Upper Lawrenceville – Mission Accomplished? Not quite.

RATS #00236

Today’s run embodied a simple plan; start in Lower Lawrenceville, struggle up the steep streets into Stanton Heights and come back around on Butler Street. It went pretty well and I covered a few holes in my map.

My rough approach to Stanton Heights was to ascend 54th Street, pick my way over the steps from Leydon Street to Kendall Street and go from there. In the top corner of Lawrenceville, it was interesting to see the differing housing type. That simple small house is on Kendall. The larger traditional house is on Duncan and the new modern condos are perched on the top of 54th Street, before it becomes a stairway. These are all within a couple of blocks from one another.

In an earlier blog I documented the stairs down to Upview Terrace and Woodbine Street. Today, I continued on Woodbine as it re-crossed Stanton Avenue into another section of suburban-in-the-city living. This is quite a contrast to the densely packed houses of Lawrenceville. Off to the left, down Oglethorpe Street, Garage Way and Drive Way (yes, that’s a real street name, “Drive Way”), the streets take you to the edge of bluffs where wildlife abound.

I would like to come here some quiet morning and just watch the birds. Continuing down to Morningside, I made my way to Baker Street with its nice view of the Allegheny. The road steeply falls toward Butler Street, where the sidewalk ends and the steps begin. From here, it was a flat fast run back to my car.

I’m now a half-block away from completing the streets between Butler and Stanton Avenue and have only a half-dozen streets in Stanton Heights itself. Once I get One Wild Place done and a couple of streets jutting off of Butler done, I will have run every street from Butler Avenue to North Negley Avenue.

Esplen Revisited

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RATS #00235 – Revisiting Esplen and Sheraden

On this chilly, snowy day (yes, in May!), I revisited Esplen, where I first “officially” started this Run All The Streets project. That was in December of 2018. (blog “Esplen in Winter“). Now, 234 streets later, I came back to Esplen, with a little more direction and method. This time, Esplen was just a side-bar. My main objectives were in Sheraden: to run the corner where Stadium Street becomes Menges Street; cross Boulder Way off my list and run the length of Merwyn Avenue.

But, for old time’s sake, here are some pics from Esplen. Oregon Street is pretty typical. Radcliffe Street here is crossing railroad tracks on its way climbing the hill into Sheraden. Isolated from the rest of the community, at the corner of West Carson Street and Stanhope Street, is the Veteran’s Memorial.

Shortly after the Radcliffe Street Steps, I turned right and climbed Stadium Street. The middle section of Stadium Street is blocked off. I had been wondering why, then realized that someone had thrown out a piece of garbage and the street was sliding off the hill. Of course, it is only because the street is sliding off the hill that it is closed. But I wonder, what would happen if we closed streets because people threw garbage out? I suppose all the streets would be closed. Or would people learn to NOT throw garbage out of their car? Hmm… Honestly, this isn’t too bad compared to some areas I’ve seen.

Stadium Street. The top is blocked off by Jersey Barriers.

In my journey across the Sheraden plateau, I always like to go over to Brunot Avenue, with its sweeping views of the Ohio River and Brunot Island.

Coming off of Stafford, I saw a stairway rise to my right. It was Ashlyn Street. For a good bit, the stairs were solid, then the platform gave out, making little red stick figure dude scream for help. He only fell two feet and then was able to clamber out to Brevet Way, on the far side. I did learn from his mistake and just made the left onto Merwyn Street. While there’s usually an obstacle, some dynamic thinking and flexibility allows one to continue.

Merwyn wound its way into some verdant pastures where I saw turkeys and deer. It crossed Wyckoff Avenue on the way. In spite of the “Avenue” in its name, Wyckoff Avenue is primarily a stairway. Brooch Way wasn’t very sparkly either. I demand ACCURATE NAMING, damn it!

Brooch Way did take me back towards Boulder Way. This steep alleyway changes into a steep, two-block set of stairs down to Stafford Street. I love the arching old tree trunk which creates a portal for these steps.

With my main goals achieved, I circled around to West Carson Street. Earlier I had run Glenmawr Avenue, but didn’t have a camera. I ran up it a bit and got some pics this time. I feel that the railroad trestle is smaller than normal. It is certainly exciting to go under it when there is a train overhead, rattling small pieces of gravel as it rumbles past.

