Thursday, November 20, 2014

Good Fences - 11/20/14: "Pittsburgh's Unique Neighborhood"

Good Fences Thursday asks us to post a photo of a fence or gate each week.

I posted this on 11/6/14, but didn't add my url to the Good Fences site because I knew I would not have time to look at other posts and leave comments that week.  (A few people stopped by anyway.)

So I am reposting it when I have more time.

And, even though this post contains lots of other information, there are several photos of gates in the mix.

Pittsburgh's Unique Neighborhood:
On the North Side of Pittsburgh, there is a neighborhood known as the Mexican War Streets. The area dates from 1848 (around the time of the Mexican-American War) and consisted, then, mostly of Victorian era row houses owned by wealthy families. Many streets were named after battles or generals of the war: Buena Vista, Monterey, Palo Alto, Resaca, Sherman, Taylor.

However, by the 1970s, many owners had moved to the suburbs, leaving vacant or abandoned homes that were in various stages of disrepair and off the roles of property taxes.

The city of Pittsburgh offered the homes for sale for $100.  The catch was, that one had to renovate the homes to current safety standards.  Owners needed to acquire mortgages to provide the money to do that and because most were uninhabitable, they would have to live elsewhere while renovations were taking place.

But, a lot of people took on the challenge and the area was revived. In many cases, new owners gutted the insides and replaced them with innovative interiors. Many people got creative with the outsides of their houses, too.
A unique gate at one of the Poetry Houses
currently owned by "The Mattress Factory" art center.
See descriptions of this house and some of the other

neighborhood homes and pictures below.
A man named Randy Gilson has created what everyone calls "Randyland." Randy has used yard-sale and flea market items, plants, donated paint & building materials to create his unique home. There are Coke signs and metal butterflies, old street signs, a neighborhood map,  & gargoyles on the house and large plastic or metal insects on a utility pole.

To see more of Randyland go to Google Maps & click HERE. It is the yellow house on the right. (See info at bottom of how to navigate Google maps.)
Move forward, then turn the photo so you can see the yard to the right of the house, turn back & go forward  to see the front of the house, then at the corner turn right so you can see the side and back of the house, and the house behind it, too.  It's like an outdoor fun house.

Or take a virtual tour HERE (it works like Google Maps.)  On this one, you can go into the back and side yards to see the amazing assortment of "stuff" Randy has used to decorate his premises.
Randyland's gate into the
back patio area

Jazz House
Several blocks away on one narrow street, there are several houses close to each other that people call Poetry Houses.

One has brightly colored images of a saxophone, rainbows, and splashes of color on the front. I call it the Jazz House.

Burma House, side
Another has a painting on its right side called "Burma - Shouts for Freedom" which is somewhat reminiscent of Picasso's "Guernica" with Burmese writing surrounding it ---and images of Pittsburgh scenes on the front of the house.

Burma House, front
Several doors down, a house has wooden sculptures by local artist Thaddeus Mosley attached to the front. (I don't have a photo but you can see them on  Google maps.)
Several houses down the street, a clapboard house stained brown, has white Chinese writing all over it. (At least I think it is Chinese.) Next door is a house with colorful images of Pittsburgh's buildings and bridges, neighborhoods, and weather.
Poetry House

These last two are part of The Mattress Factory's artist residential buildings. (The info I have is old, so perhaps all of these houses are now part of The Mattress Factory.)

Just a few doors away is "The Mattress Factory" itself,  a six-story building that used to be a mattress warehouse and is now an art center specializing in installation art.

The Mattress Factory
When "The Mattress Factory" opened in 1977, it had a small auditorium, exhibition space, classrooms, and spaces for artists to live and work. The owner, Barbara Luderowski, lived there and built a community of artists and intellectuals.

In a huge kitchen and dining room on the first floor, artists, writers, and musicians from the neighborhood gathered nightly for meals. Each paid a nominal fee for meals and was required to cook or clean-up occasionally.  I thought it sounded like such a wonderful idea ---to join other creative people each night or several nights a week to share conversation and ideas.

When that began, I think most of the artistic people in the neighborhood were young and single. As they grew older, acquired spouses and families, fewer met there and the meals ended.

Its first installation exhibit was in 1982. Now it has an artist residency program, educational programs, as well. It has acquired other properties to house artists in residence and other exhibition, and create parking space.

Read more about: The Mattress Factory

You can follow the street to view the places on this street on Google Maps by clicking HERE:

How to navigate Google Maps: place your cursor ahead of you just a little way down the street and click.  When you stop, you can do a 360º turn to view the houses. Place your cursor near the right or left of the image.  You'll see a whitish rectangle, just press your cursor pull it toward the opposite side of the screen to turn. (You can also turn it up to see the tops of tall buildings or down to see the street or sidewalk.) In the lower right of your screen, you can use the + or - to zoom in or out. All of the houses I mentioned are on the right side of the streets, but you can do a 180º turn and go back to view them on the left.)

I love Google Maps.  I visit the streets where I am going to travel so I can pick out landmarks and cross streets (GPS isn't always right.)  I took my husband on a tour of the town where I lived in Brazil 45 years ago via Google Maps.  Some places are well mapped and photographed and others are not.  I could hardly believe the little town  where I lived in Brazil is accessible, yet a large city like Montevideo, Uruguay is not.  You can probably find your own home, too ---or go to New York City, Rio de Janeiro, or Paris. It's the next best thing to being there.

(Excuse the odd formatting.  No matter what I tried, the pictures and text kept jumping all over the page.)


NatureFootstep said...

well, that is a place to visit. Would take a lot of time before you can leave it :) Thanks for sharing this maravellous place. :)

Anonymous said...

wow- what an interesting neighbourhood!
I love the building completely covered in greenery!

BLOGitse said...

jeeeeee, this kind of life, neighborhood I like!!!!
Colors, wood, vivid murals - man made!
Thanks for name/url commenting option!

TexWisGirl said...

a unique neighborhood, for certain! very interesting way to revitalize an area and glad it worked!

Georgette Sullins said...

Who knew streets named for the Mexican-American War in Pittsburgh? I have visited your city several times but never saw this. Thank you for the tour.

Debbie said...

what a wonderful way to bring out the lively spirit of this neighborhood!!!

Margaret Adamson said...

This is an interesting area to visit.So much to see.

Montanagirl said...

An interesting place to visit with a lot of neat artistry and very colorful! Thanks for sharing, and thank you for stopping by my blog!

Ida said...

What a fascinating neighborhood. It's colorful and fun looking.

Pat said...

What a unique area. I love the poetry house.

Andrea Priebe said...

My goodness, Cj, this is an extraordinary neighborhood with homes, fences, paintings, art colonies, shops ... it seems endless. It certainly would be a wonderful place to visit. I read all of it and by the time I was finished I had to go back through it to see it all again. Thanks for this wonderful tour ...

Andrea @ From Teh Sol

Felicia said...

what an interesting neighborhood. I like the house with the writing all over it.