Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess has proposed legislation that seeks to change how citizens can nominate houses, important buildings and landmarks, or even entire neighborhoods for designation as city historic landmarks or districts. Unlike National-Register designations, City historic designations establish a regulatory process for the review of the exterior appearance of all buildings that are designated (either individually or as part of a district).The Historic Review Commission (HRC) must review and approve all visible exterior alterations, including demolitions, new construction, and additions.
At its core, the proposed legislation, now before the City’s HRC, would make it impossible for the public to nominate individual buildings or landmarks for designation without the consent of the property owner. It would also require that a petitioner seeking to nominate a cluster of buildings for designation as a City-designated historic district attain 70 percent support—up from the current requirement of 25 percent—of the residents in the given area, which would make historic district designation much more difficult to attain.
We oppose this legislation because we believe it will stifle public interest in the nomination and designation of our significant historic architecture. Over the last five decades here in Pittsburgh, evidence has shown that the designation of historic buildings and the creation of historic districts is a positive way to help preserve, sustain, and build community. Allegheny West, the Mexican War Streets, and Schenley Farms, among many other historic districts, are desirable places to live today.
It has been our experience that City historic building designations and historic districts, when initiated through an educational, public process, not only help build pride in our communities, but improve and protect property investment, foster neighborhood identity, and promote economic development through recruitment of new businesses.
We also believe in working out practical solutions for designated structures, so that historic designation need not be a burden to property owners as they seek to enhance and preserve their living spaces.
While Councilman Burgess singles out historic preservation as something that should require owner consent, to our knowledge that has not been done regarding other zoning and planning requirements that the City has imposed on property owners.
Recently, Pittsburgh has been singled out as one of the eleven best cities internationally in which to live and work, wholly because of historic preservation. Councilman Burgess’ plan could deprive us of that international distinction. So we ask the question again: Why single out the City historic designation process, and not apply the same standard to the other requirements that the City imposes on owners?
Although Andrew Carnegie did request in a letter that a branch library be established in Temperanceville, now Pittsburgh’s West End, there is no report that Andrew Carnegie ever visited the West End Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. However, he did visit 116 years after the branch’s opening. Re-enactor Fred Lapisardi portrayed the philanthropist and unveiled the PHLF Historic Landmark plaque to a delighted group of friends on September 19, 2015.
One of the first branch libraries to be built (only the Lawrenceville branch preceded this), the West End branch was designed by Alden & Harlow, Pittsburgh’s leading architectural firm at the time and designers of the Main Branch in Oakland.
The West End branch was dedicated on January 31, 1899, and its original collection numbered between 4,000 and 5,000 books. It is especially famous for being the birthplace of library storytelling. Librarian Charlotte Keith offered a “Story Hour” as an experiment, since kindergartens were beginning the practice. Youngsters at the branch liked the stories and soon the main Carnegie Library and others all over the United States instituted story hours for children.
PHLF thanks the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees and staff for their commitment to renovating this architecturally significant neighborhood branch library and others. PHLF also thanks the offices of City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith and City Council President Bruce Kraus for the plaque purchase and placement.
Nineteen high school students will spend the next few months developing their designs for a vacant lot at 307-09 East Eighth Avenue in Homestead, as part of an Architectural Apprenticeship program offered by PHLF and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.
After building geodesic domes out of newspaper during the first full-day class on September 25, students explored Homestead’s historic main street. They analyzed their site and visited the Mon Valley Initiative, Baron Batch’s Studio A.M., the Tin Front Cafe, and Voodoo Brewery.
Architects Paul Tellers and Eric Fisher, and Samantha Carter from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture, are assisting in this year’s Apprenticeship, which is designed to help high school students determine if they want to study architecture, urban design, historic preservation, or community development.
PHLF is grateful to BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, the Cindy & Murry Gerber Foundation, and McSwigan Family Foundation for contributing to its place-based educational programs that foster career awareness and help young people develop a sense of well-being as they explore and learn about the Pittsburgh region’s significant history and architecture.
Four Mondays, from 9:00a.m. — 10:30a.m.
