Scaling the Mountain

Beginning at the south shore of the Monongahela River and climbing the undulating geography surrounding Mount Washington, this area boasts iconic views of the city skyline and many neighborhoods.

photo by dave dicello


What's Here

South Side Flats: The Flats neighborhood— particularly the main thoroughfare, East Carson Street — is known for bars and loved for shops and galleries. It is one of the most uninterrupted stretches of late-19th and early-20th century architecture in the city.

South Side Slopes: This is a diagonal neighborhood — neither entirely horizontal nor vertical. The streets and “paper streets,” as some sets of city steps are known, pass grand old churches, neighborhood bars and gradually widening views of downtown.

Mount Washington: Best known for its aptly named Grandview Avenue, which looks onto downtown, Mount Washington also boasts a thriving business district on Shiloh Street.

Duquesne Heights: The neighborhood called Duquesne Heights occupies much of the geologic entity of Mount Washington, even though the neighborhood of Mount Washington is better-known. Duquesne Heights includes an incline and much of Emerald View Park.

Allentown: Allentown is a streetcar suburb in the most literal sense: At one point, a trolley and several inclines connected it to the South Side. Today, tracks from the discontinued Brown Line still run through the neighborhood, which is in the midst of a civic push for revitalization.

Arlington: A small town within the city limits, this neighborhood is tucked behind the South Side Slopes and backed by a steep hillside down to Parkwood Road.

Arlington Heights: An annex of Arlington, Arlington Heights is a small, sparsely populated hilltop neighborhood with four roads, a park and an adjoining cemetery.

St. Clair: St. Clair is a residential enclave annexed in 1920. Demolition of the St. Clair Village public-housing complex left much of the neighborhood vacant and cleared. 

Mount Oliver Borough: A geographic oddity, Mount Oliver Borough is an independent municipality contained entirely within the city of Pittsburgh … 

Mount Oliver: … and is not to be confused with Mount Oliver, which is one of the 90 city neighborhoods and adjacent to the eastern border of Mount Oliver Borough.

Knoxville: Just south of Allentown, this neighborhood — once populated by managers of the steel mills along the river — now is a small residential community hidden in a deceptively low-lying area spilling downhill from Brownsville Road.

Beltzhoover: Hidden on the back side of Mount Washington, the residential neighborhood of Beltzhoover is working to revive its business district on Warrington Avenue.

Bon Air: A small residential neighborhood untouched by the main thoroughfares of the area, Bon Air enjoys proximity to woodsy McKinley Park.

Carrick: The last stop on Brownsville Road and the T light-rail line before the city limits, Carrick is a self-contained community with schools, a library, parks and a sizable business district along Brownsville Road.


10 Things We Love

1 Long before brunch was mandatory for area restaurants, The Zenith Tea Room [86 S. 26th St.,] in the South Side Flats served a completely vegetarian, all-you-can-eat buffet for the late-to-rise weekend crowd. That the dining room essentially is a thrift shop, where even the chairs are for sale, is what keeps it an iconic establishment today.

2 When people call Pittsburgh a manufacturing city, they usually refer to products such as iron, steel or glass. But the city once made food, too. Among the last remnants of this economy is Colteryahn Dairy [1601 Brownsville Road,] in Carrick. The only dairy in the city limits is approaching its centennial.

3 Architecture in Knoxville for the most part is characterized by charming brick storefronts and a few grand, aging estates. Then there is the Knoxville branch of the Carnegie Library [400 Brownsville Road,], which architect Paul Schweikher designed in 1965. The defining features of this severe modernist marvel are two skylights embedded in enormous metal hoods rising from its roof like periscopes.

4 If you have time and patience, there are great deals to be found at The Red, White and Blue Thrift Store [890 Saw Mill Run Blvd.,] in Bon Air.

The Oliver Bath House [38 S. 10th St.,] in the South Side Flats was built at a time when indoor plumbing was voluntary and bathing was communal for many people. Today, the noble building houses the only city-owned indoor swimming pool. 

6 A wave of Uzbek immigration in the mid-2000s brought a new national cuisine to the Pittsburgh area, as evidenced by the opening of Kavsar [16 Southern Ave.] in 2014 on Mount Washington. The tiny halal restaurant features dumplings, salads, stews and breads from the central Asian country.

7 The tiny neighborhood of St. Clair became significantly smaller after the city demolished the 465-unit St. Clair Village public-housing complex in 2010. A collection of community groups is devising a plan to turn the empty space into one of the largest urban farms in the country [], which could significantly change diets for families in the South Hills. 

8 The South Side Slopes hardly is the only hilly Pittsburgh neighborhood — or the only one crisscrossed with staircases. But it’s done the most with its hills and steps. The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association [] erected handsome signs mapping all the city steps and host walking tours each year, where sweaty visitors can hoof it up the hillside.

9 Some relics survive by changing with the times, such as the giant clock on the side of a former brewery in the South Side. It originally advertised the Duquesne Brewing Company and later featured the logo of Equitable Gas Co.; today, it belongs to AT&T.

10 Among the longest-running community events in the South Hills is the Carrick Cornfest [], an all-day festival in late summer. It includes performances, activities and food. The tradition, though, is simple and wholesome: Boy Scouts selling corn on the cob.



Under-the-radar food and drinks

In the heart of Mount Washington’s party-hard Shiloh Street you’ll find one of the best cocktail bars in Pittsburgh. You might still rage hard at The Summit [200 Shiloh St.,], but you’ll be doing it with high-end spirits and in-house gems such as the Autumn Smash (gin, Berentzen, Cynar, pear, ginger, citrus, allspice). Chef Bek Winters’ Sweet Peaches Catering Company [639 E. Warrington Ave.,] in Allentown quietly has become a must-go brunch destination for people in the know. The former Legume pastry chef serves, among other things, ceregi (an eastern European doughnut), scones and buttermilk pancakes. Her catering company also can be hired for events. — Hal B. Klein

Under-the-radar activity

Proving it has survived fad status, pole dancing still is alive and kicking … er, twirling? Stop by Fitness with a Twist [70 S. 21st St.,] in the South Side, where you can drop in for $20 or get a six-week series for $150. Also, consider your attire — while a T-shirt and shorts would seem to be normal suggestions for a workout, the studio also suggests that you try wearing 6-inch platform heels. They sell pairs on site, and a purchase earns you a free Walking Class (which we know we would need). — Jennie Dorris


Categories: Visitors Guide