West St. Catherine Neighborhood Association

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As the Parkway goes, so go the adjoining neighborhoods. One doesn't do so well without the cooperation of the other. The Parkway is more than a roadway, more than an historic linear park. It is the main entrance to our neighborhood, our front door. It is also what Olmsted desgned it to be, the way to the Park. We all know that first impressions are lasting. Lets make sure that every visitor who comes our way, goes away thinking, ''Gee! What a magical, neat place!''

This is where I live

I grew up in the Beechmont neighborhood, rode horses on the bridle path, as had my mother, in her youth. My father, as a boy, drove his pony-cart on the other side of the Parkway. My childhood home is the magnificent, buff brick Arts & Crafts Bungalow at 4825 Southern Parkway.

It was built by the Schuster's. Mr. Schuster was a wholesale grocer and fiercely proud of his home. The brick was fired in Pittsburg. because that was the only place he could find the buff color and texture he wanted. The beveled and leaded glass front door and side lights were created in Austria and shipped here. When my Parents bought the house, he was dead and Mrs. Schuster was by herself. She was as determined as she could be to keep it exactly as it was when her husband died, 25 years prior to our purchase.

My grandparents and great grandmother sat on the front porch of their bungalow over on Sixth Street, which was then called Haldeman Ave., and watched all the activity on the Parkway. There were not as many homes then as there are now and they had a clear view. That was their evening entertainment.

When I was young, cars were not permitted to enter the bridle path except at cross streets. Once you entered, you were required to exit at the next intersection. Trucks were only allowed on the Parkway for deliveries, had to be off the Parkway by 10:00 am and were not permitted to go any farther than the next cross street before they were required to exit.

I understand that Charlie Farnsley changed all of that by opening the Parkway to truck traffic and doing away with all attempts to protect the grass and trees from vehicles. What the reasoning was I have no idea. It was at the end, or after, World War II and materials were in short supply. The infrastructure had been completely neglected during the war and I suppose this had something to do with it. I know my parents had a fit. This loss of protection led to deteriation, just as they said it would. We finally lost the horses on the Parkwayl It just got too dangerous.
After many years of discussion and arguing and little interest on the part of the city, we, as a neighborhood, began to come together to reclaim the recreational quality of Southern Parkway.

There are those who say that what was done early-on was haphazard. It wasn't. The Miller Wihry and Lee proposal was the guideline used and the Community Design center was the City's agency that guided it. The approach may seem scatter dash to some but for those of us who did the WORK, it was a necessary tactic to keep the opposition at bay. I personally believe we accomplished an almost impossible task.

Anyone of us could have just given up and moved away. Some did. We stayed, as did others, knowing full well what would be required of us to keep our neighborhood viable.

Then and now

That was many years ago and the Parkway changed drastically over them. We almost lost it but now it is regained and offering new generations the unique opportunity to enjoy and refresh themselves along it's undulating course. Walkers, runners, bicylists, and just plain moseying-a-longers have a relatively safe place to travel and enjoy themselves. It has not been an easy task. It has been a very difficult one and I am very proud to say that, over the last half century, I have been a major mover in that cause. Many people have worked and enjoyed that work, to make it happen. It pleases me no end to see the younger generation coming back to Beechmont and taking up the task. May they grow as fond of Beechmont and the Parkway as we old-timers are.

I don't know if any one else is reading the BNA site, but my children certainly are and they are excited about the articles about the way it was, in the neighborhood they grew up in. They are now all over the country and frequently all over the world and still have fond memories of their childhood. I think this program is great in that it can bring those who have left, back, if only for a time.

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Registered: 07/20/2001
Last login: 10/31/2003
Respect-O-Meter: Respected Neighbor
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Discussion Posts: 7 (3 topics, 4 replies)
Pages Created: 101
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