Almost 30 years ago, a business on Baum Boulevard bought and demolished a house in the little residential neighborhood of Friendship to make way for an extra parking lot. That demolition became a catalyst for the placid East End community.
“The neighborhood was so upset about this commercial encroachment that they banded together and were successful in keeping the zoning residential," said Friendship resident Diana Ames.
She said the whole turn of events led residents to create the Friendship Preservation Group and Friendship Development Associates, which bought the lot from the business for $1. Then came the long process of turning that land into a community asset.
A self-described gardener, Ames was a major force in transforming the quarter-acre triangular parcel into what’s now known as the Baum Grove Parklet. It’s a scenic enclave just off of Baum Boulevard, with two rows of large ginkgo trees and an ivy-covered wall hemming in a pleasant green space with gardens, benches and paths. Ames called it the “heart of the neighborhood.”
Ames said she’s not digging her hands into the dirt quite as often these days -- she considers herself more of a “conductor” now -- but she still keeps tabs on the herb garden.
Friendship residents now use Baum Grove Parklet for events as big as the Friendship Flower and Folk Festival to as small as guitar lessons. Ames’ latest project is a neighborhood Christmas tree recycling program in the park, which she started last winter.
“So, that saved them from going into the landfill and generating more methane," Ames said. "They can now be ground up to make mulch for more trees.”
Ames’ friend and Friendship Community Group President Martha Terry said Ames has been invaluable in keeping Baum Grove pristine.
“Diana always is thinking about Baum Grove, and what we need to do here to keep it a space that is usable and friendly to everybody who wants to be here," Terry said. "She’s thought about the kinds of plants that we have here. She puts together weeding teams and coordinates that activity with all of our events we have here over the year, making sure Baum Grove is looking its best.”
Friendship is nestled between Bloomfield, East Liberty and Shadyside. At one-tenth of a square mile, only the city neighborhood of Mt. Oliver is smaller.
Ames said she considers Friendship to be one of Pittsburgh’s "hidden gems."
“One of the things that I like best about the neighborhood is the diversity," Ames said, "and the fact that when you go out for a walk here, it takes you a couple hours, even though it’s a tiny little neighborhood, because you run into so many friends along the way.”
Ames will be helping to spruce up the park for its next upcoming event as the launch pad for the annual tour of Friendship’s big, Victorian-era homes on Sunday, Sept. 24.