Unique Streets Walked: 28
Miles Walked: 3.5
Streets walked: Summerdale, Mayfair, Oberon, Haven, Mendon, Chartiers, Windgap, Ladley, Belhurst, Merle, Vedas, Nero, Warfel, Pinney, Iota, Rancine, Suter, Middletown, Harlow, Krupp, Creve, Orator, Gilpin, Pickett, Haas, Cream, Isoline.
The weirdness begins on day one. I’m in Windgap across from the Chartiers Playground on Summerdale Street around 9:30 AM. I’ve made a rule for myself that, if possible, I will try to not park in front of people’s houses. On this block of Summerdale, there were only houses on one side of the street. Pittsburghers can be pretty territorial about the public street in front of their houses. (Just spend a few minutes Googling “Pittsburgh Parking Chairs”.) I will definitely have to break that rule sometimes but I didn’t want to do that my first day!
I was sitting in my car getting my bearings (phone, keys, etc.). A black sedan drives by and goes up the hill about a block. I watch the man in the car get out right where the woods start on Summerdale and he opens the rear passenger door. Out bounds a large, gray pitbull-looking dog. He’s wagging his tail at the man seemingly happy for a morning walk in a new area. The man gets back in his car and starts driving up the hill. The dog is frantic and starts running at full speed after the car.
At this point I have already come to terms with the fact that I will now have a three-dog-house (good for those cold nights, right?) I get out of the car and start walking quickly towards the running dog and fleeing car. They are about one-and-a-half blocks ahead of me and not slowing. I’m thinking that this would be a perfect time to whistle but genetics didn’t pass that down from my dad (he’s the loudest whistler I know.) I try to make a kissy noise but the pup is too far away to hear me.
The man must see me out of my car walking towards them because he stops the car and lets the dog back in. I’m assuming he drives away to another “remote” location to finish his cruel deed.
I call my husband to tell him the whole story and let him know exactly where I am. Just in case the man with the dog comes back to see just how much I saw. After walking a bit, I think that maybe the man was exercising his dog on the steepest hill in Windgap. I wonder where home is for the man and the dog. Will the dog ever see it again?
I continue on my way, noticing a house with a rusted dog figure on top of its mailbox. Summerdale is steep and like quite a few streets in this city, has woods on both sides of it. On the North side I see house that has an outdoor animal pen. At first glance it appears to house chickens. On closer inspection, I realize that there are no chickens in this pen. In fact, it is an actual gaggle of geese.
About a block up I notice another solitary goose. This one, however, is of the decorative cement variety and his job is not to lay eggs, but to guard his owner’s driveway. Having been chased and bitten by a few geese in my life, I’m staying away. Job Well Done.
I cross Windgap avenue and get onto Mayfair street. I see a man shoveling his driveway and say hello. Another woman is bringing out the rest of her garbage including a huge bag of shredded paper. I say hello to her too. It is garbage day here in Windgap and what stories those piles by the street can tell. I see empty cleaning supply containers, recycling bags filled with empty domestic beer cans, Avon boxes. One house has a pile of empty, labeled moving boxes: Dining Room; Dining Room 2; Garage; Kids’ Room. Whether they just moved in or cleaned their basement, I don’t know. Either way, I’m sure that like everywhere, Marie Kondo has infiltrated the lives of Mayfair Street.
This part of Windgap has a suburban feel to it. McGruff looks out on the streets lined with split-level brick dwellings and lets strangers knows they are being watched. I wonder as I walk down one of many dead-end streets if any curtains are parting to allow curious eyes to surveil me. Pittsburghers are Nebby (nosy in a harmless, friendly way) and a newcomer walking down their street and turning around to go back the way they came is something to neb about for sure.
I meander Haven and go back across Windgap. I see a pink and white building on the corner of Chartiers and Pinney Way. The shuttered serving windows of Remember When, a seasonal ice cream shop, now show a sign that says, “Stay Warm!”
Across Chartiers there is a cluster of alleys that I have to explore. Alleys are probably my favorite types of roadways. They are narrow, barely and rarely asphalted, and unabashed about the residents that line them. I see discarded Christmas ornaments, an old UPMC Mercy Hospital wheelchair sitting in scraggly backyard grass. Snow-filled basketball shoes on a cinderblock wall. A forest green minivan with a front plate that says “CUCUMBER.” I see no people. Only their possessions.
Back across Chartiers I make my way down a small alley called Pinney. It hooks a sharp right which for Pittsburgh, isn’t that strange. While most cities are laid out in grid formations, Pittsburgh has laid its streets out based on the topography. The houses in this part of Windgap are different than those on Mayfair and Haven. They are usually two stories, older, and have larger back yards.
I take Chartiers to Middletown and get an intense chill in front of 3681 Middletown Rd. I notice a condemnation notice on the front door dated 11/2/17. This house is at least 100 years old. The aluminum siding is peeling off to reveal wooden planks. One of the gutters is seemingly melting off the façade. This house has a history and one of my intense joys in life is diving deep into the lives (and deaths) that inhabited any given dwelling.
According to the Allegheny County Property Records website, this house was built in 1900. The owner history doesn’t go back that far as the last transaction was in 1974 when the Veterans Administration purchased it. If I am moved to do so, I could go to the Allegheny County Office of Public Record downtown and find out more. To see if it’s worth it, I let my fingers do the walking and start exploring online resources. My first stop, Newspapers.com.
- In 1928, someone living at this address placed an ad in the Pittsburgh Press notifying readers that they are selling spare parts for a Dodge, including 6 excellent tires for $15.
- In February of 1933, Edward McCabe, 16, of 3681 Middletown Rd. was charged along with three other teens with stealing wallpaper and foodstuffs from a stopped train in Windgap.
- In January of 1943, Agnes T. McCabe of 3681 Middletown Rd. went to Daytona Beach, FL.
- On December 23, 1949, Dale E. Corbett, 46, of 3681 Middletown Rd. was discovered dazed on the corner of Mayfair St and Paulson Ave with a broken jaw and leg among other various injuries. He could not remember where he was hurt but thinks he may have been hit by a car.
- In October of 1958, Dale Corbett’s daughter, Sylvia Jean Corbett was killed in an automobile accident while on her way to her honeymoon in Niagara Falls. Her new husband, Edwin A. Herold was also killed in the head-on collision.
- On August 15, 1973 a woman named Dorothy E. James, 46, of 3681 Middletown Rd was killed in an auto accident on E. Carson Street (South Side) when rain-slicked roads caused her car to spin out into oncoming traffic.
The events that affected the families who lived at 3681 Middletown Rd may have contributed to the chill I felt while walking by. Or maybe it was a low spot in the street that caused the draft.
Back at my car on Summerdale I’m expecting smashed windows or at least a strongly worded note from the man I inadvertently stopped from abandoning his dog. Nothing. I open the door. I forgot to lock my car.