High in the streets of Sheraden, I found more evidence to support my “Pittsburgh Boat Theory”, while down on a small street off of West Carson, I found this old brick building. It looks like an abandoned old factory now, but nothing gave evidence as to its former use.

So that was it. I’ve covered much territory in these last 235 runs, but will have to revisit Esplen again before this project is all done.

Gardening in Garfield

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Rare morning run – RATS #00233

Ah, mornings, that time when I like to slowly awaken, shake off vivid dreams, think about the upcoming day and blink myself into consciousness. This morning, however, I popped out of bed, shoved my contacts in and darted out the door for a pre-work run. It was rather cold for early May, in the 30’s, but I think I overdressed. I headed for Garfield, just off of Penn Avenue. It wasn’t too far away and I had many streets to run there. I pressed the like button on a bold mural on North Evaline.

Then there were the steps. North Evaline begins as an average residential street but then continues to Hillcrest on two sets of stairs, becoming more and more overgrown.

Thankfully, Garfield is only really steep on the road coming off Penn Avenue. The cross streets, like Hillcrest, Kincaid, and Broad, are wavy, but not too extreme. Hillcrest is crisscrossed by other small streets and alleys. While some areas are tightly knitted with houses, there are also many wide open spaces. Presumably, there used to be houses on all the lots, but they were torn down as the houses fell into neglect. On Garfield’s hilltop the result is space for gardens and urban farms. Garfield residents seem to also have an artistic flair.

Of course, there are lots of steps as well. In addition to North Evaline, I did the steps on Fannell Street and Ardary Street. The Ardary steps come up from Columbo Street and widen into a full-fledged street. I’m had not been on that street before, so its always suspenseful to see what’s at the top of a set of stairs.

Warmed up by the run and the rising sun, I descended once again to the flat lands of Friendship. Nice way to start a morning, I must admit.

Shadows and Sunlight

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RATS #00231 – Duquesne Heights into Mount Washington

This was a six mile run up and down alleys and streets in Duquesne Heights, centering on Piermont Street. While the map makes Piermont “look” straight, it was as hilly as they come. On the other hand, with clear skies and brilliant sun, I really didn’t have any complaints. Duquense Heights, like many Pittsburgh neighborhoods is densely packed with houses, yet has some very woodsy areas too.

Tree grove

The early evening sun and low humidity made this a happy run. However, running in alleys is always fraught with uncertainty. Does the alley go through? Are there wild dingoes on this alley? Are there huge butterflies and gnomes? Tonight I found a huge butterfly and red gnome.

Running west on Piermont Street, I think I found the stairway to heaven. I even heard a voice saying “Come, come into the light”, only to find a young woman helping her grandmother read a map.

That was about it. In some areas, streets in one direction are relatively flat, while the cross streets are super steep. Here, they are generally steep in both directions. That makes running in Duquesne Heights and Mount Washington a challenge.

Steps to Singer Place

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Point Breeze to East Hills RATS #00230

This was a long Sunday run. In the normal course of life, this would have been Marathon Sunday for both the Pittsburgh Marathon and the Cincinnati Marathon. As it was, I did a half marathon, concentrating on completing the streets near Singer Place, high on a hill in Homewood. I parked in Point Breeze, along Frick Park Bowling Greens, another unique feature of Pittsburgh. You can play lawn bowling there. The “bowls”, not balls, are not sphere’s but rather two half-sphere’s of different radii joined together along their equator.

Frick Park Lawn Bowling Greens

From there, I crossed Penn Avenue and completed a short section of Thomas Street. Quite the contrast, I must say, from the bowling greens. This area is actually showing signs of development. Had I pointed the camera the opposite direction, I would have captured construction scaffolding along an adjacent warehouse.

I continued into Homewood proper, working my way over to Oakwood Street. Oakwood Street plunges into Wilkinsburg, where its name changes to Wood Street. The hill rising above Oakwood was my main target this morning.

A memorial, either to a shooting or a car accident, has sprung up along Oakwood.

There’s one main street, but three sets of stairs you can take to get up to Singer Place. Here are the steps.

Once in the warren of streets on top of the hill, the pavement mostly flattened out. Large, multi-story houses stood sentinel on the overlooking slopes. At one point, I was surprised to find an entirely different structure, more like a farmhouse than a brick, four-square house.

I made my way down to Oakwood again, then finished up Frankstown Road, coming up East Hills Drive to complete the circuit. Again, I found a boat at the top of a hill, providing further confirmation of my “Pittsburgh Boat Theory”.

