In the midst of the holidays, Sami got a few of us together for a Thursday night run. Starting at Full Pint Wildside in Lawrenceville, we were dismayed to find it closed. Nonetheless, we bolted out along Butler Street toward downtown. Zipping along the appointed route, we covered a few new streets; the little stretch of 34th between Butler and Liberty; the upper end of Hatfield Street; 50th Street between Hatfield and Butler.
Coming back to Full Pint, I recalled some of the fun times I had there with friends watching the local band Vertigogo Surf. Just a week ago, I ducked in here during the Infamous Lawrenceville Icy Streets Event of 2019. Alas, it is no more. Stricken with grief, we went to a bar up the street.
The map below has the route, in case you, too, want to make a memorial run.
Christmas Eve, 7:23 pm, I’m doing last minute Christmas shopping. This is so late that the stores are emptying out. Decorations are already 45% off. Buzz, buzz, my phone rings.
“Hey Ed, how about a run tomorrow? 7 am? Before I have to go to my parents”
“Uh, yeah, sure”, I answer. “Can we make it 7:30? ” A brisk run to kickoff the day, before my kids come over for brunch.
So, here I am on a chilly, foggy Christmas morning, meeting Rich for a run. He had talked about running up McCardle, a favorite “hill” route which rises from the Liberty Tubes to Mount Washington. I suggested we start at Armstrong Field for ease of parking and so we could include the entirety of McCardle.
Rising from the low end of McCardle, the route took us above Cupples Field, where we could hear the bells at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church echoing through the fog. Dodging the one car coming out of the Liberty Tubes, we stormed up the McCardle escarpment. Usually, that 3/4 mile hill deserves high-fives and skyline selfies at the top. However, it was so foggy today that none of that could be seen, not even the high-fives.
We made our way to Virginia Ave, whereupon I introduced Rich to the “real” Mount Washington. Big rolling hills, stairs, more hills and alleys. There’s a variety of housing in Mount Washington, mostly in decent shape.
At the end of Virginia Ave, stairs continued down to Pyle Way and Sweetbriar Street. With temps hovering around freezing, the long wooden stairs were very slippery. Luckily, the handrails were sturdy.
As Rich commented, there’s nothing sweet about Sweetbriar St. It is a long, steep, uphill slog which takes you directly to the “Point of View” Monument. Here, Seneca leader Guyasuta and George Washington are engaged in an eternal staring contest, while the City of Pittsburgh changes below them.
From the Point of View to our cars was a fast downhill run. Rich was nice enough to bring doughnuts. Thanks Rich!
This day’s run was in Sugar Top. My starting point was the edge of a small square park dominated by a blue water tower and fenced water reservoir at the apex of the hill. From the walkway around the reservoir, on a clear day you can see all across the city. However, it was rather foggy, so I concentrated on the nearby streets. Carnak Street is more like an alley and quickly disappears into grassy asphalt. The Alpena Street Stairs allow quick access to Bigelow Blvd. Houses in the area varied from dilapidated row houses to large, nicely kept homes. Lilian McKibbin Steiner wrote the paper “Sugar Top and the Cobblestone Jungle” about redevelopment in the Hill which includes interesting tidbits and maps of this area.
Not a long run, only a mile or so, before I did some stairs at the venerable Cathedral of Learning. It was a sunny, cool day in December, so no complaints here. The small streets ran straight up the hill from Fifth Avenue to Parkman Avenue. At Parkman, the hill won and was held back by an impressive retaining wall. Some call Pittsburgh the “City of Bridges”, I think it should be called the “City of Retaining Walls”!
Once I got into the Cathedral, I got a chance to capture the view from the 34th Floor.
Good morning! I’m still in muddle-mode, not really focused on training for anything at the moment, so I wasn’t too concerned about pace or distance today. However, the desire to run more streets is starting to rev up again. I am approaching the one-year anniversary of starting this project, and I feel like I’ve made good progress this year.
Today’s run started in the South Side, under the Birmingham Bridge, with Pro-Bike and Run. I stayed with the 9:30 pace group for a few miles and then headed off on my own to catch a few small streets on the other side of the Monongahela.
After crossing the Mon on the Birmingham Bridge, I checked out a few of the small streets immediately across the bridge. Generally speaking, this an area hounded by heavy traffic and poor housing. The urban rejuvenation spurred by Pitt’s growth hasn’t made it all the way down the hill. I went up Beelen St, which has a few houses on the bottom and an isolated house at the dead-end. I believe there are old stairs at the end of Beelen, but I could be mistaken. The residents of the dead-end had parked their cars so that it looked like a private area once you got to that house, so I turned around. I took the opportunity at Mohawk St to run down and up the stairs. Most of it was solid, but in places the handrails weren’t really attached to anything. It’s unnerving to think the handrail is solid only to feel it bouncing in your hand. Those stairs went down to Fifth Ave. The upper side of Mohawk curved up into the hill, only to dead-end in front of a darkened house.
