I have never been a fan of Hilton Hotels. The lobbies are huge and the service is terrible. Go to the hotel restaurants only under the penalty of death. However, the Pittsburgh Hilton was something special, at least until the remodeling in the early 90s. The Hotel went up in the late 50s just in time for the Bicentennial in 1959.
Advertisements stated the Hilton was constructed with materials from three companies headquartered in Pittsburgh, United States Steel, the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), and Pittsburgh Paints and Pittsburgh Plate Glass. The Pittsburgh Hilton was just across the street from Point State Park. As we all know the Point was the coveted area during pioneer days.
The French, Indians, and English fought savagely over what become known as Pittsburgh-the Gateway to the West; the confluence of the Allegheny River from the North, the Monongahela River from the South, and the formation of the Ohio River onto the Mississippi.
The Lobby was much smaller than most Hiltons. It was the busiest of the downtown hotels until the opening of both the Convention Center a few miles north and Grand Concourse Restaurant from the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad on the South Side. Big time hotels came at these locations. Despite these developments I still liked the Hilton.
The hotel had the Settlers Restaurant and Tavern. The restaurant gave you a view of the people walking around the Gateway Center. The bar was too dark for my taste. In the lobby, the Allegheny Deck was a platform, about a foot high, for those people wanting to watch football. The deck was to keep spills off the floor. When Steelers fan get excited, they might do something crazy. The was a small Joseph Horn’s specialty shop to entice people to go to the main Department Store just across the street.
However, the real joy was the Rifle and Plow restaurant. The atmosphere was Early American to match the location of Fort Pitt just across the street. Rifles, plows, knives, and power horns hung on the walls. There were a few stuffed animals as well. The Rifle and Plow had a long bar to the right as people entered. The main attraction for me was Iron City Beer on draft.
Now as to the food. The restaurant was the usual fare of various cuts of meat and about a half dozen seafood platters. All of these dishes and side orders were delicious and done to order. Nevertheless, what really made this hotel restaurant was that venison, pheasant, rabbit, and quail were on the menu. The the Rifle and Plow was the best restaurant downtown and perhaps in the Pittsburgh area.
After remolding, the Hilton lost its appeal for me. But it has been nice sharing this memory with you.