Category Archive: PHLF News
By Albert M. Tannler
Edward Trumbull (1884-1968) was born in Michigan. He studied painting at the Art Students’ League of New York. He subsequently worked in London circa 1911 as an assistant to Frank Brangwyn. According to an interview in the Pittsburgh Index in 1917, Trumbull was recommended to Henry J. Heinz by British painter Sir Alfred East (1849-1913) and received the commission to paint murals for the Heinz administration building in Pittsburgh. He returned to the USA in 1911; he lived and worked in Pittsburgh between 1912 and 1920.
Trumbull exhibited sketches for “Decoration in the New Administration Building of the H. J. Heinz Company” at the 1912 Pittsburgh Architectural Club exhibition. He participated at the 1912 and 1915 exhibitions of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (founded in 1910 and still active). In 1915 he painted two murals—“William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians” and “The Steel Industries of Pittsburgh”—for the Pennsylvania Building at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco designed by architect Henry Hornbostel (1867-1961), who practiced in both New York and Pittsburgh. Three artworks—“Chinese Flamingo,” “Royal Dodo Bird,” and “Midsummer”—were displayed at the Pittsburgh Architectural Club exhibition of 1916-17.
Trumbull moved to New York City but continued to collaborate with Hornbostel on Pittsburgh projects, painting murals for the Supreme Court Room in the City-County Building (1923), the Eugene Strassburger residence in Squirrel Hill (1928-30), and the Grant Building lobby (1931). Trumbull’s acclaimed Grant Building mural, “The Three Rivers,” is believed to be entombed above a dropped ceiling, but his Supreme Court Room murals and ceiling paintings are breathtaking: neither as impressionistic nor as boldly colored as Frank Brangwyn’s murals, they are prodigy worthy of a master muralist.
In New York City Trumbull executed the façade terra cotta bas relief on the Chanin Building, the ceiling fresco “Transport and Human Endeavor” in the Chrysler Building lobby, and murals in the Oyster Bar and Restaurant in Grand Central Terminal (1912; Guastavino tile vaulting). He painted murals in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
Select Chronological Bibliography
Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annual Catalogues 1912, 1915.
Pittsburgh Architectural Club Exhibition catalogs 1912, 1916-17
McCord, Myra Webb. “An Atelier That is Different: Edward Trumbull’s Unusual Workshop at His East End Home—Murals Are Done In An Atmosphere Remote From Pittsburgh’s Humdrum Life—Mills Offer Great Inspiration.” The Index 36:1 (January 6, 1917), 5, 15.
Kidney, Walter C. Henry Hornbostel: An Architect’s Master Touch. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, 2002, 46, 145,168, 169, 173, 230.
Horner, Libby. Frank Brangwyn: A Mission to Decorate Life. London: Fine Arts Society/Liss Fine Art, 2006.
 Horner 2006 shows a photograph of Brangwyn and Trumbull in the studio . She notes: “Whatever qualities Trumbull may have had as an artist were forgotten when Brangwyn discovered Trumbull was a bigamist.” . See “Miss Dreier Finds She is Not a Wife: Edward Trumbull, Artist, Not Legally Free When He Married Brooklyn Society Girl,” New York Times, 22 August 1911.
 Myra Webb McCord, “An Atelier That is Different: Edward Trumbull’s Unusual Workshop at His East End Home—Murals Are Done In An Atmosphere Remote From Pittsburgh’s Humdrum Life—Mills Offer Great Inspiration,” The Index 36:1 (January 6, 1917), 5, 15.
 Edward Trumbull’s Heinz Plant murals have been preserved at the Heinz History Center, the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, but are not on display. I am grateful to Kathleen Wendell for this information.
 Trumbull murals in Hornbostel buildings are illustrated in Walter C. Kidney, Henry Hornbostel: An Architect’s Master Touch (Pittsburgh, 2002), 46, 145, 169, 173.
 See John Ochsendorf, Guastavino Vaulting, 140-141.
The photos below document a few of the many educational programs that PHLF hosted in September. They include architectural design challenges in Pine-Richland, Homestead, and West Newton (Westmoreland County); community explorations in Mt. Lebanon and Castle Shannon; and a chance to experience the former Carnegie Library on Pittsburgh’s North Side and talk with Tony Pitassi of Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff + Goettel Architects before the historic building is renovated to include MACS’ new middle school.
