Category Archive: Threatened Historic Resources
Owner Wants to Raze Iron City BuildingCommission worries demolition will hamper future development at the historic Lawrenceville landmarkMonday, January 10, 2011By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Iron City Brewing Co. president Tim Hickman sounded urgent Dec. 1 when he asked the Historic Review Commission to let him tear down one of five buildings the city had granted historic status earlier in the year.
“The roof has collapsed,” he said, describing the original ice house in the former brewing complex in Lawrenceville. “The wooden I-beams have rotted and collapsed and the west wall is collapsing.”
Last week, the commission reconvened for a hearing, and Mr. Hickman was fighting to calm his agitation as the discussion drew out. A photo projected onto a screen showed twisted metal trusses hanging in a blue background — a rectangle of sky through the roof.
The brewing company had been cited by the Bureau of Building Inspection to abate the condition, which acting bureau chief John Jennings called “very dilapidated.” But the Historic Review Commission had a longer-term concern about the building, which dates to the 1890s.
And that concern is this: Would demolition of the old ice house prove to be a terrible mistake, jeopardizing a developer’s chances of getting a 20 percent tax break should this property become part of the National Register of Historic Places?
Although Mr. Hickman said a year ago that he embraced the historic status for the economic redevelopment possibilities, he told the commission last week he has not sought national status.
This raised some commissioners’ eyebrows.
Any future development project would almost assuredly depend on the tax credit, without which the company could be stuck with a white elephant.
“Is it your intention to seek tax credits to market this property?” acting chair Ernie Hogan asked him.
“We are still trying to determine that,” said Mr. Hickman, citing the company’s uncertainty over two other buildings that are unusable unless giant tanks can be removed from them. “If I can’t get them out,” he said, “who cares that it’s historic?”
The city approved historic designation for the complex of buildings in February, which automatically kept the company from dismantling any except for one that was exempted — a non-contributing 1970s rectangle. The company still has headquarters in the original building at 3340 Liberty Ave.
Mr. Hickman originally had wanted to demolish all but the headquarters, but preservation advocates seemed to have convinced him the complex was more valuable intact.
“We’re as concerned with the history as anybody in this town,” he said last week, “but if we lose a life, I don’t care about tax credits. I have security 24/7 running off copper thieves.”
As the owner, Mr. Hickman argued, shouldn’t it be up to him whether he wants tax credits?
Mr. Hogan said the commission is responsible for making sure historic buildings have available resources for preservation.
“If that demolition were to jeopardize the integrity of the assemblage, it could jeopardize any federal money to the site,” Mr. Hogan said. “[Mr. Hickman] would be turning his back on any public subsidies.
“I think this property is important. It could be eligible for federal transportation money [being on a bus route], sustainable communities grants, HUD money, all sorts of money.”
The Penn Brewery in Troy Hill was restored using federal tax credits, he said. Similar restoration “could be a huge economic driver” for the Lawrenceville portal.
Scott Doyle, grant manager for the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission in Harrisburg, said the determination of a building’s importance to an overall site “comes down to hardship or a level of significance.”
One way a building in a historic cluster could get a pass is “if it’s outside the period of significance for the property.” Other provisions exempt properties that “lack significance and do not occupy a major portion of the site, and if evidence is presented to show that retention is not economically feasible.”
The hardship provision applies “if a property is so deteriorated or altered that its integrity has been irretrievably lost,” he said.
In order to review the case, the PHMC would need a structural engineering report, photographs, historic documentation and cost estimates for repair.
The brewing company was a regional economic powerhouse in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Founded in 1861 as Frauenheim, Miller & Company, it brewed one of the country’s first golden lagers. It became the Pittsburgh Brewing Co. in 1899 in a merger of 20 regional breweries.
Among the brewery’s firsts were the snap-top can, the twist-off resealable bottle top, draft beer in cans, aluminum beer bottles and the original light beer, Mark V.
Brewing operations moved to Latrobe in summer 2009.
Last week, Mr. Hickman said he is “trying to embrace this process, but what’s the time limit? I have the city [building inspection] telling me you must do something, so I come here to do something and I’m told ‘Let’s wait.’ ”
The commission is expected to consider demolition in February, when an answer is expected about the building’s importance.
