Who is he? Sunday, “he” was me. I was running in Oakland and decided to pay the remnants of Forbes Field a visit. The first remnant was the outfield wall, 457 feet from home plate. The second was home plate itself, preserved under plexiglass in the floor of Posvar Hall. Sleepy studying students looked askance at a bundled up runner traipsing in, taking a picture and running out.
But, as Pitt has built up Oakland, “he” could also be every student, parent and professor drawn to its burgeoning educational, medical and research center. Here is Pitt’s research page, where you can see for yourself how large it has gotten. I’m a graduate of Pitt myself. But this day, I was just a runner, trying to capture a few more streets. Old Oakland is hard to see here, but there are glimpses.
After a few miles I stopped by the Cathedral for a few trips up the stairs.
Pro-Bike had a group run from Caliente’s Pizza at 6:30. While the days are noticeably longer, its quite dark by 6:30. It’s even darker at 6:40, when I got there. I looked into Caliente and didn’t see anybody, so I took off to chart some new streets. This section of Bloomfield is adjacent to the Bloomfield Bridge, a half-mile bridge which soars 185 feet over the ravine below. My first turn, down Panama Way, directly dead-ended into a ramp wall leading to the bridge. It wasn’t an auspicious start, but then I noticed something.
In between flaking white paint were dozens of neatly painted coats of arms, presumably of Polish towns. WTF! I had always considered Bloomfield to be an Italian neighborhood. They stretched all along the curving ramp. A little post-run research turned up this article from the Pittsburgh Orbit about the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. My impression is that the owners painted those coats of arms. Impressive. This also cheered me up a bit. This is why running ALL the streets is worthwhile. You just don’t know what cool little nuggets you’ll find.
This area still gave me the creeps, and I heard some shouting and screaming, so I moved on. Turning left, as the bridge rose up, the area was fenced in with ten-foot high black chain link-fence, Bloomfield Park. It has a Dek Hockey rink, a basketball court, a swimming pool, all nestled under the bridge. But those loud shouts were disconcerting. Sounded like a few teens haranguing each other. I needed to get going. This area has small streets, smaller alleys and tightly packed houses.
I crisscrossed some alleys. I saw the entrance to some stairs, but decided not to venture down in the dark. Finally I got to the other side of the park. The group of “teens” I had been so worried about was just a toddler testing his lungs while riding a tricycle and his Mom trying to corral him. They weren’t so intimidating after all.
From here, I just ran in and out of the small streets and alleys from Liberty Avenue up to Penn. Finishing in front of Caliente’s Pizza, the Pro-Bike group was just finishing too. Time for a beer.
Sunday dawned cold, windy and cloudy. I wasn’t thrilled to run in the cold, but since I had skipped Saturday’s run, blaming the ice, I felt compelled to run at least a few miles. Besides, I had a run all mapped out and waiting in RunGo
This was a run born in a warm house. A run mapped with forethought and precision. A route maximizing the number of new streets run while minimizing the distance. I had carefully looked at my tracking map and plotted a route on RunGo to take in all of the little missing streets in Arlington. Now parking on Fernleaf Street, I got out of my warm car ready to run! Damn, now I had to wait in the freezing wind to get my GPS signal. Once the Garmin locked in, I started down Fernleaf, dutifully taking the left on Elsie St. Water seeping across the road had frozen in place, making shiny stripes of slipperyness. As I slowed to take a picture, I heard a beep. Argh, I had never actually started the Garmin.
Now concentrating on getting this route done, I listened intently for further directions from RunGo.
“In 10 yards, make a right”
“In 35 feet, turn around”
Done! (Ugh, now I had to go UPHILL)
“Make a left”
“Make a right”
Whoa! No street there. Maybe a driveway. Keep going!
“You are off course. You are off course”
my conversation with RunGo
And so it began. The good intentions and planning went by the wayside. I looped around a bit and then decided to finish Zaruba Street, leaving the rest of the route for another day. When I had been in this area a few days ago, I remember seeing the Zaruba Street sign quite distinctly. Today, however, I ran right by it. I turned off on Devlin Street, which dead-ends into a playground. My picture of the cemetery must have done it, because dead-ends were mainly what I saw for the rest of the run.
On the Strava map, it looks like there is a long flight of stairs at the end of Castle Street. Actually, Castle Street was blocked off with Jersey barriers and had a condemned house standing on its corner. All I found at the end was dirt, bull-dozed into trees. I did find that Syrian Street becomes a stair case going down to Arlington Avenue. Azul Street looked promising, but halfway up the hill, it too, was blocked off.
