The Newtown Pentacle

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shocked edicts

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Apparently, the section of Pittsburgh referred to as “the North Side” used to be its own municipal entity until 1907 – dubbed as either the Borough of Allegheny or Allegheny City depending on when you were doing the dubbing. There’s a terrific amount of historic buildings on this side of town, and notably in the 27 acre “Mexican War Streets” historic district. The National Aviary and several other interesting institutions are located nearby. I got to see a very unhappy looking Condor when we walked by.

I had my friend – Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY fame – speaking in my head while I was shooting these. Kevin would go absolutely gaga in this area, I kept on thinking. This sort of heterogenous Victorian and Edwardian era development would very much be his sort of jam.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pittsburgh is climatologically notorious, due to its topography. The three rivers, coupled with the steep valleys and ridges it’s built into, as well as its geographic relationship to the Appalachia Mountain range and the faraway Great Lakes creates a volatile and quite changeable atmosphere hereabouts. Last time I was visiting, it was pouring rain about three miles away from me while I was standing under a blue sky with direct sun. Go figure.

This particular morning, it was drizzling. Occasionally it would start to “proper rain,” but it was mostly drizzle. Our Lady of the Pentacle is British, so she felt right at home.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Didn’t really matter to me, as part of my travel kit is an umbrella, and I notoriously wear a filthy black raincoat all the time.

It’s actually a pretty great umbrella, by the way. Bought a $25 folding one that was recommended by NY Times’ Wirecutter people. Lifetime replacement guarantee is offered for the Repel Folding Umbrella, with an automatic open and close switch on the handle, it weighs virtually nothing, and tying it onto my camera bag is a breeze.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady of the Pentacle was extremely interested in seeing Randyland. Randy Gilson is a local artist who has… well, here’s the Wikipedia article about Randyland.

I couldn’t help but think about how the NYC political and real estate establishment would go out of their way to eradicate and replace this area in the name of “affordable housing” if it was located in Brooklyn or Queens. The bulldozers would have long ago demolished this area and replaced it with soulless mirror box rhombuses, full of tiny studio apartments, which were cast roughly at the sky. There’d be a sign saying “Randyland used to be here” erected by a nonprofit.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Stealing the Sky” is the title of a book I’ll never write about Long Island City and big real estate in the early 21st century. It starts at the Pratt University and NYU urban planning department meetings in the early 1990’s, and ends when the last condo building goes up along Newtown Creek. They’re not even close to being done yet, incidentally, the dynastic real estate companies.

Nothing matters, and nobody cares.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Our Lady was satisfied with having witnessed Randyland and the Mexican War Streets historic district on the north side, and we began shlepping back towards the city center. We still had a few hours before the preparation for her trip to the airport to begin, and decided to walk in the rain for a bit. We stopped off for a coffee, then got eyeballed by a group of sketchy guys smoking weed in a bus shelter, and continued on our way. She said to me “they were noticing the camera.” I said “I know, but I’m not worried, I’m from Brooklyn.”

Seriously, when we leave our City and go to other places, it’s like being a tiger walking amongst hamsters. Ich bin ein Brooklyner.

More tomorrow.

“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

January 25, 2022 at 11:00 am

Posted in AMTRAK, railroad

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. Excellently put, your thoughts mirror mine on the matter. Hope the newtown pentacle is archived somewhere “in the cloud” for all posterity!

    Tommy Efreeti

    January 25, 2022 at 4:12 pm

  2. […] The section of Pittsburgh which I landed in after moving out of New York is called the South Hills. There’s eighty something different neighborhood/regions which make up the Pittsburgh Metro Area, and I still haven’t been to most of them, which is something I’m trying to rectify. When you say “North Side” it’s generally referring to a largish section that’s north of the Allegheny River, which is actually the former Allegheny City municipal area that Pittsburgh annexed ‘back in the day.’ There’s a small relatively flat area along the river where you’ll find a couple of the stadiums, and other cultural stuff. As you move away from the river, a steep hill begins to rise out of the river valley. The only time I’ve previously spent in this zone was a brief ‘explore’ in a part of the neighborhood that is called the “Mexican War Streets.” […]

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