Historic Panel Gives a Reprieve to IglooThursday, January 06, 2011By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Civic Arena has won a bit of a lifeline.
A bid to protect the 49-year-old landmark from demolition got a boost Wednesday when the city’s historic review commission gave preliminary approval to its nomination as a city historic structure.
The 5-1 vote clears the way for a formal hearing Feb. 2 on the proposed designation, one opposed by the Pittsburgh Penguins and the arena’s owner, the city-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority. John Jennings, acting chief of the city’s Bureau of Building Inspection, cast the no vote.
Even as it gave preliminary approval, the commission stated that the decision was not a determination on the merits of the application for historic status filed by Hill District resident Eloise McDonald.
In fact, nine years ago, the commission gave preliminary approval to the arena’s designation as a historic structure only to reject it in a final vote.
Nonetheless, Ms. McDonald said afterward that she was thinking “very positive” on the chances of getting a final vote in favor of the nomination. But she added it could be a tough sell since Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who appoints historic review commission members, favors demolition.
“I’m going to stay optimistic to the final decision,” she said. “But like I said, I know the politics of the game.”
However, Ernie Hogan, the commission’s acting chair, said afterward that the mayor is “not telling us what decision to make” on the nomination.
“We have a charter to uphold regarding preservation standards. That’s all he’s saying, do your job,” Mr. Hogan said.
In arguing the case for the nomination, Ms. McDonald said the arena, with its retractable roof, is unique.
To tear it down would be “just awful,” she said. “There’s a lot of young kids, if they would ever see that dome open, there would be a whole lot more support for it. If you’ve never seen it open, you have no idea how extravagant and beautiful it is.”
The preliminary finding is a setback for the SEA and the Penguins, who have the development rights to the land that includes the arena. The team wants to demolish the structure to make way for a residential, office and commercial development.
Travis Williams, the Penguins’ senior vice president of business affairs and general counsel, declined comment on Wednesday’s decision.
But Shawn Gallagher, an attorney for the SEA, said the agency does not believe the Igloo meets the criteria for historic status. Describing Ms. McDonald’s nomination as “frivolous,” he said the same criteria used to nominate the arena eight years ago — and rejected — is being used this time.
And while Ms. McDonald spoke of the marvel of the retractable roof, Mr. Gallagher said it “never really worked” and doesn’t work anymore.
“It’s not worthy of preservation,” he said of the arena, adding it is costing the SEA and taxpayers about $65,000 a month to maintain it.
The Penguins moved from the arena to the Consol Energy Center across the street last summer.
Scott Leib, president of Preservation Pittsburgh, noted that state preservation officials have determined that the building is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
“We’re not trying to obstruct progress. We just have a totally different view of what progress is,” he said.
Wednesday’s vote prevents the SEA from demolishing the structure until a final determination is made on its status. However, the agency did not plan to start the razing until spring at the earliest.
Once the historic review commission has completed its work, the nomination must be considered by the city planning commission and city council before the arena’s final fate is known.
Some in Carrick Strive to Save Victorian HouseFriday, December 24, 2010By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
At one corner of Brownsville Road and The Boulevard in Carrick sits state Rep. Harry Readshaw’s funeral home. Across The Boulevard, a late-19th-century Queen Anne house is the last of the grand Victorians remaining on the main drag.
Its owners want to sell and may have a buyer in Mr. Readshaw, who said he is interested in buying the property and that demolishing it to provide parking “might be a decision to be considered.”
Mr. Readshaw’s interest has spurred the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society to try to save the house.
Historical society member John Rudiak documented the property and this week nominated it for historical designation. He said demolition of the house would put an end to any evidence of Carrick’s Victorian heritage.
The nomination would stall any plan to demolish the house until the Historic Review Commission could determine whether it is eligible, based on a set of federal criteria. Eligibility ultimately must be decided by Pittsburgh City Council. Historic status regulates changes to a building’s exterior but not to its interior.
Richard C. Gasior, whose wife’s family has owned the four-bedroom home since 1952, said the family needs to sell it and has been advised that $150,000 would be a fair price. “If I can’t get anybody to buy it, I’m going to go with Readshaw,” he said.
Known as the Wigman House, it was built in the late 1800s by William Wigman, owner of Wigman Lumber on the South Side. The nomination states that it is “the last remaining example of several homes of the wealthy South Side gentry who lived in Carrick.”
