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.”
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.
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.
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.
March 2021 was one of my most productive months in terms of mileage and streets covered. Among my 162 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation gain, I completed 192 more streets in Pittsburgh in 15 RATS runs. I even completed the “Take The Stairs 50k” course I published last year. That course, a small revision of Lamar’s original course, took me on roughly 78 sets of steps throughout the city, but, alas, did not cover any new streets.
Blogging-wise, March was less than stellar. I only published four posts and it has taken me all of April just to get this summary out, touching on three short runs in Carrick, Brookline and West Liberty.
I had grand plans for this run, but was out-of-synch and got frustrated by small ‘streets’ just being driveways into hills. Argh! Just took one picture, before it all went downhill. I did end up with over four miles and several alleys covered.
In this run, I inadvertently circumnavigated South Side Cemetery. I started on Brownsville Road and took the steep West Meyers Street to Oakhurst en route to Newett Street, one of the steeper roads I’ve been on. I took Plateau Street to its dead-end above Volunteers Park, then came back to Newett, expecting to see Plateau on the other side. However, Plateau falls off of Newett so quickly that the other side looked like a driveway which disappeared over the hillside. Once upon it, though, I found my way down Plateau and was pleasantly surprised to find that Volunteers Field was an active hubbub. It looked like a fire department team was practicing on one field, while on another field, a younger group practiced base-running under the tutelage of a barking coach.
Moving on, I dodged cars on my way down Colerain to Noble Road. No sidewalks and not much of a shoulder made it tricky running. Then I peeled off and went down Denise Street. My internal map had Denise going a little way and dead-ending. It seemed to go on forever, but afforded nice views of the T tracks. Returning, I came across some steps which took me to Noble Road.
Once up on Noble, I backtracked a bit and went up Glade Street. The few streets up on that hill are tucked into a corner of the cemeteries looming above. It was a nicer area than I expected. Some kids were playing basketball in the street and others were riding bikes. Along the Montrose Steps I heard a rustling and noticed a deer in the woods. I took a picture and continued to Cloverdale Street. Only after looking at the picture more closely did I realize there were four deer there!
Cloverdale Street completed the southern border of the cemetery, bringing me back to Noble Street. This short, three mile run certainly had a lot to see.
This was an evening run in West Liberty to catch some alleys. I caught several in my alley catcher, but some were only paper alleys (here’s looking at you, Mascot Way!) Overall it was a pleasant, hilly run with over 400 feet of elevation in only three miles.
So that was it for March, 2021. I’m still chipping away at the streets. At the end of March I had a little over 800 more to complete. I’ve come a long way considering there are over 4,800 streets in Pittsburgh. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Here are a couple of runs done in mid-February. A “polar vortex” and the threat of it kept me inside for a bit. So, no didn’t do a 20-20, (twenty miler at twenty degrees). Perhaps the late January fall encouraged me to be more careful or I’m just tired of running in the dark and cold. At any rate, the Lincoln Place run covered a large section of that neighborhood while the Hill run just about completed it.
RATS #00368 Over the Hill
Prior to coming out, I used a popular hack for making ‘ice shoes’. You simply put small machine screws into the bottom of your shoes. Once started, they go into the dense rubber easily. With 15 screws on the bottom of each shoe, I was very confident, even on ice.
I started this Saturday afternoon’s run in North Oakland. The recent spate of snow had been cleared enough so that driving was tolerable, but dirty snow, pushed aside, lined most walks and gutters. University Drive in Oakland is still under construction, so I had to take a detour around that. Then I ran down Centre, crossing Herron and heading into the Hill. My target area was a number of small streets in the Middle Hill. Many of the streets were still undisturbed and had ankle deep snow in them.
Hallet, Horton, Humber, I must have stumbled into the “H” section of Pittsburgh, in the Hill District, no less. I have often pondered the easy alliteration of adjoining streets. Homewood has many “F” alleys, Brookline has its “B” streets. It’s kinda cute, unless you’re trying to remember where to turn by just the first letter. Oh, no!
At any rate, the alleys were deep in snow, but mainly passable. The ice-shoes were doing great and I wasn’t even too cold. Periodically, snow squalls blew through, diminishing my vision. Normally, you can see the UPMC building from the Somers’ steps.
