Walking Allegheny Center

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.


We also found George Washington looking rather dapper atop his horse.

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)




Filed under Allegheny Center, North Side, Parks, Walking

6 responses to “Walking Allegheny Center

  1. mattmp

    update: Pittsburgh Dish comments on the (non-)ribbon cutting for Allegheny Commons park improvements that took place last Friday here — http://pittsburghdish.typepad.com/pittsburgh_dish/2007/09/new-toy-for-boy.html#more

  2. I used to trek through this territory when the Library was still open, and sometimes I grabbed a bite at the Wendy’s in the big block building nearby. I liked the classical art and the *idea* of an open public campus, but it did look awfully underutilized and impractical.

    Since then, the clock tower on the library got struck by lightening, closing the library, and the Wendy’s went out of business, so I haven’t been in maybe a year. Just goes to show that even when things seem desolate, there’s always a way for them to get even desolater.

  3. Pingback: Next Up: Allegheny West « Walking Pittsburgh

  4. Yes, the main thing about most of the North Side is just how few people now live there and that’s it’s central problem. It’s why you can’t support more than one supermarket and very little in the way of stores or street life. It’s also one of the main reason the downtown has trouble supporting much street life or business.

    Like almost all areas near the downtown it’s role is to provide parking non residents.

  5. Pingback: Interlude: Public Art « Walking Pittsburgh

  6. Walking Allegheny Center

    I lived in the Allegheny Center townhouses as a child in the early 1970’s when the area was booming with activity.

    Thanks for the tour. It was nice to see the old neighborhood.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s