“In all that we do, we are encouraging students to become active citizens who appreciate the importance of saving and reusing historic buildings and are capable of proposing new uses for vacant lots, based on the needs of the community,” said Louise Sturgess, executive director of PHLF. “We thank the many foundations and individuals who donate to our educational programs that serve more than 5,000 students each year. Our programs are affordable, meaningful, and lots of fun.”
Register for the “Greene County Heritage Workshop: Practical Ways to Care for Your Historic Building(s)”
Saturday November 4, 2017
9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Free (including a boxed lunch)
Location: Margaret Bell Miller Middle School, 126 East Lincoln Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370
Reservations required by October 31: email@example.com; 412-471-5808, ext. 527
More than 65 members and foundations contributed to PHLF’s 50th Anniversary Fund between 2014 and 2017. One of the goals of that fundraising effort was to help PHLF provide technical assistance to main streets and historic neighborhoods throughout the Pittsburgh region, with a particular emphasis on outlying counties where no local preservation organizations exist to assist concerned citizens.
After much planning and with the local support of 17 co-sponsoring organizations in Greene County, PHLF is pleased to announce that it will host the first of several Heritage Workshops serving outlying counties on Saturday, November 4, at the Margaret Bell Miller Middle School in Greene County, PA.
Click here for an agenda of speakers and topics. Although the workshop is intended for Greene County residents, anyone interested in preserving historic buildings is invited to attend.
“Many people misunderstand how historic properties fit into a dynamic 21st-century economic environment,” said Bill Callahan, Western PA Community Preservation Coordinator of the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. “This workshop will look beyond limited public funding to explore how a community’s historic character fits into economic development strategies. It will outline best-practice approaches to preserve, promote, and invest in historic community character,” he added.
Mary Beth Pastorius, a trustee of PHLF and a native of Greene County, has been instrumental in planning the conference. “PHLF is sharing its expertise in ‘Renewing Communities and Building Pride’ with rural areas outside Allegheny County that have many historic assets but little experience in ‘how to’ preserve,” she said. “I encourage anyone who cares about saving the unique character of Greene County to attend this workshop. It’s been specifically tailored to meet their needs and interests.”
“It was a terrific help to have five undergraduate and graduate students assisting us with our educational and archival activities this summer,” said Executive Director Louise Sturgess. As a result of their help, we launched a Facebook Group for all Landmarks Scholarship recipients, completed several archival projects, selected a location and prepared materials for our 21st annual Architectural Design Challenge, began planning for a Heritage Workshop in Greene County on November 4, and offered many educational programs for people of all ages.
We thank the following students for volunteering their time and talents to PHLF this summer:
- James Barnett, from Bruceton Mills, WV, who is studying Public Policy, Urban Affairs, and Business at the University of Delaware;
- Morgan Collins, from Pittsburgh, who is studying Strategic Communications at Elon University in North Carolina;
- Ilana Kisilinsky, from Pittsburgh, who is studying Media Studies at Yeshiva University in New York City;
- Lauren Stanley, from Belle Vernon, who is a graduate student in Duquesne University’s Public History program; and
- Tess Wilson, from Pittsburgh, who is completing her Master’s in Library & Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.
The interns summed up their summer experiences with the following comments:
“This summer really immersed me in valuable field work that has to do with my major and career path. I learned so much by working with the community members and historic buildings in Greene County––both crucial parts of Public Policy and Urban Planning. I enjoyed every second of it and hope the preservation workshop on November 4th goes well!” ––James Barnett
“As a strategic communications major, I expected to be writing copy and editing photos for most of my time at PHLF. Instead, I helped with tours nearly every day of my internship. Watching groups of children, high schoolers, adults, and senior citizens react with the same awe to Pittsburgh’s architecture and its history reaffirmed my appreciation for the city I call home.” ––Morgan Collins
“PHLF taught me to open my eyes, to really look and see, not just buildings but works of art. There are so many beautiful details that make up our city and now I will look for every one.” ––Ilana Kisilinksy
“I enjoyed my summer at PHLF tremendously. I learned so much about Pittsburgh from its incorporation to present day. Best summer internship.” ––Lauren Stanley
“As a youth librarian and educator, I especially enjoyed experiencing the unique ways in which PHLF programming allows kids to engage with their city. Even a single Downtown Dragons Tour can make an extraordinary impact on our young citizens, and that knowledge serves as a daily reminder of why I do what I do.” ––Tess Wilson
By Albert Tannler
In 1882, Western University of Pennsylvania (which became the University of Pittsburgh in 1904) moved to Allegheny City. In 1894 land was purchased at the summit of Riverview Park for a new observatory. The cornerstone of the Observatory was laid on October 20, 1900 and construction began.
