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  1. The Environment for Amazon in Pittsburgh

    By Arthur Ziegler

    Pittsburgh is one of the 20 cities in North America that was recently selected out of a pool of 238 cities vying to land Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, known as HQ2. Many cities, large and small, believe that Amazon will have a tremendous economic impact in their cities and regions, and so the competition is stiff.

    I don’t know the details of what Pittsburgh or any other city proposed as an offer to entice Amazon, other than the idea that many cities have offered lots of money in the form of subsidies, but I know that we in Pittsburgh could offer Amazon something that not many cities may be in a position to—our city’s historic built environment.

    In April 2016, I attended a symposium held by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy at the University of Pittsburgh to discuss some of the challenges Pittsburgh will encounter as we build and grow for a new generation of entrepreneurs. A keynote presenter at that symposium was Paul Graham, a venture capitalist and a former Pittsburgher, now based in the San Francisco tech-world.

    I was particularly interested in his thoughts on how to grow Pittsburgh as a tech hub and how it may do that through understanding the needs and desires of millennials and how tech leaders think about them. Key among the things that they desire, he said, is the authenticity that historic buildings and neighborhoods bring to establishing sense of place and identity.

    “So here is another piece of evidence for becoming a start-up hub: don’t destroy the buildings that are bringing people here. When cities are on the way back up like Pittsburgh is now, developers race to tear down the old buildings. Don’t let that happen. Focus on historic preservation. Big real estate development projects are not what’s bringing the twenty-somethings here…they subtract personality from the city. The empirical evidence suggests you cannot be too strict about historic preservation. The tougher cities are about it, the better they seem to do.”

    Paul Graham is right. One of the biggest advantages that Pittsburgh can offer Amazon, in addition to the various incentives already proposed, is the history and authenticity of our city and its rich architectural landscape. For example, Pittsburgh can provide ample office space in our historic buildings in Downtown where we would welcome Amazon as a new major corporate citizen.

    We have a collection of historic and handsome buildings on Fourth Avenue and Wood Street, in Downtown, for example. They are in partial service now or restoration is about to be underway, but possibly the owners would be interested in finding a way to go together and welcome Amazon. They include the handsome Arrott Building, the Investment Building, the partially filled Union National Bank (The Carlyle) Building, the Commonwealth Building, and the Bank Tower Building. While these are separate buildings, they could be tied together with skywalks such as was done years ago for Kaufmann’s and for Point Park University.

    Not only would we generate a reuse and restoration of all these significant buildings but also we would be offering a location in the midst of a growing high quality university campus that offers courses from business to theatre to dance to journalism. These buildings would also offer a variety of spaces for open floor plans like WeWorks, private areas, and a variety of conference areas. Adjoining these are a variety of restaurants and bars. A block away is Market Square with its varied activities, summer market, and Christmas market.

    Other options? Sure. There is the yet-to-be-filled former Kaufmann’s Department Store. The neighboring Union Trust and Frick buildings have space available. All are handsome, significant buildings.

    And if not Amazon, why not band together to market these important assets that we have to other corporations to further revitalize our Downtown, our well known core area that is constantly praised by visitors for its significant architecture.

    This is also a time to ask: what other firms out there might consider our good city and its historic buildings?

    Arthur Ziegler is the president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation (PHLF). He can be reached at apz@phlf.org or 412-471-5808.

     

  2. Feature: Albion Bindley, Architect/Builder

    By Albert M. Tannler
    Historical Collections Director
    Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

    Shadyside Commons apartments, formerly Bindley Hardware Company, 401 Amberson Avenue, Shadyside, 1903.

    Architect/builder Albion Bindley (February 5, 1851-March 10, 1904) was the youngest of three brothers. Edwin Bindley (1842-1906) and John Bindley (1846-1921) were his older brothers.[1]

    Although the family was English, their primary American ancestor was John Cooper Bindley (1808-1881) who emigrated from England to Pittsburgh in 1829.

    John Cooper Bindley [was] born during his father’s residence in America, at Williamsport, [Pa.] in 1808, was educated in the famous English school of Professor Cross, returned to America, and after a few years in the Eastern states removed to Pittsburgh, Pa., and became a contractor and builder, conducting his business with that astuteness that was so characteristic of those pioneers of that manufacturing city. He was also an architect, which materially facilitated his operations as contractor and builder. He, as his own affairs broadened and prospered, became interested in those of the people and of the city in general. He was first of all loyal to his trade and profession, and in this he had the cooperation of his clients and, more important still, that of his subordinates in his various constructive operations. He became interested in the banking institutions of Pittsburgh almost as soon as he began to build houses and other structures, and was early a trustee of the Dollar Savings Bank, remaining in this capacity until his death.[2]

    John Cooper Bindley had three sons who became prominent in Pittsburgh––Edwin, John, and Albion. Albion had married Sarah L. Slocom on June 5, 1889, in Allegheny, Pa. In 1900 they had a son, Albion, Jr., 10, and a daughter, Almira, 8.