The current owners gave a tour to members of the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society several weeks ago, said Julia Tomasic, a founding member of the society.
“We’d love to buy it, but there are just three of us” in the society, which has no money, Ms. Tomasic said. “It has a brand-new furnace, a slate roof and the interior woodwork and walls in original hardwood, with six fireplaces, including one converted for wood. Nothing has been done to alter it.”
According to the Pittsburgh code for historic preservation, a property must meet at least one of 10 criteria to be eligible for preservation.
The nomination papers cite several possible eligibilities. One is that the home, a classic American Queen Anne, has not been modified. Its features include an asymmetrical facade, front-facing gable, overhanging eaves, polygonal tower, shaped and Dutch gables, a porch covering part or all of the front facade, a second-story porch or balconies, pedimented porches, dentils, spindles, differing wall textures including fish scales, and oriel and bay windows.
“We heard rumors for a year that Harry [Readshaw] would buy it to tear it down, and we thought it was a joke because we consider Harry a friend of the neighborhood,” Ms. Tomasic said. “Parking? You park on the street. We’re city people.”
“It’s not like I’m sitting here champing at the bit with a sledge hammer,” Mr. Readshaw, D-Carrick, said, “but business is business and any business is looking to improve its services.”
“And if we don’t get it, what happens to it?” he said. “Somebody dying to live in a big Victorian who would be a wonderful neighbor would be a positive.” A Section 8 landlord is a more likely prospect, he said, adding, “The 29th Ward has been inundated with Section 8 housing.”
Brownsville Road once had several grand Victorian homes owned by prominent businessmen. As a hilltop neighborhood, Carrick was a refuge from the smoky city. Through much of the 20th century, it was solidly middle class and owner-occupied. It remains so, but some of its stability is eroding.
In its argument for historic status, the historical society calls the Wigman House the most prominent home in Carrick, “our crown jewel Victorian.” Losing it would be a shock, the document reads, and “one more loss that we cannot sustain.”
This Beautiful Structure Must Be Saved
Wednesday, January 05, 2011 05:00 AM
*Open Letters is a place where the letters to the editor published by the Post-Gazette are offered up for broader comment and discussion.
The late 19th-century Queen Anne Victorian house on Brownsville Road in Carrick (“Some in Carrick Strive to Save Victorian House,” Dec. 24) is a gem that must be preserved.
The Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society has done a yeoman’s job by documenting the property known as the Wigman House and nominating it for historical designation. One hopes that other area historical societies and individual philanthropists will join together to assure its salvation.
While I was growing up on Madeline Street in Carrick, dozens of comparable homes in the area reflected the personalities of the moguls who built them on high ground in order to contemplate the night sky burned red by the glow of steel mills blazing far below.
My family’s physician, Dr. Askins, was able to purchase one such mansion on Brownsville Road during the Depression. The exterior, painted contrasting shades of green, emphasized the eerie atmosphere that would have captivated the Addams Family.
Each time we visited his office, I was startled by creaking sounds — veritable moans — coming from one of the turrets. When I asked him about them, he tossed me a sly smile. “Those are the ghosts of the original owners,” he said. “They cannot bear to leave the tower and lose sight of the city they built.”
Just as those ghosts clung to the past, so must the ghosts of the last remaining Victorian mansion in Carrick be appeased.
EMILY PRITCHARD CARY
Collier to Preserve Historic Photographs
Thursday, December 23, 2010
By Carole Gilbert Brown
The decision by Collier commissioners to spend $1,134.20 to scan and frame historical township photographs is an award winner for Gene Czambel, 67, of Steen Hollow Road.
Mr. Czambel, a lifelong resident who traces his family’s roots in Collier back to 1882, has been on a crusade for several years to preserve the township’s history through photographs and other memorabilia.
He has offered 16 photos from the Beechmont area and beyond to be scanned and framed so that residents can view them in the township building and the Nike Site property. Many date back to the early 20th century and late 19th century.
If the township forms a historical society, he promises to donate the originals, as well as about 30 more historical photographs.
“I have a museum here between my dad, grandfather and great-grandfather,” he said.
But, with no descendants, he adds, “When I’m gone, it’s gone.”