On the way back to my car, I passed another Pittsburgh feature, Clayton Mansion, the former home of Henry Clay Frick, a pivotal figure in the area’s steel industry.

Clayton

Getting back to my car, I was just shy of a half-marathon, so I ran a few more blocks to finish that out.

Sheraden Grid to Windgap

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Taking RATS #00225 to Windgap

“Sheradenia est omnis divisa in partes tres” – to loosely copy Julius Ceasar. (No worries, legions of Romans aren’t set to invade it.) There is the generally flat plateau overlooking the Ohio River; the flat grid between Sheraden Park and Chartiers Avenue; and the hilly section south and west of Chartiers Avenue. Most of today’s run was in the second section, between Sheraden Park and Chartiers Avenue.

Division of Sheraden into three parts

I parked near McGonigle Park and started the crisscrossing streets. Almost every yard had a dog. And every dog had something to say, starting with the large old black and brown dog who “woofed” at me vigorously, but didn’t bother to get up. Finishing up Universal Street, a young brown dog had lots to say as he breathlessly barked and leaped against his fence, trying to take a bite of a me. At least we both got our heart rates up.

Typical Sheraden Street.

But the people were nice, greeting me as they worked on their houses. Near the parks, the streets are pleasantly sheltered by tall trees. There’s supposed to be a set of steps which go from Moyer to Chartiers Avenue but the top is blocked by fencing. On the other end of the grid, Jean Street dissolves into broken steps descending to Adon Street.

The grid of streets, with a little duplication, covered six miles. Then I crossed Chartiers Avenue, planning to go up the Universal Street steps into the hillier section of Sheraden. However, the lower section of Universal is overgrown, so I went up the very steep Emporia Street. The top section of steps was OK, and I went all the way to Chetopas Street, where I got this broad view.

This hillier section Sheraden is riddled with steps, as streets cross Chartiers Avenue and run into a bluff. Huxley Street and Adon Street, for example, continue across Chartiers and meet as a step intersection.

Huxley and Adon Intersection

Then I made my way to Middletown Avenue. I had done portions of Middletown before. This time, however, I was intent on following it to its bitter end. Turns out, it lands in a flat, wide-open suburban area.

I crossed the Windgap Bridge which briefly took me into McKees Rocks. That is out of the City of Pittsburgh, so I returned to explore more of the Windgap neighborhood.

Traversing the big wide open streets of Windgap, I found the end of Chartiers Avenue. It just stops at the intersection with Mayfair Street, a residential, suburban street. I made my way back to Sheraden along Chartiers Avenue. I was a little short of my intended fifteen miles, so I wandered a bit in the center of Sheraden, where I saw this bold butterfly mural.

Another Side of Stanton Heights

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RATS #00222 – Stanton Heights

Nestled between the hills of Allegheny Cemetery and Stanton Avenue is a rather suburban section of Stanton Heights. I grew up in neighborhoods like this, albeit in Alabama.

To get there, I parked near McCandless and Wickliff in Upper Lawrenceville. I scooted down the stairs to Upland Terrace, a one street suburb built in the 1950’s. Crossing Stanton Avenue on Woodbine brought me into this cul-de-sac heaven.

Three and four bedroom houses built in the 1970’s sit back on their green lawns from the wide, winding, tree-lined streets. The stately trees soared into the bright blue sky. Compared to some areas of Pittsburgh, this is amazing. While hills rule Pittsburgh, the idea of large lawns, wide and clean streets with decent housing has yet to catch on everywhere.

Of course, with such wide and winding streets, the mileage added up quickly. Just looping through most of these avenues took me over seven miles, two miles further than circumnavigating all of Riverview Park, as I did earlier this week. It also wasn’t a mecca for street art, or fascinating steps, or unique architecture. But that’s OK; what are kids going to complain about if there aren’t some boring parts of town to grow up in?

So, you want a hill to run?

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RATS #00220

In local online running communities, I sometimes hear that people get bored on “hill” day, because they are tired of running the same hill week in and week out. Maybe they’ve chosen a specific hill in North Park or Schenley Park, or somewhere in their neighborhood and keep at it. Let me tell you, Pittsburgh has no lack of hills and there’s no need to run the same one all the time.