    All three brothers were involved with the Bindley Hardware Company, established in Pittsburgh in 1901. Albion designed and constructed the Bindley Hardware Company headquarters, 401 Amberson Avenue, Shadyside, erected in 1903; Edwin was the vice-president and John the president of Bindley Hardware. John also served as president of the National Hardware Association.

    [John] Bindley chose to erect a new wholesale facility that provided direct access to the railroads, and to the road systems, and which would serve as an example of the efficiencies which he assumed would come from the business combine. The new building was begun within six months of the collapse of negotiations for the combine, and made the Bindley Hardware Company . . . “the largest of its kind in Pittsburgh,” while its railroad siding and access to the vast trackage of the Pennsylvania Railroad made its “facilities for handling goods, unexcelled by those of any other hardware house in the country.”[3]

    The Nomination Form notes:

    The new building was erected by Albion Bindley, youngest of the three brothers, who had taken over the architectural and construction business of their father. Though conservative in style as industrial buildings tend to be, it is architecturally imposing, as it merged the materials and colors with the larger scale classicism of the turn of the century, that in turn recalled the mass and architectionic effect of Henry Hobson Richardson’s great courthouse. Though the warehouse is architecturally impressive, Albion Bindley’s real task was to create a building that would function as an extension of John Bindley’s vision of an integrated industrial storage, sales and shipment facility not unlike the contemporary Sears, Roebuck & Co. of Chicago for housewares and dry goods.[4]

     The Bindley Hardware Company was placed on the National Register on June 24, 1985.

    Selected Buildings:

     William M. Johnston, four-story frame dwelling, Francis street between Wylie and Center avenues. Builder, Albion Bindley. Architecture and Building: A Journal of Investment and Construction. Building (News Supplement) VIII: no. 23, 1888: 180.[5]

    Shadyside Commons apartments, formerly Bindley Hardware Company, 401 Amberson Avenue, Shadyside, 1903.

    Bibliography:

    John W. Jordan, ed., Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography, Vol. II. New York: 1917:49-57.

    John Bindley obituary, New York Times, 17 December 1921: 13.

    Fleming, George Thomas. “Men Widely Famed: John Bindley,” History of Pittsburgh and Environs, from Prehistoric Days to the Beginning of the American Revolution, Vol. 3 (1922): 870-872.

    Pittsburgh Board of Trade. The East End. 1907: 41.

    Ancestry.com—Pennsylvania County Marriages, 1845-1963/1900 United States Federal Census/Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964.

    Albert M. Tannler

    2017

    [1] John W. Jordan, ed., Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography, Vol. II. New York: 1917: 49-57. Articles on John Cooper Bindley, Edwin Bindley, and John Bindley. Another son, Josiah, is mentioned but no other information is given. Also included in the article are grandsons Edward H. Bindley (b. 1878) and Albion Bindley, Jr. (b. 1890).

    [2] George T. Fleming, History of Pittsburgh and Environs, from Prehistoric Days to the Beginning of the American Revolution, Vol. 3 (1922): 871.

    [3] National Register of Historic Places Inventory––Nomination Form, prepared by George E. Thomas, Ph.D., “Bindley Hardware Company,” Section 8, page 3. Quotation from Pittsburgh Board of Trade, The East End, 1907: 41.

    [4] Nomination Form, Section 8, page 4.

    [5] John Cooper Bindley’s daughter Zabina married William M. Johnston.

  3. “The Pittsburgh That Stays Within You,” is Available from PHLF

    The book is beautiful and it has already begun to circulate. We are a very small library with a very small budget and opportunities like this one allow us to provide much needed materials to our patrons. Thank you for providing us a book. ––Jessica Beichler, Director, Trafford Community Public Library

     There is a richness and depth of historic facts in this small book. ––Pat Schultz, PHLF volunteer

    Thanks to a generous grant from The H. Glenn Sample Jr. MD Memorial Foundation, PHLF has copies of The Pittsburgh That Stays Within You, by Samuel Hazo, to distribute to educational institutions, libraries, historical sites, and nonprofit organizations. A distinguished poet, author, and professor, Mr. Hazo was the founder and director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh from 1966 to 2009. This collector’s edition includes five essays by Samuel Hazo, written in 1986, 1992, 1998, 2003, and 2017, and photographs by 16-year-old Paige Crawley.