The Observatory is a scientific acropolis—a tan brick and white terra cotta hill-top temple whose Classical forms and decoration symbolize the unity of art and science. The L-shaped building consists of a library, lecture hall, classrooms, laboratories, offices, and three hemispherical domed telescope enclosures. Two were reserved for research; one for use by schools and the general public. The core of the building is a small rotunda, housing an opalescent glass window depicting the Greek muse of astronomy, Urania.
Director Frank L. O. Wadsworth, of the observatory of the Western University of Pennsylvania, announced last evening the arrival of a stained glass window from New York as the gift of the Misses Smith, who have devoted a generous sum to the establishment of the observatory. Prof. Wadsworth says the window is to adorn the new structure of the observatory. It is pronounced one of the most artistic works of Miss Mary E. Tillinghast.
The window, which is 9×3 feet, shows Urania, almost lifelike, standing in an open porch. Her garb is of the ancient Grecian fashion; in one hand she holds a planet, the other being raised to the heavens. Beside her resting against a pedestal is a pair of compasses; on the pedestal is the lamp of knowledge, whose flames lighten the figure. She stands between two columns. Around one is a wreath of laurel.
Far behind her, in the moonlight, are the ruins of the Acropolis. Shining in the sky and placed relatively with astronomical precision are the moon, the evening star, planets of Pleiades. Under the figure is a delicately blended spectrum, typifying the work of the observatory.
This thorough description of the window in the Observatory appeared in the Pittsburgh Post on July 3, 1903. The donors were a pair of well-to-do philanthropic siblings, Jennie Smith (1832-1911) and her younger sister, Matilda (1837-1909). When the University moved to Allegheny City, the Smith sisters became enthusiastic supporters. John Brashear remembered them as:
two good women that lived on the avenue just beyond the Observatory, who from the very beginning of the work of the new institution, contributed liberally, not only of their means, but gave their personal interest to many of the details of architecture, ornamentation, and other things. A beautiful window on the northern side of the building, the Riefler precision clock, the beautiful marble finish of the main building, and many other such matters were due to their interest and generosity.
The artist was Mary Elizabeth Tillinghast (1845-1912) of New York City. Like many American artists of the period, she spent several years in Europe, visiting Italy and studying painting in Paris. One of her teachers, Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran, also taught the most famous American painter of the era, John Singer Sargent.
In 1878 Tillinghast began a seven-year affiliation with New York artist John La Farge (1835-1910)—painter, muralist, critic, and inventor of a new process for making decorative glass windows. Tillinghast became an expert textile designer, served as manager of the La Farge Decorative Art Company, and learned the art of designing and making windows from La Farge.
La Farge patented his “opalescent” window glass in 1880: “The object of my invention is to obtain opalescent and iridescent effects in glass windows . . . softening the light, and, by reason of its unevenness of structure and formation [prevent] the direct passage of rays of light.” This new glass was known at the time as “American Glass.” Historian Barbara Weinberg notes that La Farge developed it in order to “reconcile the color and brilliance of early glass with contemporary desires for naturalistic form . . . , to permit depiction of rounded forms and convincing space.” American Renaissance painters admired the three-dimensional realism introduced by Raphael and 15th-century Renaissance painters, and sought to emulate it—in paintings and in glass windows.
Tillinghast’s first major window, Jacob’s Dream, was installed in 1887 in Grace Episcopal Church, New York City. She worked from her Greenwich Village studio, primarily as a window designer, but she also designed furniture and, in one case, was architect, decorator, and glass artist for a private chapel. Her glass was exhibited and won gold medals at several World’s Fairs. In addition to church windows, she designed windows for residences, and for institutions, most notably Urania in Pittsburgh and The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1908) in the New York Historical Society.
