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Category Archive: National Historic Landmarks

  1. Woodville Plantation Hosts Historic Military Encampment

    COLLIER TOWNSHIP, PA (October 25, 2010) – Step back in time at Woodville Plantation as this living history museum presents a special weekend-long event.  On Saturday, November 6, and Sunday, November 7, 2010, the public is invited to join the troops of Anthony Wayne’s Legion as they make camp at Woodville Plantation.

    Living history interpreters will be portraying the soldiers of the Fourth Sub-Legion of the United States, the men who defended John Neville’s Bower Hill house during the Whiskey Rebellion. The soldiers will set up camp, drill, fire muskets and discuss general camp life in Anthony Wayne’s army of 1794. Special hours for this event are Saturday, November 6, from 5 pm to 8 pm; and Sunday, November 7, from noon to 5 pm. Special admission price for the encampment and house tour is $3 per person.

    Woodville Plantation, the home of John and Presley Neville, is Western Pennsylvania’s link to the late 18th century. Built in 1775, this living history museum interprets life during the period of 1780-1820, the Era of the New Republic. Guided tours of the house are available every Sunday from 1 to 4 pm.

    Just 7 miles and 15 minutes south of Pittsburgh, Woodville Plantation is conveniently located in Collier Township, 1/4 mile north of Interstate I-79 Exit 55 (Kirwan Heights Exit) on Route 50, near the intersection of Thoms Run Road. For further directions or for more information, please visit Woodville’s website at or call 412-221-0348.


    Event: Wayne’s Fourth Sub-Legion Encampment

    Date:  Saturday, November 6, and Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Time:  Saturday – 5 to 8 pm; Sunday – Noon to 5pm

    Place:  Woodville Plantation, 1375 Washington Pike, Bridgeville, PA 15017

    Admission:  $3.00 per Person for Encampment and House Tour

  2. Community Historic Preservation Values Survey

    PHLF News
    October 20, 2010

    As you may know, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Bureau for Historic Preservation acts as the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PASHPO). As such, PHMC receives an annual appropriation from the National Park Service to help administer both state and federal historic preservation programs throughout the Commonwealth. Part of PHMC’s agreement with the Park Service requires that PHMC develops and implements a statewide historic preservation plan. In effect since 2006, Pennsylvania’s current plan expires in 2011, and PHMC has begun the process of preparing the 2012-2017 preservation plan.

    The purpose of the statewide plan is to establish a vision, goals and implementation strategies for historic and cultural resource preservation for all of Pennsylvania. As you are all very well aware, cultural resource preservation and development is key to the long-term success of the PA WILDS vision. As one of the PASHPO’s key partners, PHMC invites you both to participate in the planning process and also to help PHMC ensure that the development and implementation of the new plan includes broad public participation.

    PHMC requests that people complete the Pennsylvania Community Preservation Values survey. The Survey will help PHMC assess what the citizens of Pennsylvania value in their community in order to determine preservation priorities within the state. The survey closes October 30th.

    Access the survey at: Please Complete PHMC’s Community Historic Preservation Values Survey.

    Thank you in advance for taking the time to participate in PHMC’s survey and to help PHMC get the word out about their planning process. The success of Pennsylvania’s statewide historic preservation plan depends largely upon public participation, and PHMC greatly appreciates your feedback!

  3. Old Economy Receives $241,000 State Grant

    Monday, October 18, 2010
    By Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    The Friends of Old Economy Village will receive a $241,000 grant from the state of Pennsylvania to upgrade facilities, develop a marketing plan and hire education staff for tours at Old Economy Village in Ambridge, Beaver County.

    Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., who announced the grant today, said everyone was surprised when the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission announced 11 months ago that it would stop funding educational programs at Old Economy, the third and last home of a 19th-century Christian communal group called the Harmony Society. The Harmonists farmed, ran textile mills, made their own furniture, silks, clothing, pottery and wine. Old Economy is a National Historic Landmark with outstanding architecture.

    After suffering a $15.7 million cut in its budget, the historical and museum commission closed Old Economy Village in November of 2009. In April, a dedicated group of 300 volunteers signed a licensing agreement with the state and reopened the six-acre site, conducting tours, staffing the facility on the weekends and answering visitors questions.