    Following the book’s release this fall, PHLF has distributed more than 600 books to more than 30 organizations, including the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County libraries, regional university libraries, public and parochial schools, community development professionals, the City of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny County Bar Association.

    Please contact Louise Sturgess, PHLF’s Executive Director, with your request if you are interested in receiving books to use for educational purposes: louise@phlf.org; 412-471-5808, ext. 536. We are happy to honor requests while supplies last.

  4. Thank You, Interns

    Three graduate students from Duquesne University’s Public History program assisted PHLF’s education staff from late August into December 2017: Lauren Eisenhart-Purvis, Katherine Millard, and Caroline Mount. They took part in PHLF’s downtown walking tours, school tours, and educational programs (including architectural design challenges and a poetry and art workshop), and completed a major archival project and developed a new walking tour of downtown’s Firstside that PHLF will debut in 2018.

    “Our staff enjoyed getting to know Lauren, Katherine, and Caroline and were so glad to have their involvement in our work. Thanks to their research skills, interest in historic preservation, and knowledge about best practices in archival work, they were able to help with many tours and make more reference materials in our James D. Van Trump Library available to our members and friends,” said Louise Sturgess, Executive Director of PHLF.

    Our Duquesne University interns summed up their experience with PHLF as follows:

    I greatly enjoyed my internship with PHLF. I was able to do a mix of educational and archival work, which gave me a variety of skills and experiences to take with me into my future career. I rehoused photographs from the Buildings of Western PA Research Collection, and was able to work with renowned architectural historian Lu Donnelly to better preserve her collection and make it more accessible to researchers. I also assisted with several tours and educational programs, which taught me a lot about the history of Pittsburgh and its environs. It was amazing to see how learning about architecture got both students and adults concerned about and involved in their communities. Through my internship, I gained archival and educational skills, as well as practical knowledge about the city of Pittsburgh. I believe that this combination will serve me well in my future career in one of Pittsburgh’s public history institutions, and am excited to apply what I learned during my internship to my studies! –– Lauren Eisenhart-Purvis

    During my time with PHLF, I not only absorbed the history of this remarkable city, but I also learned how to effectively communicate its significance to visitors and natives of all ages. I am so grateful for the opportunities I was afforded during my internship. ––Katherine Millard

    I enjoyed the opportunity to not only educate learners of all ages about the history and architecture of Pittsburgh, but also to be educated on the skills and experiences essential to the field of historic preservation and education. ––Caroline Mount

    We thank Lauren, Katherine, and Caroline and wish them success in their careers.

  5. Buildings of Western PA Research at PHLF

    by Lauren Eisenhart-Purvis, November 14, 2017

    When I started my internship at PHLF at the end of August 2017, the photographs in “The Buildings of Western PA Research Collection” were housed in binders, which were bending and misshapen, and the collection was housed in two locations. Therefore, I helped facilitate the transfer of Ms. Donnelly’s slides and negatives from the Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art to PHLF so that the complete collection could be housed at PHLF’s James D. Van Trump Library. I then updated the finding aid and the FileMaker Pro database by adding the additional materials; re-housed all of the photographs so they would be better preserved; placed the photographs into folders and boxes; and made labels for each box so that the collection is accessible to researchers.

    This is a significant collection because it contains comprehensive materials on architecture in Western Pennsylvania. It will be useful to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Pittsburgh region’s built environment. It is a resource for architectural historians, historians, preservation and community development professionals, urban planners, and any citizens who are looking to preserve and protect buildings throughout this region and prepare National Register nominations for individual structures or districts. Re-housing the photographs, and adding the slides and negatives, has made this collection more complete and useful.

  6. The Pittsburgh That Stays Within You Is Available from PHLF

    As a relatively recent transplant to the City of Pittsburgh, The Pittsburgh That Stays Within You will help me understand and get in touch with the soul of my new home as I work to introduce this city to others. ––Caroline Mount, Public History Graduate Student, Duquesne University

    As a tenant of a historical property, we will use these books to educate our staff to answer our guests’ questions. ––Brian George, Grand Concourse Restaurant, Station Square

    Thanks to a generous grant from The H. Glenn Sample Jr. MD Memorial Foundation, PHLF has copies of The Pittsburgh That Stays Within You, by Samuel Hazo, to distribute to schools, libraries, historical sites, and nonprofit organizations. A distinguished poet, author, and professor, Mr. Hazo was the founder and director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh from 1966 to 2009. This collector’s edition includes five essays by Samuel Hazo, written in 1986, 1992, 1998, 2003, and 2017, and photographs by 16-year-old Paige Crawley.

