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Neighborhood in Mt. Washington cited as one of nation’s top 10

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jeremy Boren
Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Entering Mt. Washington’s Chatham Village is a bit like stumbling onto a soundstage built to resemble a quiet English country village.

That was the intention of its progenitors in 1935 when the Buhl Foundation and acclaimed “garden city” movement architects Clarence Stein and Henry Wright opened the urban oasis, which was recognized Tuesday as one of the top 10 neighborhoods in the United States by the American Planning Association.

The award didn’t surprise Claudette DeClemente, 56, who has lived in Chatham Village for eight years.

“I love it,” said DeClemente, a retired state welfare caseworker. “It’s very green. They take care of everything. There’s no traffic. And you can go on an extended vacation and everything is just as it was when you come back.”

Or better than it was. Construction crews yesterday filled potholes on private asphalt drives, trimmed ivy near some of the 200-year-old oaks dotting the neighborhood and cut the small front yards of the slate-roofed townhouses.
The nonprofit cooperative that each townhouse owner must join collects a monthly fee from residents who pay mortgages on homes that range from $80,000 for a two-bedroom to more than $200,000 for a four-bedroom.

The monthly fee pays for what DeClemente calls the neighborhood’s aesthetic uniformity.

Every street sign has a fresh coat of dark green paint, all front doors are the same color as the signs, as are awnings and porch furniture. Outside many homes are versions of Pittsburgh’s flag — with William Penn’s coat of arms — that are green and white instead of black and gold.

Those who don’t enjoy conformity shouldn’t move to the neighborhood, residents said.

“The only criteria that we have for people who want to become new members is that you are financially responsible,” said Tom McCue, 67, a retired mechanical engineer who has lived in a two-bedroom townhouse for nine years with his wife Patricia, since they moved from Albany, N.Y.

People with the means to pay a 20 percent down payment on their home can enjoy the neighborhood’s luxuries, including pristine tennis courts, two miles of walking trails and flower gardens.

“The only snow I have to shovel is from that door to the sidewalk,” McCue said, pointing to a narrow 10-foot-long walkway beyond his door. “The only noise we hear is the noise we make ourselves at neighborhood block parties.”

The village’s oldest resident is 92. Its youngest are the infants of some of the young couples who live there, McCue said.

Chatham Village had an advantage in winning its national acclaim from the American Planning Association. The association’s director, W. Paul Farmer, was Pittsburgh’s deputy planning director from 1980 to 1994, said Denny Johnson, an APA spokesman.

Roughly 100 nominations from people, planning departments and APA staff were whittled to the 10 top U.S. neighborhoods and 10 top U.S. streets. Chatham Village is the only one in Pennsylvania and among the smallest, with 216 residences on 25 acres.

Chatham was chosen based on characteristics such as functional design, longevity and community involvement — all of which make it “one of the jewels of our city,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said.

“Chatham Village is one of the best examples of how excellent planning and design has created a community that is as livable and desirable as it was when it was built 75 years ago,” Farmer said.

Jeremy Boren can be reached at or 412-765-2312.

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