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Carnegie Library repairs pegged at $2M

By Tony LaRussa
Monday, July 3, 2006

A lightning bolt that struck the clock tower of the Allegheny Regional branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in April caused at least $2 million in damage to the historic North Side building.
The repair cost will be covered by insurance, library spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes said.

Library officials have been working with the city, which owns the building and leases it to Carnegie Library, to come up with specifications for repairs. Officials do not know when work will begin. The library has been closed since the lightning strike.

The lighting, which hit the building at 5 Allegheny Square about 8 p.m. April 7, exploded a pyramid-shaped portion at its top, blasting gaping holes in the roof.

A chunk of granite weighing several hundred pounds ripped into the second-floor lecture hall, imbedding itself — point first — in the floor. A piece of stone weighing about 2,000 pounds had to be pulled out of the attic, where it wiped out the building’s heating and cooling system.
Water lines also were damaged, sending a stream cascading through parts of the building. The building was closed at the time, and nobody was injured.

Library patrons, who have been without a facility for nearly three months, soon will have access to the library in the Woods Run section, which has been closed for renovations.

“We don’t have an exact date yet. We should be opening (Woods Run) early in July,” Thinnes said.

Library officials have had no luck finding a temporary replacement for the North Side library, Thinnes said.

“We’ve looked at probably 20 buildings, but none of them was suitable,” she said. The space would not have to be as big as the 42,000 square feet that was lost, but it must be wired for Internet use and be accessible to people with physical disabilities.

The Allegheny Regional branch was the fourth most-visited library in the Carnegie network, Thinnes said. Last year, it circulated 76,000 items and had more than 96,000 visits.The branch has about 100,000 items in its collection.

The building also was used to store historic collections, including directories, meeting minutes, photos and newspaper clippings of Allegheny City, a portion of the North Side that existed as a city separate from Pittsburgh until 1906. A private company has been hired to make sure those rare documents are protected, Thinnes said.

Despite the extensive damage to the building, none of the library’s collection was damaged.

The Romanesque-style building, which opened in 1890, was designated a historic landmark by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation in 1970. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Tony LaRussa can be reached at or (412) 320-7987.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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