    Following the book’s release this fall, PHLF has distributed more than 550 books to more than 30 organizations, including the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County libraries, regional university libraries, public and parochial schools, community development professionals, the City of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny County Bar Association.

    Please contact Louise Sturgess, PHLF’s Executive Director, with your request if you are interested in receiving books to use for educational purposes: louise@phlf.org; 412-471-5808, ext. 536. We are happy to honor requests while supplies last.

  7. Envisioning New Uses for a Vacant Lot in Homestead

    I learned a lot about the history of the Homestead area. It was interesting to learn to take into account the balance between contextualization and creativity when designing. The program helped me be creative and utilize space. ––High School Apprentice

    High school students from the City of Pittsburgh, Deer Lakes, Fox Chapel, Franklin Regional, Mt. Lebanon, North Allegheny, Shaler, and Upper St. Clair participated in PHLF’s Architecture Apprenticeship program, offered through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, in the fall of 2017. After learning about the design process, visiting their design site at 307-09 East Eighth Avenue in Homestead, and touring various places for inspiration, students presented their designs to a jury of architects on December 7, 2017.

    David Lewis, a founding trustee of PHLF and a distinguished urban designer, reminded the students that “the past is the living tradition that we all inherit. We take the city as we find it, in all its problems, appreciating what exists and envisioning what can be. In your project, you are re-stitching the urban fabric: you are visualizing what can be on Homestead’s historic main street.”

    The photo gallery below shows the vacant lot at 307-09 East Eighth Avenue in Homestead and the design concepts presented by eight high school Apprentices on December 7, 2017. Their drawings show a:

    • sewing/crafting/clothing donation center;
    • train-themed restaurant;
    • yoga studio and coffee shop;
    • gym, smoothie bar, and office space;
    • community center with exhibits, a recording studio, and rooftop garden;
    • mixed-used building with a cafe, affordable housing, a stage for local talent, and a rooftop garden;
    • farmer’s market, grocery store, community space, and housing;
    • and museum with space for a cafe, community gatherings, and private room rentals.

    The apprentices described their experiences during PHLF’s five-session crash course in architecture as: “eye-opening, inspiring, enlightening, making history modern, thought provoking, well organized, unique, exciting, helpful, educational, and fun.” Thanks to the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, PHLF has been presenting its Architecture Apprenticeship program since the early 1980s.

  8. Architecture Feature: Usonian Architecture in Metropolitan Pittsburgh

    The idea for the Taliesin Fellowship had come to Mr. and Mrs. Wright at the depth of the Depression in 1932 when . . . architectural commissions had dribbled to zero. If there where no buildings to build, they thought, why not build “builders of buildings”? Mr. Wright was then 65 years old, an age when most people retire. But he was as youthful and fit as a man half his age and full of creative energy.— Cornelia Brierly, Tales of Taliesin, 1999

    The Taliesin Fellowship

    In 1932 Wright and his third wife Oglivanna created an apprentice program for young architects and would-be architects (it was not mentioned in the first edition of An Autobiography (1932) although it figures prominently in later editions). The Wrights’ plan combined innovative educational theory, Depression-era economic reality, and elements of 19th-century architectural apprenticeship. Those who sought architectural training in the 1880s had not been obliged to attend schools of architecture (although several fine ones existed) but could choose to work as apprentices under the direction of the senior staff in the office of an established architect. Wright had done this himself, working for J. Lyman Silsbee, W. W. Clay, and Adler & Sullivan, and he had established an apprentice system in his Oak Park studio in the 1890s.

    The apprenticeship program he established in 1932 was called the Taliesin Fellowship, after Wright’s Wisconsin home. Apprentices paid a fee to work on Wright designs under Wright’s direction in the nearby Hillside School building, a private educational facility Wright designed for his aunts in 1901. In addition, the apprentices maintained the Taliesin buildings, worked on the Taliesin farm, shared food preparation duties, displayed their musical and theatrical talents, and participated in a communal existence revolving around the life and work of a master architect. The Taliesin Fellowship would be an integral part of Wright’s remaining 27 years which saw the design of some of the most acclaimed buildings of his career. Since his death in 1959, the Taliesin Fellowship has been one of the principal heirs of Wright’s estate.

    Wrightian Design Centered in Southwestern Pennsylvania

    Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s great retreat for the Kaufmann family, was designed in 1935 and completed in 1938. During the 1930s Wright also explored more modest designs for moderately-priced homes suitable for 20th-century American lifestyles—a preoccupation of his throughout his career(s). He now called such houses “Usonian” (adapted from United States of America) and the house he designed in 1937 for the Jacobs family near Madison, Wisconsin is widely considered the first. Although the appearance of Usonian houses was not uniform, each house contained standardized elements to reduce construction costs while providing the kind of domestic environment Wright considered desirable—flat roofs, a carport instead of a garage, no basement, a heating system embedded in the floors, built-in indirect lighting, built-in furniture, natural wood cladding (rather than plaster or paint). Like all Wright houses, however modest, a fireplace was essential. Brick, stone, and wood were considered desirable building materials.

