Margaret J. Krauss

Reporter, Keystone Crossroads

Margaret J. Krauss produces 90.5 WESA Celebrates Inventing Pittsburgh, a series that explores the lesser-known history of the city and region.

A freelance multimedia journalist and researcher, Margaret learned the nuts and bolts of radio as a 2013 newsroom volunteer. Before moving back to the nation's most livable city, Margaret worked as an editor for National Geographic KIDS magazine in Washington, DC.

When she isn't geeking out over a good story, Margaret can be found biking the city's streets or swimming its rivers.

Ways to Connect

Margaret J. Krauss / Keystone Crossroads

Trib Total Media’s shift toward a digital-only model is playing out amid a larger narrative of an entire industry in transition.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

 

You know the old adage "Never judge a city by (just) its bond"? Or "Forgive and forget: bonds have histories, too"? No? How about that bumper sticker: "Reductive is as reductive does"?

OK, none of those are real.

Joshua Franzos / Pittsburgh Foundation

 

A foundation in Pittsburgh will dedicate 60 to 70 percent of its grant making to address poverty and disparity in the region. 

Depending on the news outlet, Pittsburgh is a lot of things: it’s Steel City or the Paris of Appalachia; it’s the new Brooklyn; it’s the best place to eat, it’s the most underrated American city. 

But for many, the debate about whether or not Pittsburgh merits all this chatter is immaterial: 30 percent of people in the region live at or near poverty.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

A dumpster parked curbside, piled high with construction debris or outdated building guts, is not an uncommon city sight. But a certain dumpster just off one of Pittsburgh’s main business corridors is different. For starters, it’s painted bright yellow.

“We love the yellow,” says Phoebe Downey, project manager for Envision Downtown, a public-private partnership between the mayor’s office and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Smoke enveloped the Liberty Bridge this afternoon after sparks fell onto plastic piping below and caught fire. Workers were torching beams to replace the bridge deck, says Scott Fennell, a laborer with Joseph B. Fay Company. There were no injuries, but Fennell said the incident would cost them time.

The final phase of the bridge deck replacement began August 29 as part of the $80.8 million Liberty Bridge Rehabilitation Project.

Matt Rourke / AP

 

A developer wants to build an ice cream factory on a stretch of vacant lots in your city. The city is eager to have the ice cream companies and woos them with tax abatements and other public subsidies.

"Jobs!" the city council cries. "An increased tax base!"

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 

On Wednesday, a court will decide whether a referendum to change Pittsburgh's home rule charter will remain on the November ballot. The city argues the proposed amendment unduly hampers city government.

Ben Peoples / Flickr

 

Park ranger Doug Bosley stands at the crest of a quiet, green hillside, looking down a stretch of railroad track that appears to have gotten lost and wandered into the woods. 

Margaret J. Krauss / Keystone Crossroads

 

"Are you registered to vote?" Dave Tessitor asked a man as he walked past the library in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

"Yes," the man said, not stopping.

Tessitor fell in step. "We're collecting signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot," he said, walking up the street with the man. He only turned back several blocks later, the cargo pocket of his shorts one pamphlet lighter. He shrugged and smiled. And then a young couple came out of the library. "Excuse me, are you registered to vote?"

Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The murals in the United States Post Office and Courthouse on Grant Street are pretty hard to get to. There’s security, now, unlike when the Department of Treasury’s Section of Painting and Sculpture commissioned the three works in 1934.

Two of the octogenerian paintings survive on the 8th floor; one disappeared. That’s the thing about murals, said Sylvia Rhor, associate professor of art history at Carlow University. They’re large, but they’re not immune to time’s vagaries. They can go missing, be discarded or painted over.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

At the Carpenter’s Training Center just outside the City of Pittsburgh on the Parkway West, a class of nine learns how to build a level floor. Forty years ago, getting into the center’s apprenticeship program would have been a feat for a person of color or a woman.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

From one of the file folders arrayed on her kitchen table, retired Spanish professor María de los Ángeles Stiteler pulls out a lyrics sheet.

Kaufmann's Department Store Records and Photographs / Rauh Jewish Archives / Detre Library and Archives / Senator John Heinz History Center

“There’s Florence and London and Paris and Prague and Brussels.”

Lina Insana, chair of the department of French and Italian at the University of Pittsburgh, points to a spread from the Kaufmann's department store’s in-house magazine, Storagram, which proclaims the 30th anniversary of the “Foreign Office.”  

“They used these foreign offices as proof of the quality of their merchandise—how up to date that merchandise was, how up to the minute the styles were,” Insana said.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Walking down Penn Avenue in Garfield, people likely don’t see Jason Forck through the window two stories up as he balances a near-molten glass tumbler at the end of a steel rod.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

The main building on Carrie Furnace’s 80-acre site in Braddock looks like a giant has just scattered its playthings and stomped off, not too far away, to eat a few goats. Inside the blowing engine house a 48-inch universal plate mill lies in 40- and 50-ton pieces on the concrete floor. A sign hanging at the south end lists the safety guidelines (“6. Be aware of crane movements”). Bill Sharkey sits on a few benches meant for visitors.

