Posted by: tuulenhaiven | February 18, 2014

The View from Morelock Street

I took advantage today of LE’s need to get her hair trimmed, and tagged along when she ventured across the river to the borough of Etna. While she had a wash and cut, I trotted around the bit of town and then hiked up to Morelock Street to get a better look at a couple of bridges that I’ve driven over numerous times, but not had a chance to really see.

Etna lies within view of downtown Pittsburgh, but it has a nice small town feel – one of the things I love about the cities ‘suburbs’. Once the home of the world’s largest pipe-rolling mill and over 7,000 people, it now shelters less than 4,000 and the mill has long since closed. From what I can gather, however, the community is vibrant and increasingly full of young families. I look forward to biking across the Allegheny in the summer to check out their farmers market, and catch sight of their firework show in July. (Here’s a brief history of Etna.)

Even a pretty town can look dreary in February though, and the charms of Main Street were somewhat lost on me today. It wasn’t until I had tromped up High Street and found the First Congregational Church of Etna Cemetery that I started to get excited.

First Congregational Church of Etna Cemetery - Feb. 18th 2014

Etna is situated right on the bank of the Allegheny River, and is draped over a collection of steep slopes. The views from the tops of these hills is excellent, and I can believe that the residents of Etna congratulate themselves on their wise choice of settlement. The cemetery is tumbling off one such slope, and I cut up through it, encountering on the way a young fellow teaching a kid how to snowboard among the gravestones. Climbing onto Morelock Street, I was rewarded with my view of the two bridges, the boroughs of Etna and Sharpsburg, and a brilliantly blue bend in the Allegheny River.

View toward Sharpsburg from Morelock St - Borough of Etna, Feb. 18th 2014

Highland Park Bridge - Borough of Etna, Feb. 18th 2014

The Highland Park Bridge is the 16th crossing of the Allegheny, and was completed in 1939. It is a cantilevered Pratt deck truss bridge, and was designed by Sidney A. Shubin, who also takes credit for numerous other bridges in the county, including the South Tenth Street Bridge (over the Monongahela, which is the only other one of his that I’m familiar with – I’ll find the rest…!)

In the picture above you can see a dark line in the water directly in front of the bridge – that is the Allegheny River Lock and Dam No. 2 (the 15th crossing). It was built in 1932 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers as part of an extensive system of locks and dams on the river, and is still the most-used lock operated by them in the country. (You can also see the pillars of the Brilliant Branch Railroad Bridge behind the Highland Park Bridge…but more on that another time.)

Senator Robert D. Fleming Bridge - Borough of Etna, Feb. 18th 2014

We drove over the 62nd Street Bridge to get to Etna (or the Senator Robert D. Fleming Bridge, the 14th crossing of the Allegheny River). 62nd Street is the last of the numbered streets that begin at the Point in downtown Pittsburgh, some 6 miles away or so. There has been a bridge in this spot at least since 1876, although this cantilevered Warren deck truss business is only from 1962. The longest span is 400 ft. (compare that to the longest span on the Highland Park Bridge, which is 277.9 ft. – and why these things interest me, I could not tell you…but it is fun to see both designs!)

View up the Allegheny from Morelock St - Borough of Etna, Feb. 18th 2014

Here are both bridges, as seen from the backyard of an Etna Yinzer, complete with their Pens and Steelers flags (no Pirates flag – they’re not a fan of baseball?) Their view is great, as is the view of some folks further down Morelock Street, if they would just clear away those horrible Kudzu vines (of course that’s a nearly impossible task…)

View of Lawrenceville/Oakland from the end of Morelock St - Borough of Etna, Feb. 18th 2014

You can see the Cathedral of Learning there on the left, in Oakland, with my home neighborhood of Lawrenceville on the shore of the river. The good folks up on Morelock Street pay for their view though, perhaps, especially now – I imagine when the weather is inclement, these streets are pretty sketchy to drive up or down…

Where Morelock St and High St meet - Borough of Etna, Feb. 18th 2014

I can vouch for the fact that this road is even steeper than it looks!

Anyway, at a time of year when the snow is dirty, and the hillsides are brown, and the trees are a long way off from budding, I take comfort in the bridges of Allegheny County, which glow warmly in the sunlight and even on a grey day bring me delight with their graceful leaps and daring cantilevers. Still, I can’t wait to revisit this hillside with its rocky, rugged cemetery, when it is green and full of flowers. Snow angels are fun to make, but a nap on a grassy knoll sounds absolutely divine.

Until then!

First Congregational Church of Etna Cemetery - Borough of Etna, Feb. 18th 2014


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