Most Pittsburghers would say Mount Washington offers the best view of their city.
Maybe so, but as Post-Gazette columnist Brian O’Neill wrote this week, Observatory Hill’s Brashear Reservoir is actually Pittsburgh’s highest elevation point at 1,370 feet. He found the elevation ranking doesn’t necessarily provide the best view of the skyline and surrounding area.
Reader Mike Cornell responded to his column: “Brian, you had the right idea but the wrong reservoir. Try the reservoir in Robert E. Williams (Herron Hill) Park.”
At The Digs, we made good on his suggestion and visited the park as the sun was setting.
It’s centered in the Upper Hill and offers equally impressive views to the north, south, east and west — an advantage over Mount Washington or the West End, where one’s eye is drawn toward the Golden Triangle.
The reservoir itself was built in the 1880s and now holds 14 million gallons, serving neighborhoods that include Bloomfield, Garfield, the Hill District, Point Breeze, Squirrel Hill and upper Oakland. In 2004, City Paper’s Chris Potter labeled the 19th-century construction “a desperately needed improvement for a rapidly expanding city.”
From 1920 through 1964, the city did not clean the reservoir’s bottom. Leaks developed and minor earth slides resulted, leading to a $150,000 repair job ($1.2 million in 2014).
The photos above — taken in the spring of 1965 — reveal the reservoir as it’s not often seen.
That is especially so today, when a fence and tarp-like covering extends across the two-acre space.