Pitt Class to Nominate Bloomfield School for Historic Registry
By Adam Brandolph
Monday, December 13, 2010
The ornate wood and plaster work inside the former Ursuline Academy in Bloomfield has been around for about 140 years.
A nomination to the National Register of Historic Places next month could ensure it lasts at least twice as long.
The building on South Winebiddle Street near the borders of Friendship Park, Garfield and Lawrenceville has been a hands-on laboratory for University of Pittsburgh students learning how to research historic buildings. The students will release their findings to the public at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the building’s auditorium.
The class plans to present the nomination to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in January. If approved, the commission would send it to the National Park Service in Washington for a final review.
Officials with the building’s current tenant, the Waldorf School, a private school for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, applaud the efforts.
“It’s a wonderful place to have a school,” said Alexandra Gruskos, Waldorf’s board president and an attorney for the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families. “We’re very happy about the nomination.”
Students in Jeff Slack’s documentation and conservation studio course pored over historic maps, photographs, deeds and building permits in researching the history of the 21-room mansion built for Henry J. Lynch in the late 1860s.
“The nomination is the result of the ongoing work begun in 2008 by Pitt preservation students that included a detailed evaluation of the physical condition of the building,” Slack, a historic preservation planner at Pfaffmann + Associates, PC, Downtown, said in a written statement.
“But this year, the students’ work focuses more so on research that shows the far-reaching educational contributions of the Ursuline Academy to the local community.”
The historic designation would prevent federal money from being used to alter the building, said Brendan Froeschl, facilities manager for the Waldorf School. The building was well-preserved because it was turned into a school after initially being a residence, he said.
“The Ursulines did a wonderful job. When you come in the front door, you’re in the front door of the original mansion,” Froeschl said.
Dan Holland, director of the Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh, said other buildings across the city would benefit from the expertise of the class.
“To do this kind of work is a huge help,” Holland said.
The Ursuline Academy, a Catholic girls school, opened in its Bloomfield location in 1894 and closed in 1981. In 1993, the building was sold, restored and named Victoria Hall, a venue for weddings and celebrations. The Waldorf School bought the property in 2003.