Tillinghast and La Farge each designed a window in Downtown Pittsburgh. La Farge’s Fortune in the Frick Building, designed by American Renaissance architect and planner D. H. Burnham of Chicago, was installed in 1902; Tillinghast’s Urania was installed in 1903. Each window portrays female figures framed by Classical columns—art echoing the architectural character of the building.
 The history of the Allegheny Observatory is taken from John A. Brashear, John A. Brashear: The Autobiography of A Man who Loved the Stars, Ed. by W. Lucien Scaife (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1924).
 “Window for Western Observatory,” Pittsburgh Post, 3 July 1903, 1. See also “Artistic window presented to Allegheny Observatory by the Misses Smith of Allegheny—Put in place within the week,” The Bulletin 47:10 (June 27, 1903), 1, 14.
 Brashear, Autobiography, 141-142. See also Ruth McCartin, “The Smith Sisters of Old Allegheny,” The Allegheny City Society Reporter Dispatch 1:3 (1996): 6-7, 9-10; and “Miss Matilda Smith, Philanthropist, Dies,” Pittsburgh Gazette, 1 November 1909.
 Gilson Willets, “Mary E. Tillinghast,” The Art Interchange 31:6 (December 1893),146-149; “Woman Stained Glass Artist: Mary Tillinghast’s Work in Pittsburgh and Other Cities.” Pittsburgh Post, 15 July 1906; New York Times, 16 December 1912: 13; Betty MacDowell, American Woman Stained Glass Artists, 1870s to 1930s: Their World and Their Windows (Diss. Michigan State University, 1986), 254-256, 326; L. A. Richards, “An Unworthy Obscurity,” Stained Glass 89:1 (Spring 1994), 35-41, 51-52.
 H. Barbara Weinberg, “John La Farge and the Invention of American Opalescent Windows,” Stained Glass 67:3 (Autumn 1972), 6.
 H. Barbara Weinberg, “The Early Stained Glass Work of John La Farge (1835-1910),” Stained Glass 67:2 (Summer 1972), 10.
 La Farge also designed three windows for the Presbyterian Church, Sewickley: Victory of Easter, c. 1897; Contemplative Angel, c. 1899; and Prayer and Hope, c. 1908.
“Classic Lines, Sufficiently Modern, a Charming Freshness, and Dignity of Style”: B. F. Jones Memorial Library, Aliquippa, Pa.
By Albert Tannler
Adhering strikingly to the classic lines of the Renaissance, The B. F. Jones Memorial Library is nevertheless sufficiently modern in its treatment to suggest a charming freshness which in no way detracts from its dignity of style.— Programme of the Presentation and Dedication of B. F. Jones Memorial Library. Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, February 1, 1929
Angelique Bamberg notes:
The present City of Aliquippa was created from the merger of the towns of Woodlawn and Aliquippa in 1928. . . . The city’s history is closely tied to that of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad (P&LERR) and the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company. The P&LERR’s line from Pittsburgh to Youngstown, OH was completed in 1879. To encourage passenger traffic from both cities, the railroad opened an amusement park, Aliquippa Park, roughly equidistant between them in 1880. The name Aliquippa was chosen by the President of the P&LERR, who had an interest in Native American history; Queen Aliquippa was a leader of the Seneca Tribe in the 18th century. There is no evidence of a direct association between the historical figure of Aliquippa and the town site, however.
The Building and the Donor
According to the National Register Nomination Form, “the library serves as a fitting memorial for one of the industrial giants and cofounders of Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, Benjamin Franklin Jones, Sr. [1824-1903] His contributions, along with those of his family and associates, are part of the history of steel making and the socio-economic impact which resulted from J&L’s growth. His daughter, Mrs. Elisabeth McMasters (Jones) Horne, recognizing the importance of individual development, offered to erect a library more responsive to the needs of the public. Her generous gift to the community has probably had as much effect on the growth and development of the community as did the steel plant several blocks away.”
The National Register of Historic Places Inventory––Nomination Form of 1974 gives a detailed listing of the elements of the building while noting: “The interior has been little altered although some rooms are no longer used for the purposes for which they were designed.”
