I used to live there.

December 15, 2011 at 2:38 pm 12 comments

For about a year I lived on the third floor of an apartment building on Polish Hill in Pittsburgh.  That was the only place I ever lived alone.  I loved that apartment despite its many flaws, like the horrible bright red carpet and the constant hum of the traffic on the bridge.  The entrance was through the backyard and up a staircase.  There was an open air back porch although I didn’t use that much.  The kitchen floor sloped significantly which was not unusual for buildings in Pittsburgh.  The floor evened out in the living room then sloped the other way in the bedroom.  The best part was an enclosed front porch overlooking the Bloomfield Bridge.  I spent a lot of time chilling there with my giant cat Oliver.

Oliver has lived with my mom for the past few years.  He died last month.  I miss the kitty!

A friend sent this article this morning.  I’m glad all the people are okay, but humored that the building is considered worth $300,000 – in a real estate developer’s dream!

Fire Ravishes Polish Hill Apartment Building

A raging fire in Polish Hill was so intense that firefighters had to back out of the building and the people who live there still cannot get back in.

A neighbor that first spotted smoke billowing out of the windows on the second floor of the six-unit apartment building on Bethoven Street.

At first, the other tenants had no ideathey were in danger.

Note the article says “Bethoven Street.”  That is because the street signs say “Bethoven” instead of “Beethoven”.  This due to some long ago clerical error.  Citizens were always trying to get it changed but others would fight back with a “That’s how WE spell it” small town mentality.  I wish I had a picture of the street sign.  I do have a mixed cd labeled Bethoven No.3 that I just ran across last week.  I guess that’s what I’ll be listening to today.  While living there I remember rediscovering the band Letters to Cleo, whom I had liked in high school but not really understood.  It made more sense sitting watching the traffic on Bigelow Boulevard.

Just living on a Sunday morning,
got my toast and tea and I’m warm and
I just thought I’d think about.
All the things to get and keep getting,
never enough not enough and never ending.
I just thought I’d think about….
And it might be…

The comfort of a knowledge of a rise above the sky
but could never parallel the challenge of an acquisition in the
here and now, here and now.

Growing in the overgrown backyard were silver dollar plants which my grandmother, who had recently passed away, used to keep dried in vases.  I had never seen them living before.

I don’t have many pictures from when I lived in Pittsburgh, but I did make friends who are close to this day.  Cheers to Polish Hill and goodbye Bethoven Street.


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12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Denise  |  December 15, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    You lived in my husband’s grandmother’s apartment. She raised 4 children there (I know, I’m not sure where she stuffed them) and had a really happy life in that little apartment. All of the plants in the backyard, including the silver dollar plants were planted by her, her mother, and two of her sisters, all of whom lived there together while raising their families. Very old school Pittsburgh. My oldest daughter had her first taste of ice cream in that crooked kitchen and my youngest still uses a blanket that was knitted in the living room. I’m so glad to hear that you loved the old place, we loved it, too.

    • 2. saratoday  |  December 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm

      Thank you! I’m so glad to know all this. I can’t imagine where all those people fit. The kitchen was pretty big though.

      I still have a few of those dried silver dollar leaves. They survived the move from Pittsburgh to D.C. then to Minnesota. I haven’t unpacked that box yet here in CA so I don’t know if they made it this last time.

      When I read the article this morning I didn’t realize that I’d get so sentimental about the place. It’s a great-and-awful location all at once.

  • 3. Denise  |  December 15, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    It was a unique building, to say the least. Our family owned it for more than 60 years, selling it around 2000. Did you know that it was initially a hotel? When his gram lived there, a long storage room ran alongside the kitchen, living room, and bedroom. Those were each separate hotel rooms and the storage was the hallway. My father in law and his brother used that as a bedroom growing up. The basement had a really cool bar (at least in its day), but I know that was removed shortly after the place sold. The family is completely spread about the country, but it has been a day of reconnecting as everyone has shared their special feelings for the home. Mike’s Grandma would have been so thrilled that a young person, full of life and adventure lived in her little place. Travel well, it looks like you are someone on a life’s journey!

  • 4. Sue Bell  |  December 16, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Hi, I came across your site when I was trying to find out how the fire started. I grew up in that apartment. At that time all the apartments contained people related to us, aunts, uncles,cousins, and my grandparents. I left pittsburgh in 1974 for california but visited my mom many times. It was very hard on my mom when she had to leave that place. But it makes me happy to know someone like you enjoyed that “great-and-awful location.” It’s weird but a few years ago a silver dollar plant grew in my backyard out of nowhere and because I felt silly-sentimental about my grandma I kept it and the dried flowers are in a vase that is in my hall bathroom. When the sun shines on them they seem to light up.
    Thanks for posting about the house, I didn’t think I would be so sentimental about it. After seeing the video of the fire, it was nice to see Oliver’s picture and thinking about my mom sitting with her toast and coffee, looking out the window over her potted plants to see the sun rise.

  • 5. saratoday  |  December 16, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Denise and Sue Bell – I love that a building can have such personality that it inspired many of the same activities across the years. I too had the porch filled with potted plants.

    And I can see how it would have been a hotel. My great grandmother and her sisters ran a similar hotel in Missouri at the turn of the century, but it burned down in a fire as well.

    Thanks for the stories and happy holidays to you and your families.

  • 6. Gwen  |  December 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I just want to add my thank you for sharing your memories. I am Sue’s daughter and I have some great memories of visiting with my Gram in that that sloped kitchen. She would be cooking (as always), my great-aunt (who lived downstairs) would be making jokes not quite appropriate for her age, and my great-grandmother’s poodles would yapping from the ground floor apartment. I am so glad to know that you added your good memories to ours.

    • 7. saratoday  |  December 16, 2011 at 1:42 pm

      Hello Gwen,

      You know what’s funny? There was a problem with WordPress yesterday and it erased my draft of this post twice. I was so frustrated, but I went ahead and rewrote it a third time and I’m so glad I did. Out of all the places I’ve lived, the place on Bethoven street sticks in my mind like no other.

      My friend said he remembers the doorways were “surreal and slanted.” That’s called Character!

  • 8. Carrie  |  December 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    This sounds like a great apartment. If I had a porch or deck I would use it every day.

  • 9. Heather Sarnowski Downey  |  December 16, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Hey! I guess I’ll chime in, too. I’ll be short and sweet. Ditto to what my Sister in law, and and cousin said. But I have one question…did you ever get the feeling it was haunted? Because there were experiences, and I’ll leave it at that.

    • 10. saratoday  |  December 16, 2011 at 7:12 pm

      Hmmm… I can’t I thought it was haunted. Although I was pretty good about freaking myself out while going up the back steps.

  • 11. Skoopy  |  December 23, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Oh the memories of Bethoven St. I’m glad you posted this. I’m thinking of Oliver, the mini-trampoline and the bright red carpet.

    I remember the living room being huge but the bedroom looking more like a maids’ room with a little single bed.

    • 12. saratoday  |  December 23, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      I forgot about the trampoline. Where the heck did I get that? On the street probably.

      Barker called it my Seven Dwarves bed. btw, spellcheck does not acknowledge Dwarves. weird.


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