Going down to Kirkpatrick again, I came across a section of Allequippa St. There’s a busier section at the top of Pitt’s campus. This section, however, was still paved with blocks and went straight up the hill to a dead-end. A couple of houses on the left were in bad shape. One had the blue “Condemned” kiss of death on it. The other had stairs going up to it. I thought they just went to the front porch, but from maps, it seems that these stairs go all the way up to the Oak Hill neighborhood on the top of the hill. Nonetheless, this wasn’t too inviting, so I turned around again.
At this point, I had run a couple of miles, so I decided to just do a few close-by streets and head back across the bridge. I found myself in an area of better maintained row-houses. Circling the block, I came across a little free library and a couple of well-decorated areas nestled into the hillside. This was a pleasant surprise.
I made my way back across the bridge in time to have some cookies and coffee at the end of the run.
What an evening for a run! My original plan involved driving to the east corner of the city, doing a short run and then meeting up with my daughter. But as the winter sun started drooping in the sky, a band of snow showers blew across Pittsburgh, and Lawrenceville, in particular. The snow wasn’t much, maybe a half-inch or an inch. However, with temperatures in the mid 20’s and a brisk wind, any snow which melted soon re-froze. In no time at all, the streets were sheets of ice. I found myself on a small street in Upper Lawrencville, with nowhere to go, so I got out and went for a jog. At times, it was no more than a walk.
I went up the hill toward Stanton Ave, branching off on McCandless. At the top, where a three car fender-bender was still being sorted out, the street was so icy, a woman extended a helping hand so I didn’t fall. That was very nice, seeing as she was one of the drivers. Up top, on Carmelia St, Celadine St, and Alford Way, the roads were mainly snow covered and pretty much deserted. This is an interesting area. High above Lawrenceville, it is in Stanton Heights, but has a couple of streets and stairs connecting it to the neighborhood below. You can see the tops of downtown buildings and the cliffs above Route 28. It is almost like a rural community in a hidden corner of Pittsburgh.
At any rate, I jogged up and down the snowy and icy streets, eventually coming down the 54th Street Stairs. I was taking an awesome picture of the footsteps in the snow on the descending stairway when my phone literally froze. I was glad to get the run in. Eventually, salt trucks came by and the roads became passable enough to drive again. Whew!
This section of town is marked by steep slopes, necessitating the stairs, followed by relatively flat streets with awesome views and a mix of houses.
Where do those stairs go? And what about that next flight? And the next one? In spite of their saintly names, the stairs in this section of town do not end up in paradise. If you’re lucky, though, you might make it to Climax.
This section of town is marked by steep slopes, necessitating the stairs, followed by relatively flat streets with awesome views and a mix of houses. A glass-enclosed cliff house with a Porsche parked on the deck is juxtaposed with the condemned house with peeling wooden siding. From the top, as you approach Allentown, soaring hills give you views of Oakland. You can even see the Cathedral of Learning peeking between the wires at East Warrington Ave.
And if you make it that far, you’ll come to Climax Street, with its steep Belgium block paving stones.
If I were a crow, a flying crow, that is, getting from the 16th Street Bridge to the Birmingham Bridge would be a piece of cake. Start on one of the 16th St Bridge globes, go up about 300 feet or so, fly directly over the Hill District and coast onto some light post on the Birmingham Bridge. Getting there on foot is another matter, with railroad tracks, the East Busway and a cliff standing in the way.
Instead, I went up Liberty Avenue with a Steel City group. A Thanksgiving Day Parade, was starting up, so bands and floats stretched far down Liberty Ave. I saw Santa’s Sled, but Santa was AWOL. Probably checking on kids or something. Anyway, just past Santa’s Sled and to the right, I went up 28th Street. This curves and starts to ascend a slope before crossing an old metal bridge, the 28th St Bridge, which takes you over the tracks and busway.
Now, when I’m driving, I always go left after the bridge. Today, I went right. It took me to a warren of dead-end streets perched above the Strip District and just below Bigelow Boulevard. There was a mix of houses; some fairly nice and well-maintained. I was hoping there would be some stairs or other way to get past Bigelow’s fifteen foot retaining wall. Alas, I did not find any. So I had to retrace my steps and run through Polish Hill. I caught Herron Ave, trudged up the steep slope, took the stairs UNDER Bigelow Blvd and kept on Herron.
I zig-zagged a little bit in the Hill, eventually making it to Kirkpatrick Street, where cars were parked on every inch of the sidewalks as a little league football game got underway in Kennard Playground. Crossing the Birmingham Bridge, I scaled the barrier between the empty bike lane and the sidewalk, preferring to get something between me and the cars. Then it was just about circling around the South Side because you can’t walk directly from the Birmingham Bridge to UNDER the bridge. Damn railroad tracks! If only I were a crow!