Gaslights and a Wooden Street

Ah, take me back to the days of gaslights and wooden streets! Eh, not really. These curious and nostalgic scenes are delightful yet do not reflect the dismal quality of life in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. I much prefer the current cleaner Pittsburgh. As they say “The good ‘ole days weren’t so good.”


https://www.strava.com/activities/5243296842
Route of RATS run #00403 in Shadyside and Point Breeze

I started this run, number 403, in Frick Park even though the object of the run was the curious winding avenues of Chatham University. But first, a photo of the elusive groundhog, cousin to Phil. I’ve seen groundhogs everywhere in the city, from Uptown parking lots to Lincoln Place. They scurry into holes under porches. They dive into garden bunkers. There’s one that lives in my neighbor’s yard. It must have an agreement with their dog, as it boldly traipses across their yard and into my garden. It loves to sample tomatoes, preferable almost ripe and generously leaves the half eaten fruits for birds to gorge on.

Groundhog
Grr, a groundhog

Nonetheless, back to the roads through Chatham University. These ‘private’ roads are often used by pedestrians and patient short-cut seekers to cross from Fifth Avenue to Wilkins Avenue. They are also some of the most gorgeous streets in Pittsburgh, with large mansions (now college buildings) on small winding lanes flanked by flowering dogwoods and towering oaks.

After wandering the winding lanes of Chatham, I traveled up Shady Avenue as the evening became drizzly. There are many small dead-ends off of Shady, as well as a few private drives. I ended up by following Mellon Park Road from Shady to Beechwood. I’m not sure what’s going on with the green lights, but I can assure you they are not from photo-editing.

I simply ran up and down and up and down Beechwood to my starting point. No groundhog out now.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5248910773
Strava route of RATS run #00404

This run was in Shadyside as well, though in the busier sections near Walnut Street and Ellsworth Avenue. I was on a mission to snag a number of dead-ends and alley-ways I had previously overlooked. The south side of the busway is quite residential, though crowded. A large percentage of the huge ostentatious houses have been carved into apartments, condos and town homes. There are still a few mansions along Fifth Avenue, though. The north side of the busway is more inner-city urban, with six-story apartment buildings and parking garages.

Getting there, though, I ran to Canterbury Lane, a dead-end; Aiken Place, another dead-end and Roslyn Place, an historic street off of Ellsworth. What makes Roslyn so historic? Well, the street is ‘paved’ with wood. And it isn’t wooden planks, it is more like the ends of 4×8’s. Very odd, but here, take a look.

As I say, very odd. How do they plow in the winter? Anyway, from here, I scurried down the alleys off of South Graham Street. One side goes to a Boys and Girls Club and the other dead-ends into a beautiful wall of ivy.

Crossing over the busway on the Graham Street walkway took me to Centre Avenue. It is a hopping place, with a Whole Foods, a Giant Eagle and lots of construction. Commerce Street, little more than an alley, parallels Centre and yet is much quieter. I made my way to Motor Square Garden and came back on Dapper Way.

So, I must say, my GPS wasn’t super accurate on this run. Sections of the GPS’ route are ‘translated’ off my actual route by 75 yards or so. Unfortunately, this misses the ‘nodes’ on CityStrides and doesn’t ‘complete’ the street. Argh. I’m uncertain as to whether I’ll run them again, which is easy enough, or just mark them as complete. Hmm, decisions, decisions.

Summer Hill For 400, Alex

Here is a run from the first week of May, RATS run #00400 in Summer Hill.

https://www.strava.com/activities/5223940511
Summer Hill and the Livin is Easy – RATS run #00400

On this bright sunny Saturday a group of friends were doing their Virtual Pittsburgh Marathon. With Covid-19 still lingering, the in-person event had been cancelled, but Cathy, Avi, and Danielle were determined to do their first marathon while Dennis and Mark came along and added another marathon to their long list. ( I apologize if I’ve missed anyone.) So, while waiting to cheer on these folks at their 20 mile mark, I popped up to Summer Hill for a run, keeping a close eye on my phone for word that the runners were approaching 20 miles.

