Sunday, November 29, 2009

3: Troy Hill

Troy Hill has, in a nutshell, everything I love about Pittsburgh's neighborhoods in general: city steps surrounded by urban forests; old, grand homes mixed with small, modest wood-framed houses and a few sad vacants; narrow streets perfect for exploring; no-nonsense businesses like the Uni-Mart and laundromat; public art; urban grit; proud senior citizens happy to tell you about the old days; parks and green spaces; historic buildings and landmarks; and an honest-to-goodness community vibe. Perched on a plateau high above the Allegheny River in Pittsburghs' North Side, Troy Hill has sweeping views of Downtown and other neighborhoods.

Much has been written about Troy Hill. For an overview and history, check the City's web page and Wikipedia. For an in-depth look at the daily lives of citizens in this close-knit community, I highly recommend The Women of Troy Hill: The Back-Fence Virtues of Faith and Friendship by Clare Ansberry. Learn what's going on now in Troy Hill's blog.

I live at the base of Troy Hill and love to explore this neighborhood. While most people know of the neighborhood that sits high atop a hill, the H. J. Heinz Company, Penn Brewery (which occupies the former Eberhardt and Ober Brewery buildings), River Avenue (running parallel to the Allegeny River up to the 31st Street Bridge), and parts of Route 28 are also considered part of Troy Hill.

Several sets of city steps wind up to Troy Hill. Photo by Dave.
Some steps lead to houses that are only accessible via the city steps, like these.
The base of Troy Hill, looking across Route 28 from the Heinz plant. Photo by Dave. The Heinz Lofts in the Heinz complex. Photo by Dave.Penn Brewery and Troy Hill houses behind it, taken from the opposite side of Route 28.
Penn Brewery.
Houses high above steep Troy Hill Road, the main road going up to Troy Hill. Photo by Dave.
View of Polish Hill and the Strip District from Goettman Street.View of the 31st Street Bridge, Lawrenceville, and Bloomfield from Goettman Street.View of Downtown at the intersection with Troy Hill Road and Goettman Street.
In 2009, a public pool no longer in use was converted to a spray park, the city's first.
View of Downtown from the baseball field.
North Catholic High School.
Hughes Funeral Home, a historic landmark built in 1877 and the former residence of John P. Ober.Lowrie Street, the main business district, is home to pizza shops, bars, a pharmacy, a coffee shop, a restaurant, and other neighborhood-serving businesses.Most Holy Name Rectory, a historic landmark.Saint Anthony's Chapel, a historic landmark, includes thousands of religious relics.Troy Hill houses.Sprout Fund mural on a building on Lowrie Street. Intersection with a war memorial, Billy's Restaurant, and the Troy Hill Firehouse – Engine Company 39 (the oldest firehouse in the City of Pittsburgh and a historic landmark).Marker noting the site of the former Troy Hill Incline at Fidelity Bank.
Voegtly Cemetery. Photo by Dave.St. Nicholas Church, the first Croatian Roman Catholic parish in the United States, has sat vacant pending plans for the demolition of all structures to widen Route 28. I am unsure of the status; I've heard that alternate plans were proposed to save the church. The church may be saved, but the dilapidated, vacant houses in Troy Hill on Route 28 like these are already starting to be demolished.

Map of Troy Hill from Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2: Spring Garden

Spring Garden is in the North Side, nestled in a valley at the base of Troy Hill and bordered by Routes 28 and 279. I know Spring Garden well. The section closest to Downtown is along Vinial Street, where Penn Brewery is located (though Penn Brewery is actually in the Troy Hill neighborhood)--Vinial Street intersects with my own street. Spring Garden snakes back toward Ross Township via long, winding Spring Garden Avenue.
View of Vinial Street (first row of houses) from Spring Hill. East Allegheny is behind Vinial Street. Photo by Dave.

Spring Garden Avenue is populated by the remaining vacant storefronts of a no-longer-vibrant business district, a pizza shop, a small playground, the no-longer-in-use Spring Garden Elementary School, houses, a small, sad strip mall with one or two businesses, and other commercial businesses. The gem of Spring Garden Avenue is Marshall's, a locally-owned gas station that shares space with a BBQ place that we've never seen open.

Vinial Street features houses rehabbed about seven years ago as part of the Brewer's Row development, with Spring Hill in the background.

Voskamp Street. The first two houses were renovated as part of the Brewer's Row project.
As you go away from Downtown along Spring Garden Avenue, Spring Hill on the left and Troy Hill on the right tower over the Spring Garden valley, which is filled with mostly large, wood-framed houses. A few are nice and kept up, most are livable but a little sad and dirty, and a few are vacant and falling down from the weight of years of neglect.

