The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

calculations would

with 2 comments


– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s about a mile’s walk, all uphill, along Pittsburgh’s Grandview Avenue, from the Monongahela Incline to the Duquesne Incline. Along the way, I was shooting, and the shutter was a-clicking.

The up hill walk gave me time to reflect on everything I was experiencing. It also reminded me that I grew up nearby “Flatlands Avenue” and not too far from a place called “Flatbush.” “Flat” is a recurring theme in NYC, after all. We all live on a flood plain, whereas Greater Pittsburgh is definitively “not flat.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned in earlier posts, Mt. Washington used to be called “Coal Hill” and by early 19th century standards the mineral deposits found here were considered to be one of the most valuable resources in Western Pennsylvania. Coal Hill was rechristened as Mt. Washington in 1876. From my limited observations, it seemed like a pretty nice choice as far as places to live.

Once again, the topology of Pittsburgh boggles the mind, especially for someone who grew up in a place defined by terms like “sea level” and the omnipresent usage of the descriptor “flat.”

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vehicular roads leading to and from Mt. Washington use sharp turned switchbacks to allow cars and trucks egress to the area. The ridge directly overlooking the downtown area had several multi unit homes arranged along it, but there were also plenty of places for visiting lookie-loo’s like me to check the scene out from.

For a sense of the elevation, the UPMC building at the left of the shot is the tallest building in the city.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Here’s a look at one of the neighborhoods up on Mt. Washington, where that weird topology is manifestly visible. I have a friend who’s got a brother that lives in the Pittsburgh area, and said brother is a photographer. The Brother – who is dubbed Tim Fabian – provided photos for a book by author Bob Regan on “The Steps of Pittsburgh.” It seems that all of these neighborhoods – up and down the hills – are vertically connected by 712 public stairways. Again – fascinating.

The housing stock of Pittsburgh, if I might comment, is disturbingly heterogenous. You see all sorts of floor plans and massing shapes here.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As mentioned the other day, day two in the Steel City bore the threat of possible rain, but I didn’t find myself inconvenienced by precipitation. The volatile weather of Pittsburgh was on display, however, as just a couple of miles away it was raining – as you can discern in the shot above. Weird, huh?

It really was quite a walk between the two inclines. If you find yourself here and on foot, I’d suggest reversing the order I chose – Duquesne Incline first and Monongahela Incline second. If you hit the higher one first, it’s all downhill from there.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My “good photo luck” game was strong on Day 2 in Pittsburgh, and I spotted a push boat towing an equipment barge under the Fort Pitt Bridge. Wasn’t the last lucky capture of the day for me, not by a long shot.

Tomorrow – the Duquesne Incline!

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

November 3, 2021 at 11:00 am

2 Responses

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  1. Wonderful travel writing. Why is Pittsburgh’s “heterogenous” housing stock disturbing. I’m guessing its because the topography is so vertical compared to Queens – maybe each house there was an individual accomplishment against the terrain, no chance for housing developments.


    November 13, 2021 at 8:25 pm

    • Disturbingly Heterogeneous is a phrase I lifted from HP Lovecraft, but I use it sarcastically to point out the wonderful lack of a homogeneous built environment like Levittown or the McMansion nabes you encounter all over the place these days.

      Mitch Waxman

      November 13, 2021 at 8:28 pm

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