City Scenes: Allentown ride & Black Forge Coffee House

Recently Black Forge Coffee announced they would be closing their Allentown location at the end of this month. To commemorate the closing I’m sharing a throwback to a cycle trip I took to the coffee shop this past Fall.

Back in October my roommate and I decided to christen the Fall with an impromptu weekday afternoon bike from the South Side to the Black Forge Coffee House up in Allentown. We rode on 18th St out of South Side Flats before switching over to Brosville St for the ascent up the hill. It was very steep and hard going, but the route also yielded some dynamite views of South Side and Downtown Pittsburgh.

We ended up walking our bikes for the second stretch because it was such an arduous climb. Once we reached the top and the ground leveled out we were practically at our destination.

Black Forge Coffee House has a dark, heavy metal-influenced, occult-ish aesthetic (their logo features the “BF” initials rendered in style of witchy sigil that evokes both pagan symbols and Chaos Magick sensibilities).

Though the shop evidently always sports a grim and ghoulish look, they seemed extra-bedecked with dreadful decorations in anticipation of the approaching Halloween holiday.

We set up at a table next to a large front window overlooking the intersection of Arlington and Warrington. It was a great vantage spot to watch the streetscape, and we also had a clear view of the Cathedral of Learning looming in the distance.

After some cursory historical research we realized that this intersection was the former location of the Knoxville Incline, one of Pittsburgh’s historic inclined railways. This one previously connected Allentown and the South Side. The image below combines a photo I took on the day of our visit with an archival photo of the Knoxville Incline.

When we left the coffee shop we traveled back down Brosville St, this time riding instead of walking. It was one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve yet had cycling, as the steep grade had me traveling at greater speeds than I’ve previously achieved on my bike. It was exhilarating, and we paused for more photos before traveling down 12 St back into South Side Flats.

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