- October 19 and 26
- November 9 and 23
$10 donation to The Fownes Foundation per participant. Children under 16, seniors over 65, and active duty/retired military are admitted free. Advance reservations required; limit of ten individuals per tour.
For reservations and further information, contact Oakmont Country Club (412-828-8000) or email@example.com
Explore this National Historic Landmark golf course and clubhouse that has hosted 21 national championships featuring eight U.S. Open Championships since its opening in 1903. (June 2016 will be a record ninth U.S. Open for Oakmont Country Club.) The Country Club is located at 1233 Hulton Road, Oakmont, PA, 15139.
A golf historian will lead participants through the handsomely preserved 112-year-old clubhouse to view a wealth of architectural features, historic photographs, memorabilia, early 1900s golf equipment, championship trophies, and the original men’s locker room.
Weather permitting, participants will also tour the legendary “inland links” golf course and see first-hand the extraordinary vistas, narrow fairways, iconic “church pews,” and some of the other 200-plus sculpted sand bunkers.
At the conclusion of the tour, participants may test their putting skills on one of the world-famous Oakmont putting surfaces and browse through the selection of apparel and equipment in the renowned Golf Shop.
- Please arrive at Oakmont Country Club by 8:45a.m.
- Casual attire (no jeans or denim please) and comfortable walking shoes with flat sole. Coat or jacket depending on weather forecast. Umbrellas will be provided.
- Disabled access available.
- Photography is permitted.
- Tours are sponsored by the Fownes Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of nationally recognized, historically significant golf sites.
“This summer, we were fortunate to have the help of Simone D’Rosa, Sarah Collins, Molly Soffietti, and Andrew Hyatt,” said PHLF Executive Director Louise Sturgess. We are grateful to them for volunteering their time to help with our Poetry and Art programs, Downtown’s Best, and Free Friday Walking Tours.
In addition, Andrew created a presentation on National Historic Landmarks; Simone and Sarah researched places associated with Pittsburgh Mayors and created an interactive map, and Molly researched and created tour content for our October Free Friday Walking Tour in the Gateway Center Renaissance Historic District. They also attended various preservation events and helped prepare materials for our Fall Architectural Design Challenge and Apprenticeship Program.
“Funding support from the BNY Mellon Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania is helping underwrite PHLF’s internship program in 2015, along with other career-based educational programs,” said Louise.
“Even though I have lived in Pittsburgh for most of my life, I had never felt the need to find out more about this city. I was often more enticed by foreign cities such as London and Paris. In a sense, I took Pittsburgh for granted. I learned more about Pittsburgh during this internship than I ever expected to and I am so glad that I did. By helping out with education programs that taught kids how to connect to their surrounding environment, I, too, learned a great deal about this city. I furthered my knowledge of the city when I was able to research the history of the Pittsburgh mayors. Thank you for this opportunity!” ––Simone D’Rosa (Architectural Studies/Preservation & Studio Arts, University of Pittsburgh)
“As a volunteer intern for PHLF, I was able to share my love for the city with people of all ages. I had the pleasure of working with some of the most dedicated individuals who share a passion for Pittsburgh’s past and a vision for Pittsburgh’s future.” ––Sarah Collins (Strategic Communications, Elon University)
“One often loses sight of the big picture while working towards a Master’s and toiling away in a lab all day. Every day PHLF encouraged me to explore Pittsburgh and rediscover why I am passionate about preserving our city, warts and all. Engaging with tour groups, both young and old, reinvigorated my enthusiasm and made me even prouder to display the city as both a thriving metropolis and a work of art.” ––Molly Soffietti (Historic Preservation Planning, Cornell University)
“Being involved with PHLF has truly been an amazing experience. I was able to see the incredible efforts that are being taken to revive the once-booming and bustling city and neighborhoods. Before this internship, I had no interest in Pittsburgh and its architecture and thought of it as a once-great city whose days were numbered. But PHLF showed me the true value of the historical significance of this city and how great it really is. The downtown districts and the surrounding neighborhoods full of different cultures and ethnicities really make Pittsburgh a unique city. The team at PHLF is truly a family that is so dedicated and driven to save the culture and heritage of the Pittsburgh region. It has been an honor to assist an organization that recognizes the power of preservation in keeping the community’s homes and stories alive for future generations.” ––Andrew Hyatt (Historic Preservation/Architectural History, Savannah College of Art & Design
PHLF members and friends are invited to attend the 17th Annual Arts and Crafts Conference, which will be held in Pittsburgh from September 17 through September 20.
