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Nephew seeks city historic status for August Wilson home

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Jodi Weigand
Thursday, July 12, 2007

The nephew of late Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson wants his uncle’s childhood home to mean as much to the community as did the man who once lived there.

“He wrote plays about the Hill District that took on national significance,” attorney Paul Ellis Jr. said of his uncle’s 10-play chronicle of black American life.

On Wednesday, Ellis asked the city’s Historic Review Commission to name Wilson’s former home — at 1727 Bedford Ave. — a historic structure. Commission members will vote Aug. 1. The request would need approval from the city Planning Commission and City Council.

“I don’t think there’s a question about whether we should designate this,” said commission Chairman Michael Stern.

The state dedicated a historical marker in May.

Ellis, 37, lives a block away from where Wilson grew up with his five brothers and sisters. Ellis bought the house in 2005 — the same year his uncle died at age 60. He began pursuing the historical designation about a year later.

“Many of the identified historical aspects in the Hill are gone,” Steven Paul, executive director of Preservation Pittsburgh, told the commission. “This is an example of an important structure for the community.”

Ellis said he has begun interior renovations and plans to restore the exterior of the structure to what it looked like when Wilson was a child.

“(The task) is physically and emotionally draining,” Ellis said. “What keeps me going is the spirit of my uncle and the desire to make a significant contribution to my community.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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