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South Side enlivens historic district with lighting

Pilot project illuminates buildings’ facades on East Carson Street

Sunday, September 04, 2005
By Mark Belko, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For the South Side, Light-Up Night will come Thursday.

That’s when the facade of Maul Building, a prominent East Carson Street structure, will be illuminated for the first time under a pilot project to highlight significant architecture and to add to the vibrancy of the historic district.

It is one of two East Carson Street buildings to receive facade lighting as part of the project, spearheaded by the South Side Local Development Co. The other is The Bridge, a restaurant at 2302 East Carson St. named for its proximity to the Birmingham Bridge.

“To us, it was a way to brighten the district by night. To us, it was a way to take the South Side architectural features recognized by day and to extend that to all hours, really,” said Amy Camp, manager of marketing and communications for the South Side Local Development Co.

Lighting for the two buildings totaled about $18,000. Costs were shared by Peter Gordon, an owner of the Maul Building, Seth Carpien, owner of The Bridge restaurant, the city Urban Redevelopment Authority and Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

The facade of The Bridge, a Victorian Italianate building erected in the 1800s, has been illuminated since July. Camp said the intersection at the Birmingham Bridge is considered a gateway to the South Side, making the building a good choice.

Carpien, who has owned the restaurant for about a year, said he invested in the project as a way to get involved in the South Side and to help generate business.

“I love it,” he said of the up lighting effect, designed to highlight building features. “It’s kind of neat when I come across the Birmingham Bridge at night. It really looks beautiful. It really shows the architecture, accentuates the Victorian architecture.”

Carpien said his business has increased over the last year, but he wasn’t sure it was the lighting that has attracted the customers, noting that the SouthSide Works commercial complex is close by.

“But I would assume [the building] would get a lot more notice coming across the bridge,” he said.

Erected during the reign of Queen Victoria of England, the building is patterned after Italian Renaissance villas. Window shapes vary floor to floor and are capped with decorative stone hoods.

The Maul Building, at 1700 East Carson Street, is considered a South Side landmark. Built in 1910, the building is done in American Renaissance style and is clad in terra cotta. There also are three-dimensional carvings of faces of women and Native Americans on the building.

The architect, William G. Wilkins Co., also was responsible for the North Side building that is home to the Andy Warhol Museum.

“It’s like no other building on the South Side,” Camp said. “It’s just so ornate that we’re really happy that [the lighting] worked out.”

Gordon said he was happy to assist in the effort.

“It’s a particularly attractive facade. I believe in the South Side and I think the South Side Local Development Co. does good work,” he said.

“I’m really glad they picked one of mine as one of the very first to be up lighted. Hopefully, in the future, there will be many more.”

Camp said her agency is looking into the possibility of extending the program to other buildings on East Carson Street.

“It would be ideal to be able to see some of the architecturally significant buildings lighted, however that happens. It’s not quite there yet. It would be wonderful to see,” she said. “There’s definitely interest on the part of the business district and individual property owners.”

Cathy McCollom, Pittsburgh History & Landmarks chief programs officer, said the lighting of the two buildings and others “could serve as a visual draw from one end of Carson to the other.”

McCollom had suggested the lighting of facades along East Carson to the South Side Local Development Co. after seeing the way in which light was used to illuminate buildings in a number of other cities, including Chicago. Station Square’s Landmarks Building, where McCollom’s organization has its offices, also is lighted.

The Maul Building and The Bridge will be illuminated from dusk to 2 a.m. each day. Chas DeLisio, of Makato Architecture and Design, was the lighting consultant for the project.

Thursday’s ceremony and celebration will start at 8 p.m. with the lighting of the Maul Building. A reception will follow at The Bridge. There also will be performances by the Zany Umbrella Circus, which does fire juggling and other routines using light.

The South Side is the second area of the city in the last year to organize a project to illuminate building fronts. Last December, 17 buildings on Penn Avenue, Downtown got the same treatment through a program put together by the Downtown Living Initiative and Duquesne Light Co.

(Mark Belko can be reached at or 412-263-1262.)

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

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