Brighton Heights: Friendly Neighbors in Pittsburgh’s Northwest Corner
Brighton Heights is one of the 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods, but it’s one that a lot of people haven’t heard of. Part of the reason is that the neighborhood is highly residential, without the things like shopping or nightlife that bring people to other neighborhoods from their own. However, whether you’re looking for a home, or looking to patronize unique small businesses, what sets Brighton Heights apart is its people — open, and welcoming of newcomers, wanting everyone to feel like they belong.
Author: Jessica Manack
“Another Shadyside” North and West of Downtown
North of the Allegheny River was a town called Allegheny City, today’s North Side, which became part of the city of Pittsburgh in 1907. North Side neighborhoods like Deutschtown and the Mexican War Streets were well established in the 1800s, but there was a need for housing beyond what they could provide. With farmland to the north, and west, along the Ohio River, accessible via Brighton Road and the streetcar lines, the plan of Brighton Heights took shape.
A 1906 ad in the Pittsburgh Press called it “Another Shadyside” – an opportunity to build a spacious family home on a large lot with mature trees already in place. So, the neighborhood grew, bounded on one side by the 250-acre Riverview Park and on the other by suburban municipalities West View and Bellevue.
Brighton Heights is the perfect Pittsburgh neighborhood for those who love city life, but want creature comforts like a yard, driveway, garage or backyard pool. Its proximity to major thoroughfares like Routes 65, 376, 28, 79 and 279 make it a possible launch pad to careers in many locales. On the north edge of the city, it’s a quick trip to Cranberry, Grove City and Erie. It’s not impossible to get downtown in 10 minutes and to Oakland in 15 (depending, like everything else in PIttsburgh, on the time of day!).
As far as diversions go, it’s just a few minutes from the North Shore attractions – the stadiums, casino, Stage AE, and the Carnegie Science Center and Warhol Museum. Take the 16 bus down Brighton Road, or bike if you want to avoid the parking pileups.
A Variety of Housing Stock, Close to Downtown
Like a lot of Pittsburgh neighborhoods, Brighton Heights is made up of tree-lined, hilly streets of homes, many of which were built in the early 1900s, though there were some established residents here earlier than that, and some 1800s homes are still intact.
Homes continued to be built throughout the subsequent decades, including ranch-style homes being built through the mid-1900s, as older homes fell into disrepair and were taken down, and New Allegheny, a townhome community near Jack Stack Park built in the 1980s, and new streets created in the 2000s. However, green space in the neighborhood remains abundant, and there are plans to improve access to parkland – a pedestrian/bicycle-only bridge is being built from the neighborhood’s Davis Avenue directly into Riverview Park, further connecting Brighton Heights with opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
Craftsman and Foursquare styles are common, though there are also a number of large, castle-like showpiece homes demonstrating the prosperity of the central North Side business owners who wanted a quieter place to retreat at the end of the night. Features like crown molding, stained glass and built-in cabinets are found in many of the homes in this neighborhood. Fans of architectural history can spot a Sears home if you look closely. A short drive down Termon Avenue will give a glimpse into the beauty, creativity, and character this neighborhood holds.
Many of the homes in Brighton Heights have been upgraded with modern conveniences, like air conditioning, while still retaining their historical character. An annual house tour is organized to show off several of the most beautifully maintained and restored homes in the neighborhood, which can be a great way to not only get to know the area, but also to gather decorating and landscaping inspiration even if you’re not in the market. With an artist market, live music and food trucks, house tour day is one where the whole neighborhood comes out to play.
Unique Businesses to Support in Brighton Heights
Though Brighton Heights is primarily residential, there are several small businesses worthy of your support. Jalen’s and the Humble Barber Co. are traditional barber shops where you can get a cut with some conversation, as is Jamie Lynne’s Hair Salon. For another kind of fresh cuts, Tom Friday’s Market is one of the last traditional butcher shops in the city. Stop in for the makings for dinner, or check out one of their “fill your freezer” deals, a chance to stock up and buy a variety of cuts for a discount.
Bocadillos Bar is a gem hidden among a sleepy row of homes. The chef-owner offers a rotating, creative menu of small plates and novel cocktails, inspired by her European upbringing, with an outdoor seating area overlooking the Ohio River. They also offer periodic special events like soccer broadcasts and pig roasts.
The neighborhood also offers the standard amenities, including places of worship, funeral homes, an elementary and middle school, as well as a Catholic school, a grocery store, library, gas station, pizza shops, beverage distributors, and convenience stores. You can do what you need to do in the neighborhood every day, while knowing you’re just a short drive from any service it might not have.
Thoughtful Neighbors Make Life Exciting
The Brighton Heights Citizens Federation is a group working to make sure the neighborhood remains safe and engaged. The neighborhood is host to several celebrations throughout the year, such as a Halloween parade and winter holiday celebration, as well as other community get-togethers like National Night Out. Legion Park is the home of several memorials remembering those lost in our country’s wars, and holds a ceremony every Memorial Day.
However, what makes this neighborhood unique is the effort neighbors put into knowing one another – and caring for one another. For nearly a decade, Brighton Heights residents have organized porch parties on Friday nights in the summer, with a rotating series of hosts opening their front yards to anyone in the neighborhood. From simple get-togethers, these gatherings have become more elaborate over the years, with themes, music and a potluck feel. Whether you’ve lived in the neighborhood for years or only a couple of weeks, you’re welcome, and it’s a great way to meet your neighbors and get involved.
Some Brighton Heights residents organize cleanup days to scour the main street for litter and keep the neighborhood looking bright. You might even see police officers patrolling on horseback (though you’ll hear them before you see them). The community yard sale features scores of participating homes each year, the neighborhood is also quite active on Buy Nothing.
The onset of the pandemic encouraged people to come up with new ways to stay connected, many of which continue today. Artists young and old started painting rocks and leaving them around the neighborhood, creating a contact-free way to put a smile on a neighbor’s face. A Facebook group allows people to share the smiles by posting photos of the rocks they find.
In the spring, a Plant Swap or Adopt day takes place in Legion Park, and neighbors bring seedlings to trade with those who can use them. There’s also a Facebook group where people share cuttings and plants that are proliferating in excess. Even if you’re a novice gardener with more enthusiasm than knowledge, you can take advantage of the expertise of those who’ve been working on their gardens for years.
The neighborhood is a great place for families – in recent years, expanding families have been moving from other areas of the city, where the housing stock is more limited, to settle in these friendly streets. In the evenings, you’ll often hear the laughter of children echoing from house to house. To keep the kids busy, there’s a city pool, and baseball, soccer and dek hockey teams bring lots of enjoyment. The Riverview Park soccer field is usually bustling, between soccer and ultimate games, practices, and community members walking the perimeter to get their daily steps.
Can You Picture Yourself In This Pittsburgh Neighborhood?
Brighton Heights is a community that has a promising future because they haven’t forgotten their past. If you want to be part of a community where neighbors look out for one another and work to improve their environment, Brighton Heights might be the place for you.