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An Update From Our Archives: Rehousing Project Completed

Our organization has completed a grant-funded records rehousing project that allowed us to review, reprocess, and rehouse the papers of three former PHLF staff members: founding Chairman Charles C. Arensberg and architectural historians James D. Van Trump and Walter C. Kidney.

Over the past year and a half, Archivist Anna Samuels and two interns from Duquesne University’s Public History graduate program reviewed materials and transferred all documents to acid-free folders and boxes, reorganized materials as necessary, and digitized fragile manuscripts. By rehousing the collections, we’ve ensured that these materials will be preserved for years to come.

Charles C. Arensberg was PHLF’s founding chairman and served on the board for 30 years. His collection offers a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the founding and early operations of the foundation. Highlights include Arensberg’s “Chairman’s Ramble” column that ran in our PHLF newsletter, assorted letters to the editor he authored, and materials related to his tenure on the National Trust of Historic Preservation’s Board of Advisors.

Walter C. Kidney served as PHLF’s architectural historian for nearly 20 years and his collection contains correspondence, research and manuscripts. During her internship, Katie Ploger discovered some hidden gems within the collection: “Shuffled in the correspondence and in later boxes of the collection were more personal things that belonged to [Kidney]. Letters to friends and family, mementos of childhood and travel, and other personal belongings could be found within the collection. One of the most eye catching and interesting of these documents is a letter from Walter to his parents in the 1950s on the ship “Argentina” on a voyage to Denmark. The letter is written on the backs of two ships menus featuring broiled halibut, fried pigeon in a cream sauce, and roast pork with red cabbage.”

James D. Van Trump was co-founder and PHLF’s first architectural historian. Intern Hannah LeComte reviewed correspondence, research materials, photographs, and handwritten manuscripts, noting themes of “urban development and ‘renewal’ in industrial and deindustrializing cities, historic preservation and the field’s connection to the environmental movement, and documentation of grassroots efforts to determine which sites deserve protection and preservation.” LeComte reflected on her work with the collection, writing, “Housing some of the foremost scholarship on the history of Pittsburgh architecture and development, the Van Trump Papers provide a unique way to study architectural history and historic preservation efforts in Pittsburgh and connect these efforts to broader trends in 20th Century United States history. The personal papers of James Van Trump integrate a human element to his extensive scholarship and provide insight into his motivations and desires as a researcher, advocate, teacher, and friend.”

The Charles C. Arensberg, Walter C. Kidney, and James D. Van Trump Collections are available for members and researchers to access in the James D. Van Trump Library in the PHLF offices. Contact archivist Anna Samuels (; 412-471-5808 ext. 542) to set up an appointment to visit the archives.

This project was supported by a grant from the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s Historical Archives & Records Care Grant, a program funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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