From Here, You Can See North Park

The view from North Park's observation tower provides visitors the chance to see lovely scenery surrounding the large mass of nature.



The view from the observation tower at North Park, which is closed to the public.

Photo by Rick Sebak

Throughout the past year, I’ve spent several days in North Park. This is unusual for someone like me who’s from the South Hills, but WQED cameraman Frank Caloiero lives in Ross Township and brags about the joys of that park so much that I thought I should check it out. We decided to investigate what’s different about each park and create video stories celebrating the two big chunks of nature in the polar-oriented hills of Pittsburgh.

North Park is bigger: 3,075 acres of wooded playground, which is more than 1,000 acres larger than South Park. But size means nothing.  In the northern suburbs, residents love the bike trails, hiking paths, gigantic swimming pool, the lake that’s being renovated, the tennis courts and the golf course, too. There are vintage picnic groves just as in beautiful South Park, but there is an unexpected hilltop structure there: the Observation Tower.

I first heard about it from Gary Rigdon, chairman of the Friends of North Park, who said, “I thought I knew the park really well, and when I went up there, I wasn’t expecting to see anything I hadn’t seen before—but it was like ‘Holy cow! This is unbelievable!’”

The Observation Tower, an old metal tube-like structure with a dome roof, was built in 1937 with the purpose of storing and supplying water to the park. A dedication plaque lists the names of long-gone county commissioners as well as data such as storage capacity. Its official name was the Allegheny County North Park Water Supply System Standpipe.
“It’s a water tower,” Rigdon explained, “but what makes it unique is there’s a set of stairs that you can walk on to get all the way to the top. And the view—the view from that deck is really fantastic.” But the stairs are blocked and locked nowadays. “It’s closed to the public because it’s not really safe,” he said.

But Caloiero and I know that, sometimes, exceptions are made for TV crews who can take pictures and share the experience with many people.  We called and asked for special permission. By the time we arrived, a county policeman already opened the padlock on the stairs, and we climbed the 154 rusty, creaking steps that led to the observation platform. 

After seeing the door open, four or five other people sneakily followed us.

The covered deck itself has a stylish terrazzo floor decorated with cool mosaics of zodiac symbols and a compass point—all around a circular bench where visitors can sit and appreciate the panorama. That’s what people go for: a bird’s-eye view of countless trees, the nearby golf course, houses to the north and the glorious, natural splendor of the park.

It’s impressive—even to my Southern eyes.

Thanks to Allegheny County Parks and the Pennsylvania Department of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.


Rick Sebak plans to tell more about North and South Parks this month on “It’s Pittsburgh,” which airs Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. on WQED-TV.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Next time you get a call from a telemarketer, just be thankful you don’t live in Atlanta.
Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

The four are semifinalists for James Beard Foundation Awards, considered the most prestigious of the nation's culinary honors.
Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

No offense to the motor city, but auto companies are eyeing the steel city to develop the next generation of driverless vehicles.
Even the Penguins Helped to ‘Shear Da Beard’ This Year

Even the Penguins Helped to ‘Shear Da Beard’ This Year

A who’s-who of Pittsburgh legends were on hand Monday night to help shave what may be Pittsburgh’s most famous beard.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Next time you get a call from a telemarketer, just be thankful you don’t live in Atlanta.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

The highly anticipated restaurant from Derek Stevens opens is located in the Union Trust building Downtown.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

While it's not among Downtown's best, Social House 7 is a fine place for a drink and a bite — but we're stuck on a bizarre element of the décor.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Where else but Pittsburgh would a football player, two years removed from his playing days, be able to raise about $85,000 in one night for the staging of an event that involves the gathering of a crowd to watch a man shave?

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Reviews of "The Great Wall" and "Fist Fight," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments