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Sculpture of Steel Worker to Highlight Natrona Heritage Park

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Natrona’s history is forever linked to industry, and that is the focus of a new park being planned there.

“We’ve been working with Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, and one of the focuses of Natrona Comes Together is to preserve the history of Natrona,” said Bill Godfrey, president of the grassroots neighborhood improvement group, in discussing the proposed Natrona Heritage Park.

Natrona’s first major industry was salt mining by The Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Co. dating to 1850. In fact, Godfrey said the park site, which is about 100 feet by 100 feet, is the site of the old Penn Salt company store.

Although Penn Salt evolved into a chemical conglomerate, it eventually became overshadowed in Natrona by the steel industry and Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp., now known as ATI-Allegheny Ludlum.

It is the steel industry that is the focus of the heritage park, according to Godfrey and Stephen Paulovich, the New Kensington native who is a renowned Louisville, Ky.-based sculptor.

Paulovich is known throughout the Alle-Kiski Valley for his sculptures at the coal miners memorial in Harmar and for the statue of New Kensington football legend Willie Thrower at Valley High School’s stadium.

According to Paulovich, the park’s dominant structure will be a sculpture of an 8-foot-high steel worker set on a base that will have the sculpture rise 18 feet above the park.

In addition, there will be smaller sculptures of buildings in Natrona, some of which still exist, he said.

Paulovich said he will donate his services, including any foundry work.

“I was trying to get something more public art-oriented,” Paulovich said. “Things that are more historical that kids can walk around and look at.

“We want to incorporate some of the buildings … some of them might (still) be there, some might not,” he added. “Those buildings were so important. And if it wasn’t for steel, they wouldn’t be there.”

Among the buildings Paulovich included in his initial drawings were the Pond Street School, St. Ladislaus Church and the Windsor Hotel.

“People in New Kensington might get mad at me, but I think Natrona is the gem, architecturally, of that area,” he said.

Paulovich and Godfrey said they plan to put the project in motion within the next week or two.

They and Natrona Comes Together are developing the project with Frank McCurdy of Harrison, who taught architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, before retiring. He also is a member of the Natrona Comes Together board, Godfrey said.

“We have absolutely no money for it yet, but we have strong passion for finding funds,” Godfrey said.

“We’re going to approach Allegheny Ludlum and the unions and get some other private financing,” he said. He said that they don’t have a firm cost estimate yet. “We’ll give a presentation to anybody that will be very clear and will leave nothing to the imagination. It will be like ‘This is what you get for your dollar.’ It will be like selling any other product.

“I think it is only fair that Allegheny Ludlum celebrates the history of the steel workers who actually built the company with their sweat and toil,” Godfrey said. “We have not approached them, but we are very excited about trying to get them to donate.

“It could be a model for how a steel mill improves the quality of life for a community.”

To underscore the community’s ties to steelmaking even further, Paulovich wants to cast the sculptures in stainless steel, Allegheny Ludlum’s core product for decades.

“I was going to do it in bronze, but it just doesn’t make sense. Bronze? In a steel town?” Paulovich said. “If the guys are making stainless down there, why can’t we use stainless/”

Also, Paulovich wants those “guys” to be involved with the project.

“We want to get some of the welders from Allegheny Ludlum to come down and help us put this together for us,” he said. “I don’t sweat like they do in 4,000 degrees; they need this. It’s just amazing what they do. They have to do it, it’s going to be their sculpture.”

“For them to drive by with their kids and hear them say, ‘Hey, Dad did that,’ that would be great,” Paulovich said.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

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