We saw these houses a little while ago in pictures taken with a cheap cell-phone camera and in poor lighting. Since the houses will probably not be here forever, old Pa Pitt went back to document them in more even light with a more capable camera. These are the last remnants of a little village along Saw Mill Run, connected to the other side by the one-lane Timberland Avenue bridge. The one with the green siding above dates from the 1880s, the one below from the 1890s, according to the Pittsburgh Historic Maps site. Obviously they had substantial alterations during their lifetimes, but we can still recognize them in this picture from 1909 at the Brookline Connection site.
Abandoned Houses Along Saw Mill Run
Vanishing Village on Saw Mill Run
This tiny one-lane Timberland Avenue bridge over Saw Mill Run closed in about 2014, isolating two houses that had probably already been abandoned. The green one further back dates from the 1880s, the other one from the 1890s. There was once a group of about half a dozen houses here; these are the last remnants, and they will be either torn down or eaten by jungle eventually. It will become another vanished village along Saw Mill Run, like Seldom Seen, and almost no one will remember that there was a tiny country hamlet here in what is now the middle of the city near the south end of the Liberty Tubes.
This little bridge isn’t much to look at, but it certainly dates from before 1909.
What caused the houses to be abandoned? Probably the same thing that caused them to be built in the first place: their proximity to Saw Mill Run. In southwestern Pennsylvania, minor rivers like this one are subject to flash floods once in a while that might have reached some of the houses here, and certainly would have isolated them if the bridge was under water. Perhaps a worse problem was that, as the South Hills developed farther upstream, Saw Mill Run became something like an open sewer, known for its pollution and noxious stench. Both floods and pollution made houses along the run undesirable. There is much less pollution now, but it is not likely that this property will become valuable enough to make it worthwhile rebuilding the bridge.
On planning maps, these houses are in Bon Air, but right on the border with Brookline. The Brookline Connection site has some information about Timberland Avenue. The first picture in that article shows these two houses as they appeared in 1909, and the second shows this bridge.
Seldom Seen Arch
The Wabash Railroad built this picturesque structure to carry its line over Saw Mill Run and the little lane that led back into the village of Seldom Seen.
Archaeology in Saw Mill Run
Like many streams in the city, Saw Mill Run is full of debris. But it is very interesting debris. If you enlarge the picture, you can see bricks of multiple types, bits of glass, broken plates, and other evidence of the long-vanished village of Shalerville. For the urban archaeologist, Seldom Seen is a rich treasury.
Patterns in Stone
Saw Mill Run, Seldom Seen.
A mallard drake feeding in Saw Mill Run, Seldom Seen.
Seldom Seen Arch in an Artsy Way
This was an attempt to make a modern digital photo look like a nineteenth-century art photograph. Note the rock climbers preparing to climb the stone wall.
Reflections in the Seldom Seen Arch
Hypnotic patterns of sunlight reflected from the pool in Saw Mill Run on the bricks of the Seldom Seen Arch. Go to the Wikimedia Commons hosting page to see the video in glorious HD-ish.
Saw Mill Run, the Movie
Another video of Saw Mill Run in action. You can go to the hosting page on Wikimedia Commons for the HD version.
Saw Mill Run After Spring Rains