As a boy growing up in Oakland, Andy Warhol supposedly walked across the Seventh Street Bridge with his family and rested on the steps of the Volkwein Building, which later became The Andy Warhol Museum on the North Side.
If that seems too perfect -- the pop artist visiting the bridge and building that would be later named for him -- consider this: If he had ridden a streetcar like almost everyone else in the 1920s and '30s, he wouldn't have needed to rest.
City officials renamed the Seventh Street Bridge for Warhol in March 2005 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Andy Warhol Museum, which draws visitors from all over the world to see his work and that of other cutting-edge artists. If they visit in August or early September, they'll also see the bridge yarn-bombed.
Beginning in early August, Fiberart International plans to cover the 422-foot span with 10,440 square feet of knitted and crocheted yarn. Whether you consider that kitschy, cool or just plain silly, you have to admire organizers' ambition -- and the engineering required to drape a bridge in a blanket.
Design and engineering are what sets this bridge and its neighbors -- the Roberto Clemente and Rachel Carson bridges -- apart from others in Pittsburgh, and at the time, from any other bridge in the country. They are self-anchored eye-bar suspension bridges, a design chosen for its looks and because there was no room to anchor the structures on the shores. The Seventh Street Bridge, which opened June 17, 1926, could also bear much more weight than its predecessor, built in 1885. The new bridge had two lanes for vehicles and two lanes for streetcars, which were much preferred at the time.
A 1927 survey showed that more than half of the nearly 600,000 people who entered or left Downtown between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on a weekday traveled by streetcar vs. only 23 percent by car, taxi or bus and 15 percent on foot. On an average day in 1927, 105,338 people in streetcars crossed the Allegheny River via the Seventh and Ninth Street bridges, according to Pittsburgh Railways. The Sixth Street Bridge was still under construction.
Streetcars stopped running on the Seventh Street Bridge in the 1960s, so if the Warholas planned another trip across it, they'd have to drive or walk.