The Slaw Podcast

Ep. 15 Laura Zurowski’s quest to climb all of the Pittsburgh Steps

Following the book by Bob Regan “Pittsburgh Steps: The Story of the City’s Public Stairways” artist Laura Zurowski is climbing and documenting all of the steps of Pittsburgh.

We recorded this interview with Laura back in February, but with the nice weather and folks looking to get outdoors, you can check out Laura’s website or grab a copy of the book “Pittsburgh Steps: The Story of the City’s Public Stairways” and explore Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.

Laura Zurowski’s quest to climb all of the steps

After discovering the book “Pittsburgh Steps: The Story of the City’s Public Stairways” at Wildcard in Lawrenceville, artist Laura Zurowski is climbing and documenting all of the steps in the City of Pittsburgh.

Follow Mis.Steps

Bob Regan’s book: “Pittsburgh Steps: The Story of the City’s Public Stairways”

Bob Regan is a lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh who would ride his bike around town and see the staircases leading up different hillsides. Regan documented all of the steps in Pittsburgh, as even the city didn’t have a listing of all of these public staircases.

Regan’s first book was published in black and white in 2004 and sells for more than $100 on Amazon. The book was updated in 2015 and is available at local book stores, Biblio and Amazon.

Steps and Craigslist Missed Connections

Her project is named Mis.Steps because it initially had a component where she posted the photographs on the Missed Connections section of Craigslist. Laura started documenting the steps and posting to Missed Connections in July 2017. In March 2018, Craigslist changed the Missed Connections format and photos were no longer allowed. You can read more about Craigslist’s changes and Mis.Steps here.

Learn more about Laura’s photography and printing process

  • Laura uses a Polaroid Spectra camera from the 1980s; you can read more about Laura’s Polaroid here.
  • The Mis.Steps prints and trading cards are printed on a Risograph; you can learn more about this retro printing process here.

Some of Laura’s favorite steps in Pittsburgh

Downing Street // Polish Hill

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Cross my heart and hope to die it looks like anarchy but on closer inspection, organized chaos is a better description. Heat comes down from above; damp rises from below. Broad green leaves stretch and unfurl; white blossoms burst open, each petal performing a perfect backbend. The woodsy musk of leaves and moss and decay slowly swirls the floral sweetness. Hovering, dancing, lightly bouncing over this Japanese Knotweed feast are the honeybees. Hundreds are diving in and out, in and out of the creamy blooms, pollen, nectar covering their bodies. The air pulses with the energy of a thousand beating wings, the humming drone fills my ears, and I am mesmerized by a hillside blanketed by tiny creatures collectively hovering, dancing, and lightly bouncing. ~ #Pittsburgh #citysteps #publicsteps #PointBreeze #stairs #capturedpgh #pittsburghinfocus #pghcreative #missedconnections #missteps #impossibleproject #polaroidspectra #wabisabi #nothinglasts #nothingisfinished #nothingisperfect #theperfectionofimperfection

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Halsey Street // Marshall-Shadeland

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A long time ago, people used the expression, "you sound like a broken record" to indicate they'd heard your story a couple dozen times already and weren't in the mood to hear it again. These days, when we hear someone start down a well-worn track, we're more likely to shake our heads and mutter under our breath or apathetically shrug and look down at our phones. But, for every eye-rolling story we hear (again), we also have dozens of our own. The only difference is that when it's YOUR story, it's always important, meaningful, and relevant. When it's YOUR story, you're not auto-repeating the same-old-same-old grooved tracks. When it's YOUR story, you're 100% in the groove. ~~ ~~ #Pittsburgh #stepsofpittsburgh #publicstairways #citysteps #MarshallShadeland #northside #historicpittsburgh #pittsburghhistory #412project #piecesofpittsburgh #steelcitygrammers #CPReaderArt #theincline #missedconnections #urbex #missteps #polaroid #wabisabi #nothinglasts #nothingisfinished #nothingisperfect #theperfectionofimperfection

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St. Ives Street // California-Kirkbride

