Roy A. Barnes of Travel Thru History did it up right when visiting Pittsburgh. Instead of the usual tourist attractions, he toured a museum of animal remains, viewed yellowing pictures of the city from the 19th century, and put cans of soup on a gravesite.
“Even as the steel industry in America has declined and the barons of generations past are no more, the city can boast one of the greatest collections of offbeat attractions of any major city,” writes Barnes.
His visit began at the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland, where he took a tour of the Nationality Rooms (which he calls the most fascinating classrooms in the city) with longtime director E. Maxine Bruhns. His favorites included the Tudor-Gothic style of the British Nationality Room and the Viking symbols and homey feel in the Norwegian Nationality Room. Lunch afterwards was had at Conflict Kitchen, where Barnes feasted on Palestinian fare.
Barnes’ next stop was in Swissvale, where he was greeted by a man who goes by Mr. Arm, and his assistant, Velda Von Minx. Together, they give tours of their museum/home, Trundle Manor.
“Despite the vast amount of reminders of death and hair-raising items from animal taxidermy to large, rusty meat cleavers, jars of mice skins and rat hearts, a sense of peace and tranquility prevailed amid a mix of 20s and 30s novelty and jazz tunes blaring out,” says Barnes.
Mr. Arm and his assistant also host many a Halloween party and horror movie night, which draw hundreds of people to the manor. Barnes says the gift shop is not to be missed.
After Trundle, Barnes met up with Bruce Klein at Photo Antiquities. Not only does Klein have extensive knowledge of all types of photography equipment, but he also has photographs from the 1820s, some of the earliest in existence.
“Many of the photographs on display capture a 19th- and early-20th-century pictorial history of the Pittsburgh area. Daguerreotypes, of the first commercially-available photos, are prominently featured here as well as lantern slides and travel postcards from centuries past,” says Barnes.
Barnes also noted that Klein seemed to own every camera ever made, and that he’d hopefully be back in the spring of 2015 for a special exhibit boasting the most photographs of Abraham Lincoln to be exhibited in one place.
The last stop was Bicycle Heaven, where the largest collection of Schwinn Stingrays brought out his inner child. Craig Morrow’s 30 years of collecting bicycles and bicycle parts draws people like Barnes from all over the country.
“I got to see the world’s largest collection of Schwin Stingrays as well as an array of rare, hard-to-find models like the ones made to honor Oreo Cookies, Marilyn Monroe, Coca-Cola, and Elvis Presley. Movie studios have even rented models from Morrow,” writes Barnes.
The museum also includes an 1860s “boneshaker,” and the first tricycle ever built from the 1890s.
Barnes also includes some honorable mentions when visiting the city: Andy Warhol’s grave, “Roboworld” at the Science Center, Randyland in the Mexican War Streets, and the Parador Inn in Allegheny West.
You can read his full article here.