Among the approximately 50 photos are shots of the Pittsburgh Coal Co.’s Essen No. 2 Mine in Burdine, a photograph of the now-gone Beechmont School with his mother shown, too, as well as pictures of the former town of Hickman, which was named after farmer Joseph Hickman but developed by Mr. Czambel’s great-grandfather, who was an engineer and entrepreneur.
Burdine, Beechmont and Hickman have been incorporated into what is now Collier.
The town burned down in a fire, but included at one time a post office, store, and a hotel with a bar. Mr. Czambel even has photographs of the fire.
Mr. Czambel has donated photographs to other area communities, too, including Bridgeville, Carnegie and Oakdale.
Besides photographs, he possesses historical memorabilia, too. For example, the cement pads that once were in front of the boys’ and girls’ outhouses at Beechmont School are now in his front yard.
Anyone interested in donating historical photographs or memorabilia, or in helping to form a historical society, should contact the township.
Blast From the Past: Old Steel Mill Forges New Life as a Park
(Dec. 2) — Preservationists outside Pittsburgh are fighting to put an abandoned steel mill back to work — not so it can produce metal, but so it can protect history.
Since the blast furnaces fired up for the last time at the Carrie Furnace in 1978, the decaying steel mill on the bank of the Monongahela River has served as a solemn reminder of the industry that turned Pittsburgh into a thriving city — then left it polluted and jobless.
Now, more than three decades after the Carrie Furnace went from being a bustling workplace for 4,000 employees to a 168-acre ghost town, a team of preservationists is trying to convert the remains of the hulking factory in Rankin, Pa., into a museum dedicated to the region’s steel history.
“Pittsburgh is known for steel,” said Sherris Moreira, a spokeswoman for Rivers of Steel Heritage Corp., the group spearheading the preservation project. “There is this pride that people here have for their steel heritage — and this is a tangible way for people to connect with that history.”
Rivers of Steel hopes to preserve the remaining structures, transforming the industrial ruin into an interactive historical center inside a park.
At the heart of the proposed preservation project are the two remaining blast furnaces, which were built in 1907 and left largely unchanged until U.S. Steel halted operations at the Carrie Furnace.
The massive ovens are rare examples of pre-World War II steel-making technology — and they could make the perfect centerpiece for the proposed museum, according to Rivers of Steel curator of collections Tiffani Emig.
“They were never invested in for improvements and they were never upgraded. Everything was done by hand up until the day it closed,” Emig said. “That’s what makes them special.”
Those industrial relics — along with five other furnaces that were demolished — manufactured as much as 1,200 tons of iron per day, creating metals used in the construction of the Empire State Building and St. Louis’ Gateway Arch.
When the blast furnaces were operational, they turned ore, coke and limestone flux into a molten metal that was transported by rail across the aptly named “Hot Metal Bridge” to U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works, where it was converted into steel.
The Homestead Works were razed in 1988 and the site was converted into a shopping mall in 1999. Today, all that remains of the historic steel mill are the smokestacks, which tower over a movie theater parking lot across the river from the Carrie Furnace.
The Carrie Furnace has already been deemed a National Historic Landmark, meaning it likely won’t meet the same fate as the Homestead Works. But that doesn’t mean the site isn’t in danger.
When industry moved out, nature moved in. Tree roots have undermined the stability of some Carrie Furnace buildings, and grapevines scale the superstructure of the sprawling mill. Foxes, hawks and deer have recently been spotted on the site — and they’re not the only new visitors.
The abandoned steel mill has become a destination for graffiti artists, paintball players, vagrants and vandals who strip the site and sell the stolen scrap metal.
“The wiring and anything else that can be scrapped has been taken out,” said Emig, who told AOL News she’s often chased away uninvited visitors. “With the graffiti, the paint wears off. It’s the people who are physically stripping the site who are the problem.”
Rivers of Steel plans to restore some parts of the Carrie Furnace to look the way they did when the plant was operational. But other parts — like a massive sculpture of a deer head built from metal and wire in the 1990s by the Industrial Arts Co-Op — will remain as they are today.
“We will preserve some of the graffiti, definitely the deer,” Emig said. “This site didn’t die in 1978. This place continued to be used, and we want to show that.”
Even if Rivers of Steel gets its wish and is able to preserve the remaining steel mill structures, the rest of the 168-acre property could look very different in the coming years. Allegheny County owns the entire site and began renting the Carrie Furnace buildings to Rivers of Steel in May.