I came across a couple of sets of steps. One, Chauncy Street, I was familiar with. It’s a pretty impressive thoroughfare taking you down to Centre Avenue. The other, Caramel Way, was a bit of a surprise. On the map, it just looked like another alley. Blocked off at the top, it wasn’t from the bottom. Following some frozen footsteps up the mildly broken steps it was clear where treads were missing. I did have to duck under a downed tree, but it wasn’t too extreme.
As usual, there were buildings ready to fall down and some historic markers. This plaque is dedicated to jazz great Art Blakey. Presumably he lived in the house? A rather oversized, chilly bass player was still out practicing in the snow.
I had fun on this run, in spite of the conditions. The shoes worked out well.
RATS #00369 – Lincoln Place
And, now, to one of the southernmost neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. A week after that last run, the snow was still around, and it was a beautiful, sunny day. Snow really looks good on Pittsburgh.
My first order of business was to track down a staircase between Glenhurst and Lougean. I had missed it on an earlier run. So, I tromped down Mifflin Road, dodging cars until I got to Glenhurst. The wooden stairs were snuggled between two very suburban houses.
From there, it was an adventure on back alleys which went much further than I expected. “F” Way, “D” Way and “C” Way took me way back to country sheds. Overall, this was a nice area to run in. It was lacking in sidewalks, but also lacked in traffic.
Eventually I found myself on Mooney Road, heading towards Mifflin Road. After Beechland Street, Mooney Road, itself, becomes a country road. This narrow street dives down a steep hill to Mifflin Road. Along this section, there are only three or four houses, each precariously perched on a hillside. As I approached Mifflin Road, I noticed a large house across the ravine. Strangely enough, no road or driveway was visible. I still wonder how those folks get home.
By the time I had gone down Mooney and back to Beechland, the sun was sliding over the hillsides. I finished out a few more streets and cruised back to McBride Park, my favorite place to park.
Continuing the seize the day with ‘warm’ January temps, I got out and ran in the Carrick and Overbrook neigborhoods. I had planned it out fairly meticulously and was rewarded at the end.
I started out on Brownsville Road and headed for the streets south of Maytide. Here Pittsburgh borders Brentwood. You would be hard-pressed to tell the difference from the look and feel of the neighborhoods, with the biggest evidence being different colored street signs and paving lines across the road.
Once up from Maytide Avenue, the houses have decent sized yards as the streets undulate over the hills. After laboring up a steep hill, I got a kick out of seeing the houses across the street sitting far below street level. I did cross over and look. Those back porches stretching nearly the width of the house have a great view of the retaining wall.
I also saw a couple of Pittsburgh chairs, ‘working’ to keep parking spots safe from intruders. Now, when there is a heavy snowfall, and you have to shovel snow for hours, putting a chair out is a time-honored tradition to make sure no one pulls into your spot when you leave for work. Woe be unto those who steal spots! However, there was no heavy snowfall, so I think this chair was working overtime.
I came across a back-alley garage around here, emblazoned with a “g”, like on Sesame Street. Finishing the grid of streets around Stewart Avenue, I continued along Stewart as it plunged 200 feet down the hill toward Saw Mill Run Boulevard. It’s a wild road leaving behind the orderly neighborhood above and going back in time as it approaches a “cemetery zone”. The houses tell the tale.
As Stewart twists and turns before hitting Saw Mill Run, it passes Saint George Serbian Orthodox Cemetery on the right and Shaare Torah on the left and eventually Shaare Zedeck.
I touched my toes outside Pittsburgh where Stewart hits Saw Mill Run Boulevard. Then I clambered back up to Horning Avenue, where I took the Horning Steps past the St. Norbert Church building, now for sale.
Rounding out my run, I started up Overbrook Boulevard, but decided to catch just one little alley I had previously missed. Tyro Way leaves Overbrook and hits the Antenor Way Steps. In an earlier, dark run, I had stopped at the top of the Antenor Steps, warned off by a barricade. This time, starting in the middle, I was pleased to note that the steps were actually pretty good, all the way from Maytide to Antenor. Oh, there may have been a missing tread or two, but nothing horribly wrong. Strangely enough, barricades at each end had been knocked over. I’m now including Antenor Steps as a very doable section, preferably in daylight.