Making my way back to the car, I stayed on Spring Street until it hit Arlington, where I took the Marengo Street Stairs towards the purple-topped Congregation of Yahshua. A right, a left and viola, I was back at the car. This did not go as planned, but it wasn’t a bad run. I could have actually gotten back on route with RunGo if I had had more time. In Pittsburgh, at least, the difference between online maps and reality is often striking.
If the Southside Slopes are renown for their stairs, East Allegheny should be renown for its alleys. This unfortunate little neighborhood was eviscerated by the I-279 highway built between 1985 and 1989. I’m unclear as to what was here beforehand, but I understand it to have been an area of small neighborhoods. I do know that the construction was delayed due to the finding of a cemetery. This article from the Post-Gazette sheds some light on it.
At any rate, the section I was running through is a small warren of tiny streets and alleys. Drivers mostly go through here to access highways, or find their way into the Strip District over the 16th Street Bridge. I was trying to catch all these streets in one short run.
Some of the housing is newer town homes, some are rather old row houses and tall, narrow brick houses. There are sparks of fun and grass-roots improvements. There’s a homemade playground on one corner, there’s a community garden on another. There’s a first class German Club, Teutonia Mannerchor. There’s some dilapidation.
A section of Chestnut St and the narrow Lovitt Way escaped my attention, but otherwise, I completed surprisingly interesting little area.
This was a fairly long run, over half-marathon distance, on a cool, cloudy Saturday morning. I started at Nova Place, on Pittsburgh’s Northside. It is literally around the corner from the Children’s Museum, a place where I spent many hours with my children. It was quite an adventure land for them, with so many activities, from a multi-story maze to painting and screen printing.
Running out of the Northside along Chateau Street, the neighborhood becomes less stately and more forlorn. Old architecture still shows its fine bones, even in decay.
Crossing under the Route 65 highway took me to an industrial area. It features wide flat streets and is lined with large yards for the Port Authority, Duquesne Light, Mascaro Construction and others. Railroads coming out of the city make a large curve here and cross the Ohio River on massive bridges.
Knowing these flat streets wouldn’t last forever, I made a turn onto Eckert Street. Strangely enough, a group of runners passed by, coming down Eckert Street. I was curious as to which running group they represented, so asked the last one ” Who are you running with?” She just smiled, threw up her hands and said “I’m in my own pace group!” She was only 50 yards behind the other five, but it must have seemed like a mile.
Now, I was truly exploring. Like all good explorers, people had actually been there before, but it was new to me.
With all the bridges, hills and houses on the hills above, I knew there would be stairs somewhere. Sure enough, just past Don’s Diner, in the shade of the California Avenue bridge, I found a set of stairs. Coming off the stairs on top, I landed in a cove of fences and backyards with a narrow sidewalk leading to the bridge. Once on the bridge, I headed north, away from downtown. I was officially in the Brighton Heights neighborhood. Rising slowly, California Avenue goes past a mix of houses, mostly on the larger, older side where dinosaurs peaked out from the bushes.
Eventually, on Wilksboro Avenue, I ignored another “No Outlet” sign, and ran to the end, hoping to find another set of stairs. I didn’t, but what I DID find was amazing! There was a long pedestrian bridge rising high off the ravine floor. It had the structure of a full size bridge, but only the width of a sidewalk. Unfortunately, it was closed. I haven’t seen another structure like this in Pittsburgh. As I later discovered, this is the “Wilksboro Avenue Footbridge”.
My detour around the closed bridge brought me to another typically Pittsburgh scene, a small neighborhood park with a lively game going on. In an earlier run through the Hill District, it was football. Here it was Deck Hockey.
Crossing into Bellevue briefly, I turned around and made my way back toward downtown. I kept a block off of California, on Massachusetts. There were some cool houses; the blue portal house, the rambling wooden wreck with a rounded porch. I found myself going down Richardson Street, nearly to Eckert St again, but took the stairs up to Bainton Street instead. That was a long flight!
I ran through the upper section of California-Kirkbride, where Success is a two-block street. It is better than Fineview, where Compromise is a dead-end. Finally, I got to Marvista street and its long flight of stairs. This one is not for the faint of heart. Many of the railings are missing and there’s a section of broken stairway as well. At the low end, Marvista is a sad street rising up from California Avenue. But some people still live here beside the houses emblazoned with the city’s blue “condemned” badge. Missing from my pictures are the set of stairs on Hyena Way that come down at right angles to Marvista St.
From here, I just ran back to Nova Place, catching a few more streets on the Northside. Nova Place was busy when I got there, full of runners and families recovering from the Children’s Museum.
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.