The Surprising Story of Pittsburgh's Last Wooden Street
Comprised of thousands of wooden blocks, the street has survived for more than a century.
photos by chuck beard
The City of Pittsburgh maintains more than 1,000 miles of streets. Roslyn Place in Shadyside — just 250 feet long — might not merit a lot of attention, except that it’s the city’s last wooden street, one of only a handful left in the world.
Shadyside wasn’t always the residential and retail stronghold it is today. In the late 1800s, it was a patchwork quilt of large estates. The land that Roslyn Place occupies once was part of the Aiken Farms property before Thomas Rodd bought it in 1904.
- Eighteen homes stand shoulder to shoulder on the abbreviated street.
- The street was built in 1914. The homes were built and rented over the next two years.
- It took about five men more than six months to cut the 26,000 wooden blocks that make up Roslyn Place.
- During its first 71 years, the street took a beating, enduring winter, the rise of the automobile and road salt. In 1985, residents convinced the city to mount a full-scale restoration instead of paving over it.
- Some owners keep a small stock of wooden blocks on hand from that restoration and undertake their own guerilla spot repairs.
- Roslyn Place once had its own newspaper. Two young residents went door-to-door asking neighbors for their news.
- The street is too narrow to allow access for municipal vehicles — fire trucks, ambulances and plows must park on Ellsworth Avenue instead.
- Roslyn Place is featured in the book “Great Streets.” The book’s author, Allan Jacobs, once lived on Roslyn Place.
- The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has designated Roslyn Place as a Historic Landmark — an honor that doesn’t guarantee protection from the ravages of time and the general push for convenience.