There’s not a single street in Allentown that lacks an amazing view of our city.
But when the panorama subsides and you get an up-close look at those streets, the view is often changed.
Allentown is facing a significant amount of blight, and its footprint is evident throughout the neighborhood. It also offers a strong feeling of community, as neighbors and their children line the sidewalks, and there are a number of gems within its borders.
We started our walk at Beltzhoover and East Warrington Avenues. Allentown’s business district stretches along East Warrington, from Beltzhoover to Arlington Avenue.
The business district includes a retail store called The Walk In Closet, a Senior Citizen Center, pizza shops, salons, the Schwartz Market, the Brashear Neighborhood Employment Center, the fine dining of Alla Famiglia, Warrington beer, Michelle’s Diner, the Herman J. Heyl Florist, the offices of the South Pittsburgh Reporter, and the former youth hostel.
They’re currently working on a community mural on the face of one of Warrington’s buildings.
It is also host to its share of closed storefronts, as vestiges of a once-larger population now sit empty, many of them in a state of decay.
When we crossed Arlington Avenue, we headed up a hill, into a more residential part of the neighborhood.
As we continued up the hill, two large dogs tried to eat us, then a daschund. We didn’t let the ruckus distract us too much, because we were too taken in by the interesting little scenes that presented themselves on the porches and houses along the way.
A lot of the houses jutted out into hillsides filled with wild green spaces.
This stiletto perched on an abandoned chair presented us with a whole imaginary narrative of who might live inside.
The graffiti that adorned many of the abandoned houses may have reflected some of the frustrations of the community here.
Before we turned off Warrington, we stepped up . . .
. . . to take in this view of the Birmingham Bridge.
Heading a block south, we passed the most pimpin ass mini van we’ve ever seen.
We turned west onto Manton Way. We thought the world would be a better place if we all followed the rules posted here.
Manton Way is also where we observed a cute, little 6-year-old rapping on the door, shouting, “Abby, I got you a pack of cigarettes!” A-dorable.
From here, we took a left onto Arlington Road, then a right onto Industry Street. The southwest part of Allentown is flat, and the streets have a tight grid pattern. On Industry, as we neared the Beltzhoover/Allentown border, we eyed a house tagged with some rivalrous neighborhood graffiti. (A-town/Zhoove.)
We turned left onto Beltzhoover Avenue, then left onto Climax St., where we encountered a mixture of blighted housing and carefully-tended yards, along with this lovely painted fence.
We thought we were being stampeded, but soon discovered some neighborhood kids engaged in a race down the sidewalk.
Some other kids left their mark along the curb.
The now-closed First German ME Church reminded us of our neighborhood history, as the first immigrants to move to the area were of German descent.
We also passed the very active St. John of Vianney Church, which looms over the neighborhood. The church is visible from nearly any point in the neighborhood.
As we continued our climb up Climax street, we found ourselves out of breath and *very* ready to reach the climax! We figured this was good conditioning for some of the even steeper neighborhoods in our future.
Turning right at Amanda Avenue, we headed back up the hill by making a right onto Freeland Street.
We were really moved by a memorial we came upon on Freeland Street.
It really seemed to encompass both the sense of community in the neighborhood and the relationship to the landscape.
Frankly, we were surprised it took this long, but we finally came upon our first Goose of the project. We are sure that it will be the first of many, and we plan to document them all along the way. All hail the goose.
From here, we headed north, and passing our starting point at Beltzhoover and Warrington, we crossed from south to north Allentown. On our way out, we encountered an altercation between a woman and some neighborhood kids on bikes, as she shouted at them, “Don’t bring those stolen-ass bikes around here! Get it out of here!” We turned onto Excelsior Street.
The houses and yards on this street were much larger than what we had seen up to that point.
And . . . ladies and gentlemen . . . Goose #2, with Steeler Fever!
At the end of Excelsior Way, we came upon these strange, little huts.
We did get brave enough to peek inside, but didn’t find any answers there. No gnomes either.
We backtracked on Excelsior and made a right onto Renwick Street, where we found this tree carving.
We turned left on McLain and took the Allen Street entrance into Grandview Park. Grandview Park is one of the often unsung assets of Allentown.
The Overlook in Grandview Park doesn’t get as much traffic as the one at the top of the Incline, but the view is breathtaking.
The park has a playground, picnic areas, and an amphitheater, but the largest part of the park is a wooded hillside spotted with trails. We made an excursion into the trails and tried to find a way down to Arlington Avenue. We came close, but couldn’t make it without leaping ninja-style across rooftops.
Famished after our jaunt in the woods, we headed out of the park and south, back toward Warrington Avenue, to look for some food. Sadly, Michelle’s diner was closed, and Alla Famiglia, which looked to be a pretty elegant establishment from the lobby, was so crowded that we couldn’t get in without a reservation, so we had to dine elsewhere. We’ll definitely be back to check it out, though!
Distance: 5.1 miles
Time: 3 hrs (at a leisurely pace and including some dead ends in the woods)