Step Beat: The Shortest Street in Pittsburgh

Jewel Street city steps in Pittsburgh, PA

“Little” Jewel Street in Polish Hill: Pittsburgh’s shortest street (we think)

Years ago, this blogger attended a dinner party at a house on the steep hill high above upper Lawrenceville. I remember very clearly that there were fifty-six exterior stairs to get from the street to the (second floor) kitchen door where people entered the house. Man, I thought to myself at the time, that’s a long way up to haul your groceries.

It’s funny to think that one home’s front entrance walk (up) would be four times the length of an official city street, but that seems to be the case. Though I don’t know it for sure, at just thirteen steps, plus one short walkway at the top, tiny Jewel Street* in Polish Hill is very likely the shortest street in Pittsburgh**.

Jewel Street city steps in Pittsburgh, PA

Looking down the full length of Jewel Street, all thirteen steps of it

Back in May, when The Orbit reported on the remarkable intersection of Romeo & Frazier, we got all urbanophysical about what a “street” really is. Little Jewel Street seems to push that notion over the top, and then some. Let’s not worry that no vehicles are traveling on this particular thoroughfare and just consider that it has only ever served one house. There are likely other public streets in the city that have just one address on them now, but I’d wager that most of them were built back in the day when there were rickety worker houses up and down every pointy hill and slanted dale in the ‘burgh.

Jewel and Flavian Street city steps in Pittsburgh, PA

Jewel Street from the Flavian Street steps

How the first residents of the only house on Little Jewel Street managed to swing the deal where they didn’t have to build or maintain their own steps is beyond both my knowledge and researching capacity. But if they hadn’t, Pittsburgh would be stuck with some anonymous half-block-long shortest street that no one would even blink an eye at. To you, Little Jewel Street, keep on keepin’ on. We’re on your side.


* There is a two-block-long alley across Melwood Avenue which becomes a substantial set of city steps, both marked as Jewel Street. But here’s the thing: from the spot we’re talking about, you have to travel down an entirely separate street (the Flavian Street city steps) and make a hard left to get to this other Jewel. Each is an entirely separate entity. Even seemingly all-knowing Google Maps isn’t aware of this set. So we think it’s fair to count the very short residential section of Jewel off Flavian as its own street, despite the repetition in name.

** The Internet has very little to say about Pittsburgh’s shortest street, the main nominations being a pair of streets in the South Side–one of which no longer exists–both well over the length of Little Jewel.

6 thoughts on “Step Beat: The Shortest Street in Pittsburgh

  1. Hipstre says:

    I can see on Google maps some city steps “streets” that appear to be shorter right in that neighborhood. There is the ludicrous “Croesus Way” ( https://goo.gl/maps/CazKV ). I suspect even I am richer than that “street.” On the other end of Finland is a very short set of steps that seems to be separate from a pedestrian walkway over Bigelow Boulevard ( https://goo.gl/maps/A4WMm ). That looks interesting even if it isn’t it’s own street. And Bethoven Street has a tiny set of stairs that seems to be there so that one family can get to a local garage called “Apollo St.” ( https://goo.gl/maps/2Ltbj ). It’s hardly riding a golden chariot across the sky. It looks to be about 20 feet long.

    A little ways away there’s a set of steps at Edington and Kinglake ( https://goo.gl/maps/PuRCG ) that I’d really like to see a piece on. It’s in one of those semi-abandoned parts of town. Those are my favorite little spots… where someone managed, somehow, to build a little house in what later became a park or a greenway or a cemetery or some other wide, unused expanse of space. Pittsburgh is full of them.

    Like

    • Will says:

      I was actually on Croesus Way the same day (on official duty, no less, volunteer surveying for the city!) I can tell you that even though it terminates in the woods above the busway with a couple of ex-house foundations, it’s probably a good 50-60 feet long–that’s WAY longer than Little Jewel Street (approx. 12 feet total). A side note is that even though Croesus serves *zero* purpose anymore, the steps themselves are in really good shape–no cracking, good foundations, full sets of railings, etc. (this is what we were surveying)

      The Finland Street steps are probably still “Finland Street,” so they just add to the bigger picture and I can tell you that Apollo Street is legit.

      I’ll add the Edington and Kinglake steps to my big list–that’s definitely intriguing.

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