Ask anyone from Pittsburgh (present company included) what the blinking light atop the Grant Building is, and they’ll quickly respond, “Easy! It spells out Pittsburgh in morse code.” Well, not exactly. Turns out a local grad student who also happens to be a ham radio operator was up on Mount Washington for the annual 4th of July fireworks (of which we have the best, courtesy the great Zambelli family). While he waited for the lights to go off, he was watching the red flashing light atop the Grant Building–the city’s first skyscraper when it was completed in 1929 and a wonderful art deco achievement by Henry Hornbostel–when he noticed something that didn’t belong.
“I was looking at it, and I saw the letter ‘K,’ which is [dash-dot-dash],” Tom Stepleton told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I remembered ‘K’ because my sister’s name starts with ‘K.’ And I knew that wasn’t supposed to be there.” The P-G further investigated and found out the building owners were unaware of the mistake and also when it had begun, nor, sadly, when it might be corrected. That’s Pittsburgh for you. Heck, it could even just be a rendition of the city name in the local dialect. And it’s not the only problem the city’s buildings have. Our tallest, the Steel Building, rusts wantonly, and the lights at Fifth Avenue Place had to be shut off, and then for better and worse turned blue, because they were disrupting the planetarium’s telescope at CMU.