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.
It was cold, even on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Starting in Squirrel Hill, as I often do, I ran toward Schenley Park. It’s a beautiful, heavily wooded park with winding roads, hills, playgrounds, a golf-course and a lake.
After a couple of miles, I emerged into Central Oakland. This part of Oakland is dominated by student housing of all sorts. There are upscale condo/townhouses and street after street of apartment buildings and houses re-muddled into apartments. The area is pretty flat and the streets are relatively long, straight and in a grid. The area was busy with students. I remembered that as a student, I was always worried about money, classes, jobs, homework, girls and family (not necessarily in that order). As a father with college age children, I want to say to them “Don’t worry too much, do your best and you’ll be fine”. However, I do know that their lives are opaque to me, I don’t know their struggles and that they will have to find their own way. So, I just run past, nodding a silent greeting. Who knows if they gave any thought to the old guy lumbering past them?
And lumber past I did, cutting down Neville Street as it plunged into Panther Hollow. I ran under Schenley Drive and Forbes, eventually emerging in North Oakland, with its large institutional buildings, museums, churches. I found my way back along Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside before turning up Negley Avenue back home.
Theme music. This was definitely a “run all the streets” run. I had intended to meet up with Steel City Road runners, but found myself in the wrong place at almost the right time. I also found myself in North Oakland, an area dominated by the sprawling University of Pittsburgh . Medical buildings, athletic facilities, dorms, frat houses are juxtaposed with older homes clinging to the hillsides and run down apartment buildings with gravel lots for back yards. This run was relatively long and eventually meandered to parts of Bloomfield and Shadyside, but I’m going to concentrate on one area, Terrace Village.
I got to Terrace Village as a side trip. I was running along Fifth Avenue when I decided to run up Carlow‘s main driveway, Dunseith Street. Where did someone find THAT name? Apparently it’s a small town in North Dakota, among other things. Anyway, Dunseith Street travels through the heart of Carlow’s small campus. I ran up it to Allequippa Street, then to Robinson Street. On a whim, I went down Wadsworth. At this point, Wadsworth looked like a short driveway into some new construction. I figured after 100 yards, the road would end and I would get back to Robinson. Wow, was I wrong! Wadsworth opened up into an area of modern, new construction. It was unclear whether it was condos, or graduate student housing or what. A planned community, at any rate. There was a rental office, a little playground, a health center. The houses were attached, but generally large, two or three stories with new double-paned windows and fresh siding. The sidewalks were even, unbroken and every street corner had shiny street signs. And it was large. Lots of streets to run on with many cross streets. I’ve been in Pittsburgh a long time and had never been in this area. I was also surprised at how many streets were back there…Wadsworth, Eckstein, Oak Hill Drive, Burrows Street. All these streets looked just about the same. Had I gone through a portal to the suburbs?
Then I took a right onto Bentley Drive. I had the expectation that I would go down the hill, hit a cross street and come back up to the Oak Hill Apartments. Hmm, not so fast! I went to Kirkpatrick Street, rather desolate at this point in its travels from the Birmingham Bridge to the Middle Hill. I came to Kennard Playground, a large grassy field surrounded by a fence. Oak Hill was above, and that’s where I wanted to be. But how to get there? I followed the fence around to its end, hoping at any point for the fence to end. Eventually it did, coming tight against the hillside. No “official” way to go on. But, I wasn’t the first one with this idea, and, sure enough, squeaking past the last fence post, I found a faint footpath leading up the hill. I popped out in the backyard of one of the beige and brick end units and trotted to the sidewalk, continuing my run. And so I wandered around and around Oak Hill; Bentley Drive, Jamal Place, Benson Place, Turner Place, Burrows Street. One more turn on Burrows, and poof! I was out of the suburban portal and back into Oakland. I ran on a few hilly alleys, Dunbar Way, Decre and made my way further into Shadyside.
And now, some backstory. Years ago (1 Billion, to be exact), I was preparing to move to Pittsburgh and a friend of mine from Pittsburgh described the area past Pitt as a truly dangerous ghetto. After being at Pitt for several years, that section of Oakland was off the periphery of my personal map. Following my run this morning, I spoke with a few people about that neighborhood. It turns out that Terrace Village, when I came here, was indeed, a dangerous place to be. Here is some of its unofficial history. During my run, Oak Hill seemed to go on forever, however nice it is now. I felt hard pressed to get out of that neighborhood and I would bet that many residents felt the same way before it became rejuvenated.