Today’s run was about clearing Dewey Street, the northernmost section of Evergreen Road and Golf Way in Summer Hill. Additionally, if the bat phone didn’t ring, I’d sneak in a few side streets off of Colby.

Dewey Street is a short thoroughfare squished between a steep hill and I-279. A long flight of stairs, Gribble Street, lands at its beginning and only a half-dozen houses are scattered along the tree lined street.

From there, I followed the pedestrian walkways under a rocky moonscape created by the I-279/Evergreen Street interchange. With limited visibility, I waited patiently for the lights to change and made sure no car was whizzing by when I did eventually cross, periodically checking the bat phone. Ironically enough, that led me up the long curving hill of Evergreen Road with no sidewalks, so I was still anxious about getting hit by a car zipping down the blind curve. Guess what? I made it.

Halpern Road led me to Colby Road and hence to Gold Way. It is just a little alley, ending in a nice green pathway. The neighbors should really get together and make a putting green there. It’s not like any cars are coming.

The bat phone still didn’t ring, so I got a chance to run out of the city on Faber Street. It was all lush and green suburbia.

Faber Road

The bat phone still wasn’t ringing, so I checked off Husk Street, little more than a driveway. But then, I looked up in the sky and saw a tiny plane high spelling out words…

G-E-T..Y-O-U-R.. A-S-S.. T-O.. H-I-G-H-L-A-N-D.. P-A-R-K

Whoops! I guess we weren’t using the bat phone today after all.

(I made it back in time to see Cathy’s group storm in, snack up and speed off.)

Spring in the Almost Suburbs

Here are two runs from early April, 2021. The first, RATS #00391, winds through Brookline (again), while the next, RATS #00392, finishes a cool section of Lincoln Place. That’s a little bit of a cartographer’s joke, but I’ll let you figure it out.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5082128211
Route of RATS #00391

This was an evening run in the alleys of Brookline again. They seem to be never-ending. One curiosity was that I happened to revisit Dorchester Street only to realize that the building on the end of Castlegate was gone. In an earlier post I caught ongoing demolition of The Bradley Place/ DePaul Center. Time flies. There’s only wide open land there now, slated for new development.

Early twilight left sunshine on the houses of Brookline and Overbrook. The first two pictures below are from the top of Castlegate Avenue and the end of Viaduct Way, respectively. The bottom shows just how steep Queensboro Avenue is. All ye runners, do your hill repeats here!!

With the fading sun I saw some fading glory, too. This speedster could’ve been a contender, I daresay. The blossoms, come back year after year, though.

And that was it, a bit over three miles in the ambience of a Brookline Spring evening.


https://www.strava.com/activities/5103612150
Route of Strava run #00392 in Lincoln Place

Here, I revisted Lincoln Place, that sprawling section of Pittsurgh which some mistake for Munhall or West Mifflin. It certainly has a suburban feel, even though from the hilltops you can see downtown.

I thought the white house below was pretty cool. When looking at the picture again, I realized that the neighboring house is nearly identical. Further on, the little brick house has a veritable gravy train of wagons in front of it. Cox Place, a cul-de-sac no less, is prototypical suburbia.

One feature of Lincoln Place is the number of high-voltage power lines running through it. It does help with navigation, though. Just follow the buzzing.

Power, power, power!

Here and there were a few sparks of the unusual. For instance, I don’t think I’ve seen a car quite like this blue one before and I’m sure some small child grieved when their exuberant bouncing exploded the bouncy house. All those balls, needing a new home. Lastly, its always nice to see a little library along the way. With snacks, too!

And that was all. There are a couple of streets I’ve missed here, but by and large, I’ve completed Lincoln Place. It took me a long time to get out here, but I’m glad I did.

