Pittsburgh Viewpoints: Mount Washington, West End

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I’ve always thought that Pittsburgh is one of America’s most beautiful cities.  The steel that brought pollution several decades ago, also allowed the city to develop a stunning array of architecture in its buildings and bridges.  Pittsburgh’s downtown is also nestled in between the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, at the point where the two combine to form the Ohio.  And finally, it’s all sandwiched in between hills that provide some incredible viewpoints, from which to see it all.

Mount Washington, on the city’s south side, may very well be the best place to view this assemblage of steel and glass.

The easiest way to reach Mount Washington is to take the Monongahela Incline up the hill from the Station Square subway stop (at the south end of Smithfield Street Bridge).  If you want to drive, take PJ McArdle Roadway, at the south end of the Liberty Bridge (just before Liberty Avenue enters the Liberty Tunnel — locally known as the “tubes”).

Grandview Avenue runs along the crest of Mount Washington.  For several blocks, between the Monongahela Incline and the intersection of PJ McArdle Roadway, there is a sidewalk and several viewing platforms, that extend out over the hillside.  Each platform offers a view like the one above…

… or this one.  This is the Smithfield Street Bridge, which ends at Station Square.

Also along Grandview Avenue, you’ll find some of Pittsburgh’s priciest real estate…

… and St. Mary of the Mount Parish Church.

If you continue west on Grandview Avenue, beyond the intersection with PJ McArdle, the hill is a little less tourist friendly.  There are no viewpoints and parking is severely limited.  This must be an effort to restrict tourists to the several-block area on the eastern end of Grandview Avenue.  However, there are a couple of reasons to drive down this way.

One reason is to see this statue, called “Point of View”, depicting George Washington and Guyasuta of the Seneca Tribe.

The two leaders first met in 1753, when Guyasuta led Washington up the Allegheny River.  Washington was delivering a message to the French to leave the area, so that the British could move in.  The French didn’t budge, and later, the French and Indian War began. Guyasuta and Washington were allies, and later enemies during that war.  They met again 17 years later, downstream on the Ohio, spending a night around a council fire, discussing the future of the region.  They parted on friendly terms.

If there was a viewing platform on this end of Grandview Avenue, the view might be better than down the street.  From here you have a clearer view of Point State Park and the fountain at the point.

Another reason to check out this end of Grandview Avenue is the Duquesne Incline, which serves this end of the street.  There is a viewing platform at the top of the incline, which allows you to view the city and the railcars.

The Duquesne Incline has been in service since 1877, while the Monongahela Incline is 7 years older.  You’ll find lots of trivia on the Port Authority website.

In 2003, USA Weekend magazine rated Mount Washington the second most beautiful place in America–specifically, at night.

West End Viewpoint

I spent Day 2 driving around to a lot of different places in Pittsburgh for personal reasons, none of which would probably interest you.  However, I did spend some of that time seeking out another viewpoint, simply because I was in the area, and saw a sign for it.

The West End Viewpoint is on a hill downstream from Mount Washington.  In the foreground, you’ll notice a bridge.  That’s the West End Bridge, which carries US 19 (Truck Route) over the Ohio River.  There’s a narrow pass west of Mount Washington that allows the road to pass without a tunnel.

Zoom in a little, and you have a nice view of the point and downtown Pittsburgh.

The West End Viewpoint is at the end of Marlow Street.  There are signs which will point the way.

A word of caution: my impression of the neighborhood leading up to the viewpoint was that this probably isn’t one of Pittsburgh’s best or safest neighborhoods.  I felt safe at the parking area for the viewpoint, but the surrounding streets are definitely looking a bit run-down.

As I mentioned earlier, much of my day in Pittsburgh was spent on personal business.  So, the trip jumps ahead here, to the evening of Day 2, when I drove south to Fairmont, WV.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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