was used for promotional purposes by Heinz, appearing in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, among others.
This "combination fire engine" was made by the American LaFrance Fire Company in Elmira, New York in 1919 and was used by the Pittsburgh Fire Department. I once saw a kid sitting in the drivers' seat - pretty sure you're not allowed to do that! ;-) The covered wagon in the background is from c. 1784.
A vehicle that you can climb aboard is this, one of the old trolley cars that used to crisscross the city.

Although John Heinz, the museum's namesake, is famous for being a US Senator, there is a small exhibition about the Heinz Company. It includes some photogenic focal points.

Here's a Wikimedia photo of Heinz's downtown factory. Since the merger with Kraft, ketchup production has moved out of Pittsburgh, but some products are still made in the city.

One of the museum's main attractions is the house set from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, as well as a few pieces from the Neighborhood of Make Believe. I really enjoy coming here often, as there is very rarely a crowd, even on the weekends. When you combine this with the first and last episodes of the show playing on Picture Picture, this exhibit is a favorite.
I'm probably the last generation to have grown up with Mister Rogers, which is too bad. Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood isn't the same.
Although Mister Rogers is a well-known Pittsburgh celebrity, sports and steel are the most popular images of the city. Reflecting this, the History Center includes a two-story "second museum" dedicated to the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, and everything else under the sun, from bocce to marbles.
Of course, I want the Pirates to be better. This is the uniform Bill Mazeroski was wearing when he hit a walk-off home run against Yankees in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, clinching a Pirates victory.
Back on the ground floor, this view is looking straight up through the central atrium that runs through all seven of the History Center's floors.
This exhibit traces Pittsburgh history from the French and Indian War through to the present.
Like the rest of the museum, A Tradition of Innovation is a well designed space.
There are many interesting artifacts here, but let's focus on some pop culture subjects. George Washington Ferris, the designer of the first Ferris wheel, lived in Pittsburgh.
Check out the measuring stick behind Andrew Carnegie!
Behind the house facade a couple of pictures above is a reproduction of a mid-century living room and kitchen.
There's also a focus on Westinghouse, including a reproduction of Elektro, the famous mechanical man of the 1939-40 World's Fair. I want to see the original in Mansfield, Ohio someday.
To me, the Heinz History Center is definitely the best museum in Pittsburgh! Don't miss it if you visit the city.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Bayernhof Music Museum

It's very cool when you find out about a new place that is close by and interesting to you! In 2017, I learned about the Bayernhof Music Museum, a house museum in Pittsburgh with an eccentric setting, unusual collection, and interesting story.

Charles Brown (yes, Charlie Brown) was a local entrepreneur who made his fortune running a gas lamp business. He spent his money on unusual things, the most notable being a collection of antique mechanical musical instruments, like player pianos and band organs.

Also notable is how he housed his collection, building an elaborate mansion decorated in a Bavarian style. As you'll soon see, this theme was carried out to its full extent!

Situated above the Allegheny River, this is the view from the living room.

I love old music machines like this, especially the moment when they "come to life."
This is just another example of the intricate detailing.
The time period of the machines ranges greatly, with the one below being from the 19th century.

When Brown died in 1999, he willed that his collection become a museum, and the house opened for tours in 2004.

Here's a type of "juke box" for those old phonograph canisters. As you can tell, I'm quite knowledgeable about these things.

An observatory? Sure, why not!

There are band organs too, like you often find on a carousel.
This one supposedly came from West View Park, my neighborhood amusement park that closed in 1977. It's really loud when it's in a small room like this; these machines were meant to be heard from hundreds of feet away!
One of the house's most impressive features is its myriad of secret passageways, such as this one behind a tapestry that opens to reveal a cave-themed hallway!
"Perry" is very excited in this clip.
The "purpose" of the caves is to serve as a passageway to the wine cellar.
The caves end at the last stop on the tour, the swimming pool room, complete with a waterfall and wall murals. 
Overall, the Bayernhof Museum was shocking to experience and is definitely a "hidden gem" of Pittsburgh!