    Cornelia Brierly and Peter Berndtson

    One reader of An Autobiography was Cornelia Brierly, a Pittsburgh-area resident and Carnegie Institute of Technology architecture student. Inspired by the book and dissatisfied with her course of study, Cornelia applied for admission to the Taliesin Fellowship; she arrived in 1934 and was there while Fallingwater and the major projects of the 1930s were designed and constructed.[1] In 1938, Peter Berndtson, a Massachusetts native who had studied architecture at M.I.T., joined the Fellowship. Peter had worked as a painter and set designer in New York City, later apprenticing with an architectural firm there. Peter and Cornelia were married in 1939.

    In 1939 Cornelia designed Southwestern Pennsylvania’s first Usonian house for her aunts, Hulda and Louise Notz, in West Mifflin outside of Pittsburgh.[2] Soon after, the Berndtson’s moved to Spokane, Washington, returning when possible to Taliesin. In 1946, Cornelia and Peter and their two daughters moved to Laughlintown, PA, near Ligonier in Westmoreland County and established their architectural practice.

    They designed buildings together for over a decade and divorced in 1957. That year. Cornelia decided to return to Taliesin as an interior designer and landscape architect with Taliesin Architects and instructor at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture.[3] Peter moved into Pittsburgh and established an office in East Liberty where he practiced until his death in 1972.[4]

    The work of Cornelia Brierly (1913-2012) and Peter Berndtson (1909-1972) is not as well known as it should be. Both were trained by Frank Lloyd Wright, and together and separately they created some of the finest Wrightian residential architecture to be found anywhere.[5] Beginning with the Notz House of 1939 and taking into account their eleven-year joint practice and Peter’s work between 1958 and 1972, almost 90 designs have been documented.   Most are residential, and while buildings were erected as far East as Franconia, New Hampshire, with one outside of Harrisburg and three near State College, most of the constructed buildings are in Westmoreland and Allegheny Counties.

    Many of the more ambitious projects were never realized: 3 of the 8 houses planned at Meadow Circles in West Mifflin (1947-50) were erected; St. Michael’s in the Valley Episcopal Church, Rector, PA (1951), although a modification of Peter’s design for the Parish House was erected in 1970; and an apartment building, multi-unit, and single-family dwellings on a 72-acre section of Mt. Washington (1957).

    Cornelia Brierly and Peter Berndtson were able to realize approximately 40 constructed buildings of extraordinary quality, inspired and nurtured by Frank Lloyd Wright; they are masterworks of the next generation, progeny of the architectural community the older and wiser Wright did not deny.

    Albert M. Tannler
    PHLF E-News, December 2017

     

    [1] Many of Cornelia’s writings during the 1930s are included in Randolph C. Henning, ed., At Taliesin: Newspaper Columns by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship 1934-1937 (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992): 58, 82, 85-87, 92, 94-95, 103, 110-12, 125-127, 129, 130, 139, 144, 151-55, 159-60, 170, 310.

    [2] See Cornelia Brierly, “Notz House: A Shelter of Warmth and Rest,” Pittsburgh Tribune Review Focus 24:32 (June 13, 1999): 9.

    [3] Cornelia Brierly, Tales of Taliesin: A Memoir of Fellowship (Arizona State University 1999).

    [4] For Peter Berndtson’s work see Aaron Sheon. The Architecture of Peter Berndtson [An Exhibition of Contemporary Architectural Drawings, Photographs and Color Slides, The University Art Gallery, March 28th through April 18th, 1971] (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 1971) and Donald Miller and Aaron Sheon, Organic Vision: The Architecture of Peter Berndtson (Pittsburgh: The Hexagon Press, 1980).

    [5] See James D. Van Trump, “Peter Berndtson, Pittsburgh Architect,” Carnegie Magazine 55:9 (November 1981, 27-29); Charles Rosenblum, “Precedent and Principle: The Pennsylvania Architecture of Peter Berndtson and Cornelia Brierly,” Frank Lloyd Wright Quarterly (Spring 1999): 12-15. Two houses designed jointly and one house designed by Peter Berndtson are in Tobias S. Guggenheimer, A Taliesin Legacy: The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Apprentices (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1995): 27, 30, 37, 71, 98-101.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633