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Ross historian still determined to save structure

Thursday, November 07, 2002

By Jonathan Barnes

John Vlah has spent hours trying to reconstruct a log building in Ross Community Park, but he believes his efforts may have been in vain.

Amateur historian Sandy Brown and others, however, are convinced the building is part of the community’s heritage and are planning to continue the effort to save it.

At the heart of the issue is thehistoric purpose of the structure, now sitting in the park on Evergreen Road. Some press accounts have followed the lead of the last resident of the farm, Robert Schlag, and called it a granary, a building for storing grain.

Brown believes that’s undervaluing the building, which she calls a cabin, based on her belief that it was built as a residence, albeit a small, crude, windowless one. She contends granaries were structured differently.

“I would never have tried to save a granary,” she said. “I would not lift a finger for a granary.”

Brown said residents interested in saving the building have enough money themselves to finish work on it.

The work is important, she said, because the building is the last vestige of the old Schlag farm. The farm on Sangree Road in the Berkeley Hills neighborhood is being developed for new housing.

The farmhouse, leveled months ago, was historically significant, Brown said. She said architect James Van Trump, the founder of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, called the house “one of the five finest Greek revival-style homes in the county.

Brown said township officials are expecting a $5,000 state grant, which will be used for the log building.

But since Vlah began reconstructing the building this summer, he found that several of the original logs were too deteriorated to use. He has spent many hours dismantling the building and salvaging hundreds of concrete blocks and tons of stone to use as its foundation and believes the task was nearly hopeless.

But Brown isn’t giving up, noting that Van Trump’s book recognized the old farm’s rarity. She quoted the book as saying it “is certainly worthy of preservation.”

The farm won’t be preserved, but the old log building still might.

Jonathan Barnes is a free-lance writer.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. © Pittsburgh Post Gazette

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