Efforts continue to reclaim a 64 acre park that extends from Josephine St. below to the heights of the Slopes. In this wooded hillside are streams, ball fields and pathways. Volunteers have removed invasive knotweed and vines that choke the park. A number of marked trails within it provide great walking opportunities. With funding from The Brashear Association, South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association partnered with Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Landforce and the Student Conservation Association to create this neighborhood asset. Friends of South Side Park manages its ongoing work.
Make right onto Mission. The first bridge was built in 1939 as a project of the Public Works Administration under FDR. An SSSNA initiative brightened this area by replacing existing street lighting with higher wattage lamps. That's South Side Park below and rising up the hill to your right. After the bridge on the left is the Mission St. pumping station circa 1900, which delivers water into the neighborhood and surrounding area. Continue across second bridge.
Dedicated in 1916 to serve a Polish parish established in 1901, the Roman Catholic Church was named for St. Josaphat (Josephat Kuntsevych), a bishop and martyr born in Poland in 1580. The building is Romanesque with a Byzantium influence evident in the arches, pillars and bell tower. The main altar held relics of St. Josaphat. In the rear, beneath the choir balcony, hung a picture of the Black Madonna. The church closed permanently after a section of ceiling collapsed about the casket of the last caretaker during his funeral mass. The school was converted into four living units. The church itself is being transformed into a community wellness center. Many Polish descendants continue to inhabit this section of the Slopes. The names of relations and former residents who served in World Wars I & II are seen on the memorial tucked into the hillside across Mission St. from the church.
Make left and climb 44 wooden steps that were rebuilt in 1999. Continue along Holt St. and another 4 steps to Eleanor St. Here you'll see the Birmingham Bridge that crosses the Monongahela River. Stay left and continue to walk Holt St. on the sidewalk.
Just past 39 Holt St. is an open lot. A fire here destroyed three homes on Memorial Day weekend 1997. Alarmed by the inability of a standard fire truck to negotiate the narrow streets and sharp turns, a group of residents joined forces to create the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association and lobby the city for smaller fire trucks. The city adopted the new design, and now a number of smaller fire trucks serve hillside neighborhoods throughout Pittsburgh.
Keep left and descend three steps. Notice the houses sit below grade, a feature of building on a steeply sloped hillside. Continue to where the sidewalk reaches street level. At the last house on the right, cross street and climb Sumner St. Steps across from fire hydrant.
At Oakley Way, cross Sumner to sidewalk on left. Take in the view of Oakland. Rebuilt in 2012, the concrete walk continues below grade as it rises along the left side of Sumner. Sets of wooden steps rise to the street. Here, the lots start to widen into yards with gardens and fruit trees. Walk up 17 steps to 2725 Sumner and climb 9 wooden steps to Sumner. Look right and take in the view of downtown. Cross to Burham St.
In this section of the Slopes are a couple of smaller churches. Cobden Street Baptist Church is on the left corner at 2500 Cobden St. The Second Primative Methodist Church is at 2430 Cobden St.
Each November, Pittsburgh cycling enthusiasts host a 50-mile bike race that goes up 13 of its steepest hills. Eleanor St. is one of the Dirty Dozen. Cyclists start this leg at Josephine St., at the base of the Slopes, and race up Holt and Eleanor to finish at Cobden St.
Take right and and climb the 9 steps on the right side. Continue walking along the paved portion of Berg to the steps at the street's end. Stop. Relax. Take in the view of the rivers, downtown and the rooftops of South Side.
Turn left to join the trail. Continue along top rim of trail to a paved lane with commanding view of the park. Efforts over the last few years have cleared invasive vines and weeds and planted trees and flower beds.
The trail was designed and built in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association. Funded by a 2015 Birmingham Foundation grant, the trail connects the eastern and western halves of South Side Park in this area known as Jurassic Valley. Landforce constructed both the Salisbury Connector Trail and Sterling Connector Trail in 2016. SCA and Slopes volunteers cleared a significant amount of land to cut across the steep terrain.
From the overlook, follow the paved trail a short distance to the sign post for the Salisbury Connector trail. Turn left and walk dirt trail. About 40 feet in is a second sign post. To its left are 26 steps. Climb them and turn left to rejoin the trail. Continue up hill. Keep right where the trail forks behind Arlington Recreation Center. Climb the 11 steps along the side of the building to Salisbury St.
The South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association is currently working with a local artist to add a mural to the East-facing wall along the trail. The mural will provide a more inviting entrance to South Side Park from the hilltop neighborhoods and will help deter future vandalism. Look for it to be painted in the Spring of 2024.
The Brashear Association was founded in 1917 to honor the renowned, self-taught scientist John A. Brashear and celebrate his humanitarianism. The Henry Kaufmann Neighborhood House was constructed in 1965 as an outreach site. Brashear Association supports and enriches families in a community context to build more vital lives and neighborhoods in South Pittsburgh. The building also houses Arlington Community Center.
