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Group Works to Save Only Surviving 18th Century Stone House in City of Pittsburgh

April 14, 2003

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, in conjunction with the Hazelwood Initiative, Inc., Doug Shields from City Council District 5, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority, are working to preserve the Woods Home, an important historical site located in the Hazelwood section of the city.

The group is submitting an application for Save America’s Treasures to the National Parks Service which, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, administers this grant program, the purpose of which is to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage. Grants for preservation and/or conservation work on nationally significant historic structures and sites are awarded through a competitive process in amounts of up to $1 million.

Doug Shields, former administrative assistant to Councilman Bob O’Connor and acting administrator for District 5, said, “We are grateful to Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation for funding a preliminary structural review of the Woods Home. It is an important community asset and we hope that the Save America’s Treasures funding will allow us to rehabilitate the structure.”

The Woods Home, built of cut stone, is one of only three surviving 18th century structures in Pittsburgh, the other two being the Fort Pitt Blockhouse at the Point and the Neill Log House in Schenley Park.

“The house is in pretty bad shape now,” said Arthur Ziegler, President of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, “but the structural analysis undertaken by Landmarks Design Associates does show that it is still possible to restore the structure, and because of its significance as a rare survivor of late 18th century architecture this makes it worth while to continue to explore funding mechanisms to rehabilitate it.”

The site is already designated as an Historic Landmark by the City of Pittsburgh and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Woods family, at one time wealthy and socially prominent, were the pioneer landowners in Hazelwood. The vast extent of the Woods holdings may be imagined when it is stated that the original area embraced all of the land between “Frankstown” at Second Avenue and Forward Avenue in Glenwood, extending from the river to Squirrel Hill. The first survey of Pittsburgh was made in 1784 by Colonel George Woods; the present Wood Street in downtown Pittsburgh honors him. George Woods, the Colonel’s son, was a prosperous lawyer who in 1792 built the estate he called “Hazel Hill.” Hazelwood, in fact, received its name from him.

While the Woods Home is important in terms of Pittsburgh’s history, the home has national significance as well. According to research conducted last year by Bob O’Connor, at the time Councilman for District 5, it was found that Stephen Foster, recognized as America’s first professional composer, spent a lot of time there in the mid-1800s. He apparently wrote or performed a number of his most famous songs at the Woods House. The Woods family piano is now housed at the Stephen Foster Memorial in Pittsburgh.

The deadline for the Save America’s Treasures grants is May 20th. The group is also exploring other funds and a sustainable use for the building.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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