Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Exploring: Chatham Village

 Twenty-one years ago, shortly after moving to Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania (a Pittsburgh suburb), I was wandering around my neighborhood with my one-year-old son in a backpack when I met another mom with her young son in a backpack. We shared a nice long walk that afternoon -- and have been walking together ever since. Mary Lou and I have covered a lot of ground, both literal and figurative, in the intervening years. Monday through Thursday evenings most weeks, we log five brisk miles over hilly terrain, usually close to home. On Saturdays, we frequently hit an estate sale somewhere not too far away and walk the surrounding neighborhood afterward.

But our Sunday morning walks these days are my favorites. A few years ago, we decided to walk every street and alleyway in our town. It took nearly a year of Sundays to finish Mt. Lebanon - and then we branched out into surrounding communities. In the years since, we've covered a good many neighborhoods all around Pittsburgh, and I've learned more about my city from our hikes than I'd learned in the fifteen years plus before that. We especially enjoy cemetaries, the steep hillside neighborhoods where steps often replace sidewalks, and the quirky older communities with interesting architecture and mature landscaping.

Today we visited Chatham Village, a planned community in the Mt. Washington section of Pittsburgh that's on the National Historic Register. It was developed in the 1930s in the model of the "Garden City" movement launched in England. It's as lovely and well-planned today as it was then. You can read more about it here and here.
 The community consists mostly of townhouses grouped in clusters around common greens with curving sidewalks, giving it the feeling of a college campus, I think. And each cluster has a lovely "folly" like the one shown above to house communal garden implements.
 The homes have lovely details - red brick, slate roofs, copper gutters and downspouts, limestone around the windows, and crests above the entry ways. And each cluster of townhomes is a little bit different.

 Around the perimeter is a large park of virgin forest (dating back to colonial times and before) with paths that curve and wind along the hillside. We saw plenty of wildlife today, including a large buck with an impressive rack.
 This is the updated playground, seen through the mist that hung over the hills this morning.
 And I arrived home to find that a squirrel has made a nest in the planter atop my rain barrel. And all day since I've been hearing him storing his acorns inside the rain barrel (which fortunately has a screen to keep debris out of the water).
I think he and his buddies are using my squirrel bench as a buffet table. But that does seem appropriate. And maybe there's a picture book in here...


Anonymous said...

You need to go to Somerset, PA and see the Guild of American Papercutters National Museum at the Laurel Arts center!

Carol Baicker-McKee said...

Ooh! Thanks for the suggestion. I do - I cut an article about the museum out of the paper a long time ago, but never went. I'll do a write up when I go.