Preserving a Piece of Pittsburgh’s Incline History

By: Sara Innamorato

Pittsburgh is the only city in the United States that still has two operational inclines — you know them as the Duquesne and the Monongahela. Back in the heyday of steel milling and coal mining along the three rivers’ shores, dozens of inclines connected downtown with the housing on the hills. Not only did they serve as people carriers, they also hauled freight, horses and buggies and, later, cars.

One such incline that is no longer in use is the Knoxville Incline, built in 1890. It was unique transportation structure in its day because of the 18-degree bend in the tracks as they negotiated the hill. It towed its final group of riders on Saturday, December 3, 1960 — the electric railcar killed the inline.

For most people the story ends there. Have you ever wondered what happened to the tracks and trails that wound up Mt. Washington and the Slopes? The answer isn’t glamorous.

The area around the incline tracks remained undeveloped and overgrown: a man-made relic returned to nature. You could see for yourself if you took a peek specifically at the area around Brosville road, a metal pedestrian bridge and a set of stairs that leads to the Southside. Up until spring of 2014, the overpass was overgrown with weeds, and had a rusting, crumbling bridge that passed over the old tracks and graffitied concrete slabs. It wasn’t an inviting space for walking between the South Side Flats and the Hilltop neighborhoods. That was, until Cara Jette got her hands on the project.

The view from Brownsville Road before the project began.

During her time as a ReClaim South Ambassador, Cara imagined a nicer parklet and trailhead,  complete with a brightly colored bridge and benches. After facing the Pittsburgh public art commission, her ideas were ready to be put into action. With the help neighbors, she cleaned the site, painted the bridge, placed benches, planted native plants, and installed a trail.

“Once the project is complete, I imagine that it is a nice place for people to walk through.”| Cara Jette

A view of the site from the top of the stairs.

She called the park, “The Knoxville Incline Trail” in honor of the historic steel caravan.

She wants to keep the momentum going. Cara believes that is important to remember and pay respect to the past. In order to do that she wants to install a permanent sign, designed be a local artist onto the trailhead that pays homage to the history and the people that once and will use this space.

“We are a city of of hills, we are a city of steps, we are a city of inclines and we should remember that history. I’m hoping that this park will spur people to continue to do that”  | Cara Jette

View the full video of Cara’s project below.



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