Register for all four days or for any one day of this national conference sponsored by the Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC), titled “Multiple Modernities: From Richardson to Wright and Beyond––The Arts and Crafts Movement in Pittsburgh and Environs.” As part of the “Beyond” portion of the conference, participants will be able to tour the Frank Giovannitti House, designed by Richard Meier in 1979-83, on Sunday afternoon, September 20.
Click here for a full agenda and to register. Please use the Promo Code PHLF to receive a conference discount of $475. Regular registration is $550.
Please note: the discount applies to those who register for the whole conference, not for one-day registrations. However, for those who are interested in attending more than one day but less than all four, then call the IAC at 646-485-1952. The IAC might be able to work something out and offers the warmest of welcomes to anyone who wishes to attend.
Conference organizer Lisa Koenigsberg, PhD, has planned an incredible agenda of tours and lectures (including one by PHLF trustee Lu Donnelly and one by Historical Collections Director Al Tannler). “Pittsburgh is astonishing,” said Lisa. “There is so much to showcase and explore.”
Participants will be touring Wilpen Hall in Sewickley Heights (protected by a PHLF easement); the Duquesne Club in Downtown Pittsburgh; several private homes, including an Arts-and-Crafts foursquare in Squirrel Hill featuring a superb collection of furniture and art; and several historic religious properties in Downtown, Shadyside, and Sewickley.
“This is a terrific opportunity to tour a selection of significant sites in the Pittsburgh region,” said PHLF Executive Director Louise Sturgess, “and to immerse yourself in the Arts and Crafts tradition.”
Conference partners include PHLF, the Frick Art & Historical Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, Fallingwater, and Kentuck Knob, among others.
PITTSBURGH, PA (Aug. 5, 2015) Pittsburgh has been named one of the 11 best and most livable cities in the world because of historic preservation according to Metropolis, a national magazine, which deals with “architecture and design at all scales.”
The magazine, which featured Pittsburgh in its July/August 2015 issue, selected Pittsburgh among a group of other cities including Toronto, Tokyo, Copenhagen, and Singapore, among others, which were selected for distinction in other areas ranging from walkability to culture, transportation planning, and landscapes.
“This is a great recognition for our city, which is showing the world that through adaptive reuse of our historic buildings, historic preservation is an underlying basis for social, human, and economic renewal,” said Mayor William Peduto.
Citing the decades-long efforts of preservationists, neighborhood activists, and specifically the work of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation in battling the failed policies of urban renewal, the magazine noted that, “Pittsburgh, like so many other Rust Belt cities, faced huge hurdles with the decline of its steel industry. But it is overcoming many of these challenges thanks, in great part, to its preservation movements, neighborhood renewal projects, and active communities.”
“To have our City compared to others around the globe and be listed because of what we have achieved in preservation is an incredible distinction and honors the work of many citizens and organizations,” PHLF President Arthur Ziegler, said. “Our organization is especially honored to receive this recognition as we celebrate 50 years of our work in neighborhoods and communities across the region.”
The magazine featured PHLF’s Market at Fifth development in Downtown Pittsburgh, which combined quality retail and market-rate apartments in a LEED-Gold development, to highlight the ways in which the preservation community prevented “the demolition of 64 historic buildings in the core Downtown business area.”
In May, Mayor Peduto announced the completion of the restoration of 11 facades on 10 significant historic buildings in Downtown as part of the City’s ongoing revitalization of its core business district through historic preservation principles.
The buildings’ facades were restored by PHLF through a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania awarded to the City through its Urban Redevelopment Authority.