The February 1, 1929 Programme of the Presentation and Dedication of B. F. Jones Memorial Library, gives a sense of character of the building:
The library building . . . is remarkable not alone for its architectural beauty. The entire structure reflects the thoroughness with which the project was studied long before erection, in order that the completed building might lend itself in every way to the work and service to be accomplished. Consequently, one finds book stacks, work rooms, rest rooms, a librarians office, an exhibition room, furniture, filing cases and other carefully selected equipment, all so favorable [sic] situated and co-ordinated that the building is practically perfect as to workability. Building materials include “grey Indiana limestone . . . Kasota marble . . . and Travertine from Italy.”
The Architect and the Artists
Brandon Smith was among a handful of the most talented eclectic architects to have practiced in western Pennsylvania. One of the last in a noted generation of traditionalists, his work at Fox Chapel Golf Club, The Edgeworth Club, and on a series of fine residential designs are distinguished by thoughtful accommodation and unfailingly gracious resolution. He is deservedly remembered as Pittsburgh’s most sought after high society architect.
Smith was born in Allegheny City in 1889. His parents were Charles O. and Elizabeth Benn Smith. His family was of German and English descent and his father owned the Sterling White Lead Co., which was later sold to the National Lead Co.
Brandon graduated from the old Central High School, his first job was demonstrating roadsters and early automobiles. He attended architectural classes at Carnegie Tech in the years 1910 – 1912. He was a student of unmistakable talent and sophistication, but he never graduated from the program. He enlisted in the Army in 1917 and served as Lieutenant in the Field Artillery during World War I.
While stationed in Salt Lake, Utah, he met and later married Kate Nelson. They had two daughters, Marian and Barbara.
It’s important to note that early in his career Brandon worked in the office of Alden & Harlow. From 1920 – 1927 Brandon worked in partnership with Paul A. Bartholomew, a University of Pennsylvania graduate who had also worked at Alden & Harlow. Bartholomew & Smith had offices in Pittsburgh and Greensburg.
The years of the Great Depression and the Second World War were very hard on architectural careers and Brandon despaired that the profession would never recover. During the war years some of his beautiful drawings for designs that would never be built were exhibited by the Pittsburgh Architectural Club, and by the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh. He remained a traditionalist, opposed modernist ideas, and retired to Florida in 1955. There he also designed a few buildings, and died in Pensacola in 1962 at the age of 72. He is buried in Arlington Cemetery.
David Vater observes that “the B.F. Jones Memorial Library at 603 Franklin Street in Aliquippa, PA . . . is without question the finest building in this once prosperous steel town. . . . It’s well worth a visit.” The National Register of Historic Places form notes that “Three large 30 light windows are set behind the recessed columns. . . The side elevations each have three windows of 30 lights.” David Vater quotes Smith’s daughter who observed that her father “always insisted upon driving convertibles because he was a claustrophobic, like the bright yellow Nash and a little green MG he used to race about in. Perhaps his claustrophobia was the motive for the generous fenestration and a preoccupation with openness in many of his architectural designs.”
Artwork in the library consists of a larger-than-life bronze and marble statue of B. F. Jones by Robert Aiken of New York City; the color scheme in the building was planned by Norah Thorpe of New York City; Mrs. Horne’s portrait is by Dutch portrait painter Alfred Hoen; and the leaded glass windows are by Henry Hunt of Hunt Studios, Pittsburgh.
Programme of the Presentation and Dedication of B. F. Jones Memorial Library. Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, February 1, 1929.
50th Anniversary, B.F. Jones Memorial Library 1929-1979. Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.
- F. Jones Memorial Library, National Register of Historic Places Inventory––Nomination Form. Placed on the NRHP on December 15, 1974.
Vater, David J. “Brandon Smith, Eclectic Architect.” Fox Chapel Golf Club, October 2, 2005.
Bamberg, Angelique. “An Architectural Inventory, Franklin Avenue Aliquippa, PA. Report of Findings and Recommendations.” Prepared for the Community Development Program of Beaver County in cooperation with Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office by Clio Consulting, June 12, 2016.
 Angelique Bamberg, An Architectural Inventory, Franklin Avenue Aliquippa, Pa, 3.
 “B. F. Jones Memorial Library,” National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, n.p.
 David Vater notes that Smith later partnered with Harold O. Rief, with offices in downtown Pittsburgh.
 Vater, “Brandon Smith, Eclectic Architect,” 2005.
