Day or night, your ascent to this hilltop neighborhood will be rewarded with picture-perfect vantage points of all that is Pittsburgh: its downtown skyline, rivers, bridges, and neighborhoods. Getting to Mt. Washington is half the fun—cruise up and down the 400-foot slopes in historic “inclines,” funicular railways that transport you to Grandview Avenue, the cliffside thoroughfare known for romantic strolls, magnificent vistas, and fine dining with a view on Restaurant Row. Take just one look and you’ll see why both visitors and Pittsburghers find it impossible to resist the charms of Mount Washington’s vistas.
But there’s more to Mount Washington than what immediately meets the eye. Venture away from the ridgeline for a neighborhood slice of life in the Shiloh Street business district or an uncommon urban hike through portions of the newly established Scenic Byways Park.
The neighborhood’s namesake is none other than George Washington, who was dispatched by British brothers-in-arms to survey the area—and ward off a French invasion. Atop Mount Washington, he observed that the wedge of land sitting at the confluence of three rivers - now Point State Park -would make an ideal location for a fort. The subsequent struggle to control this land and the surrounding Allegheny Mountains was the crux of the French and Indian War (or Seven Years’ War) from 1755-1763.
As the War ended on this continent in 1760, colonists from victorious Great Britain launched mining operations beneath Mount Washington, then known as “Coal Hill.” Over the following century, the hilltop was populated by English, Scotch-Irish, and Welsh immigrants, many of whom worked in the iron and glass industries that were blooming on the banks of the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers.
German and Eastern European émigrés arriving here in the late 1870s constructed four inclined railway systems to move people and supplies up the formidable grade. Two of these railways—the Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines—operate today, serving both visitors and commuters en route to the South Side’s Carson Street business district or to points “Downtown”—the city’s central business district. Stop into the hilltop stations of both inclines to view exhibits showcasing their history and role in the growth of the neighborhood.
How’s the View Up There?
One of the best in the country, as a matter of fact. Local brides and grooms travel to pose for photos at the Grandview Avenue scenic overlook spots, but the admiration isn’t limited to sentimental locals. In 2003, USA Weekend Magazine named “the nighttime view from Mount Washington in Pittsburgh” second in its list of the 10 most beautiful places in America—rivaling natural and man-made wonders from across the country. And in 2005, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation designated the area as a State Scenic Byway. Soon, new interpretive signage along Grandview Avenue will enrich your visit with sidewalk history lessons of the city and community heritage.
You don’t have to look away from Mount Washington for great scenery; plenty of natural beauty resides within neighborhood boundaries. Framing the Grand View Scenic Byway is the newly designated Scenic Byways Park, a 280-acre crown of green and open space that rings Mount Washington and adjacent neighborhoods. Soon hiking and biking trails will connect three formal city parks with wooded areas for a respite from concrete cityscapes. For architecture enthusiasts, the residences of Grandview Avenue include great examples of the Queen Anne style.
- Less than 3 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh central business district—but much of the distance is vertical!
- - Get there by car, bus, or incline. Once at the top, Grandview Avenue and Shiloh Street are easily walkable.
- - Mapping? Major streets in and around the neighborhood include Grandview Avenue, McArdle Roadway, Shiloh Street, Virginia Avenue
- - Geocaching? Find Mt. Washington caches on Zip Code 15211.
- - Need more film? Skip back two blocks from Grandview Avenue to the Shiloh Street business district, where you’ll also find ATM machines, metered parking, refreshments, and other essentials.
- - The corner of Shiloh and Grandview, near the Monongahela Incline.
- - Additional details on parking, ATMs, and more are included in the itinerary.