This November, I kept up my streak of 100 mile months and 10k+ elevation gains. I did hit some road blocks. While totally predictable, early darkness wreaked havoc on my running habits. Not so predictable was a week of quarantining due to Covid-19 exposure. Either way, I had sixteen runs in November, of which thirteen of them covered new streets. I am closing in on completing 70% of Pittsburgh’s streets. I wasn’t too good at blogging, though.
This was a short run starting at Brookline Memorial Park covering Oakridge and Freedom Streets. The brilliant sunset gave way to just the slightest sliver of the moon. I caught the hippo in dusk, but the flag was still up when I returned in the dark. Aren’t flags supposed to be taken down or lit at night?
This four mile run also embraced the dark. I started with a few Shadyside streets and then ventured into East Liberty and Larimer. Missing my turn, I went up Lincoln Avenue instead of Lowell Street, seriously disrupting my planned route. Yet, with only 88 feet of elevation, I enjoyed this, the flattest run I had done in awhile. Eventually though, beyond the stores and street lights of East Liberty, the poorly lit streets and unfamiliar area got to me and I skedaddled back to my car, using the steps down to Ellsworth Avenue as a shortcut. It turns out, even those steps are “official” city steps.
Ah, the West End. The overlook has my favorite view of downtown. It also has a little parking lot, so it’s a great place to start. Balloons and candles remained for “KMB”, whomever that is.
I had visited this area several times already, but had missed some streets. The West End is unrelenting in its hills. Streets going toward the river are extremely steep, but even the cross streets bounce up and down. I ran up to St. Martin Cemetery crisscrossing the neighborhood on little streets and alleys. These unofficial steps on Navajo Way were a lucky break. Otherwise I would have had to run around those blocks again.
I headed downhill and ventured out Chartiers Avenue a bit; going up Litchfield Street. This “street” consists of several impressive flights of stairs. The streets are less impressive, generally winding up hills to arrive in someone’s garage. None of those streets are thruways.
A portrait of alleys in Highland Park. I amazed that it took nine miles to wander up and down all those alleys. Some were brick, some were asphalt. Mostly they were straight, while a few zigzagged.
Along the alleys were some immense houses and a few apartment buildings.
And, of course, I can’t resist a Little Library.
This was a Thanksgiving Day run. I started in Swisshelm Park and went up Braddock Avenue to find its northern terminus, passing one of my favorite stores, 3 Rivers Outdoors. It is a small business specializing in outdoor gear. They also sponsor a trail running group and fun community activities. Going south, Braddock Avenue goes to Braddock, of course. ( Actually it veers east, trails past steel mills and winds up in Turtle Creek, if you must know.) On the northern end, it just stops unceremoniously in Homewood at a playground.
My previous run in Highland Park was mainly in alleys. Homewood has its alleys too, a bunch of “f”ing alleys; Formosa Way, Fleury Way, Finance Way, Forrest Way, Fuschia Way, and Fielding Way to name a few. I did a couple of these alleys, then climbed Calway Street. Calway Street struggles up a steep hill for a few houses and then is blocked off as it wanders into the woods. Turning around, I got a neat view of Homewood, its bowl filled with homes as downtown buildings peeked over the ridge. Returning down toward Braddock Avenue, I came across another Little Library, this one in purple. By the time I returned to Swisshelm Park through Frick Park, I had run ten miles.
This run was something of a continuation of the previous run. I pushed further into North Homewood and Belmar. Right off the bat, I roused two deer from their Homewood bed under a stairwell. There’s a confusing mix of streets here, where Pittsburgh collides with Wilkinsburg. The older warehouses and buildings are mainly deserted. After crossing off a number of small streets and alleys off my list, I headed up Brushton Avenue and Stranahan Street.
After crossing several streets and alleys off my list, I headed up Brushton Avenue and Stranahan Street to a small subdivision. Water authority construction workers were busy digging and putting down pipe. Their store of fire hydrants looked like an arsenal of rockets. It was a rather chilly day and no one was playing hoops when I passed by.