    “We want to make sure that Old Economy Village thrives so that future generations can learn about this hidden gem in Beaver County,” said Mr. Vogel.

    Fritz Retsch, a board member of the Friends of Old Economy, said the village “was placed in a very difficult financial position by the state, making it extremely difficult to carry out our mission. Through the combined efforts of increased fundraising and this grant obtained by Sen. Vogel, we are in a much better position to keep operations running smoothly and efficiently.”

  4. All’s Cool Again at Allegheny Commons

    Monday, October 11, 2010
    By Ruth Ann Dailey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Conflicts are the bread-and-butter of journalism, of course — so much so that readers and reporters alike can find it all occasionally wearying.

    So when a big, juicy conflict comes to a sorta-kinda happy resolution, it’s a relief to share the news.

    Turns out it’s also instructive to take a closer look at the process and ask ourselves, “How the heck did that happen?” The people who threw themselves into protecting Allegheny Commons Park aren’t completely sure, but most of them — most — feel considerably less worried than they were this time last October.

    “It was at Pumpkin Fest last year that we built the edifice,” recalled Bernie Beck, former president of the East Allegheny Community Council.

    The “edifice” was a plywood mock-up of a cooling station Duquesne Light intended to build in the northeast corner of Allegheny Commons Park, and it was almost as attractive as the utility’s proposed 9-foot-tall, 28-foot-long metal structure promised to be. Which is to say, not very.

    Allegheny Commons is the city’s oldest park, established by state legislation in 1867. A $2.3 million overhaul of the Northeast Common is slated to begin this fall, as part of the $16 million “Allegheny Commons Restoration Initiative.” So when Duquesne Light announced in May 2009 its unilateral decision to put a cooling station in that northeast section, citizens responded with indignation, public meetings and that attention-grabbing life-size mock-up.

    Almost as quickly as it appeared, the plywood eyesore came down, but it had done its job. A year later, Duquesne Light crews appear to be well under way on an alternative site.

    They’ve been busy at their 1970s-era underground facility in the Northeast Common, but at street level they’re headed east, digging a trench to 728 Cedar Ave., a residential property that Duquesne Light recently acquired. Neighbors say a garage there will be razed to make way for a new cooling station.

    It seems that utilities, like God, move in mysterious ways, because none of the community participants I interviewed could say exactly how this new plan came to be.

    Alida Baker, the Commons Initiative project manager, credits the combination of vigilant community groups, restoration steering committee input, city Councilwoman Darlene Harris and the weight of historic state legislation with changing Duquesne Light’s direction.

    “They didn’t really discuss what they would do — it just became apparent,” Ms. Baker said.

    That observation was seconded by Mr. Beck. “They bought the [residential] property before they discussed it with us,” he said. “When we raised a fuss, they held meetings and they came to ours.”

    He last heard from the utility in March and was “still waiting for them to get back to us” when construction began. While it’s somewhat unpalatable, it’s not uncommon for a large entity to buy property as quietly as possible, thus keeping the price down.

    However obscure part of the process was, the utility seems to have engaged the community when it had to. “We held some meetings with stakeholders,” said spokesman Joe Vallarian. “We’re happy we were able to come to something that everyone could agree on.”

    Well, almost everybody. Charles Angemeer joined the community’s opposition to potential despoiling of the Commons as soon as he moved into the neighborhood in July 2009. The issue died down a bit, and his work picked up, so he was thunderstruck to learn recently that his front door is only 30-some feet from the utility’s new building site.

    “The level of outrage I have toward Duquesne Light is pretty high,” he said. “They did not make their plans known to me — not a single piece of mail.”

    Mr. Angemeer worries about safety, noise, quality of life and property values, and given Duquesne Light’s track record, “How responsive are they going to be to any issue that I, my wife or any other property owner might raise? Their consideration up to this point has been nonexistent.”

    Well, Duquesne Light did bear in mind the pending park restoration, Mr. Vallarian noted. “That’s why we are going ahead and doing that part of our project first.”

    He said there’s “no finalized plan” for what the cooling station will look like and thus no timeline for completion, but Mr. Beck is confident “it will be a pretty benign little building.”

    The community council also hopes to acquire the adjacent empty house, to continue its Cedar Avenue sprucing-up.