County officials are looking for builders interested in bringing light manufacturing and residential development to the rest of the grassy plot.
New businesses or homes near the old steel mill will certainly change the site’s context, but they won’t compromise the Carrie Furnace as a historic site, according to Emig.
“It’s already compromised,” she said. “There’s only two furnaces left; there used to be seven. You work with what you have.”
The most important thing the Carrie Furnace has is its historic site, according to Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
“We have saved artifacts from the mills — blowing engines, a Bessemer converter and so forth — but we had to relocate them,” Ziegler said. “But this will be the first time it’s all preserved on site.”
Obviously, making the dilapidated steel mill a safe destination for sightseers isn’t going to be easy — or cheap.
The group’s “bare-bones cost estimate” for the project is $78 million. Current funding only allows for repairs of a severely damaged roof at one of the powerhouses.
To fund other projects, like securing shaky catwalks, clearing out tons of debris from the mill’s stock house, or perhaps building a monorail like the one depicted in flashy conceptual images of the historic center, the group will seek public funding and private donations.
There’s talk of approaching the National Parks Service for help, but it’s unclear whether the cash-strapped agency would be interested in or able to offer assistance.
Though finances are a concern, Moreira says she’s been encouraged by the interest in the project.
“Heritage matters,” said Moreira, whose group has given tours of the Carrie Furnace to more than 700 eager visitors in the past two months. “It’s not only important to know where we come from, but it’s important looking to the future.”
In the years since the steel industry left Pittsburgh, the “Steel City” has in many ways attempted to distance itself from its metal-producing past. But the city’s industrial legacy lives on — and not just in the name of its football team and local beer.
According to Moreira, many Pittsburghers have started looking to the city’s steel-making roots as a source of pride.
“There was a lot of bitterness when the steel went away. People wanted to move on. But now people are at the point where they want to look back,” she said.
“This isn’t just steel; it’s about emotions.”
Washington County Farm on Statewide Danger ListMonday, December 20, 2010By Len Barcousky, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A Washington County farm that has been operated by the same family for more than 200 years has been included on a list of 10 historic sites most at risk across Pennsylvania.
Longwall coal mining could harm several historic buildings at Plantation Plenty in Independence Township, according to Preservation Pennsylvania. The nonprofit organization released its list of endangered properties on Thursday.
State and federal environmental and preservation regulations require an analysis of the impact of commercial activities like mining on historic properties, according to Erin Hammerstedt, a field representative for Preservation Pennsylvania and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Our goal would be to keep longwall mining out of this historic farm,” she said.
Preservation Pennsylvania is a private membership organization that seeks to protect historically and architecturally significant properties. The National Trust for Historic Preservation, created by Congress in 1949, plays a similar role across the country.
Plantation Plenty has been operated since 1800 by Isaac Manchester and his descendants. Joseph Pagliarulo and his wife, Margie, who is a Manchester descendant, acquired the 400 acres in 2005 and now run it as an organic farm, producing milk, beef, pork and vegetables.
The Manchester family had sold coal rights to the property in 1915, except for three acres under the farmhouse and other nearby buildings. The mining rights are owned by Penn Ridge Coal, a subsidiary of Alliance Resource Partners, a Tulsa, Okla.-based coal producer with $1.2 billion in revenues.
While longwall mining would never occur directly under the farmstead, major mine subsidence nearby still could damage the structures, Ms. Hammerstedt said. Another possible side-effect of the mining could be to degrade or ruin the farm’s water supply by fracturing the rock that feeds its springs and wells, according to Preservation Pennsylvania.
Penn Ridge has not yet applied for mining permits, Mr. Pagliarulo said, but he fears “it is just a matter of time.” He said it is not financially possible for him and his wife to buy back the coal rights.
An end to farming on the Manchester property would represent a cultural and environmental loss, he said.
“This property has been in my wife’s family for more than 200 years,” he said. “A visit here lets you step back in time … and see how 18th and 19th century farming took place.”
Two other Western Pennsylvania properties or areas are on the preservation organization’s list.
Holland Hall in Meadville, which has been vacant for 15 years, is in danger of demolition, according to Preservation Pennsylvania. The poor condition of the building — many interior walls and electrical, plumbing and heating mixtures have been removed — make it attractive to a buyer who would tear it down and replace it with a new structure.