Missed Chance and Second Chance

Two Runs in Hazelwood

First Chance

https://www.strava.com/activities/4460056146
RATS #00338 in the dark, missing Chance Way

It was a chilly and wet Friday night. I hadn’t run since Tuesday. I had to get out and cover some streets if I was ever going to finish this project. So, I decided on a short jaunt in Hazelwood. There’s convenient parking, it isn’t too far away and super runner Alyssa’s recent posts about Chance Way motivated me to find it. Actually, I “knew” where it was, a little alley off of Tulleymet Street, but somehow kept missing it. I swear there are micro “Bermuda Triangles” all over Pittsburgh. Small areas which keep obfuscating themselves whenever I try to find them. Chance Way is in one of them.

I started at Hazelwood Green, formerly a coke plant and now undergoing a transformation into a research manufacturing facility. The plan was to go up to Sylvan Street, skip down the Tullymet steps and run Chance Way. Alas, there is another set of steps, Berwick Street, which I mistook for Tulleymet. I was confused not to see Chance Way, but figured it was just too dark. Along Irvine Street, I caught a glimpse of interesting flowers made of glass and rebar. Osprey Way and Finn Way were rather creepy, but music playing from one building gave some semblance of normalcy. It wasn’t until further on, looking down Chaplain Way was that I got the heebie-jeebies and called it a night.

Second Chance

https://www.strava.com/activities/4463550140
RATS #00339 – Second Chance

After Friday’s missed attempt at running Chance Way, I enlisted Naomi’s help and took another shot at finding Chance Way. It’s amazing what running in the daylight, with a friend, will do. We passed a veritable garden of flowers made from glass and rebar. I also espied a real garden, all buttoned up for the winter.

Further on, we went up Berwick Street and found the bottom end of Chance Way. It is actually blocked off by jersey barriers, but was passable. That brought us to Tulleymet and the lower section of its three tiers of steps.

From there, we went down Sylvan Avenue, passing the Berwick steps and this old church structure. It looks to be in use as a church or community center, now accepting mask donations.

Continuing on to Tecumseh Street, Champlain Street didn’t look as bad in the noon daylight. It’s still not an area you might go to for a picnic, but it is filled with small houses now broadcasting Christmas music through the streets.

So, while running, I had noticed the mural for Tonee Turner, and took the picture, but didn’t think too much more about it. Only now, as I’m writing, did I realize that she has been missing only since December 30, 2019. Just a week earlier, her sister and friends had had a walk to remind Pittsburgh she has never been found. This news story on KDKA tells more about it. It is worth noting that, while the mural was here in ragged Hazelwood, she was last seen in splendid Squirrel Hill. It is rather disconcerting that this happened at all, much less in places I’m very familiar with.

Moving on from the flats, we charged up the West Elizabeth Street railroad overpass. Need any tires? This wooden warehouse is full of them. At least they haven’t been dumped on a hillside yet. On the horizon were hillier parts of Hazelwood, past St. Stephen’s.

Up the hills we went. Found the sun on Rose Way and chatted with the owner of this overwhelmingly decorated house. Shortly afterwards, we made it to the top of Ashton Avenue, where it meets Mansion Street. Mansion Street has a nice set of steps down to Johnston Avenue.

Now we made our way down Johnston Avenue to Second Avenue. There are a couple of interesting places along Second Avenue, such as the French bakery, La Gourmandine and the Hungarian restaurant, Jozsa Corner.

Finally, we made it back to Hazelwood Green. I stopped to read about its future while Naomi rounded out her mileage. In spite of the 550′ of elevation she was still smiling.

Bright afternoon in Perry Hilltop

https://www.strava.com/activities/4165506902
RATS #00309 – Fineview and Perry Hilltop

Running directly after work took me up past the marque Fineview destinations to some of the less spectacular streets, in the Notsofineview area. Nonetheless, it was a gorgeous afternoon, just right for running.

