The perks of Poe Way: An Upper Lawrenceville gem

March 28, 2016

Poe Way isn’t pretty. Nor is it trendy, or lively, or any of the other buzzwords applied to Upper Lawrenceville as of late.

But the narrow alley — sandwiched between Duncan and Wickliff streets; accessible only from Stanton Avenue — feels a little like home. It’s a quiet, neutrally painted space, occupied by residents who’d drop everything to find a neighbor’s missing cat.

Julie and Aaron Young — new inhabitants of Poe Way, first-ever owners of a two-bedroom renovated by K Bennett Development Group — found that out the hard way. “When [our cat] Andy ran away, our neighbor two houses down made it her personal mission to find him,” Julie explains. “She spread the word to all of the neighbors; they were all on the lookout for him.” On searching for their ideal home, the couple says that Lawrenceville’s community vibes swayed them. They were certainly on to something: Andy was found and safely returned the next day.

“I’ve lived in quite a few places, but this is the first place that really feels like home to me,” says Julie.

Construction began on the “Poe Way project” in 2013. By the time rehab wrapped (and before the house even had a chance to hit the market), the Youngs had officially claimed it as their own. But what sealed the deal?

“Definitely the back deck — it’s my dream yard,” Julie notes. Accessible through the kitchen’s glass garage door, the home’s exterior is surely the most alluring. There’s a tiled patio, easily large enough to host a table and grill; an enclosed, tiered deck space leading to a one-car garage; and finally, an urban oasis’ worth of built-in planters.

Though the Youngs weren’t involved in their home’s construction and design, they did make some interior changes upon moving in. Julie repainted one room — the living room, just “a few shades lighter” — and installed a small cat-door leading to the basement. Otherwise, Aaron adds, “It’s pretty much always looked exactly like this.”

“This place is so much different than others we had looked at,” says Julie. “We especially love the hardwood floors — they were a big wow factor as soon as we walked in.” In addition, the renovations included marble bathroom floors and quartz kitchen countertops.

Julie tells us the master bedroom — with its floating double vanity, elegant subway tile, and contrasting white-black accents — is one of her favorites in the house. Its connected bedroom boasts tons of natural light, exposed beams, and an open loft accessible only from the wall’s built-in ladder. Adorned with the Youngs’ shared memories and Pittsburgh-themed tchotchkes, the entire suite allows for both privacy and approachability — much like Poe Way itself.

“We lived in an apartment before this, right on Butler Street,” says Julie. “The first night we stayed here [on Poe Way], instead of hearing motorcycles and traffic, we could hear crickets. It’s amazing what a few blocks will do.”

“We love the deck; the garage door; the openness,” Aaron concurs. “But it’s all still very private.”

We’ve always admired Pittsburgh for its ability to balance personal space and togetherness — but there’s no denying that the city’s recent pushes for gentrification have divided us. Still, Upper Lawrenceville — a neighborhood that’s long taken pride in its community ties — remains authentic in the midst of major redevelopment. For its residents, that perk doesn’t come with a price tag.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TARA BENNETT