Horse riding in Riverview Park was a common sight 60 years ago, Ranger Nancy Schaefer explains.
Photos courtesy of Nancy Schaefer
It’s a fascinating feature of Riverview Park that four miles from downtown Pittsburgh, you may encounter people riding horses. It’s an activity that’s occurred here since the park opened in 1894. While that would have been a common sight 60 years ago, they are only found in two places on the Northside now, thanks to two very dedicated families.
Riverview Valley Stables is located on Grand Avenue, at the southern end of the park, in the Woods Run neighborhood. It was founded by Joseph Walter Himmelstein and wife Caroline, who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1875 to start a new life as dairy farmers in Allegheny City. Himmelstein Dairy served the community for more than 65 years, delivering milk in horse-drawn wagons and employing neighboring families. Four generations of Himmelsteins continued the dairy, supplying desperate families with milk during the milk strike of the fifties. During the Great Depression, the Himmelsteins worked with the City of Pittsburgh and the Works Progress Administration to map and construct more than 30 miles of bridle trails in Riverview Park. Joseph III created Riverview Valley Stable & Riding Academy, providing opportunities for boarding horses, taking riding lessons or renting a horse to ride in the park. For over 40 years, Pittsburghers enjoyed the sights of Riverview Park from horseback. While that opportunity is no longer available, in 2019, Riverview Valley Stables became home to the Pittsburgh Police Mounted Patrol Unit.
Chiyou (Children & Youth) Corral is located northeast of the park in an area known as the Hollows, a racially diverse neighborhood made of steep ravines. (William) Moses Carper, born in 1931, grew up in the Hollows, where most families had animals, including horses. Moses reported that “we didn’t have enough to eat ourselves, there was no way we could afford horses” so he cleaned stalls for $1 per day to earn money to ride. In 1966, Moses created Chiyou Corral, a program dedicated to teaching children responsibility, respect, and love for nature and to believe in themselves through working with horses. Chiyou provided horse programming for 72 day camps across the city. When day camps were eliminated, Moses organized his own camps in Riverview Park, took the horses to city lunch sites and neighborhood festivals and organized a City Round Up program from 1982 to 2000. Moses became well known for his ability to reach children through the joy of riding and the discipline required to care for an animal. Amazingly, most of Moses’ programs were provided without charge to youth or families, as he was determined to provide opportunities he never had. In 2003, Moses received the Senator John Heinz award in recognition of his work to strengthen and preserve families for over 40 years. Moses crossed over in 2012 but several horses remain, cared for by his family, in the same meadow where Moses grew up. Thanks to Saturday Light Brigade, you can learn more about his life, directly from Moses, at https://neighborhoodvoices.org/allegheny-voices-2.
Nancy Schaefer is a City of Pittsburgh Park Ranger in the Northside’s Riverview Park.