Ghost Incline

20 Dec

block zoom

block overview

pan_incline landing

What is this gap in the urban fabric in the center of this block?

About five years ago, I was walking down this street, Bradish Street in Pittsburgh’s South Side. Under the porch roof (obscured by the obnoxious green van) sat an older woman. I said ‘hi’ in passing, and we got to talking a little.

Her house had a shop in the front, and, in fact, she still had some candy and pop for sale. She and her husband (or possibly father?) lived in the rear and 2nd floor.

Why is there this string of (mostly former) commercial storefronts in this unexpected place, blocks off of the main street of East Carson?

LR-0373 “Well”, she informed me, “the incline used to come down right over there”.

The incline? Which incline?

Pittsburgh still has two inclines (funiculars), but at one time had 16.

Until 1960, the Knoxville incline had its lower station right in the center of this block. Two other inclines also landed nearby. One was exclusively for coal, while the Knoxville incline carried both freight and passengers, and the nearby Mt. Oliver Incline – just a block away – carried only passengers.

On this map from 1923, you can see the three incline which rose from the South Side Flat s up to the top of the hill.

knox and oliver inclines bend

knoxville and other inclines bend

knoxville bend 1

Below is the now-vacant lot, as it once was.

knox incline bottom 1

knox incline bottom 2

Today, it looks like this, the ghost advertisement for South Side Trust remaining.


bottom station back

I went back down Bradish Street a couple years ago looking for my friend, but didn’t see her. Returning again yesterday, there was a building permit in the window.
I suppose she, and her shop, have gone the way of the incline.

knoxville bend 2

knoxville bend 3

Today, 50 years later, the site of the above photos looks much different, rather overgown. Nonetheless, the ghost of the Knoxville Incline is still visible, on the ground and from the sky.. (You can see the bridge I was standing on in the previous photo as well)

pan_incline ROW

site today

Photo credits to myself, the University of Pittsburgh’s Historic Pittsburgh Image Collections, and Shawn at (Oh and also Google and Bing maps.)


2 Responses to “Ghost Incline”

  1. Ken wolfe 7 February 2016 at 11:43 #

    The only issue I have is with the upper route for the incline, you have it going into a building that was still there when the incline operated. It should instead be behind the building instead, otherwise stellar article!

  2. paganpanda 9 February 2016 at 19:58 #

    I stumbled onto this via a link on Facebook, so I’m commenting about three years after you posted this blog (c’est la vie). The upper station of the Knoxville Incline sat where the Daily Mart is up in Allentown, at the corner of Warrington and Arlington. They have mural painted on the side of the building to honor the incline. Some of the older locals up in Allentown still talk about the incline with varying degrees of nostalgia. And if you can find it at one of the libraries, there was a book published about the history of Allentown that included some old pictures of the Knoxville Incline, as well as a few others, I think.

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