    So like I promised up front, a kinda-sorta happy ending where almost everyone gets some of what they wanted. That’s life — you heard it here first.

  5. A Tale of Two Houses on the South Side

    Renovated on one side; condemned on the other
    Monday, October 11, 2010
    By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    1109 and 1111 Bingham St. on the South Side. Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette

    Among Pittsburgh’s many stories, one plays out in every neighborhood and is always sad.

    It’s the tale of two owners and two buildings stuck together, one an asset to the neighborhood, the other a worry and a shame.

    Pick a neighborhood, pick a street and you are likely to find two adjacent addresses that speak to the larger struggle between progress and abandonment.

    The example at 1109-1111 Bingham St. on the South Side centers on a party wall that separates one man’s investment from a building condemned three years ago.

    Bingham is one block north of and parallel to East Carson Street and is included in the East Carson historic district, which is why Tom Gigliotti and Tom Chajkowski appeared last week before the Historic Review Commission, whose agenda included Mr. Chajkowski’s property.

    The commission voted to spare it for another 30 days; Mr. Chajkowski said he will produce an architect’s plan next month.

    “It does need extensive work,” he told the panel, “but it can be done. It’s one of four houses left on that historic block.”

    The next morning, on the sidewalk outside his commercial photography studio, Tom Gigliotti, the neighbor, said, “We’re back at square one, where we were three years ago.”

    He said he does not feel antagonistic and even has some sympathies; the two men talk. But he’s clearly frustrated.

    He bought his property in 1995 for $65,000 after having rented it for 10 years. It was “pretty run-down,” he said. “I don’t know how much I’ve put into it. Probably more than I could ever get out of it. A lot of blood and sweat.”

    The two-story studio was completely remodeled, with hardwood flooring, a restored tin-stamped ceiling, a modern kitchen, skylights and a deck.

    Because of the party wall, the adjacent building poses a threat to his building, both as is and in the case of demolition. It wasn’t such a threat 15 years ago, he said.

    “Fifteen years now it’s been vacant, and there’s legally nothing I can do until it affects my building. It’s about to that point now.”

    In 2005, Mr. Chajkowski was served notice for broken windows and a rotted rooftop deck. The city’s demolition manager, Paul Loy, told the commission that in November 2007, the property was condemned. The city and the owner were in court several times, he said.

    In 2008, “he got a building permit, but he didn’t do anything, so it was revoked.

    “This neighbor [Mr. Gigliotti] has tried to get it, but this owner is in dream world.”

    Mr. Gigliotti said he has offered to buy the property but that the price has been impractically high.

    In appealing to the commission for more time, Mr. Chajkowski lamented that he has had building permits revoked and been unable to get an architect, either because they are too busy or too expensive.

    He could not be reached for further comment.

    “I lived in the building for 20 years,” he told the commission. “My grandmother raised her kids around the corner” on 11th Street. This was his family’s first neighborhood in America, for 100 years, he said.

    He said he thinks he can save his building. “I have a construction line of credit available and room on my credit card,” he said. “The taxes are paid and the building is secure.”

    Mr. Gigliotti said he has heard this before and wonders how a person who claims such long ties to the neighborhood can allow his property to degrade it.

    In the back courtyard that separates the two buildings, the air reeks of mildew. A door was ajar the other day. Through the crack, the interior contents resembled a dump and dampened remnants of a multi-family rummage sale.

    The building has no downspouts or gutters. Mr. Gigliotti said his basement collects water when it rains. “It’s undermining my foundation.

    “If this property costs him too much, I wish he would slap a ‘for sale’ sign on it so someone might save it.”

  6. History Festival to Mark East Liberty’s Past

    First-time event to highlight area’s change, influence
    Friday, October 01, 2010
    By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    In this photo taken in the 1890s, Civil War veterans participate in a reunion in front of a building on Penn Circle South that is still standing in East Liberty. The past of the East End/East Liberty area will be celebrated during Saturday's first-ever East Liberty History Festival. Courtesy of the East End/East Liberty Historical Society

    Public knowledge of East Liberty’s past is stuck on urban renewal, high-rises and crime. But that era was a blip.

