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Carson home gets environmentally friendly makeover-PPG uses project to test new products; unions donate labor

By Pete Bishop


Thanks to donations of time, effort and expertise, the girlhood home of one of America’s most famous environmentalists is getting an environmentally friendly face-lift.

The Rachel Carson Homestead in Springdale Borough already sports new stainless steel gutters and a new roof of asphalt shingles that are configured to look like weathered cedar, said Danelle Ardell, Rachel Carson Homestead Association board president.

Interior painting is under way and exterior painting is scheduled, and both are “special because we’re using a paint formulated by PPG that has no volatile organic compounds,” she said.

“It’s good for the environment so that sensitive people are not accosted by the fumes of paint, and it’s also good for the workers.”

PPG Industries and Air Products, one of its resin suppliers, donated the paint, roofing materials and gutters.

District Council 57 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, United Union of Roofers Local 37, Sheet Metal Workers International Local 12 and the Carpenters Regional District Council of Western Pennsylvania contributed the labor.

Ardell said Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, and Ellis Schmidlapp of Landmark Design Associates helped assure that the materials used maintained the historic authenticity of the Marion Avenue building in which Carson was born in 1907.

After graduating from Pennsylvania College for Women, now Chatham College, Carson wrote natural history articles for the Baltimore Sun and later became editor-in-chief of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service publications.

Her book “Silent Spring,” published in 1962 and warning of the long-term effects of misusing pesticides, ranked fifth among the Modern Library’s 100 best nonfiction books of the 20th century published in English.

Carson’s other books were “The Sense of Wonder,” “Under the Sea Wind,” “The Sea Around Us” and “The Edge of the Sea.” She died of breast cancer in 1964 at the age of 56.

PPG donated the materials because “we’re kind of attached to this historical landmark right here in Springdale” and because it welcomed the chance to “help out with the restoration of that facility,” said Bill Boberski, director of technology for architectural coatings at the plant there.

“Also, we always have products in development, and in this case we had some products that are very environmentally friendly. We were kind of anxious to take the opportunity to work with those products in that facility, which is linked to environmental issues, to find out how well they work and demonstrate their performance.”

Similarly, having supervised apprentices work on the homestead “gives us the opportunity to demonstrate the work we’re able to perform,” said Lee Libert, assistant educational coordinator of the carpenters’ council.

Furthermore, “it’s a nonprofit situation they’re in, and we see worthwhile projects as a responsibility,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Bill Ellenberger, apprenticeship and health and safety program director, said Council 57 tries to expand its apprenticeship program annually “into the community doing some worthwhile projects. These are ways we can get our apprentices acquainted with the community and get them to accept some responsibility.”

Ardell said work should be done by April, at which time some furnishings will be changed “with the goal of making it look more like it did when Rachel Carson lived there.” The Carsons took all their furniture with them when they moved after Rachel’s college graduation.

The homestead is closed to the public until renovations are completed. The free Wild Creatures Nature Trail, with seven learning stations teaching nature lessons with signs and letting visitors know what Carson might have experienced at each spot, is open daily during daylight hours.

– Pete Bishop can be reached at pbishop `Silent Spring: Alarums and Excursions.’

Where: Henry Heymann Theatre in the lower level of the Stephen Foster Memorial, Forbes Avenue, Oakland.

When: Continues through March 4. Curtain times are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Ticket information: (412) 624-7529.

Recepition: On Feb. 24, the Rachel Carson Homestead Association and Chatham College’s Rachel Carson Institute will have a post-show reception at the theater. Proceeds will benefit a project that distributes educational book covers about Carson. Tickets cost $45. For details, call Lisa Elliott at (724) 274-5459

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. © Tribune Review

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