Nestled in the East Allegheny neighborhood, at the foot of the bluffs going up to Fineview are small cobblestone streets marked by spectacularly renovated row houses. In contrast, houses on Lafayette Street, on the ‘backside’ of Fineview, are twice the size and half the price.

Driving into Fineview requires navigating steep twisting roads. As a pedestrian, I had an easier time, just going up the James Street steps. Up and up, my path took me to Edenvale Street, and Fineview Avenue. In spite of its bold name, Fineview Avenue is only two blocks long and dead-ends into a wooded hillside. Lanark Avenue has a typical view. There’s a TV tower stretching into the sky at the top of the hill and, on the other side, in what I call ‘the backside’ of Fineview, Lafayette Street is dominated by huge old houses high off the street.

From here, the neighborhood descends literally and figuratively. Tiny alleys with 15% grades drop down to parallel streets tilting off the hill. The area was busy, with men working on houses and washing cars, kids playing on their porches and in the streets. Trotting down Olive Street, a cloud passed over the sun and I was dismayed with a trifecta of bad signs. First: a small dead-end with rapidly declining houses, second: a robust dog vigorously barking and testing the structural integrity of its porch gate, and third: two shiny cars parked in the middle of the street. As I approached, though, a teenager came onto the porch. I asked whether there were steps at the end of the street. He shushed the dog and proudly assured me that the steps were there. The sun came out and I was treated to this amazing set of wooden steps.

From here, I ventured up onto Perry Hilltop, on the other side of the ravine now carrying Federal Street. Encircled by Perrysville Avenue and Federal Street, there are only a few streets there. However, in spite of the views and convenience, this section of town looks forgotten. There are offices for Allegheny County, and Triangle Tech has a campus up here. However, it has the look of a dusty shopping area no one goes to anymore. The backstreets are lined with derelict houses. Kenyon Way must have been an impressive set of steps in its heyday, but now, its a jungle. From Clayton Avenue, the top of the steps’ railing is visible through the knotweed. That house is the same as in the “Lithgow Avenue” picture and the houses in the far hill are where I came from.

From here I traipsed down to North Park along West North Avenue. Last year, they restored one of its fountains, which, I must admit, looks great.

September 2020 Catch-Up

Summary

September 2020 was a pretty busy month with 124.8 miles run and 12,500 feet of elevation gain, the most since May. I ran often, 23 days with 17 of these covering new streets. I crossed over the 300 run threshold. With any luck, I’ll be done before I hit 400 runs, but that remains to be seen. I can see a flicker of light at the end of this project tunnel!

Unfortunately, my blogging hasn’t kept up with my running, so this catch-up blog will be a veritable book. Oh well, here goes!

RATS #00292

https://www.strava.com/activities/4012388510
RATS #00292 in Squirrel Hill

This was a short run to cover a few errant streets in Squirrel Hill and Schenley Park. I cut through Frick Park, using Iron Gate Trail to vault me over the big hill separating Swisshelm Park and Squirrel Hill. By the time I came back, it was too dark to gallop through the park without a flashlight.

RATS #00293

https://www.strava.com/activities/4016390122
RATS #00293 in Perry Hilltop

This was roughly a 10K to Perry Hilltop from West Park. It got started off with a sparkling sculpture, a yellow-eyed cat and a colorful backyard.

Then, I explored Irwin Avenue, which rises out of Central Northside. Surprisingly, it is blocked off for a few hundred yards and then jumps up to the top of Perry Hilltop on steps.

I zigged-zagged up here a bit, eventually finding my way to North Charles Street. Just before crossing the Swindell Bridge, I cut off to the left on Hazelton, to clear up that dead-end. Further along, up on the hilltop, I got a good view of the Swindell Bridge over I-279 and then wandered down into Fineview. That’s not something you hear much… “DOWN” into Fineview. Everything is steep over here. On one side, you have the ravine down to I-279, on the other the streets fall steeply towards Perrysville Avenue. Tall houses stare down from their perches like vultures.

