Look for Art-Deco Pylons & London Plane Trees

Two busy riverside boulevards still have bits of their beauty.



OK. It's just after dusk, and you're driving from Oakmont toward town, and on the western end of Verona, you see the old roadside stone pylons with metal-stencil signs that light up from inside!

Wow!

Stately, rounded art-deco-style monuments, with brightly backlit yellow letters telling you that you're on Allegheny River Boulevard heading toward Pittsburgh, these markers are the most beautiful road signs in Western Pennsylvania, maybe in the world.

They were installed in the early 1930s by Allegheny County when four grand boulevards were established in the Pittsburgh area: Allegheny River Boulevard, Ohio River Boulevard, Saw Mill Run Boulevard and Moss Side Boulevard. These "picturesque expressways" were some practical results of the City Beautiful Movement, when the aesthetics of roadways were still factors in their designs and locations.

Moss Side Boulevard apparently never had pylons, but the other three boulevards did, two pylons at each end. All 12 featured classy granite bas-relief sculptures by Pittsburgh artist Frank Vittor that commemorated a dozen different historical events. Only four of these great pylons survive today.

The two in Verona have been lovingly treated by the town with a restoration in 2007 of the interior lighting system that gives them their magical nighttime glow. The flower bed at the base of one pylon has also been tended and replanted every year. Go, Verona!

The two Ohio River Boulevard towers that survive in Emsworth aren't in such tiptop shape. One is held together by metal straps and its top is all askew, but they're still handsome, and let's hope they can be preserved.

Once you start paying attention to these stately markers on these local roadways, you may start to notice other eye-catching aspects of the boulevards. There are lovely vistas, less industrial in nature along the Allegheny, but even the scary stacks and pipes and plants of Neville Island catch your eye as you pass through Bellevue, Avalon and Ben Avon. You may feel the urge to stop on a bridge and snap some photos.

Along Allegheny River Boulevard, there are still several rustic stone pull-off areas where you could once park, sit, watch the river, bring a picnic or whatever. Those tempt-me-to-stop observation spots resemble ruins from some forgotten ancient civilization, but they're all blocked and closed now.

But as you sit in a long line of traffic, you may notice some of the flora along these boulevards. Out near Verona, across from the Rivertown Shopping Center, for instance, there's a row of magnificent London Plane trees that bend over the boulevard. They look like dancers, leaning in unison, these hybrids of American sycamores with Oriental Plane trees. They famously thrive even in urban pollution and were planted along both sides of these boulevards back when we were still a City of Soot.

There also were careful plantings of shrubs and flowers along both sides of these roads - greenery and color provided to change with the seasons and delight drivers as they sped along these paths. These were routes designed like parks.

Now we think of them as narrow roads that back up in rush hour. But we can still love and appreciate them, watching for their beauty bits and knowing what once our roads were meant to be.

Big thanks to Christine Davis Consultants; and to Paul Korol and his collection.


Rick Sebak produces, writes and narrates documentaries for WQED tv13, as well as national specials for PBS. His programs are available online or call 800/274-1307.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Watch: Scarehouse Visit is One These Steelers Won't Forget

Watch: Scarehouse Visit is One These Steelers Won't Forget

Bud Dupree, L.T. Walton, Cam Heyward and Ryan Shazier were among those on the Halloween adventure to the renowned haunted house in Etna.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
TasteBuds Is Returning To Pittsburgh

TasteBuds Is Returning To Pittsburgh

The event pairs the city's top chefs with young adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Underrated Fountains in Pittsburgh

The 5 Best Underrated Fountains in Pittsburgh

While we all know and love the grandeur of the fountain at Point State Park, there are many hidden fountain gems throughout the city. These are a few of our lesser-known favorites.

Comments


Madness and Mayhem in the ScareHouse Basement

Madness and Mayhem in the ScareHouse Basement

Visiting the world-famous haunted attraction's adults-only, subterranean experience.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers' Latest Soap Opera is Timely If Not Manufactured

Steelers' Latest Soap Opera is Timely If Not Manufactured

All of a sudden the Steelers have that us-against-the-world mentality many a team has sought to manufacture in tough times such as these.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

Robert Hallett, Goldsmith, handcrafts the jewelry in his Oakmont shop.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Celebrate the Life and Work of George Romero This Week

Celebrate the Life and Work of George Romero This Week

A preview of the week-long tribute to the late filmmaker, plus reviews and more movie news.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Pick of the Patch: Pumpkin-Themed Proposals

The Pick of the Patch: Pumpkin-Themed Proposals

In honor of fall, we’re showcasing three couples whose proposals involved one of the best things about the season: pumpkins.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Holiday How-To: Upgrade Your Fall Decor with Advice from Local Experts

Holiday How-To: Upgrade Your Fall Decor with Advice from Local Experts

Interior designers share their tips on creating easy, elegant décor that will take you from Halloween through Thanksgiving.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module