On a recent trip to Upstate New York, Arthur Ziegler, president of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF), toured the historic Chautauqua community, Buffalo’s Canalside, a waterfront development on the Erie Canal Harbor in Buffalo, and Niagara Falls. He recounts the trips and some of his thoughts and observations on the history of the area, sense of place, and town planning in the essay below.
By Arthur Ziegler
It had been many years since I last visited the Chautauqua Institution near Jamestown, New York, when I drove up there a couple of weeks ago to take in a performance by Garrison Keillor, the noted author, humorist, and radio personality. The Chautauqua Institution, of course, was embroiled in considerable controversy in recent years concerning its demolition of its historic amphitheater, which had been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We, at PHLF, joined the preservationist voices from all across the country in opposition to the Institution’s plans, but the board of directors of the Institution won out and raised over $23 million to demolish it and build what is actually a rather good replica.
From what I observed, they have created a better access for physically handicapped patrons, a large addition to the theater for back-of-the-house improvements and space needed for performers. The wooden benches and the spaces, the stage, are all replicated and the organ is in place. One would hardly know the difference but one can feel the loss of the patina of time that one felt in the former amphitheater.
For this opening week Garrison Keillor performed with two cast mates from his old radio variety show, A Prairie Home Companion, and the acoustics in the amphitheater were perfect both for performers and the several thousand attendees who joined in singing old-time songs. A new plaza will be developed in front of the theater in the coming year to make that area more inviting.
It is the planning—or lack of planning—that makes Chautauqua itself so welcoming and really endearing. There is a relative grid pattern of streets except for a curving street from the lakefront up toward the hotel. There are few curbs, few sidewalks, and yards go right to the edge of the asphalt and almost every yard has a front yard garden or little lawn. In late July, the flowers were all in bloom, making the town feel very inviting. The informality of the roads and gardens is rare in America and largely disallowed anywhere in planning today.
The architecture of Chautauqua, largely Gothic, board and batten, and some classical, is an endless treat to the eye and every time one walks for about a block, no matter how often it is repeated, one sees new details. In Chautauqua, it appears, that no house has setback requirements and there is no single-use of land i.e., a street block might have single-family houses, inns, rental cottages, lecture hall, restaurant, art center. Everything exists in harmony, a notion that runs counter to our contemporary ideas of urban planning where different uses are isolated from one another.
What they have in Chautauqua that also helps to make the community feel inviting and in-tune with nature is that shade prevails. The town is filled with great trees everywhere, a mixture of deciduous and conifers. One can walk the entire town with comfort because of its short street blocks. There, I recalled that Jane Jacobs taught us the value of short blocks.
Amidst the charm of the town, I was reminded that the community in Chautauqua was founded as a religious retreat by the Methodist churches and religion still prevails. The residents and visitors are— at least when I was there— almost entirely white, and aging. Occupants of houses now seem to be permitted to have alcoholic beverages on their porches but the great hotel has limited its offerings to wine and beer. While the artistic and intellectual programs are plentiful and varied, Chautauqua still seemed to be limited in its demographic appeal and I wondered how many of the people that were there will be there 10 years from now due to age and infirmity. In the future, I wondered: What will bring younger more diversified people there?
From Chautauqua, I drove farther north along I-90 to Buffalo, New York, to visit and see Canalside, a waterfront redevelopment in an historic district on the city’s inner harbor. Located within Buffalo’s Downtown, the redevelopment of the area started in 2005 when the state of New York formed the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, a state agency that was charged with planning the redevelopment of this historic site to help boost Buffalo’s economic resurgence.
Stanton Eckstut, a leading preservation planner and architect with Perkins Eastman— and who has done considerable work with our organization over the years— was the project designer and through his vision the Erie Canal has been resurrected, water is flowing, and a Downtown playground has been established all around it with a number of developments scheduled to come.
A light rail line comes right to the project connecting to the business area a couple of blocks away. Here is a planning triumph, I thought, in that it is bringing residents and visitors back Downtown and in the winter when the water is frozen in the canal, it is a hugely popular ice skating rink. I saw a group of youngsters enjoying hula hoops, some oldsters talking to one another in a collection of Adirondack chairs, and people enjoying views of the water, the marina, and a great naval destroyer anchored there. A highway soars over the site on concrete posts and it has been retained and people frolic underneath it.