    East End history buffs hope to put the past in perspective Saturday at the East Liberty History Festival, a first-time event in a neighborhood of firsts.

    What most people don’t know about East End history — with East Liberty at its hub — would overflow the parking lot at Eastminster Presbyterian Church, but the day-long event of the East End/East Liberty Historical Society has been designed to fit there, for free, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    From Indians and traders to the first immigrant settlers, the festival will highlight the progression of development and industrial change that brought unparalleled prosperity to the area. In a recent Arcadia “Images of America” publication, the title “Pittsburgh’s East Liberty Valley” was chosen to encompass the breadth of East Liberty’s influence.

    Historical society members who put the book together said many images that would today be in Shadyside or other adjacent neighborhoods were then described as East Liberty.

    “On the old postcards, East Liberty went all the way up to Fifth Avenue,” said Marilyn Evert, a member of the historical society and director of development at Homewood Cemetery. When East Liberty began its slump in the 1970s, she said, “people began to disassociate themselves.”

    Al Mann, a retired chemical engineer from Highland Park, has been at the helm of planning the festival for the past year as the society’s president. In a bag behind the driver’s seat of his car, he has been carrying around items for display, among them a large aluminum mold of an Easter bunny.

    The mold was used at Bolan’s Candies in East Liberty, the first of the family’s several stores, open on Penn Avenue from 1918 until several years ago.

    “We have a lot of firsts,” said Mr. Mann. The first commercial oil refinery in the nation was in Highland Park, and the society has the papers to prove it. The first radio broadcast of a church service was from Calvary Episcopal in Shadyside in 1921. The nation’s first drive-up gas station was at Baum Boulevard and St. Clair Street. Pittsburgh’s first traffic light was at Highland and Penn avenues.

    Festival highlights will include re-enactments of processes developed by industrialists who lived or did business in the East End.

    Charles Honeywell, executive director of the historical society, will demonstrate iron and aluminum production using small furnaces. “The blast furnace will produce iron from iron ore, coke and limestone, just like the big ones. Superheated 3,000-degree iron will pour out into a mold that people can see.”

    Aluminum will be melted in a small crucible furnace and poured into medallion molds with street car emblems. Those will be sold to the public.

    Bus tours throughout the day will take people to points of interest that include the Highland Park reservoir, a Negley family burial marker, grand churches, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and a house that encases a log cabin built in 1794.

    Exhibits will show the historic transitions of Calvary and St. Andrew’s Episcopal churches and a wall of fame reproduced from panels in the Kelly-Strayhorn. The photos of performing artists and other celebrities attest to the role the East End played as a breeding ground for the entertainment industry.

    Ms. Evert said her interest stems from working and worshipping in the East End. She lives in Fox Chapel.

    When the society formed in 2002, she said, it was in part to interest people in the East End’s future.

    “The idea was that if people became aware of their history and where they came from, that would be conducive to development. It has such an extraordinary history. It’s unbelievable the things that came out of this one place.”

  7. Historic Downtown Site Sold

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation was given the easement to the historic Burke Building, Downtown, by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy so the foundation can assure no future owners tear it down or alter its exterior. Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review

    The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has sold the oldest architect-designed building in Pittsburgh — and granted an easement to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation to make sure it’s never torn down.

    Built in 1836, the Burke Building at 209 Fourth Avenue, Downtown, was sold Monday to Burke Building Enterprises L.P., said conservancy spokeswoman Stephanie Kraynick.

    She declined to provide further information about the purchaser but described the partnership as people “who appreciate the historical quality of the building and plan to preserve” it.

    The three-story, stone structure — a striking contrast to the modern PPG Place that sits next to it — is one of the few remaining structures to survive the city’s great fire of 1845. The building is unoccupied.

    “It is a really important building,” said Arthur Ziegler, president of History & Landmarks. “Anyone who owns the building now and forevermore is subject to the condition that they can’t demolish it or change the exterior without our consent.”

    “The conservancy has easements on lots and lots of land. They gave us this (easement) because we protect buildings,” he said.

    The conservancy’s headquarters was located in the Burke Building until September 2007, when the organization relocated to Washington’s Landing.

    The architect was John Chislett, an British native who relocated to New York in 1832. He moved to Pittsburgh a year later and remained here.

