A map of everything that isn’t there anymore. It gives driving directions, too.
Pittsburghers have serious respect for their city’s history. Many of them are also long-term residents of their particular neighborhoods, and proud of the many local businesses and monuments that once existed in their surround.
We are a city in many ways haunted by the past, and you can see in the physical grid of the city the spaces where great engines of industry once stood.
Newcomers get lost in our city. It isn’t easy to give them directions. Three rights never make a left. The waypoints described are often long-gone, making the directions useless to someone who is new in town.
It’s a friction point - a split between the city’s newer residents and those who have lived here for decades.
But it isn’t - it is endearing and is a sort of oral tradition that cements the knowledge of what came before into the memories of a new group of residents.
For the next six months, Code for Pittsburgh will be building a map of landmarks that are gone. Buildings, businesses, public art, noteworthy trees, we want to hear about it all. We want to get it all down in one place that everyone can access. We want to make a free and open record of those historical landmarks, and the stories people have there.
The Unlandmarks Map will reveal and detail historical injustices. It will show the rent-raising which closed down minority-owned businesses, the murals which were painted over, the unique houses which were knocked down for bland concrete apartments, the jazz nightclubs lost to the Civic Arena.
It will also reveal high points - industrial achievements at a scale that might not be seen again, bustling neighborhood shops, art from an earlier age.
In 2017, with the city growing in population & density, with neighborhoods changing rapidly, the map will also serve as a muse - an expansion of what communities believe is possible to build going forward. Main Streets across town will be filling back up shortly, and knowing this corner used to have a ice cream shop might encourage us today to return that building to its former use.
This is a big public project. We are making it as a community. We cannot make it without the larger Pittsburgh community’s help.
There are many ways to engage with the project (tap below):
If you have questions for us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have lots of data points to submit, email us at email@example.com.
If you are a local nonprofit with a focus on the built environment, we’d love to work together. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Code for Pittsburgh?
We’re the region’s Civic Technology meetup group, part of Code for America’s Brigade Network. We’re a loose association of change-makers, enthusiasts, hobbyists, coders, artists, map-makers, and other focused on making life in Pittsburgh better. We place an emphasis on technology’s role in shaping our public experiences, and in knitting our city together.
We intend to learn all kinds of things in the next six months. Check out our past Meetups for some ideas of what we’ve been learning so far. We’ll be hosting learning events as we build the technology. We’ll be hosting community events to record landmarks. We’ll be hosting online methods of adding data, and, eventually, verify, research, etc.
We are so excited to get started. Join your friends and neighbors, and lets build a map!
Inspiration & Shoutouts
Huge prior art goes to Stuff That’s Gone and Things That Aren’t There Anymore, the two Rick Sebak Documentaries.