Holland Hall was built in 1899 by A.C. Huidekoper, a Civil War veteran who made fortunes in coal, iron, oil and railroad businesses. The Gilded Age mansion was built around a smaller red-brick building constructed in 1804. Mr. Huidekoper and his wife, Frances, had lived in the smaller structure before the larger house was built.
Following the death of Mrs. Huidekoper, Holland Hall was sold and used as a fraternity house from 1935 to 1995. Plans to redevelop it as a conference center and bed-and-breakfast fell through.
“In order to prevent the demolition or continued neglect of Holland Hall, a buyer interested in acquiring and rehabilitating this architecturally significant building is needed,” according to “Pennsylvania at Risk 2010,” the organization’s newsletter.
Plans for a wind farm on the crest of Evitts Mountain in Bedford County’s Bedford Township could endanger a rural historic district known as Dutch Corner, according to Preservation Pennsylvania.
Dutch Corner has more than 30 farmsteads and a historic school, church and several cemeteries.
Plans to build 24 wind turbines on the ridge above the valley would require blasting and filling to construct concrete foundation pads and to bury a transmission cable, according to the organization. It also warns that noise from the wind turbines would disturb the neighborhood’s rural character while the blasting could affect water supplies.
Preservation Pennsylvania does not oppose either longwall mining or wind farms in general, Ms. Hammerstedt said. “There are places where these activities are a good thing,” she said. “But there are other areas where these projects are not appropriate, because they would endanger historic buildings or landscape features.”
Preservation Pennsylvania’s 2010 list of at-risk sites is available on its Web site, www.preservationpa.org.
PENNSYLVANIA AT RISK 2010 ANNOUNCED
December 16, 2010
PENNSYLVANIA AT RISK 2010 ANNOUNCED
Preservation Pennsylvania announces the annual listing of the Commonwealth’s most endangered historic resources.
Preservation Pennsylvania, a statewide non-profit historic preservation group, released its annual Pennsylvania At Risk list today, which highlights 11 endangered resources.
Pennsylvania At Risk serves as a representative sampling of the Commonwealth’s most endangered historic resources. For the purpose of the list, endangerment is defined as threat of demolition, significant deterioration, vandalism, alteration, and/or loss of its historic setting. It is Preservation Pennsylvania’s belief that publishing this list draws statewide attention to the plight of Pennsylvania’s historic resources, promotes local action to protect resources, and encourages additional state funding for historic sites.
Resources included on the Pennsylvania At Risk 2010 list include:
East Stroudsburg Railroad Station (East Stroudsburg, Monroe County)
Built in 1864 as the Stroudsburg station on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the East Stroudsburg Railroad Station is a landmark in the community. The depot’s presence led to rapid commercial growth, establishing Crystal Street as the business hub of a rapidly expanding community. Thanks to the efforts of East Stroudsburg’s residents and supporters, and the partnerships between community groups, non-profits, private corporations and individuals and the borough, the building was saved earlier this year after demolition of the station had begun. However, initial funding to save the 1883 building only covers partial reconstruction and restoration, so efforts to secure the long-term future of the station will need to continue.
U.S.S. Olympia (Philadelphia, Philadelphia County)
Built by the United Iron Works of San Francisco in 1890-1893 and commissioned in 1895, the cruiser U.S.S. Olympia is a National Historic Landmark that represents critical points in American history. She served as the flagship of the Asiatic Squadron in the Spanish-American War, and it was from the Olympia’s bridge on May 1, 1898 during the Battle of Manila that
Commodore George Dewey issued the famous command: “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” Its final mission was bringing home the body of World War I’s Unknown Soldier from
France in 1921. It was decommissioned in 1922, then opened as a museum in 1958. Since taking ownership of the ship in 1996, the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia has spent $5.5 million on repairs, inspections and maintenance of the Olympia; yet, without major a refurbishment and plans for its future use/preservation, the Olympia will either sink at its moorings, be sold for scrap, or be scuttled for an artificial reef off Cape May, New Jersey. While efforts to secure private or public funding for the project have been unsuccessful to date, the National Park Service has begun working with stakeholders to seek a positive preservation outcome. The U.S.S. Olympia was scheduled to close to the public November 22, 2010. However, it was recently announced that she will remain open until January.