Kristi Jan Hoover

A black and yellow helmet sits on the floor of Janet Hoover’s kitchen. It’s perched on top of a pair of boots and an old miner’s lamp. The helmet label reads, “Fasloc: Keeps the Roof Over Your Head.” 

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Don Zeiler stands on a wall in the middle of the Monongahela River. In work boots and a bright orange jacket, the lockmaster at Braddock Locks & Dam is dressed for dance.

“When you’re dancing with your partner you take a step, they need to know where to go: when I’m doing this, then you do that, then I’ll do this, then you do that. So that’s basically what locking is,” he explained.  

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

The love Steelers fans have for their team is the stuff of legend: hordes of faithful waving Terrible Towels, wearing logo-emblazoned pajama pants, cheering in one of the nation’s more than 700 Steelers bars. So I figured the best way to learn the back-story of the logo was to go right to the source: Heinz Field, on a Sunday, an hour before kickoff.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Anchored at the corner of Fifth Avenue and McKee Place in Oakland, Hieber’s Pharmacy sports a glass block window that reads, “We Create Medicine For Your Family.” Inside, white cabinets hold powdered chemicals and a rainbow assortment of empty capsules waiting to be filled.

Hieber's is a compounding pharmacy.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 It would be easy to breeze past the mountain goats on their sliver of vertical cliff in the Hall of North American Wildlife or to step around the black rhino milling about in the hallway. But these are not just any animals: they’re animals remade by humans.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

It’s hard to miss the four brick stacks of the Liberty Tunnel Fan House towering over the houses on Secane Avenue in Mount Washington.

“There are two exhaust shafts,” said Bill Lester, Assistant Director of Construction for PennDOT’s District 11, pointing them out. “And there are two intake shafts where we draw fresh air in from up here. We push it down into the tunnel and then we turn around and we drag the bad air back out.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Let’s get this out of the way: The stuff you put in the recycling bin does get recycled.

“Yes, we do. We recycle. That’s the name of the game,” said Robert Johns, plant manager of a single-stream material recovery facility, MRF, owned by Waste Management.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Georgie Kovacosky leaned on the fence surrounding a sunny enclosure on her 230-acre farm in New Bethlehem, about 60 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.  

The Childs Family Collection on Daisy Lampkin, 1924-1997, MSS 657, Detre Library and Archives, Heinz History Center

It was October 1916. The Brooklyn Robins, later the Dodgers, played the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, making it possible to forget, for a little while, that summer was over and Europe was at war. Pittsburgh newspapers posted the scores in their office windows and so many people crowded the streets to keep tabs that City Council supposedly passed an ordinance prohibiting the papers from doing so.  

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Michael Joyce started working at Homewood Cemetery in 1978, cutting grass.

“I live real close to here so it was just a summer job,” said Joyce, now the tie-wearing superintendent of the more than 200-acre spread. He’s responsible for everything that happens outside.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

After a long day of moving goats around the city, Doug Placais stood – sweaty, covered in dirt – a mile from Downtown Pittsburgh at Arlington Acres, the one-tenth of an acre urban farm he owns and operates with Carrie Pavlik.

“Well, UPS is funny because, you know, they ask you what’s in there. So the first time I said, ‘goat blood,’ and he actually didn’t blink, to his credit. I don’t know how he held a straight face.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Richard Williams glances at the request sheet from behind a chest-high counter and gives the book in front of him a quarter turn. With a pair of pliers, he latches onto a metal wire and pulls, flopping open its spine stacked high with crinkly, worn pages. 

“What I find fascinating, especially in these handwritten ones, is the lack of errors,” Williams said. He regards the long page covered in careful, legible script as he steps toward the copier, deed in hand.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Stephanie Wellons sings as easily as most people talk.

As though it were a parenthetical statement, Wellons changes from speech to song, climbing the first hill of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

More than 3,000 bikes line the floors and walls at Bicycle Heaven in Chateau. Just inside the entrance hangs a bike made entirely of wood.

“It’s called a boneshaker bicycle,” said owner Craig Morrow.

Past the gleaming Schwinns and Raleighs and the spot usually home to Pee-wee Herman’s iconic ride (it’s being repaired right now), Morrow points out two bikes from the turn of the 19th century, both with “lights” suspended from the cross bars.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Gus Kalaris is an economy of motion. Shaded by a rainbow umbrella and unconcerned by the flock of dozy bees hovering around the 12 flavor bottles, he stands in the cockpit of a small cart.

Kalaris leans on the counter with his left hand. With his right he grips the Gilchrist 78, an ice scraper that was last available for sale around 1950, he said. He looks over his shoulder to ask again, ‘What flavor?’ then nods, and pushes the scraper into a gleaming block of ice, bringing up small, medium and large cups of melting fluff.

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