Completing the loop around Tilden, I went up Oberlin Street. At the end, a ragged set of steps took me up to Somerset Street. Somerset Street was high and wide, but I was ready to find my way home again so I found the Toga Way steps. Toga Way took me down steps littered with monkey balls. What are monkey balls? Check this Incline article for the full story, but they are the fruit of “Maclura pomifera”, commonly known as the Osage orange tree.
In another confirmation of boat theory, I saw several, nestled in the woods near the steps.
My friend, Rich, came with me on this adventure. Once again, I explored North Homewood and Belmar neighborhoods. We covered lots of ground and Rich made the miles go by easily. Here’s Rich, out standing in his field. He has a good eye for photography and takes nice pics.
A surprisingly sunny day, we made our way to the entrance of the VA Hospital grounds. Unfortunately, it was blocked off with vigorous “No Trespassing Signs”. With that route blocked, though, we found our way to a rusty water tower high above the Allegheny. I convinced Rich to NOT climb it.
From the top there, you could see way up the Allegheny River Valley. There was another water tower, but with its light blue paint and the sunny skies, it was actually hard to see.
In planning this route, I was using Google Street view to verify that streets went through. I was shocked when the street view took me from a rather derelict Ferdinand Alley to a sweeping country vista. Whoops! A glitch in the Matrix.
This is not the only street in North Homewood that does this.
Nonetheless, we ran by the quickly deteriorating Negro Opera House, took in the Laporte Street Steps and just meandered. Rich is pretty friendly and by the time we were done, he had waved to the black ladies going to church, some guys fixing their cars and just about anyone who showed their face.
It was nice to run with company to end this month.
In this long journey to cover all of Pittsburgh’s streets, I have found it very difficult to completely search out every nook and cranny of a neighborhood on just one run; sometimes it takes two, or three, or even more runs. In the older neighborhoods, especially, there are often small streets, alleys and steps which somehow eluded my attention on the first go rounds. Eventually, however, I have to go back and do them. This was one of those “go-back” runs. I’m also going back in time for this run which happened three weeks ago.
I got started down in Bloomfield, not far from Sonny’s. I like those cats. Before long, I was scaling the Cedarville steps next to Sanchioli’s Bakery.
This first stage, which finished Bloomfield, took me down Juniper Street, while the next stage required me to go over the Bloomfield Bridge. Luckily, the Ella Street steps provided the necessary lift. I’ve done these steps before, but only now did I notice the “Try” messages on the way up. Up there, perched on a corner of the concrete, a tiny chair set took in the afternoon sun.
Crossing over to Polish Hill, I came to the Apollo Street Steps, incongruously placed next to an auto repair shop. I wonder how much business that shop gets, perched as it is underneath a bridge on a small street well off the main road.
Now I was in the midst of Polish Hill. I needed to get to Hancock Street and made my way through this warren of houses built on top of each other, small streets and dead-ends, while avoiding drunk pumpkins and admiring Little Libraries
Eventually, I found it, Hancock Street. I also got more “Boat Theory” evidence along the way (see this blog). Hancock Street steps took me up to busy Bigelow Boulevard and Bethoven Way, a small alley. Now Polish Hill was complete, too.
As you approach Bigelow from the streets all fall away steeply. Bigelow is a busy, rather ugly roadway, but there is a pedestrian walkway under it, decorated with old-school graffiti. Not a place to linger on a dark night.
Continuing up into the Upper Hill, I came across another incarnation of Hancock Street, still going uphill. The corner lot with the flag is also strewn with “Polish Only” parking signs.
As much as I had climbed from Herron Avenue, I still had a way to go to get to stage three, the Upper Hill. I took the Orion Street Steps. It’s a fairly impressive set of steps with a great view on top.
I continued around the Upper Hill, surprised to see a cemetery there, “Minersville Cemetery”. It actually has a Facebook page these days and was the subject of an article by Diana Nelson Jones back in 2017. Diana interviewed me for an article earlier this year. On the backside of the cemetery, Shawnee Street comes down in a nice set of sidewalk steps.
I found the World’s Greatest Candy Bar! Across Herron Avenue, Granite Street falls off of Orbin as steps. You can see Pitt’s athletic bubble on the hill rising in the background.
From here, I found my way back to Bloomfield. A solid ten miles done. Bloomfield and Polish Hill completed.
Run number 326 took me out to Lincoln Place again. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and I explored some of the nooks and crannies off of Interboro Avenue. But first, I started at McBride Park, with an easy downhill start.
