Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shadyside's Roslyn Place Is a Quirky, Wood-Block Pittsburgh Wonder

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shadyside's Roslyn Place Is a Quirky, Wood-Block Pittsburgh Wonder

Article excerpt

Shadyside is home to the country's only known exposed wooden street outside of Alaska. Roslyn Place is a cul-de-sac of brick-shaped wood blocks surrounded by an enclave of 18 World War I-era homes off the 5400 block of Ellsworth Avenue.

The street was designed in 1914 by architect-engineer Thomas Rodd and, as a charming and aesthetic novelty, the street surface has been a point of pride among its residents.

Pittsburgh City Council is expected to vote to designate the street as an official historic feature sometime in the spring.

It meets several of 10 criteria. It was designed by a notable architect, is in its original site and is an example of a style "distinguished by innovation, rarity, uniqueness, or overall quality of design, detail, materials, or craftsmanship," according to the nomination form.

Matthew Falcone, president of Preservation Pittsburgh and a member of the Historic Review Commission, nominated it at the instigation of Roslyn Place resident Ned Schano.

"I went door to door with a petition" to get consensus on the nomination, said Mr. Schano, who bought his house about seven years ago. "Everybody signed it. The neighbors are all passionate about where they live."

The real benefit of historic designation will be protection from any intention to pave over or disassemble the wood, he said.

Increasingly, Roslyn Place has delighted those whom he described as "a steady stream of tourists, like leaf peepers to New England in the fall."

"People come with cameras and get down to take a picture of the wood, or take charcoal rubbings. We get photography classes, tourists from Germany and Japan, people visiting their kids at Pitt or Carnegie Mellon."

Maybe they learned about it from "Great Streets," a 1993 book whose author, Allan Jacobs, chose Roslyn Place for the list, Mr. Schano said, "or maybe they Googled 'things that make Pittsburgh quirky.' "

Amazingly enough, when I Googled "things that make Pittsburgh quirky," there was no mention on any list of Roslyn Place.

The wood blocks are of a style dubbed Nicolson Pavement. In 1859, Samuel Nicholson patented his technique of making creosote-soaked wooden cylinders that are about a foot long and laid vertically. …

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