    “The Burke Building is extremely handsome and the oldest building we’ve got,” said Al Tanner, the foundation’s historical collections director. “Over the years, it housed a bank, a restaurant, and a variety of other (tenants).”

    Three other buildings in Pittsburgh that Chislett designed are still standing. The Gateway and Lodge of Allegheny Cemetery, which are two adjoining structures in Lawrenceville; and the Widows and Orphans Society of Allegheny City building on the North Side.

    Tanner said that in Chislett’s day, he was probably best known in Pittsburgh for designing the original Allegheny County Court House in 1841. It burned down in 1882 and was replaced two years later with a design by the world-famous H.H. Richardson, who designed other buildings in this region.

  8. Tens of thousands still powerless after storm

    By Margaret Harding, Michael Hasch and Bill Vidonic
    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Thousands of Western Pennsylvanians remain without power today and might not have service restored until Sunday morning.

    Wednesday’s brief but powerful thunderstorm has left a lasting impression.

    Duquesne Light reported 13,000 customers — many in Allegheny County’s South Hills neighborhoods — do not have electricity. Customers in Baldwin, Castle Shannon, Dormont, Mt. Lebanon and Scott, as well as Banksville, Beechview and Brookline in the city, might not have service until Sunday, said spokesman Joseph Vallarian.

    Allegheny Power reported 14,000 Pennsylvania customers were in the dark. Those in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties might not have service restored until 11:30 p.m. Friday, the company said.

    High winds and lightning yesterday afternoon toppled trees, power lines and even an old church steeple, damaging homes, businesses and cars and prompting schools to cancel classes today. About 30 businesses and schools closed or delayed opening, according to WPXI-TV, the Tribune-Review’s news partner.

    A generator leaking carbon monoxide forced the evacuation of a Mt. Lebanon apartment building early this morning, a spokeswoman with the township said. No one was injured.

    Fourteen people who live in the lower levels of the building on Washington Road took refuge in the nearby municipal building, the spokeswoman said. Their apartments were ventilated, and residents returned about 7 a.m., she said.

    Emergency dispatchers fielded calls of sparking electrical wires, downed trees and a transformer fire this morning in Pittsburgh.

    Hilltop Road from Breckenridge Drive in Collier to Collier Avenue in Heidelberg was closed because of downed lines and trees, PennDOT said.

    Wind gusts estimated at nearly 70 mph sent trees crashing onto cars in Mt. Lebanon and Banksville, according to National Weather Service reports and emergency dispatchers. Small hail was reported across the South Hills, the weather service said.

    About 100,000 Duquesne Light and Allegheny Power customers lost power at the height of the storm.

    Lightning shattered the steeple at a former South Side church housing the Pittsburgh Action Against Rape offices, sending the wooden, brick and copper structure through the roof and ceilings of the three-story building on South 19th Street.

    “There’s a steeple on my chair,” said Leah Vallone, the center’s supervisor of crisis intervention, who escaped injury because she was in a meeting. “I was religious, but I think I will be even more so now.”

    Five employees of the Lighting by Erik showroom on West Liberty Avenue in Dormont escaped injury when a window exploded under the force of the wind, shards of glass turning into shrapnel as dozens of chandeliers, lamps and glass accessories inside shattered.

    “The windows were just shaking and rattling,” said Lewis Cantor, whose family has owned the business since 1965.

    Westmoreland 911 dispatchers had reports of homes with structural damage, and downed trees and wires, said spokesman Dan Stevens. He said Greensburg, Unity, Penn and Murrysville as some of the hardest-hit areas.

    “I was sitting there, watching the storm, and then all of a sudden the wind became so terrific, and this tree just cracked, and it fell straight in my yard. It missed my house, but it came close,” said Jack Zellie of Unity in Westmoreland County. “It happened suddenly. A great, big wind came up it seemed like a wind burst of sorts you could see (the tree) just crack. … It was overwhelming, to be honest with you.”

    Damage reports continued to come in this morning, Stevens said.

    “This was a fast-moving, widespread storm,” he said. “People made it home last night and just didn’t go back out.

    “They’re just going out now and finding that there are trees down in their roads.”

    Staff writers Cody Francis contributed to this report.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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