Walking Bluff

We began walking Bluff (a.k.a. Uptown) at the Birmingham Bridge, which overlooks the tight, narrow neighborhood that stretches from Oakland to Downtown.

Bluff sits along the Monongahela River, just across from the Southside Flats.

We started at Fifth Avenue and made our way toward Downtown, passing a variety of small shops, bars, and residential housing the whole way down.


Along this heavily traveled route, we saw a number of old, painted billboards, harking back to a time before we were fighting over LED billboards in our neighborhoods.

Signs that say “no loitering” are not uncommon, but something about a “no loafing” sign struck us as more of a guideline for the way we might (or might not) live our lives.

Continuing down Fifth, signs of now-fallen buildings butted heads with newer construction.


Residential housing is interspersed throughout this largely commercial district.

We passed a group of children and adults playing cards on the sidewalk, along with many pedestrians, then came upon the Excel Kitchen Center, housed in the former Fifth Avenue High School.  Built in 1894, it was the first fire-proof school in Pennsylvania and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

We continued down Fifth Avenue, passing several little dive bars and markets, which became more closely spaced as we moved nearer to Downtown.


We recommend a trip to Tile City if you ever need to re-tile your bathroom with . . . uh . . . erotic art?

We passed Nego Gato, a center for African-Brazilian arts and capoeira, then came upon this wonderful mural.

As we approached Mellon Arena, the bars and restaurants became more frequent, seemingly catering to crowds straggling in from arena events.


It became very apparent that we had chosen St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Pittsburgh, as a slew of the 200,000 people who attend our parade every year were walking the streets or had drunkenly filled the Irish walls of Shale’s Cafe.  The influence of our coming primary and Hillary Clinton’s jaunt in the parade left the crowd dotted with political buttons and the occasional war protester.

We stopped to indulge in some street food: hot sausage catered by (and made in house at!) Zarra’s restaurant in Oakland, served on bread from Sanchioli Bros., which you might recall from our Bloomfield post!

Uptown gives a shout out to Community in this graffiti mural.

We could now see the Arena sitting up in the Lower Hill.

We turned left at Diamond Street, then passed this obscenely skinny building, along with Robert Morris University’s Bayer Center.


A couple of guys in kilts passed us by, and then we turned left onto Boyd Street.  We turned left on Forbes and passed some drunken Duquesne Students, then ran into city councilman Bruce Kraus, who was on his way back to the Southside to tackle constituent complaints about rowdy revelers on the other side of the river.

We came upon the Armstrong Tunnels, the site of an accident infamous in these parts.

We passed Life’s Work, which provides workforce development for people with disabilities, and could see Mercy Hospital in the distance.

Next, we came to Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship, which provides transitional housing for homeless veterans, and the Uptown Senior Citizen’s Resource Center.


At this point, we discovered that we were in an area formerly known as the “furniture district,” having passed the Belmont Furniture building (which was the last independent furniture store in the district).

Sadly, these famous biscuits are no longer.

We arrived at the Pittsburgh Association for the Deaf, then passed the Arena Health Club (a private, 24-hr men’s club with Russian and Turkish baths , which was the site of a fire in 2002).


Further down Forbes, we passed the Corinthian Baptist Church and signs of a neighborhood watch.

We turned right onto Seneca Street, then right at Tustin Street, passing a playground.

While Fifth seemed to have very few vacant buildings, the Forbes area showed more signs of struggle.  Most of this block was up for sheriff’s sale.

At Jumonville, we discovered an entirely different kind of block watch.

This resident, a self-proclaimed “recluse,” has a near obsession with keeping tabs on neighbors.  He or she keeps a website chronicling the findings and posts the address on the front of the house: http://www.neighbors.pitas.com.

Crossing Gist Street, roosters crowing in the background, we captured the neighborhood art that has popped up around James Simon’s studio.  Simon hosts the Gist Street Reading Series and has spearheaded an effort to introduce more public art into the neighborhood.


We made a left at Marion, then a right at Locust, heading up to Mercy Hospital.  Now part of the UPMC empire, Mercy was Pittsburgh’s first hospital and the first Mercy hospital in the nation.

We made a right at Stevenson Street, a left at Forbes, and a left at Magee, heading up to the Duquesne University campus.  Duquesne is a Catholic university with just over 10,000 students.

It’s a small, walkable campus, which overlooks Downtown and the rest of the Uptown neighborhood.


From the top of the hill, you can also see the county jail, which sits on 2nd Avenue.

At the back of the campus, we stumbled upon the “Lourdes Grotto,” donated by Phi Sigma Kappa.  Apparently, frat boys have really changed since we were in school.

We took McAnulty Drive back down to Forbes Avenue and headed home. 

Bluff provided a great walk and a great introduction to our newest member of the walking team: Mia!

Distance: 5 miles
Time: 4 hrs, at a leisurely pace, including lunch, chat, and a wayward dog



Filed under Bluff, Colleges and Universities, Walking

2 responses to “Walking Bluff

  1. Thanks for proving a point. And, great pix too!

  2. Juan-Carlos Shannon

    good thread! the fraternity that donated the Lourdes Grotto at Duquesne is Kappa Sigma Phi, not Phi Sigma Kappa.

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