Enjoying morning coffee at Aspinwall Beans 'N' Cream. Photo by Kate Buckley.

(Photos of Aspinwall Beans ‘N’ Cream, One Brilliant clothing store, and Lynlott Miniatures Dollhouse Junction; Kate Buckley)

A walk through the quaint streets of Aspinwall is like a delightful trip back in time, when corner markets served everyday needs and neighbors stopped to chat on roomy front porches.

The lovely architecture—well-maintained rowhomes and Victorians abound here—reflect the borough’s history, when young upper-middle-class families settled in and developed the area in the late 1800s. In the early 20th century, architect Frederick Sauer let his imagination run wild on his personal property in Aspinwall, creating fantastical buildings inspired by castles and his own creative expression. Sauer’s whimsical efforts in his community have been preserved as a historical district.

Located east of Pittsburgh, this tiny borough packs a powerful punch of retail variety on Commercial Avenue, Brilliant Avenue and Freeport Road. At 0.4 square miles, Aspinwall is a hub of pedestrian commerce, boasting independent groceries like Patty’s Farm Market and gourmet adventures like Labriola Italian Market and Feast on Brilliant. Dining options range from upscale to more casual fare at Franco’s, Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro, Cornerstone Restaurant, and Tavern in the Wall.

Nestled between Route 28 and the Allegheny River, downtown Aspinwall is a flat little pocket, making it perfect for bikes, strollers and foot traffic. Closer to the waterfront, plans are underway to extend the Three Rivers Heritage Trail from Pittsburgh’s North Shore through Aspinwall Riverfront Park and into neighboring O’Hara Township.

All in all, Aspinwall is a charmer of a community—gracious, vibrant and full of quiet surprises.

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Amanda King is a freelance multimedia journalist whose work can be seen on MSNBC.COM and a number of local publications, from the Post-Gazette to the Beaver County Times. A former journalist for the Bucks County Courier Times, she reported on NJ Gov. Chris Christie. She received her BA in Broadcast Journalism from Point Park University and is working on her first short film about 'The Modern Day Nanny', which examines how technology and education affect this traditional career. She loves telling stories with a social & educational impact.