The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for July 29th, 2022

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Friday

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Nearby the spot where I ate my final dinner on this trip to Pittsburgh, an enormous religious building was dominating the sky. Turns out that what was catching my attentions is found in the East Liberty section, and is specifically called the East Liberty Presbyterian Church. It’s a cathedral, I tell you!

Apparently, the original church here was erected in 1819, but the cathedral building that towers over East Liberty today was opened in 1935. The building was designed by Ralph Adams Cram, an architect who designed a series of notable buildings – including NYC’s own Cathedral of St. John the Divine in upper Manhattan. Signage around the cathedral indicated that it can welcome 1,300 people for worship at a time. That’s a whole lot of praying, right there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I had noticed the structure earlier in the day, when Our Lady of the Pentacle and myself were tooling around in a rented car.

I was pretty impressed by the rented Toyota RAV4 hybrid SUV, incidentally. It got somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 mpg, was very comfortable, and the electronics package under the dashboard was sweet. It had some sort of system which let me know where I was in terms of highway lanes, one which beeped at me if I was straying out of my own. This came in handy on the Pennsylvanian high speed roads. By high speed, I mean a 70 mph speed limit once you got out of the City. The locals treated 70 as a starting point, by the way. I would be cooking along at the speed limit, and semi tractor trailers would blow past me like I was standing still.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, by this stage of the trip, I was on foot.

I got to find out what “crazy homeless guy” looks and sounds like in Pittsburgh while shooting these photos. Being a lifelong New Yorker, I found the fellow amateurish and somewhat charming. Bless.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A wide circle was navigated around the central node of East Liberty, and I made it a point of trying to take advantage of the setting summer sunlight. It was warm and humid in Pittsburgh.

Whenever I mention Pittsburgh to anyone back in NYC, the first thing they say back seems to involve an impression about ferocious weather. According to the National Weather Service, however, Pittsburgh is in a bit of a regional sweet spot as far as hot and cold goes. They have more or less the same amount of precipitation that NYC and Philadelphia have, but fewer “extreme” weather events than the coastal cities do. Because of the nature of the terrain, it’s a bit more humid than NYC is, but on average it’s about ten degrees less extreme on seasonal highs and lows. The humidity results in mold problems for property owners, and you apparently need to climb up on the roof once every couple of years to clear away moss. The weather is quite volatile in the short term here, and I’ve had more than one Pittsburgh native say to me “if you don’t like the weather right now, wait about about an hour and it’ll be different.”

As it turns out, we were in town for what the TV weatherman described as “the hottest day in the last four years.” It was 86 degrees, with a mid 60’s dew point. Warm and uncomfortable yes, but compare that to the end of July and beginning of August in NYC when that forecast would be a relief from the dog days of summer.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation – Photo License Center, East Liberty” is what this domed building is called these days. The structure was erected at the start of the 20th century between 1898 and 1900. When it first opened, the building was used as a market, but it was focused instead on the emerging automotive market in time.

It was called the Motor Square Garden when it opened in 1913, and this section of Pittsburgh was associated with the automobile business.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apparently, the usage of this enormous structure over the last century has involved auto shows, boxing matches, basketball games, and in modernity – it’s the home of Pennsylvania’s local Department of Motor Vehicles operation, I’m told. I was drawn in by the enormous steel and glass dome on its roof, frankly.

More next week, at this, your Newtown Pentacle.


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In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at blurb.com for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 29, 2022 at 11:00 am

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