Schuylkill School (Schuylkill Township, Chester County)
Schuylkill School was built in 1930 and brought children together from a number of area one- and two-room schoolhouses. Construction of the school was made possible through the philanthropy of Frank B. Foster, who helped fund three consolidated schools in Chester County (the other two of which are still in use). In 2002, the Schuylkill School was determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places; that same year the Phoenixville Area School District began to consider the school’s demolition. Despite studies that have identified several potential new uses for the building, the Phoenixville Area School District plans to begin demolishing the building in December 2010. The ground where the historic school now stands will become a parking lot.
Stewartstown Railroad (Stewartstown to New Freedom, York County)
From 1884 to 1972, the Stewartstown Railroad connected farmers and manufacturers to markets in Baltimore. The Stewartstown Railroad remains in business under its original charter of 1884–the only such operation in existence that did not merge with another railroad or was subjected to any form of corporate reorganization. Seven railroad structures along the 7.4-mile line have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the line itself has been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register. The financial generosity of George Hart, President of the Stewartstown Railroad, kept the company operational through recent tough times; however, this resulted in a substantial lien against the railroad. Arrangements to forgive the $352,000 sum were not made in Mr. Hart’s estate plans as expected. Now, unless the Bucks County Historical Society, beneficiary of Mr. Hart’s estate, will agree to defer payment of the lien for several years, the Stewartstown Railroad would be forced to liquidate its assets to raise the $352,000 that it owes.
Holland Hall “Huidekoper Mansion” (Meadville, Crawford County) Holland Hall was built by Arthur Clark (A.C.) Huidekoper in 1899 and it survives as Meadville’s only Gilded Age mansion. Holland Hall is currently threatened with demolition. Following the death of Frances Reynolds Huidekoper in 1932, Holland Hall was occupied by Allegheny College’s Phi Delta Theta fraternity who occupied it from 1935 until 1995. It was then sold and has remained vacant for fifteen years. In order to prevent the demolition or continued neglect of Holland Hall, a buyer interested in acquiring and rehabilitating this architecturally significant building is needed.
“Plantation Plenty” Isaac Manchester Farm (Avella, Independence Township, Washington County) Plantation Plenty is a farm of just over 400 acres that has been owned and occupied by the members of the Manchester family for 210 years. The house, completed by Isaac Manchester in 1815, is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Western Pennsylvania. The property is currently operating as a multi-faceted organic farm, producing milk, beef, pork, eggs and a variety of fruits and vegetables. While much of the significance of Plantation Plenty is clearly visible through its buildings, it also contains potentially important prehistoric and historic archaeological sites. Despite the property’s importance, it is now threatened by longwall mining. Subsidence caused by longwall mining under the farm, which causes the ground to drop between 4 and 6 feet at the surface, may cause severe damage to the historic buildings, and will fracture the rock that forms springs and wells which may alter or eliminate them. In addition, a large ventilation shaft is proposed immediately adjacent to the 3-acre protected farmstead. This would be a visual intrusion on the historic farm, and would alter the farm’s setting by introducing noise inappropriate to the quiet, agrarian landscape.
122-124 and 126 West Miner Street (West Chester, Chester County)
The National Register listed West Chester Historic District (Boundary Increase) is locally significant as a governmental and commercial center that reflects period architectural styles and the community’s development. Residential structures built circa 1844 and 1837, respectively, the buildings at 122-124 and 126 West Miner Street in West Chester are contributing elements to the West Chester Historic District. Both buildings are currently threatened with demolition. They are owned by the adjacent First Presbyterian Church, which proposes to tear them down to make room for additional facilities. The current proposal is a complete reversal from the Church’s originally presented plan which incorporated the two buildings into the expanded facility. The demolition of these two historic buildings will result in a significant loss of the community’s historic fabric and will erode the historic character of the larger community.
