Unique Streets Walked: 24
Miles Walked: 3.13
Street Names: 30th, Apollo, Bethoven, Bigelow, Brereton, Cargill, Dobson, Downing, Finland, Flavian, Fleetwood, Hancock, Harding, Harmar, Herron, Jewel, Linoleum, Melwood, Oscar, Paulowna, Phelan, Pulawski, Revere, Ruthven
On this cold and snowy day, I walked in Polish Hill. This neighborhood is, yep, you guessed it, on a hill. It’s nestled between Liberty Avenue in the Strip District and the Boulevard of the Allies in Bedford Dwellings and the Upper Hill. It was inhabited in the 1800s by Polish immigrants and still shows signs of this lineage. When you enter the area, you are greeted by a sign that says:
Polskie Wzgórze (Polish Hill in its native tongue) is home to one of Pittsburgh’s oldest churches, The Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and its dome is visible from many vantage points on this side of the city. The old school building for the church still perches on the hill above but has been vacant for years. Boarded up and showing graffiti, the school is a decaying sign of what has become of many like it in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
I started my walk up Brereton and made a left to traverse the alley called Pulawski Way. The buildings on either side of the alley (and as I would soon find on this trip, most alleys) were tall and formed a veritable wall on both sides. The roadway was barely passable and filled with potholes that could potentially boast a 3-bedroom apartment. Before I started walking the streets of Pittsburgh, I would have assumed any named road in a major city would be well-maintained. My experience has shown me otherwise.
I made my way up to Phelan which is another alley that runs between the Immaculate Heart of Mary and its school. I saw garbage and muddy rivers running down the hill. One house had, I assume, a serious wet basement issue due to a waterfall running down the hill into their backyard. I came down Hancock Street and saw a café called Kaibur Coffee and Café. I immediately noticed quite a few 20 and 30-somethings going in and out and the distinct typeface from Star Wars on the front sign. I went in and smelled savory breakfast foods cooking behind the counter. I noticed that almost all of the decorations were either Star Wars posters or art inspired by the franchise. I wasn’t familiar with the term Kaibur so I had to google it. The Wookipedia tells me that the Kaiburr crystals were ancient force relics that Jedis could use to heal others and to eventually make lightsaber crystals. The Kaibur Café’s website shows that they specialize in vegan and vegetarian breakfasts.
I left Kaibur and walked down Revere to Downing Street. One of those weird trends you notice when you’re out walking by yourself appeared to me at this point. There were boats everywhere. Various sizes of boats were parked in people’s yards, driveways, and even a Port Authority field that overlooked the Allegheny River. Why are there so many boats on Polish Hill? I may never know. There were also loads of stickers on most surfaces. Since Polish Hill is steep, there were many sets of stairs to go up and down. Every set had at least a dozen stickers on the railings.
The first set of stairs I encountered were well-maintained and were preceded by an icy trail lined with cement yard ornaments and stepping stones. I wasn’t sure if it was public property at first, but it was apparent that they lead to city steps. The steps brought me down to Herron Avenue. Here, I had to make a decision: go right up the hill to the other side of Polish Hill or go left and visit two streets I may not encounter again soon. I went left towards Ruthven Street. I took a look at google maps and surmised that there may be steps at the end of Ruthven that would bring me back up. I walked past a shuttered bar/club with a sign on the side that said:
1226 on Herron
I got onto Ruthven and saw an offshoot alley called Linoleum Way. I could immediately tell that it was a dead end but walked it a bit to see if there were any stairs. I did not see stairs, but I did see many rusty pieces of machinery, No Trespassing signs, and a viney mess. I decided that if the stairs were there, I wasn’t getting to them. I got back on Ruthven to see if there were stairs further down. This street turned into a cobblestone alley that disappeared into forest. At this point, I heard a car approaching behind me. I was walking on a public street but still felt like I’d been caught doing something wrong. He drove up next to me with his window open and asked: “Can I help you, young lady?” I told him that I was trying to walk all of the streets in Pittsburgh and I was hoping there might be some stairs down this street. He said
“God Bless you! (while giving me the ‘you’re crazy’ look) There are some stairs in the woods but unless you feel like mountain climbing, you can’t get to them. I used to play on them when I was a little kid.”
I told him that I’d just walk back the way I came and said good bye.
I walked past the stairs I’d come down and up Herron. The views of the Strip and the Allegheny River would have been very nice if it hadn’t started blizzarding. The sidewalks in front of many houses were still icy from the earlier snow so I mainly walked the streets.
I went down Flavian street and saw what looked like a COP (City of Pittsburgh) Street sign that said, “Kenny Bush Way.” I was a little confused by this because it didn’t appear on any map and then a goose walked across the street in front of me. He went into a valley that according to a yellow arrow was “Kenny’s Woods.” The goose was suspicious of me, and a man was following him. He asked if I was staying warm and I was just dumbfounded that a goose was nonchalantly walking in the city. I said “There’s a goose. In the city.” The man followed the goose and I started walking again.
When I came down this alley, I was assuming that I would have to turn around and go back at some point but then, I saw the stairs I’d been searching for! They went down into the woods and I couldn’t see their terminus but at least I knew that my staircase instincts were right.
I continued my treacherous amble back towards my car and took great care not to slip. I saved myself from wiping out in front of two men in an alley by grabbing on to the bumper of a minivan. When I got back and looked at my map, I realized that I’d missed 3 streets in the entire neighborhood. Not bad, but still annoying.