Take this run, for example. Beechview is about five minutes out of downtown, either through the Liberty Tubes to West Liberty Avenue or using the Fort Pitt Tunnels to Banksville Road. Park along on one of the broad residential streets, say Fallowfield Avenue. Within a mile, you’re likely to get a 100′ change of elevation. Do that a few times, and I think you’ll be set.

Of course, if that doesn’t get your heart rate going, try a few staircases. There are plenty of them around here, too. Just don’t try the ones coming down to Goldstrom Avenue, unless you bring a rope. If the Rutherford steps or Belasco steps don’t tickle your fancy, cross West Liberty Avenue and go up Stetson Avenue or Ray Avenue.

That’s about it. I’ve become fond of Beechview in spite of its ridiculous hills. Whittling down the streets, I only have about a dozen left there, maybe two or three miles and perhaps a half-dozen sets of stairs.

Slip sliding away

RATS #00219

This was an interesting and surprising run in the Riverview Park area. According to Google maps, it was partially in Perry North and partially in Brighton Heights. After you see the pictures, though, you might think I teleported to West Virginia too.

Large houses along Perrysville Avenue
Perry North Neighborhood is characterized by very large houses

From a favorite parking spot on the entrance to Riverview Park, I traipsed over to a small subdivision near Perry Traditional Academy bounded by Semicir Street. Those city planners were clever… Guess what shape “Semicir Street” makes? However, the house builders weren’t so clever it seems.

Collapsed House

That’s not actually fair, I suppose, but seeing this collapsed house was shocking. Upon further research, it seems the rains of 2019 weakened the foundation. The residents were forced to move out and shortly after, the house slipped into the ravine. This happened about a year ago and the slope apparently hasn’t stabilized enough to remove the debris. Either that, or it is low on the priority list.

SemiCir Street is rather narrow, but finishes its short span as a driveway between two buildings of Perry Traditional Academy. On the other side of the Academy, Hemphill Street’s cobblestones crest a steep hill.

I finished this little warren of streets and moved on to the next section. This took me past the high school and down Mairdale Avenue. A few weeks ago, I ran down here, past the high school’s football field and noticed houses high on the right. Today I was exploring that neighborhood.

If hill repeats are your game, go to Portman Avenue. It’s not long, but damn it’s steep. The houses are a hybrid between the ostentatious mansions on Perrysville Avenue houses and the tall, narrow structures you see in Spring Garden. I followed Portman back to Perrysville Avenue then started down Vinceton Street, where the corner store is festooned with bold, colorful murals.

Now things began to diverge from the urban setting I was expecting. Menlo Street, the featured image, looks more like a Virginia horse farm lane rather than an inner city street. I made the next left onto Dornestic Street (that’s right “Dornestic” not “Domestic“). That street became a winding lane along the hillside, with houses haphazardly spaced here and there. The right onto Stolz Street completed the transformation with ponies grazing behind a fence.

Ponies
Ponies!

Jogging along in West Virginia now, I was jolted back to Pittsburgh by stairs which led me down to Oakdale Street, where the ravine widens up to a pleasant glade surrounded by towering oak trees.

At this point, I clambered back up the hill, took note of the streets and stairs I had missed and ran back to my car. This four mile run had transported me from turn of the century mansions to a collapsed house to a pasture. Where would I go next?

Hightide in Beechview

RATS #00216 – Beechview

Happy Easter! Normally, I would be finishing up a brunch with family and friends this morning. However, in the current state of things, I figured I’d blog a little and later try to find a chocolate egg around the house. Happy to have all the good in my life as it is.

So, I ran this route last week on a brilliant evening in Beechview. If you’ve followed my blog for anytime, you’ll know that Beechview is a friendly neighborhood with broad streets and booming hills. What you may not have known, is that in the last ice-age, Beechview was actually beachfront property. (How do you think they got the name?) In those days, everyone got around by boat, paddling from hilltop to hilltop. I came across a relic of the old days here, not far from a spanking new gas grill.

Continuing the fiction, it then happened that the seas began to recede. In those days, it wasn’t too convenient to lug your boat up to the house, so everyone made steps to get down to the water. You can see these steps all over.

Security was a concern, so residents bred vicious animals which required pets before passing. Most of them are pretty quick and shy these days, but every now and then an alpha guardian still stands his ground.

Beechview Guardian

But the seas indeed, have receded, leaving Beechview high and dry. The only waves you see are the undulating hills frothed with houses.