Pittsburghers probably don’t think of their city as an Appalachian one – even though the landscape is one of the hilliest outside San Francisco. But the city’s historic connection to the Appalachian region – and its long record of exploiting Appalachia’s natural resources – make Pittsburgh the veritable capital of Appalachia.One can only hope that the towns and cities of Appalachia can experience the sort of renaissance that Pittsburgh did. Some have shown great promise. Chattanooga, Tennessee has emerged as a great tourist destination – especially for weekend getaways from Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham and Knoxville. Asheville, North Carolina has become one of the prime retirement centers in America. Knoxville finally cleaned up its downtown in recent years and is now growing in population. But many other old Appalachian industrial towns struggle. Johnson City and Morristown, Tennessee, for example have yet to transform themselves. Much of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky is locked in a battle between mountaintop removal-supporting coal companies and communities who see a future based in green energy or tourism. And outside of Pittsburgh western Pennsylvania still hemorrhages population.
Some people put Pittsburgh in the Midwest. More think of it in the context of the Northeast or the Mid Atlantic region. To me, Pittsburgh will always be Appalachia's greatest city.