From the top of Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh's topography comes to life.
Downtown's steel peaks and valleys shift as the Monongahela Incline
ascends almost 600 feet above the city. The basins of the North Side's
stadiums fill with black and gold while Victorian Manchester gazes
patiently toward Brunot Island, Neville Island's mysterious sibling of
the Ohio River. Station Square
stirs as the restaurant and shopping
crowd swings to the nightclubs, and snakes up and down Carson Street
into the South Side
. In the distance, the Cathedral of Learning crowns
Oakland's achievements. The three rivers roll with kayaks and bigger
boats, and the bridges breathe as cars, bikes and pedestrians make
their way to a concert or home or the office, or stop to take in the
view. Point State Park
's majestic fountain marks the meeting of the
rivers. Everywhere, there are trees, and the sky spreads forever.
view as been awarded one of the "10 most beautiful" in the country by
, and Mt. Washington sees nearly a million visitors a year for
But Mt. Washington has so much more to offer than
breathtaking vistas of Pittsburgh's other neighborhoods. The
neighborhood of more than 12,500 residents has its own distinct
community and culture, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say its
own distinct communities and cultures. Mt. Washington, which was known
as "Coal Hill" until 1876, is an exercise in contrast. Brand new,
million dollar condos two blocks from rowhomes that have been in
families for generations. Lavish fine-dining establishments down the
road from classic dive bars and pizza parlors. Nearly 300 acres of
trees and trails that cut through and are surrounded by high rises and
perpetual construction. The oldest continuous inclines in the world
that draw both tourists looking for fun and residents in need of public
Living the High Life
Just across the Mon from Downtown Pittsburgh, Mt. Washington is a mostly
young, working class community. The largest population by age is
between 25 and 44 years old, with the average income exceeding $42,000.
And because of the luxury houses and condos that line Grandview Avenue,
Mt. Washington is home to one of the largest populations of those
earning greater than $200,000 in the region.
"The charm of the
Mt. Washington is in the community," says Chris Beichner, executive
director of Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation
"What sticks out in everyone's mind is the view, but if you come here,
you realize the diversity of the people here, and their passion for the
Mt. Washington residents say they love their
neighborhood not just for its views, but also its amenities. There are
dry cleaners (including Bram's Tailor and Cleaner, established in
1909), a Foodland grocery store with ample parking, drugstores, several
banks, a quaint post office and tons of salons for all your hair, nail
and tanning needs.
Another appeal is Mt.
Washington's proximity to just about everything outside its borders.
, who rents in both Mt. Washington and Midtown
Manhattan, says she loves how "close and convenient" the neighborhood
is to Downtown and the airport, as she travels a lot for her work as an
artist and fashion designer. Jeff Paul
, a seven-year resident and area
developer, explains that Mt. Washington's so ideal because "you've got
the big city right down there, and the suburban community feel up here."
ranges from ranches on narrow lots, to apartment rentals in partitioned
homes, to modern mansions with sweeping verandas.
Condos include the Trimont on Grandview, where two-to-three bedroom units (with pool and health club access, naturally) range from $375,000 to $1.475 million, and 1000 Grandview
, which doesn't look like much from the street, but cascades elegantly with down the mount, offering each condo a remarkable view of the Golden Triangle.
developments include the family-oriented Sweetbriar Village
broke ground in July; the luxe, 11-unit Vista Grande
, which is taking
shape at the corner on Grandview Avenue and Ulysees Street; and the
mixed-use One Grandview, which is slated to replace, by 2012, the
vacant former Edge Restaurant near the top of the Incline. Within the
business district, there are also some new constructions and
renovations in the works, including a promising commercial/residential
space by Paul Apostolou of Apostolou Associates, Inc.
the most famous housing option on Mt. Washington is Chatham Village
46-acre cooperative residential community built in the 1930s and still
studied by architects and planners today. Nestled in an idyllic green
space toward the Duquesne Heights side of the neighborhood, Chatham
Village has the air of a storied university campus with its ivy-draped,
red-brick homes arranged around impeccably groomed quads. Gourmet
coffee shop Café Cravings caters to residents, but is open to anyone.
Food with a View
Mt. Washington is home to some of the city's ritziest restaurants, and also some of its best holes in the wall.
Row," as the strip of eateries along Grandview Avenue is known, boasts
some truly formidable special-occasion spots. Standouts include LeMont
the romantic, five-star staple that does an inspired tableside Baked
Alaska; Monterey Bay Fish Grotto
; which serves the freshest catches
from atop the Grandview Point Apartment Building; and Tin Angel
the black cherry-stuffed filet mignon is named after President Clinton
in honor of his 1994 visit to the restaurant.
Grandview, though, and you'll discover the gems hidden deeper in Mt.
