Unique Streets Walked: 29
Miles Walked: 2.13
Street Names: Buena Vista, Mero, Cameo, Armandale, Atlanta, Monterey, W. Jefferson, Ehlers, Rednap, Garfield, Saturn, E. Jefferson, Pryor, Carrington, Fireman, Alpine, Ramage, Boer, Charlick, Jacksonia, Leduc, Sampsonia, Arch, Veto, Sherman, Eloise, Mimosa, N. Taylor, Drovers
Small Town, Big City. Today I had the pleasure of walking with PG columnist Brian O’Neill. He heard about my project to walk all of the streets of Pittsburgh from my friend Alexis Rzewski. Brian wrote an article about Alexis’ inclination towards climbing hills back in 2002.
I suggested we walk in the Mexican War Streets without knowing this was Brian’s old neighborhood. The day before we walked, I read his book, Paris of Appalachia. I learned a lot about our city and Brian himself. We both moved to Pittsburgh in 1988 when the city was still reeling from the collapse of the steel industry. The book is now nearing ten years old and while a lot has changed even in those few years, much is the same.
We met at Commonplace Coffee on the corner of Buena Vista and Jacksonia. Hot teas in hand, we set off walking. The Mexican War Streets are named such because of the timing of the development of the area. The official neighborhood designation is called the Central Northside.
Most streets are lined with handsome row houses. While mainly a residential area, there are a handful of businesses mingled among the homes. One of the newer additions is the Mayfly Market and Deli located at 1327 Arch Street.
Brian knows the owners so we stopped in to say hello. The art inside was intriguing but the real show stopper was the food. Everything was pleasantly arranged and I wished I had time to shop.
After Mayfly Market, we walked by Randyland. Randyland, at 1501 Arch Street has to be seen to be believed.
Randyland is the creation of Randy Gilson, one of the most positively energetic people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. Admission to Randyland is free and absolutely worth a trip to the Northside.
After Randyland, we walked a few alleys and made our way to Sampsonia Way. Sampsonia is famous for a few reasons.
In 2008 artists Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley arranged for quite a scene on Sampsonia. They found out when the Google Street View car would be shooting the street and collaborated with residents to stage fantastical scenes on the way. If you go back to the archived street view, you can see a parade, marathon, mad scientist, and quite possibly the most fantastical scene, a Browns fan and Steelers fan about to hug. Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/streetwithaview
Also on Sampsonia way is the City of Asylum. The City of Asylum is a scholarship of sorts that provides housing, healthcare, and a stipend to foreign writers who are exiled from their country due to their writing. The group of houses that make up the City of Asylum are art installations in themselves.
After Sampsonia we meandered over to Monterey Street and saw many more houses with random words on them. Caribe, River, ZOMBIES, Book, Wall, Sprig. According to an article on NextPittsburgh.com, the words are another art installation by the City of Asylum. They are a veritable ‘River of Words.’ I noticed about a dozen of them but there are actually over eighty throughout the Northside.
We walked by one of the other few businesses in the Mexican War Streets and saw a true hold-out from the neighborhood of yesteryear, the Monterey Pub. It seemed cozy and I could imagine spending some time there by the fire.
There are still many streets to explore in the Northside and I encourage you to do the same. You won’t be disappointed.