RATS #00295

https://www.strava.com/activities/4025090610

This was a run cut short by tired knees and mistaken maps. Nonetheless, I made some progress on a few Shadyside alleys and small streets near Ellis School. By the time I got to East Liberty, though, I was done.

RATS #00297

https://www.strava.com/activities/4071163546
RATS #00297 West Liberty and Brookline

This was a gut check run. It was late and I didn’t go far, but I got out there. I did finish off Flatbush Avenue in Brookline, but it was too dark to do much exploring and I didn’t stop long enough to take crisp pictures.

RATS #00298

https://www.strava.com/activities/4075550982
RATS #00298 – Brookline

Another evening run in Brookline. This time, I made a beeline for streets on the left of Whited Street, as you go towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard. I really wasn’t sure what I would find, but found very residential, suburban streets perched on a plateau. There were tweens goofing off in the street, a couple walking their golden retriever and a mom walking up and down the street with a stroller and a chatty three year old; “Mom, why is he running THAT way?”

Coming back along Whited Street is NOT something I would recommend, especially in the darkness. At least, I could see headlights in time to huddle off the road.

RATS #00299

https://www.strava.com/activities/4079580634
RATS #00299

This was a short run in the South Side Flats. Like a vampire, this neighborhood keeps coming back with some little street or alley I’ve missed. I’m really trying to drive a stake through the heart and get this area done. In spite of the short run, there was lots to see. Perhaps my favorite were the pierogie signs around Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church. Downtown Pittsburgh is just across the Monongahela River and the skyscrapers caught the evening sun nicely.

RATS #00301

https://www.strava.com/activities/4094305425
RATS #00301

This was quite an adventure. I checked out one of the lesser known neighborhoods, New Homestead. It is west of West Homestead/Munhall, east of the Glenwood Bridge interchange and south of Sandcastle yet north of Mifflin Road. Looking at the map below, you might notice that there are three disconnected areas of New Homestead. I ran most of the northeast section.

New Homestead

Also looking at the map, you might notice a lack of streets. Okay, a lack of anything. Your observations would be pretty much correct. There’s just a number of long streets dotted with houses and large areas of woods. Deer were everywhere and seemed offended by me disturbing them. I actually parked in West Homestead, above a baseball diamond.

RATS #00302

https://www.strava.com/activities/4103987670
RATS #00302 – Carrick & Overbrook

Run number 302 saw me back in Carrick and Overbrook. Unlike New Homestead, this area is dense with houses and people. Hills, steps, alleys, this run had it all. I don’t remember seeing many deer, though. I was amused by the war memorial in front of Carrick High School. Most memorials of this age have howitzers or bronze soldiers. This one had a bronzed shell. Many lawns were covered in political signs; often with neighbors cheering opposite sides. Just think how fun that block party would be! That cat, however, wasn’t the least ruffled as I run past it, huffing and puffing up the hill.

The Englert Street steps conveniently took me from Saw Mill Run Boulevard up the hill again, while the Dartmore Steps were just a convenience. Unfortunately, the Antenor Way Steps were blocked off, even though they didn’t look too bad.

RATS #00303

https://www.strava.com/activities/4108586048
RATS #00303 – Lawrenceville

Speaking of neighborhoods which keep coming back with uncovered alleys and streets, Lawrenceville takes the cake. This five mile run just went round and round dim back alleys. Interestingly enough, it was busy enough, between restaurants and residents that I felt more comfortable here than in New Homestead.

RATS #00304

https://www.strava.com/activities/4115676785
RATS #00304

This was a nine mile run (not to be confused with the stream of the same name) through Manchester. With this run, I’ve covered all the streets between the railroad and Chateau Street. This is a large, flat area. Mexican War Streets, with their 1890’s row houses gradually transform into sprawling mixed housing, newer three bedroom split levels interspersed with magnificent mansions. Some of the ‘mansions’ have seen better days.

