Unique Streets: 26
Miles Walked: 4.19
Street Names (italicized have been walked on another day): Woodland Avenue, Plough Street, Ancy Way, Mullins Street, Dickson Street, Pitler Street, Boston Street, Holbrook Street, California Avenue, Fenway Street, Forsythe Street, Eckert Street, Cohutta Street, Beaver Avenue, Westhall Street, Preble Avenue, Tracy Street, McClure Avenue, Gurnee Street, Lecky Avenue, Malden Way, Malden Street, Geyer Avenue, Courtright Street, Shadeland Avenue, Davis Row, Blanche Avenue, Complete Street, Bland Street, Oakhill Street, Oxfield Street, Anniston Way, Knapp Street, Dill Way*, Tumbo Street.
Long time, no post. Yes, I am still walking. It has taken me a while to post this walk because I am having trouble with my main map that shows all of my walks in one place. I was hoping to fix it before posting but it seems that the amount of files (kmz) that I am uploading to my site are crashing it or just not showing them at all. I am trying to figure out a solution short of tracing all of the routes and uploading an image file. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know!
Today (6/19/19) I walked with Johnny and my friend from High School, Danielle. I wanted to show her what I do but knew I would be limited by Johnny’s lack of endurance. We parked on Woodland Avenue in Marshall-Shadeland with the hopes of circumnavigating the whole area that sits between California and Shadeland. We did not even come close.
I hadn’t seen Danielle since December so we had a lot of catching up to do. We walked, talked, and looked at interesting things.
Right near this mailbox on the corner of Plough and Dickson, we saw our first set of stairs and started going down. Even though the stairs aren’t on Google Maps, they were in pretty good shape. Danielle still seemed a bit wary of them.
Down on California we saw short half streets that used to connect to a long street called Fenway before Ohio River Boulevard cut out a huge swath of the North Side. Here is what is left of Boston Street on the West side of California Avenue.
Fenway Street still exists but is now short and overgrown. It is also a graveyard for old toilets.
We crossed back over California on Forsythe Street and when I saw stairs going down under the California Avenue Bridge, I couldn’t resist. They weren’t on the map either.
Down in the valley we found ourselves on the border of Brighton Heights and Marshall-Shadeland where Eckert and McClure come together in a confluence of sorts. At the tip of the triangle sit two buildings: Don’s Diner and a large mysterious building.
This building caught my interest for many reasons. The matching eagle emblems on the bottoms of the brick pillars seemed to invoke the spirit of a private club.
Another aspect of the building that caught my eye was the fact that it was literally touching Route 65 above it.
Near the top of the building was a stone-carved shield that bared the initials “RM.”
A little research showed me that while now it seems empty, in recent years, the building was home to multiple gay dance clubs including Club 1740, Pegasus, and the Pittsburgh Eagle. A recent listing on zillow.com shows what it looks like on the inside. You can also see that the front used to have a staggered fire escape attached to it.
Before that, it was home to the Kazimier Pulaski Society Polish National Alliance between 1942 and 1994. Maybe the RM has something to do with that. There were also earlier mentions of a building at that address that housed the Eckert Candy Company (1934-37) and Eckert Hall (1935). I can’t tell if it was the same building or if the candy store was torn down to build the Polish Club.
We walked towards the river and a place that I thought would creep out Johnny: The abandoned Western Penitentiary/State Correctional Institute-Pittsburgh (SCI Pittsburgh).
He was pretty unperturbed by it.
I’m not sure what it smells like inside but I’d bet you could describe it as ancient. The current Pen was built in 1882 but the original building, where the National Aviary is now, was built in 1826. Charles Dickens visited it when he was here in 1842. The prison also housed confederate soldiers for a few months starting in 1863 before they were transferred to a military fort in New Jersey.
Western Pen was closed in 2005 but reopened in 2007 as SCI Pittsburgh. It housed low security inmates and focused on those with substance abuse. In June 2017, the prison once again closed its gates.
Walking down Westhall past the prison, I could see some sort of a trail entrance with river access. I got excited about possible offroading but took one look at Danielle’s gleaming white Nikes and knew that was out of the question. I persuaded her and Johnny to shimmy down a gravel path to the river.
The geese didn’t seemed to be bothered by the malodorous quality of the water here. We were standing between the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (a water treatment plant my brother and I used to refer to as the Poop Factory every time we smelled it while my parents drove across the McKees Rocks Bridge) and an Alcosan sign warning us that during periods of heavy rain, sewage is released into the river RIGHT HERE. At this point in the summer, it had rained 7 straight days. The river was up and full of sewage.
The pungence of the air didn’t detract from the sight across the river (at least for me) of Brunot Island and the Native American Burial Mound in the McKees Rocks Bottoms.
You can read about the discovery and ruination of the mound on the PG Website Here.
We exited the river access and tried to purge our nostrils of its memory. Back on Eckert we took a left at the fork and found ourselves in front of a church worthy of a Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation placard.
Two men out front were busy with a camera on a tripod. When we were almost out of earshot I heard one of them say: “Looks like all of the tourists are out today.” I wear that label proudly. I am a tourist in my own city, every day.
We walked down McClure towards Gurnee and took a left on Lecky. I had already walked these streets back in February but I was seeing new things now. I was prepared for the fact that we had to go up to walk the intended streets and eventually, get to the car. Danielle and Johnny were blissfully unaware of the method of our ascension. We came upon the Malden Way/Street stairs and went up (also not on the map.) Trying to keep their minds off their burning quads and deflating lungs, I pointed out house ruins on either side of the flight. At the top, Johnny took a seat that tended more towards a whining collapse.
I forced Johnny to drink some water and he somehow mustered the energy to stand. Since I had another adult with me, I asked her if she could wait with him while I walked many dead end streets. Thanks, Danielle! I told them to meet me at the intersection of Geyer and Shadeland while I walked on Courtright and looped back around. It turns out that Courtright is a dead end that goes UNDER Shadeland. I should have known when the house numbers eventually descended into single digits.
Reunited, we walked mainly on Shadeland while I took a few detours down more dead end streets. One of the “streets” was called Davis Row. Marked by a white (now grey) sign that said it was private, Davis Row consisted of a sidewalk in front of about a dozen row houses. At the end sat a set of wooden stairs that lead to Geyer Avenue, much like the ones (pictured below) at the end of Complete Street. None of these stairs appear on the map.
On Oakhill we carefully navigated the creased sidewalks…
…until we got to these stairs that led to Oxfield.
Johnny’s mood started to oscillate between extreme fatigue and bursts of energy so powerful that he was literally running circles around us. If scientists could tap the energy of one child, we could probably power the entire country for over a month. Walking down Knapp, his last power cell seemed to drain. Maybe it was the sight of all of these discarded memories.
I almost had to carry him at one point when he started crawling on his hands and knees up a hill. Danielle laughed and said it was only funny because it wasn’t one of her kids. Isn’t it always?
Glacially, Johnny got to the car where we both were waiting. I gave Danielle the keys to turn it on with the AC blasting while I walked two more streets: Dill Way* and Tumbo Street. When I entered Dill Way into my spreadsheet, it lit up as a duplicate. Huh? It turns out there is a Dill Way in Mount. Washington too. Maybe that’s why some people call it Picklesburgh.