One of the classes I am taking is called "Reading and Writing the Iron City." Following is the story I wrote for my first assignment.
Meade Place is special—this was the clear message I was getting from Earl, as he showed me the apartment. He told me about the quiet street: the neighbors, Mary the quilter across the street; Sari the artist next door. He made me feel I could belong here. I liked the apartment; it reminded me of my house in Chicago; the only place I left with tears and regret.
Earl didn’t tell me that Meade Place had a special history. Shortly after I moved in Mary came to welcome me and brought a packet of information about the neighborhood. It seems that Meade Place was once the driveway leading to the mansion of H. J. Heinz. A 1999 article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette described the mansion, how it was built; the additions Heinz made to it; and the many things he collected. The mansion was torn down in the 1920’s; the land subdivided for small homes. Only the coach house and a small building that once housed H. J.’s collections remain, now reinvented as apartment buildings, along with a low stone wall and a decorative cast iron fence along Penn Avenue, the south boundary of the property.
The area is very much a middle class enclave clinging tightly to its civility on the edge of chaos. We prefer to think of it as North Point Breeze, although it’s hard to say where it ends and Homewood, once the home of Pittsburgh industrialists, Westinghouse, Carnegie and Frick, begins. On summer nights we occasionally hear shooting from Homewood. The Westinghouse property, about a block away, is now a huge, open field called Westinghouse Park, where I am not entirely comfortable walking.
Most of the homes are single family. The owners are largely professional: a librarian, a doctor, a social worker, a newspaper editor. The building I live in, and the one to the east are almost identical duplexes. Earl lived upstairs in my building until several months before I moved in. The other duplex, not owner occupied, was converted into three apartments, and was the source of considerable tension in the neighborhood when I first arrived. An unknown number of tenants lived on the first floor. They were noisy, left beer cans on other people’s lawns, left a car on the street for months with one wheel removed. Since they left the street has once again become a model of middle class serenity, at least on the surface. Two women live in the attic of the duplex. We say hello, but not much else. After Christmas, Mary found their picture in the PG, in an article about Christmas dinners supplied by the Salvation Army for people down on their luck. The article said our neighbors lived in Homewood. It all depends on your point of view.