The Smokey City - Pittsburgh in 1945

The Smokey City - 1945.
Liberty Avenue during daytime.

The city of Pittsburgh at 9 o'clock in the morning on a winter day in 1945. The streets appear dark, as if it was evening. This is the result of the thick haze of smoke and smog that for over a century was a fact of life in Pittsburgh. The steel mills, iron and glass works, as well as numerous other nearby factories, continually discharged their acrid soot into the air. When the winds died down, the smoke inundated the city, blocking out the sun.

Steel Mills belched smoke
daily into the atmosphere.

Buildings that once gleamed with their bright new facades soon became covered in soot. Their dirty appearance, along with the hazy atmosphere and rampant river pollution was well-known around the nation, and Pittsburgh was named the "Smokey City." In the 1940s, the city suffered as a result, and was not considered a desirable place to live. Some refered to it as "hell with the lid off."

The Smokey City - 1944.
The Boulevard of the Allies during daytime.

After World War II, determined efforts were made to clean up the atmosphere and transform the image of the city. Smoke control and environmental legislation was passed, which greatly reduced the amount of industrial waste in the air and water. The city then embarked on a twenty year redevelopment effort, which introduced many new buildings, infracstructure and transportation improvements. Several historic downtown buildings were sandblasted to remove decades of grime and restore their original appearance.

This effort, known as Renaissance I, officially ended in 1974. By then, the city's image was no longer one of dirt, smoke and pollution. It had been transformed into one of gleaming skyscrapers, tree-lined plazas, blue skies and clean waterways. The beauty of the city gained worldwide attention, and ever since, Pittsburgh has been ranked as one of the most favorable places to live, gaining the top spot several times.

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