PHLF turned 50 on September 30, 2014. Intern Lauren Van Zandt, a Public History graduate student at Duquesne University, is sharing the stories of some of PHLF’s “Greatest Saves.” Help us celebrate 50 years of Pittsburgh renewal with a donation to our 50th Anniversary Fund. Click here.
I first heard about Station Square when one of my public history classmates who was interning in the PHLF archives at the time, told me a story about the iconic half-circle stained glass windows in the main dining area of what is now the Grand Concourse restaurant. My friend told me about how, during PHLF’s restoration work in the 1970s, workmen used 400 cans of oven cleaner to reveal the original beauty of the glass that had been buried under years of soot and grime. The great glass skylight was uncovered like buried treasure.
It’s fitting that my introduction to PHLF was through one of its most groundbreaking projects. Station Square was Pittsburgh’s introduction to a new, more proactive and profit-generating approach to historic preservation in the city. It was PHLF’s first chance to put theory into action on a large scale.
Station Square’s dual success as a preservation initiative and commercial venture is especially impressive given that no one else was developing riverfront property when the project was initiated. (Times have changed, as one can see from South Side Works, the North Shore, and The Waterfront in Homestead.)
PHLF’s work at Station Square actually extends across the Smithfield Street Bridge; PHLF got the Smithfield Street Bridge lit at night, a first for Pittsburgh.
As prime developer of Station Square from 1976 to 1994, PHLF worked with others to restore and bring commercial tenants to five historic P & LERR buildings: the Terminal Building (which houses PHLF’s offices), the Express House (currently home to Buca di Beppo restaurant), the Gatehouse, the Freight House, and a multi-story warehouse that is now Commerce Court. In addition to saving old buildings, PHLF used new construction to attract visitors. PHLF facilitated the construction of a hotel, parking garage, and docks for the Gateway Clipper. By the time PHLF sold the 52-acre site to Forest City, a Cleveland-based developer in 1994, Station Square was one of the most visited attractions in Pittsburgh.
Though no longer under PHLF’s direct control, historic character permeates the development. PHLF created the beginnings of a Riverwalk of Industrial Artifacts, and the converter-dominated Bessemer Court anchors many of Station Square’s outdoor activities. The Ladies of Stone, sisters to the Ladies at the Children’s Museum on the North Side, greet visitors at entrances. Train cars in the Freight House and waiting room benches in the Grand Concourse harken back to the site’s original use. Beyond historical interest, these objects remind visitors of the city’s foundation that Pittsburgh’s modern rebirth has built upon.
Station Square demonstrates the potential for old and new to successfully integrate in a way that makes sense aesthetically and functionally— something that, in my own experience, has been unique to Pittsburgh. In many of the places I’ve lived, the fate of historic buildings seems to be limited to two options: preservation in amber or demolition. Living in Pittsburgh and interning at PHLF has been an education in the viability of historic preservation as a method for creating vibrant, beautiful urban environments.
As an intern, I got to explore Station Square and the P & LERR building but it was especially interesting when I helped out with one of the transportation tours for local elementary students. At the beginning of the tour I was totally focused on herding stragglers and the kids were engrossed with taking pictures with their phones. However, as we traveled through Station Square and up to Mt. Washington, both I and the students were inexorably drawn into the history and the scenery. From Station Square you could see the history of downtown written in the levels of scale and development across the Monongahela River, with smaller buildings nearest to the river transitioning to early skyscrapers along Fourth Avenue, to the huge modern towers of PPG Place and BNY Mellon Center.
As I reflected on my time, both as an intern and as a Pittsburgh resident while writing this article, it really struck me how representative Station Square is of the city. On the one hand, you have Pittsburgh’s industrial past, represented by artifacts like the Bessemer converter and the railroad buildings. On the other hand, you can see Pittsburgh’s future: commercial development and revival, a growing tourism sector, and views of Pittsburgh’s constantly evolving downtown skyline. I think Pittsburgh’s greatest strength is its ability to value and preserve its past while adapting to modernity and embracing new ideas like green technology. Interning at PHLF has really shown me how diverse, rich, and unique Pittsburgh is and I will always be grateful for the chance I had to get to know this amazing city.