Laverock Hill “Sims” Estate (Cheltenham & Springfield Townships, Montgomery County)
One of the last intact Gilded Age country estates in Montgomery County, the centerpiece of the Laverock Hill Estate is an 11,000 square foot residence created in a neo-Georgian style. The 42-acre property also includes a 19th century stone dwelling, the farm’s original horse and cattle barn, the former dairy barn (now a residence), and four additional dwellings. The Laverock Hill mansion has been vacant for nearly three years, as have the stable, carriage house and greenhouse. In early 2008, Hansen Properties, LLC acquired the 42-acre tract, and proposed a development that would include 216 residential units targeted for sale/rental to adults age 55 and over. No plans have been submitted yet for the portion of the property in Springfield Township, but the developer has expressed an interest in building at least 120 cluster housing units with requisite parking, roads and utilities on that portion of the estate. The property has been determined eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, however, it is not located in a local historic district that is regulated by a historic preservation ordinance. In an attempt to preserve the site, over 150 neighboring families have informally organized into a group called Save Laverock Hill. Their goal is to have the current permit application denied, and to work to find an alternative plan for the use of the property.
Dutch Corner Rural Historic District (Bedford Township, Bedford County)
The Dutch Corner Rural Historic District includes over 30 historic farmsteads as well as a church, a school and multiple cemeteries. Evitts Mountain is a dominant natural feature that clearly forms the physical, visual and legal edge of the Dutch Corner district. Atlantic Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, proposes to develop 24 40-story wind turbines in a chain along the top of Evitts Mountain, surrounding Dutch Corner on two sides. The development will involve removal of trees from the mountain, as well as blasting and bulldozing rock then pulverizing it for use as fill to flatten the mountain top for the turbine pads, access road and cable trench. In addition to reshaping the mountain, the blasting will fracture the bedrock and disrupt the flow of groundwater to the area. Operation of the wind turbines will result in a noise increase of 15 to 20 dBA, replacing the natural sounds of a rural community with constant noise. This development will result in drastic changes to the Dutch Corner Rural Historic District, and will severely compromise qualities of the district that contribute to its significance.
Eagles Mere Historic District (Eagles Mere, Sullivan County)
Eagles Mere Historic District is an intact turn-of-the-century resort community consisting of cottages, boat houses, commercial buildings, churches and outbuildings situated around a natural spring-fed lake 2,100 feet above sea level in the Allegheny Mountains. The district also includes Eagles Mere Beach, hiking trails, pristine wooded areas, and is surrounded by thousands of acres of forest. Since its establishment in the 1880s, people have been working to preserve Eagles Mere as a secluded retreat for visitors and residents. However, the setting of this historic district is currently threatened by natural gas extraction from Marcellus shale. Unlike many places whose economy could benefit from natural gas extraction, if the District’s water supply/quality is damaged, its beautiful setting is altered, or the peaceful, secluded nature of the area is disrupted by increased truck traffic and the operation of heavy equipment, those very features that make Eagles Mere attractive and economically viable will be lost.
Neuweiler Brewery (Allentown, Lehigh County)
Construction of this large brewery began in 1911 and the facility opened in 1913 producing traditional German style beers. Designed by architects Peuckert and Wunder to satisfy the demands of owner Louis F. Neuweiler, the brewery was more elaborately adorned than most industrial facilities of its day. The company closed its doors in 1968, and the site has remained mostly vacant since then. Underutilization of the buildings has led to their neglect and deterioration, which threaten the resource’s survival. The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Allentown (RACA) now owns the property. Recognizing its significance, they have conducted a study that shows that the vast majority of the complex is still structurally sounds. RACA is taking initial steps to facilitate rehabilitation of the brewery, but a developer will be needed to complete the rehabilitation and put the building back in use to prevent further deterioration or the need for demolition.
Updates on Previously Listed Properties
The Pennsylvania At Risk list also includes updates on previously listed properties. Articles about the J. W. Cooper High School Shenandoah, Schuylkill County (PA At Risk 2001); Saylor Cement Kilns Coplay, Lehigh County (PA At Risk 2005); and Church of the Assumption on Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia (PA At Risk 2009) are featured in the 2010 issue. For additional information on updates, please see the attached link for the Pennsylvania At Risk publication or contact Preservation Pennsylvania at 717-234-2310.
The Pennsylvania At Risk 2010 list is released in partnership with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Committee (www.phmc.state.pa.us). Preservation Pennsylvania is a statewide, not-for-profit, educational and advocacy historic preservation organization and serves as a statewide voice on historic preservation issues. For more information, visit the website at www.preservationpa.org or contact Preservation Pennsylvania at 717-234-2310.