Thursday, February 11, 2016

Braddock's Defeat, 1980

In 1980 when I was writing an opinion piece on preservation for the Minneapolis Star, I decided to take some photos of Braddock, the mill town across the Monongahela from Homestead. The idea was to have something for illustrator Craig Macintosh to use with the piece.

On a dreary winter day during a visit, I put black/white film in my Nikon and went over to Braddock. I started at the bottom of the hill and wound my way to the cemetery at the top. Here are the photos I took, roughly in chronological order. They show a town that has pretty much lost hope. In that year the U.S. Census counted 5,634 inhabitants, down 35.9% from 1970, the biggest population drop in a decade in Braddock history.

Note: For those unfamiliar with the history of the area, Braddock was named after British General Edward Braddock. On July 9, 1755, British and British colonial troops under Braddock's command were ambushed and defeated by French and Indian forces in an engagement  near the present town. Three days later, Braddock died of wounds suffered during the battle. His body was allegedly buried on the banks of the Monongahela, and wanting to keep his grave secret, the British rode their horses and wagons over the site. This failed military expedition that attempted to wrest Fort Duquesne (later Fort Pitt) at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers from French control, is known as "Braddock's Defeat."

Double houses
"Economic Crisis. . .Great Depression. . .Proletariat"
Burned out house.
Burned workers' houses.

Shuttered stores on Braddock Avenue
Political graffiti
An inhabited block
Old U.S. Post Office
By the mill
 Edgar Thompson Works
By the railroad tracks
Library Street at Parker Avenue
The Carnegie Free Library, the FIRST Carnegie Library, built 1888, a National Historic Landmark, then shuttered.
The Frank Vittor statue, "Winged Victory", a WWI memorial. It was this photo that Macintosh chose for his illustration.
A cemetery monument
It would be interesting to walk around Braddock today and try to find the places shown in these photos. Perhaps on my next visit to Pittsburgh, I will do just that.


Today, after decades of decline, thanks to Mayor John Fetterman, Braddock is looking better. Since 2005, Fetterman and the citizens of Braddock have worked tirelessly to attract new residents, especially those from the arts community. The mayor also initiated various rehabilitation efforts that have aided in Braddock's renewal. Fetterman is currently a candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. https://johnfetterman.com/

Braddock was in defeat, but now, three decades later, is finally getting on its feet and standing proud.

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