The view from steps going up to Troy Hill of houses in Spring Garden and houses above it on Spring Hill.The farther along on Spring Garden Avenue you go, the more it feels you're out in the sticks. Here, just before the city border at Ross Township, large yards are home to trailers, trampolines, and rusting pick-up trucks. There are also several streets rambling off into the woods with glimpses of houses peeking out.

I love that about Pittsburgh--you feel like you're in the middle of nowhere but still in the city. It's what we fondly call Urban Deliverance.
The illustrated map of Spring Garden comes from Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

1: East Allegheny

I wanted to start my journey of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods in my own. Trouble is, my street is the border for three different neighborhoods, so it's always hard to say which is mine! But according to the city map, I live in East Allegheny. Map is from Wikipedia.
My street, Wettach Street, is in East Allegheny but is also the border of Spring Garden and Troy Hill. Here you can see the Heinz smoke stacks on the other side of Route 28. Photo by Dave.
A lot of houses in East Allegheny have good city views. Here's the view from our roof, with Shiller School in the foreground (behind our guardian owl, that is.) Photo by Dave.
East Allegheny, also known as Deutschtown, is bordered by East Street, East Ohio Street, Goehring Street and Vinial Streets, and "West Deutschtown," which extends from Cedar Avenue to East Street and from the Norfolk Southern Mainline to Dunloe Street. Route 279 splits the neighborhood in's a little mind-boggling to think how much of the neighborhood was torn down in the 80s to make way for the mammoth highway system that filters North traffic into and out of the city.

View of East Allegheny from steps on Vinial Street in Spring Garden, going up to Troy Hill. Far left is Shiller School at bottom, Downtown behind; Allegheny General Hospital is far right; all visible houses between Downtown and AGH are East Allegheny.
The vibe varies with the housing stock. Some large, historic, brick homes have been renovated and have attracted young professionals who love the location but don't want to pay Mexican War Street prices (that's us), as well as retirees and even a few hipsters. The majority of my neighbors have lived on my street their whole lives and are fiercely proud of the North Side. One of them, Herm, often says, "You're either in the North Side...or you're out side!" Other homes are vacant or shabby and run-down, attracting a transient, poverty-level population with no money or inclination to care for their homes. These homes are mainly in the section of the neighborhood east of 279 bordered by Chestnut Street. Homes in the section west of 279, bordered by Cedar Avenue and West Park, tend to be bigger and better cared for. There are some new construction homes in this area, as well as The School House apartments, a former school converted to apartments.

Middle Street, west of Route 279.
Sad vacant house, east of Route 279. Photo by Dave.
East Allegheny's business district is on East Ohio Street. Many of the commerical buildings are large, historic, and architecturally interesting. Businesses are mostly stable and serve the neighborhood, including Isaly's Deli, barber shops, banks, restaurants, bars, and a liquor store. Park House is a very cool bar and restaurant with free popcorn and peanuts, home-made soups, and vegetarian stuff like falafel and veggie burgers. The Priory Fine Pastries bakery always has gorgeous wedding cakes in their windows. Bistro to Go has inexpensive, home-made meals.

East Ohio Street business district.
In the residential area north of East Ohio Street, there are a few destinations. Amani is a cute coffee house and cafe located off East Ohio Street on Foreland Street. Also on Foreland Street is Artists Image Resource, the city's destination for print-making. (If you want to make your own t-shirts or posters, stop by their open studio on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.) The two big restaurants in this same area are Max's Allegheny Tavern, serving up German favorites, and Legends of the North Shore, which has great Italian food.

Obey mural by Shepherd Fairey beside Artists Image Resource on Foreland Street. Photo by Dave.
The area south of East Ohio Street has three residential streets of large, old historic townhomes lined with brick sidewalks and large trees. The Priory Hotel, named one of the Top Ten Hidden Gems by, is in this area.

Houses and church on Avery Street.

Learn what's going on in the neighborhood at the Deutschtown website.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Exploring Pittsburgh Neighborhoods: My Journey Begins

I love Pittsburgh's neighborhoods. Each with its own character, from upscale to artsy to gritty, the neighborhoods are what make Pittsburgh such a special, authentic place. I live in the city and spend many of my evenings and weekends exploring different neighborhoods with my husband Dave. I worked for three years in the Lawrenceville neighborhood in community development. Even for Pittsburghers like Dave and me, born in the 'burbs and only away from Pittsburgh for school, there's always something new to discover.

But it wasn't until recently, during a walk through the Fineview neighborhood, that I realized we'd never been to all of Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods. That's what this blog is about--my journey through all of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods. If you love Pittsburgh neighborhoods like I do, please leave comments. I think the beauty of the neighborhoods is that each of us discovers something new, and it's fun to see what others have found.Me in the West Park playground in the North Side a year ago. Photo by Dave, as is the photo in this blog's header.