For awhile, things weren’t looking good for Pittsburgh. After the steel-mining plants closed, it seemed as if the city would decline like Baltimore, Detroit, or Flint. Instead, the City of Bridges reinvented itself. The fields of technology and medicine blossomed. Old buildings were revitalized. The arts—from museums to street murals—flourished. Plus restaurants, distilleries, breweries, and coffee shops started popping up in unexpected places. Then Ace Hotel arrived late last year.
Ace Hotel is known as a hipster hangout. With locations in Seattle, Portland, and New York, the small chain is known for converting historic buildings into cool hotels. Their game plan didn’t change when they set their sights on Pittsburgh.
Years ago, no one would have expected East Liberty to become a hip neighborhood. As one of the far eastern sections of the city, this area was a grazing field when Pittsburgh was established. It later became a shopping destination with the East Liberty Presbyterian Church dominating its skyline. As demographics changed and housing projects were built, the neighborhood declined. It’s taken decades to reestablish itself.
In the heart of East Liberty, Ace Hotel has transformed a five-story, former YMCA building, constructed in the early 1900s, into a chic meeting spot. The spacious lounge is decorated with weathered furniture. A record player sits against the wall, board games litter the coffee tables, and freelancers grab chairs close to outlets. Whitfield, a meat-centric restaurant, has become a neighborhood tavern. While the enthusiastic staff is eager to point out hidden gems that are located within a few blocks of the hotel.
You’ll feel just as comfortable upstairs, as well. The light-filled rooms have black trim, open closets, and window seats. A Pendleton quilt, designed in Pittsburgh, covers the bed. A classic Tivoli radio sits on the nightstand. While an acoustic guitar acts as art on the wall.
Back downstairs, you stop at Whitfield for what is supposed to be a quick brunch. But everything—from the parsnip bread with Bedillion whipped honey to the trout niçoise salad to the pastrami sandwich with aged provolone—looks delicious. You decide to share a few plates so that you can sample multiple dishes. Besides, it will help to fortify you for the long day of exploring ahead. There are a lot of new things to see in this old city.