The area has been pedestrianized with easy access by vehicle and parking and various areas are treated in different ways, some with wooden boardwalks, some with lawns, some with blocks that might have been used in the ships that sailed there, old foundations from the canal and adjoining buildings have been excavated, and interpretive panels have been displayed with good graphics narrating the history of the area.
I could see that Stan Eckstut and his team sought to renew the core of the city as a major attraction by reviving its history. In doing planning anywhere, Stan first looks to the history of what happened at a particular site and then develops relevant concepts for people living, working, and playing in the space today. In Buffalo, unlike Chautauqua, people of every age and race were there in abundance and the place felt alive.
It also occurred to me that Canalside is very different from our own historic Point State Park in Pittsburgh, which is really disconnected from the rest of Downtown. Here, our history in Point State Park is treated modestly and was recently mostly covered up. It is no wonder that the park is not heavily used unless there is a special event.
At Point State Park, the museum is almost hidden away and the Block House was saved only through the intrepid determination of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The foundations of the historic buildings, historic wharfs, were all eliminated in favor of plain concrete walkways around the rivers’ edges. It is beautiful and pristine but not in any way equivalent to the educational playground I saw at Canalside.
About half an hour’s drive north of Buffalo lies the majestic Niagara Falls. On the American side of the falls, we have a Downtown whose street pattern is elusive. Traffic overwhelms the town, parking is not neatly provided. The park and the falls are hidden beyond various tourist stores in the town. Way finding is hard for pedestrian or drivers but when one finally arrives at the park, which is maintained by the National Park Service, the landscaping, unlike at Chautauqua or Canalside, leaves a lot to be desired. It feels more like the remnants of a landscaped park, with shrubs and trees looking like they need nourishment. The lawn in many places is just dirt. Granted that there are many thousands of visitors here and it can be hard to maintain landscaping but it is done across the river in Canada very well.
Signage is poor if it exists at all and one can end up driving around and around the same block or doing the same on foot because each block seems to be lined with the same tourist shops. Niagara Falls is a major world attraction and we should have there a town outstanding for its architecture and its linkages to the river and the Falls and demonstrate our country’s planning and landscaping to the best.
One very good thing that can be said about Niagara Falls is that the population is highly diversified. People from every country, every ethnic background, and every age are there and the great natural wonder of the Falls delivers a spectacle that somehow equalizes the human beings who come to enjoy it and they seem to enjoy one another.
As I reflect on my journey to this part of Upstate New York, I can’t help but wonder:
- How will Chautauqua Institute move toward the future?
- How should Buffalo work to spin off more good economic development for the future by its investment in the visionary Canalside?
- How can Niagara Falls reconfigure itself to be in itself an attraction that befits and enhances the natural attraction that brings people there?
The second annual Doors Open Pittsburgh, a nonprofit 501c3, will be presented in partnership with AIA Pittsburgh, Visit Pittsburgh, and PHLF on October 7 & 8, 2017. The event will provide a unique opportunity to explore and experience the interiors of a collection of Pittsburgh’s iconic and newly designed buildings in Downtown Pittsburgh, on the North Side, and in the Strip District. The buildings will be announced on the Doors Open website on August 7.
New to this year’s event are “Insider Tours.” These fully-guided, thematic tour experiences will be a great option for participants yearning to learn more about Pittsburgh’s fascinating architecture. PHLF will offer a “Downtown Safari” walking tour for families on Saturday, October 7. This 90-minute adventure will call attention to the stone, terra cotta, and metal creatures that inhabit Pittsburgh’s historic bridges and buildings. Details for this tour and all other Insider Tours can be found on the Doors Open website.
More than 200 people have already registered online to volunteer, but 250 more volunteers are still needed. All volunteers will receive a Doors Open Pittsburgh t-shirt, free admission to the event with front-of-the-line privileges, and an invitation to the post-event celebration. Register to volunteer at www.doorsopenpgh.org/volunteer/.
Check out www.doorsopenpgh.org to learn more, to see the list of participating buildings, and to buy tickets for the event and/or Insider Tours. General admission for adults will be $8 for one day or $12 for both days. Admission is free for individuals under 18 or over 65 years of age. Tickets are still required, so please go online to get yours.
Insider Tours are separate from event tickets, are not included in general event admission, and need to be reserved in advance; they vary in price.
Save the dates and plan on attending Doors Open Pittsburgh, October 7 & 8, 2017!