My first alley, K Way, took me behind houses underneath high-voltage power lines. These lines march across Lincoln Place, towers stomping down every few hundred feet or so. The hilltops of this residential area are quite high. In a previous post, I had described being able to see downtown buildings from out here. The view from Diller Place went on forever even though it didn’t have the angle to see Pittsburgh’s tall buildings.
Eventually, I ran out of Pittsburgh and into Munhall for a few blocks. Coming back in, I was happy, as always, to see the “Welcome To Pittsburgh” signs. There aren’t as many steps out here as in the city, but there are a few. I came across these steps from the lower part of Oakleaf Street to its upper section past Leaside Drive. Apparently I missed a couple of stairs, which I’ll have to come back for. I did see a few little libraries, most notably this very pink one. I also got a kick out of the ice-cream cone protruding from the Walk-Rite sign.
On a more nerve-wracking note, I got a call in the middle of this run. It was a contact tracer and I had come into contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid. Without any symptoms, I wasn’t super-worried, but it was upsetting, and the start of another round of quarantining. That was several weeks ago and I did not, indeed, get sick. Unfortunately, as of this writing, I’m again quarantining due to Covid contact. I can’t wait for this to end, but still healthy.
This run took me back to Lincoln Place – that southernmost of all Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. I had prepared for a cold, wet run but was treated to a stunningly beautiful Fall day.
Starting at the Shop ‘n Save down by Brown’s Mobile Home Park, I quickly made it to quiet suburban streets off of Mifflin Road. The trees were in their full glory.
Here and there were small shops, like Velma’s Place. I did run into a group of ultra runners, discussing their latest 500 mile run.
Overall, though, there wasn’t a whole lot to see here. However, Muldowney Road rises high off of Mifflin Road and affords views of the UPMC Building and the Oxford Building, over six miles away as the crow flies.
High-voltage power lines were a constant presence along the route. Also came across a huge Penn-American water tower.
That was about it. I had struggled to get myself out the door, but was truly rewarded with fine, sunny weather and neat views.
This run, in Spring Garden, and the previous one , in Spring Hill, were both in the “Spring Hill /City View” area of Pittsburgh according to Google Maps, but each had a different feel and, quite literally, a different view of the city. Spring Garden seems more 1950’s residential than Spring Hill. While still boasting huge hills, Spring Garden’s main streets seem a little tamer than Spring Hill’s.
At any rate, I started as before on Vinial Street, due to its convenience for parking. I ascended the Arcola Street steps as a short-cut to Damas Street. So, let’s take a short aside here. I pronounce “Damas” as “dah-MAHS'”, with soft southern “ah’s”, stressing the “mas”. The first time I was on Damas Street, I was lost and a little late and mentally christened it “Dumb-Ass” Street. This time, though, I found it a delightful little street. At it’s entrance, Steel City Boxing has set up a ring in an old building fire station. Right across the street is Voegtly Spring. I like to think this put the “Spring” into “Spring Garden”.
Moving on, I found Admiral Street, Noster Street and the intervening alleys to be quite nice. It was a pleasant evening, so people were in their backyards having gatherings around their fire pits and playing in their pools. Along Admiral Street a small flagpole and a simple cast statue stood as a personal memorial along an empty lot overlooking the city. I found it touching.
Many of these streets dead-end into hillsides. I was surprised to find there’s actually a “Spring Garden Greenway”, with its own official sign. Curious what a “greenway” is? Here you go!
In 1980, the Greenways for Pittsburgh program was established to consolidate steeply sloped, unbuildable land for the purpose of protecting hillsides and preserving passive open space resources.
I was not surprised to find deer. Of course, I didn’t find them on the greenway. I found them in a side yard, where I cornered a doe and fawn munching on yummy landscaped flowers.
As the evening became night, I finished up on the tremendous hill of Donora Street. Not far behind it, a radio tower stood dark against the sky.
Coming back to the rather flat Rockledge Street, I considered covering “just one more street”, but thought the better of it and headed home with over four miles in, and another 600′ of elevation. Looking at the map later, I’m really happy I called it a day when I did. I would have had a two more miles of small streets, alleys and dead-ends; but in the dark.