Take left and climb Fernleaf. On the right at Eccles St. is the former Engine House #22 which was established in 1894. From its roof tower, the view covered several surrounding neighborhoods and provided an ideal lookout for smoke and fires. When ready, continue to Fort Hill St. & Steps.
The fort was a circular redoubt located on "Ormsby's Hill," bounded by Fernleaf, Salisbury, Sterling, and Fort Hill Streets. It was one of two forts built in Arlington-Arlington Heights during the Civil War as a defense against the Confederate raider Morgan, who, it was feared, would come up the Monongahela from West Virginia. The first, Fort McKinley, was made of mud, its breastworks still standing up to 1925. Its grounds were purchased for a playground in 1914.
For all its steepness, there are play and ball fields throughout the Slopes. This ballfield regularly hosts baseball and softball games under the lights which can be seen from the South Side Flats and Oakland. Take in views of downtown's tallest buildings and Oakland's medical complex. The Spray Park opened in 2018. Replacing a deteriorated city pool, the spray functions are many and varied. A children's playground, rebuilt in 2021, completes the park.
Take left. Arlington Ave. runs along the tops of South Side Slopes and marks the division between it and Mt. Oliver. At Eleanor St. is Hilltop Coffee where you’ll find a water stop and restroom. Just past 2405 Arlington is Old Arlington Avenue Streetcar Loop. You can see where tracks entered the lot and turned trolleys around. On the side of 2505 Arlington is a colorful mural depicting the former transit loop. When ready, continue to Clover St. Steps.
Take left and walk one block to Patterson St. and Cologne St. steps. Though SSSNA lobbies to repair and restore badly damaged steps, the city removed 25 deteriorated steps in 2014 between Salisbury and Patterson streets. You can help repair and retain city steps by utilizing the City of Pittsburgh's 311 system.
Turn right. The course takes you along the crest of a knoll, with yards sloping down on either side. You will pass the Cobden Street Basketball Court on your right. Continue past Sumner St. to Northview St.
Make left. Ahead is a commanding view of the Cathedral of Learning and Oakland. Descend past Flynn Way and Stromberg St. to where Northview bends to the right. On the left, just past the guardrail and before 3111 Northview, are Northview St. Steps.
Make left and descend 113 steps through a nicely shaded area. The remains of a foundation stand near the bottom on the right. Where the steps come out of the woods is a park. Straight ahead is Josephine St. Make a left and walk through Monongahela Park. Do not descend to Josephine St.
Turn left into park. Cross the short clearing and descend 18 steps to the ball fields. Years ago this grassy area was a city reservoir. The basin was filled with earth in the 1950s. Many local groups use this large, flat field for organized sports and exercise. Cross to the far left corner marked by a guardrail to exit the park onto Shelly St.
Shelly St. is two levels here. On your right is an iron fence that divides the two sections. In 1935 the Work Projects Administration (WPA) terraced this part of the hillside and created the bi-level street topped with an iron fence. In 1998 Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation designated the Stella-Shelley fence as a historically significant landmark.
Cross Mission and climb 5 steps on right side of street. Make right. Ahead lies the scenic St. Josaphat's Chapel and the spectacular view that takes in Mt. Washington, the Liberty, Fort Pitt and West End Bridges, the roofs of the South Side and the City beyond the Monongahela River. A city 'Love Your Block' grant was awarded in 2022 to a resident on the street who worked with neighborhood volunteers to paint the blue rail and install the bench and flower pots. Stay left and descend the 80 steps to Barry St. These 4-foot wide steps were built in 1950.
Make left and descend 69 steps. Located at the eastern terminus of Leticoe St., these 3-ft. wide wooden steps were rebuilt by the City of Pittsburgh in the summer of 2021. Continue on Leticoe St.
Turn right at end of Leticoe St. and descend this flight of stairs built in 1947. It contains 96 steps that are 4-ft wide and descend to Greeley St. Notice the stone and brick foundation ruins perched over the hillside on the left.
At the bottom of Greeley St. is one of six gardens maintained by SSSNA members. In an effort to put a green face on the Slopes, the garden was planted in 2002 in conjunction with the Western Penna. Conservancy. To the right is decorative glass maker Emerald Art Glass, which is open to the public during week days.
Turn left. The miniature maples trees on the railroad side of the street are some of the 54 planted by the Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission in spring 2003 after the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Assoc. (SSSNA) advocated for their planting and recruited tree stewards. Continue to S. 21st St. The large brick building rising above the tracks is The Brew House.
The Brew House Association is a non-profit organization established in 1991 to provide a supportive environment for artists to live and work. It took over the former Duquesne Brewing Company building, which opened in 1899 and operated at this location until its dissolution in 1972. Since the late 1970's, the Brew House has rented living and studio space to artists. In 1995, it developed an exhibition hall, Space 101, and a performance theater. Over the years it has collaborated with Quantum Theatre, Black Sheep Puppet Festival, and Pittsburgh Opera to stage productions. There are currently 72 units, a community workshop/maker space, a community kitchen and gallery.