Alleys are where you see the underside of a neighborhood. These show the old warehouse nature of the area. There’s also a major railroad line, below grade, which dominates the eastern fringe of this area.

But there’s a lot going on here. New construction isn’t too surprising given the great location and flat land. People have gardens and little libraries and seem to generally be active. I didn’t expect to see that huge rooster mural or a booming market along Juniata Street, but there it is.

RATS #00306

https://www.strava.com/activities/4125952429
RATS #00306

Once again, I returned to Carrick and Overbrook in the evening. At this point in the month, I was really trying to complete a Strava Challenge (200km), so after doing Yale Street, I just went exploring.

Yale Street is in the same are as RATS #00302. One section has extensive steps leading up into Phillips Park, then it drops precipitously to Dartmore Street. Clawing my way back to Brownsville Road, I needed a couple more miles, so trotted along Carrick Avenue. It was fully dark and I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going. Nontheless, I ‘just needed to bear right’ a couple of times to take me back to Brownsville Road and into Pittsburgh again.

RATS #00307

RATS #00307 – Banksville

Must say, I’m proud of this run. I planned it pretty well and stuck to the plan. It was a little over seven miles in Banksville where it borders Greentree and Mount Lebanon. It is a nice area with long winding streets. However, there weren’t many distinctive things to see. At the start, I did pass a soccer field off of Hillsdale Avenue, where a girl’s soccer game was in progress under the lights. They have a powerful PA system, and for the rest of the run, I could hear the announcers.

That’s All Folks!

So, there you have it. September 2020 in the books. I think this is the longest “Catch-Up” blog I’ve had and I might change things up a bit to avoid this in the future. Maybe a weekly blog?

At any rate, I want to run a bit farther in October and continue to efficiently cover streets. I’ll try to get into Lincoln Place, another outlying neighborhood, as well as continue to finish out the Hill District, Marshall-Shadeland and Carrick.

Banking on Southern Steps

https://www.strava.com/activities/4022027255
Strava route of RATS #00294

Good morning! Last Sunday I mapped out a little run in Brookline and left some room for exploration. Explore I did, crossing over into Banksville as far as Greentree, then coming back through Mount Lebanon and Dormont.

Brookline

Many of my “goal” streets were in Brookline, where Brookline Boulevard curves down to West Liberty Avenue. It is the site of the “Brookline” sign and has several small streets crammed together. The Boulevard circles a small section of lower ground packed with small houses. A few sets of stairs, such as Bodkin Steps and Kenilworth Steps rise out of the bowl. After the run, I feasted on strudel from DeLuca’s.

Wenzell and Louisiana

When Brookline Boulevard crosses West Liberty Avenue, it changes name to Wenzell Avenue. Wenzell Avenue has spotty sidewalks and rather steeply drops through Beechview to its terminus at Banksville Road. Some sections of Wenzell border the Borough of Dormont. Given this topography, it is no surprise this section is riddled with steps. Neeld Way, dropping out of Beechview streets, is a rather long set of steps going from Candace Street to Wenzell. Wenzell, itself, has a long section of street steps as it drops to Banksville Road.

However, the most impressive and interesting sets of steps is Louisiana Street. Just after the Neeld Way steps dropped me unceremoniously onto a shoulder of Wenzell Avenue, I looked up and saw the sign for Louisiana Street. In the summer, it looks like one of the many street signs to nowhere, swallowed up in knotweed. However, brushing aside the branches, I found myself in a long shady step tunnel. Along the way, a house arose on the right. It’s common to find ruins along stairs, but this large cream colored house looked pretty nice. Continuing as the stairs become a causeway, I came across the house’s mailbox and garbage cans. A living, breathing orphan house! Shortly after, it rises again to a streets blending into Dormont. Taking Ordinance Avenue steps out, I circled around to see it again.