Wilkinsburg: Second in a Series of PHLF’s Greatest Saves in 50 Years
PHLF turned 50 on September 30, 2014. Intern Lauren Van Zandt, a Public History graduate student at Duquesne University, is sharing the stories of some of PHLF’s “Greatest Saves.” Help us celebrate 50 years of Pittsburgh renewal with a donation to our 50th Anniversary Fund. Click here.
Last month I wrote about my own neighborhood, Manchester. This month I’ll be talking about PHLF’s Greatest Hits in Wilkinsburg, which is in the early stages of what promises to be a Manchester-like revitalization. Walking through Wilkinsburg with Louise Sturgess and the other PHLF interns, I almost lost count of all the recent renovations, business ventures, and projects going on around us. In addition to historic preservation, PHLF’s projects in Wilkinsburg are meant to create partnerships, drawing involvement from residents and stakeholders through preservation work.
One of the most unique (and cutest) is Piano Place, a park and community garden designed by Ronald Butler, a grade 7 PHLF CampDEC participant. PHLF partnered with residents of Hamnett Place in Wilkinsburg, Allegheny Grows, and PHLF member Russ Coe to design, fund, and install Piano Place. Landscape architect Evaine Sing was instrumental in turning the design concept for Piano Place into reality.
Piano Place sits next to the Wilson House, one of four residences recently renovated by PHLF on Jeanette and Holland Streets. As an example of how PHLF’s involvement in a neighborhood can have a cascading effect, Louise pointed out houses directly across from PHLF-renovated residences that were being fixed-up by other homeowners.
One of the most exciting projects I saw was the Landmarks Preservation Resource Center. Located in a former Packard Auto dealership and mechanic’s shop on Rebecca Avenue, the Resource Center is an amalgamation of classroom space, community center, art studio, library, and technology hub. Seeing the sculptures of artist James Shipman and the restored shields from the former Manchester Bridge outside the building really emphasized the impression of reuse and rebirth as a source of beauty and creativity.
Two of PHLF’s most ambitious projects in Wilkinsburg are the Crescent and Falconhurst Apartments. The Crescent Apartments, the largest renovation PHLF has taken on since Station Square, were completed in 2011. Work on the adjacent Falconhurst Apartments began this winter. Using a combination of public and private funding, these renovations epitomize the power of historic preservation to strengthen neighborhoods and enrich residents’ lives.
There’s a lot of work ahead in Wilkinsburg, but PHLF’s efforts have made a very definite step forward that will make it easier for others to follow. And I have to say, after walking and driving around Wilkinsburg this January, if I ever decide to buy a house in Pittsburgh, I think Wilkinsburg is going to be one of the first places I look.