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The lumpy, bumpy, sticky fruit of the Osage orange tree is considered a "ghost of evolution" because humans, animals, and insects no longer need it for survival. These "monkey balls," as we often call them, evolved to deal with pre-historic pressures that disappeared long, long ago (imagine roving herds of hungry woolly mammoths and the organisms that existed along their food chain). Despite their limited practical application, to see an Osage orange, boughs heavy with fruit, is a bit like witnessing a Dr. Seuss illustration come to life. When cold weather arrives, these sunny-yellow orbs fall to the ground, roll down hillsides and collect along streets and sidewalks until they decay and return to the earth. Perhaps these bitter fruits still wonder where the hungry mammoths went to and when they might be coming back. They've been gone for so very long now… . #Trip374 #Pittsburgh #CaliforniaKirkbride #SaintIvesStreet #monkeyballs #northside #stepsofpittsburgh #publicstairways #historicpittsburgh #pittsburghhistory #412project #piecesofpittsburgh #steelcitygrammers #missedconnections #urbex #missteps #polaroid #spectra #wabisabi #nothinglasts #nothingisfinished #nothingisperfect #theperfectionofimperfection

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You can see more of the steps from the California-Kirkbride neighborhood here. Trip #136 on Marvista Street features steps that lead to a street where all of the houses have been demolished.

Romeo Street // South Oakland (featuring Pittsburgh Steps author -Bob Regan – on his 80 birthday!)

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When I was a kid, my favorite books were the ones about the early explorers. Through their stories, I crossed mountains and oceans, braved the frozen tundra and tropical jungles, witnessed a flat earth being shaped through those seeking fortune and fame. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that I place Bob Regan, author of the Pittsburgh Steps book that forms the basis of this project, solidly in the "explorer" category. In an era before GPS, Siri, or a highly-developed internet, Bob set off to locate Pittsburgh's lost and forgotten stairs using only his bike and scraps of information from historical sources. The stairway maps we have today are a result of his persistent adventuring and charting. Bob recently turned 80 and willingly accepted an invitation to meet at his self-proclaimed favorite city stairs: the intersection of Frazier and Romeo Streets in South Oakland. While these stairs have waned a bit since Bob first mapped them years ago, his adventurous spirit hasn't. Three cheers for you, Bob! . #Pittsburgh #SouthOakland #RomeoStreet #eastend #stepsofpittsburgh #BobRegan #publicstairways #historicpittsburgh #pittsburghhistory #412project #piecesofpittsburgh #steelcitygrammers #missedconnections #urbex #missteps #polaroid #wabisabi #nothinglasts #nothingisfinished #nothingisperfect #theperfectionofimperfection

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Middle Street // East Allegheny (a painting of location serves as the cover illustration to the Pittsburgh Steps book)

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Why does this view look so familiar? Why do I feel like I've visited here many times before? That church steeple down the hill, it's in my mind, my memory, but I can't place why or how. I've never stood on these stairs before. I've never walked or driven on this end of Middle Street. The sensation is strange, unsettling. Toto's "Rains of Africa" blares from a house at the top of the stairs, and its early 1980s association exacerbates my feelings of deja vu. But when I reach into my backpack to take out my notebooks, the answer becomes crystal clear – this IS a familiar view, one I've looked at almost every day for the last two years. This view is the cover of Bob Regan's Pittsburgh Steps book! . #Pittsburgh #EastAllegheny #Fineview #MiddleStreet #northside #BobRegan #stepsofpittsburgh #publicstairways #historicpittsburgh #pittsburghhistory #412project #piecesofpittsburgh #steelcitygrammers #missedconnections #urbex #missteps #polaroid #wabisabi #nothinglasts #nothingisfinished #nothingisperfect #theperfectionofimperfection

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More Pittsburgh City Steps resources

Check out for the City of Pittsburgh’s city-wide steps assessment.

Dean Bog on Pittsburgh Steps

Pittsburgh filmmaker Dean Bog created a short documentary about the steps of Pittsburgh.

A very Pittsburgh Collaboration: Walk the Burgh & Wigle Whiskey

Whiskey Walk: Walk the Burgh Tours and Wigle Whiskey team up to share some whiskey history. Take a walking tour of Downtown Pittsburgh, learn about the Whiskey Rebellion and sample some Wigle Whiskey. $25/person

Interested in some other Prohibition stories…

Events: Northside Mardi Gras // Feb. 15-25

The Northside Leadership Conference has organized a 10-day, neighborhood-wide celebration for Mardi Gras. You can see the entire schedule of events here. Follow the Northside Mardi Gras Facebook page for updates.

The celebration ends with a Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday Party at the Allegheny Elks Lodge #339. Tickets are $10, available here.


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Header Image: Laura Zurowski, Leister Street to Hunnel Street , Spring Hill-City View Trip #309

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