Allegheny Center is one of the smaller neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, often considered to be a part of Central Northside, and much of the neighborhood consists of park space. We started our walk on Cedar Avenue, at the eastern entrance to Allegheny Commons Park, and followed the path along North Avenue.
It was sunny, but cool, and the park was bustling with people. Passing by the site of the National Aviary, we came across the slapstick sight of a man trying to walk four dogs at once, kids playing on the various playgrounds in the park, a basketball game, a homeless man looking for a quarter in the pay phone, and all kinds of people scattered about the benches that line the park lawns.
There’s a lot of natural beauty in the park–gardens and ducks and shady trees.
But Pittsburgh’s gritty side never lets itself be forgotten, as West Park is divided into two by the railroad tracks, and the other half is accessible only by one bridge (the other two having been closed for one reason or another).
This monument rose up before we crossed the bridge, dedicated to the “4000 brave men of Allegheny County who fell in the great struggle to maintain the integrity of our Union.”
Next, we found ourselves on West Ohio Street, and what did we see? Popcorn! And ice balls! Gus served us up one of each, and both proved quite tasty.
We found some public art–a large sculpture–at the corner of Brighton Road and Ridge Road, and we discussed how much the ideas behind public art have changed over the years. Whereas most contemporary public art seems to be somehow in dialogue with its surroundings (i.e. James Simon’s giant jazz guys in the Cultural District), public art from the 70s so often seems to have been plunked down in the middle of a random space, with no apparent connection to that space.
Continuing along Ridge and crossing back over the railroad bridge, we discovered that this train track is still going strong. You can see the view of Downtown in the background.
On the other side of the bridge stands Thomas Armstrong, Advocate of the Rights of Labor. Strangely, Mr. Armstrong has no nose.
We soon found ourselves just outside the square that makes up Allegheny Center, apparently at the point where Abraham Lincoln first visited Pittsburgh in 1861, at Federal St. and South Commons.
We’re not clear on whether that tag is Mr. Lincoln’s.
If you’re approaching Allegheny Center from Downtown along Federal Street, you’re privy to the block-style aesthetic treat that is the outside of the former Allegheny Center shopping center, common among urban renewal projects of the era.
Though lively when the Children’s Museum is open and it’s summertime, the inside of Allegheny Center, with the bare fountain and lack of pedestrians, was looking a little bit apocalyptic! Nonetheless, the parts of the old Allegheny City that surorunded us were apparent, with the clock tower of the library rising up behind the museum, and The Buhl Planetarium visible on the west side of the museum. The treehouse in the museum plaza looked pretty inviting too!
Art, art, and more art! As you can see, the sun’s going down, but we’re not going home until our mission here is complete.
Next, we came upon the primary residential area of Allegheny Center, the four large apartment buildings.
We did a little research into the demographics of the neighborhood, and here’s what we’ve got: Less than 1000 people live here, and the population is relatively young, racially mixed, and overwhelmingly renter-occupied. There is a high student population, as the neighborhood touches the Community College of Allegheny County campus, and the apartments at one point served as a dormitory for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Some of those students have gotten creative with their interpretations of the neighborhood:
Finally, we arrived at one of Pittsburgh’s proudest claims to fame: America’s first free library! Created by Andrew Carnegie, who spent much of his childhood in the neighborhood, this branch of the library is no longer open, but the attached Carnegie Hall has been rennovated into the New Hazlett Theater. This venue houses some pretty cutting edge shows, so we would all be wise to pay them a visit. And check out this picture of a steel worker sitting down with the latest Harry Potter.
Having at last seen it all, we headed out the other side of the park.
Weary from our travels, we made one last stop at this fountain. We knew it was okay to drink from this fountain, because it clearly says “man, beast, and bird.” Mmmmm.
That’s our walk. Feel free to comment with any inside info you have about Allegheny Center.
Distance: 2.6 miles, Time: 1.5 hrs (at a leisurely pace)