Washington's Shiloh Street and Bailey/Boggs Avenue business districts.
got your pizza joints, including Cestone's
(yes, they serve pizza
bagels), Bellissimo's (go for the vegan pie and vintage arcade games)
and Fox's Pizza Den. And then there's La Tavola Italiana Restaurant & Pizzeria
. Located a bit back from the tourist-targeted area, La
Tavola is a BYOB that serves unpretentious Italian food in an
unpretentious environment. Everything is homemade and everything is
excellent. Its mention in a 2007 Sports Illustrated
article as a
Steelers player and coach haunt justly adds to La Tavola's appeal.
Washington also has its share of watering holes where you can fill up
on classic American cuisine and frothy pints of draft beer. Redbeard's is a local fave with a cozy, street-level courtyard that
serves conventional pub grub and homemade potato chips. And don't pass
up newcomer Packs & Dogs. All the right fixings are available for
the veggie and standard franks, and you can pick your own six-pack from
more than 400 varieties of hard-to-find bottles. If beer's not your
thing, the wine and spirits store is just a storefront away.
breakfast all day, don't miss J.J.'s Family Restaurant, where the wait
is never more than five minutes and the eggs are always made-to-order.
And for caffeine, homemade fudge and frozen treats, be sure to hit up
Grand Brew coffee shop and DiFiore's Ice Cream Delite toward the
view-side of Shiloh Street. Both are popular with Incline visitors and
both are owned by Todd DiFiore, who made local headlines in June for
working 1,000 days in a row.Places to Pay and Pray
Washington doesn't have tons of retail, but what it does have is
astoundingly unique. There's Wallace Floral Shoppe and Eiseltown Flower
Shop, which also sells small gifts, penny candy and lottery tickets.
Exile Cycle Shop, which opened on Boggs earlier this summer, does
repairs, and new and refurbished bikes. And you can set up an
appointment with Mt. Washington Scooters
owner Scott Wroblewski to plan
the purchase of your next motorized two-wheeler at his new shop on the
corner of Shiloh Street and Southern Avenue. Other area shops include
JV Rashi's Treasures, which feels like a one-room flea market, complete
with jewelry, coins, knives and other collectibles; and Schwarz's Woodworks, Inc.
, on Merdian Street, where you can order a custom pool
Some shops that are more distinctive sights than actual
retail destinations include Horsefeathers Singing Telegrams, a puzzling
little storefront on the corner of Sycamore and Kearsarge Streets, and
the long-vacant Mr. Magoo's Variety Store on Boggs Avenue, which is
both a beautiful and haunting relic of what once was. The Carnegie
Library's books are not for sale, but its Mt. Washington branch
century-old white building on Grandview Avenue--is worth stopping by
for a browse or a story time.
Also, Mt. Washington has some
gorgeous churches, including the regal Saint Mary of the Mount
Grandview Avenue, and the Presbyterian Church back on Bailey Avenue,
which hosts conferences and events at its on-site Urban Mountain Gathering Place
--a great way to incorporate Mt. Washington's signature
view for less than at a Restaurant Row banquet facility.Parks and Arts
Mt. Washington is a fun place to eat and shop, but it's also an amazing
neighborhood in which to breathe the fresh, open air. There are the
obvious panoramic views from the top of the Duquesne and Monongahela
Inclines, and the overlooks along Grandview are perfect for post-meal
strolls and event photo ops.
When not in formal wear, take
advantage of Mt. Washington's other outdoor recreational amenities.
Grandview Scenic Byway Park
, which wraps in a U-shape around Mt.
Washington's peninsula, comprises 235 acres of playgrounds, playing
fields, woodlands and trails, some of which are so untouched you can
spy deer, foxes and wild turkeys, says longtime resident Eva Simms, a
psychology professor at Duquesne University
According to Ilyssa
Manspeizer, the MWCC park resource manager, regular park events include
yoga practice and film screenings, and two upcoming special events
include the 100th birthday celebration of Grandview Park (Oct. 3), and
Wild Art, Wild Trails Fest (Sept. 7)--a festival in which participants
will clean up a dump site, and create art from the former waste.
Charles Lewis Memorial Park on Shiloh Street was developed into a
sustainable rain garden exhibit by Burt Hill
architects in 2008. The
garden is home to just one of Mt. Washington's murals, an
impressionistic streetscape on the side of the neighboring historic
firehouse. The other two murals are "Bloom," created in 2007 by Gerry
Tonti, and a depiction of George Washington surveying land for Fort
Pitt painted onto the gas station-facing side of MWCC's office.
murals set the perfect stage for the weekly Arts Marketplace
brings performers and craft vendors to Mt. Washington every weekend
from May through November.
"We try to engage the tourists by
pulling them in with the art, and hope they'll stay and explore the
rest of the neighborhood," says MWCDC's Greg Panza.
Captions, top to bottom: Vicki at Cafe Cravings; Duquesne Incline; The View from Grandview; Hiking in the Grand View Scenic Byway Park; Jeff Paul; Chatham Village; Shiloh Street Grill; Schwartz's Woodworks; Charles Lewis Memorial Rain Garden; (l to r) Greg Panza, Chris Beichner, and Ilyssa Manspeizer of the MWCDC.Caralyn Green is the development news and Buzz editor for Pop City.
Photographs copyright Brian Cohen