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Saving Carson Street’s history

By Ron DaParma
Tribune Review Real Estate Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005

Hundreds of young “historians” from four local schools will join their adult counterparts from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation and The History Channel today to celebrate a project designed to bring to life the history of East Carson Street on the South Side.

The pupils from Phillips, Arlington and Murray elementary schools and Bishop Leonard Catholic — all in or around the South Side — already are deeply involved in the project funded by a $10,000 inaugural “Save Our History” grant to the foundation.

The grant’s purpose is to raise awareness about East Carson, a historic main street lined with Victorian-style commercial buildings.

The landmarks foundation is one of only 29 organizations across the country chosen for the newly established History Channel grants, which are for “innovative, educational projects designed to bring communities together and engage children in the preservation of their local history.” Today’s event is set for 1:30 p.m. at the Phillips school on the South Side.

“We expect the auditorium to be packed,” said Louise Sturgess, the foundation’s executive director and overseer of the East Carson project.

Students in grades kindergarten through eight are integrally involved, she said, handling tasks ranging from conducting research and community interviews to sketching buildings and presenting oral histories.

In all, about 500 students are expected to participate in the project, which is to run through May 15.

“People from The History Channel are coming to recognize the work that the students have been doing since we received the award in January,” Sturgess said.

They will be bringing with them project banners and enamel plaques to present to the participating schools.

“There will be some really neat stuff,” Sturgess said. “It will help the kids understand that they are part of one of the few programs in America who are getting the chance to do a project that really helps preserve a part of history.”

“We are thrilled to see the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation work hand-in-hand with local students to teach them about the great city around them,” said Judy Klein Frimer, director of brand enhancement for The History Channel.

As part of the project, students have been working in pairs to identify and document more than 20 historic main street buildings along East Carson.

They also have interviewed senior citizens to document how South Side buildings have changed over the years, created silk screens of some of those buildings and composed poems, sketches and other artistic pieces.

The foundation also has worked in conjunction with “The Saturday Light Brigade,” a family-oriented public radio program on WRCT-FM, to host chat sessions between students and community members.

Plans are to record and archive these recollections of the neighborhood and the main street in particular.

Officials today also will announce plans for “Spotlight on Main Street,” a major community event planned for April 30 at the South Side Market House and along East Carson, between 10th and 22nd streets.

“That will be a highlight of our project,” Sturgess said. It will feature a scavenger hunt, entertainment and a live radio broadcast conducted by the “Saturday Light Brigade” from the street.

After the Save Our History project concludes on May 15, plans are to launch a new interactive Internet site that will feature the buildings identified by the students, as well as “fun facts” and trivia about the buildings and neighborhood.

Ron DaParma can be reached at or 412-320-7907.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review © Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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