Meet our Newest Director, Dana Cress

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We are delighted to announce that Dana Cress has joined Preservation Pittsburgh's Board this month.  Dana works as an Architectural Historian at a local consulting firm, where she researches and writes about local built environments.  Dana holds a M.A. in History from the University of Miami, where she focused her studies on cultural landscapes and environmental history.  She believes that preservation provides a physical reminder of local heritage by protecting historic streetscapes and built environments while ensuring their continued use. Dana gained an appreciation for nineteenth century vernacular Rust Belt architecture through her two years of historic architecture survey work for an AmeriCorps program.  In her spare time, Dana enjoys taking pictures of old buildings and exploring Pittsburgh and other historic cities. She resides in Mt. Washington with her husband and two cats.

Former Pittsburgh Wash House & Public Baths Nominated for Historic Landmark Status

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Earlier this year, in partnership with the building's owner (Chip Desmone of Desmone Architects), Preservation Pittsburgh nominated the former Pittsburgh Wash House & Public Baths building to become a City Historic Landmark.  Located at Butler & 35th in Lawrenceville the building, designed by Rutan & Russell, was constructed in 1903 and paid for by the Clothing & House Furnishing Bureau, an organization comprised of parishioners of several different churches throughout Pittsburgh, to serve the hygenic needs of the neighborhood's working men and women.

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At the time it opened, it was the third such public bathing facility in Pittsburgh but was unique compared to other bath houses in the city and the nation.  Like others, it provided bathing facilities for men and women who likely would not have had access to such facilities in their own homes.  But It also provided facilities to wash laundry, exchange clothing, and a sewing room for the creation and repair of clothing.  The building also had club rooms for men and women, an assembly room, a kindergarden classroom, and a clinic.  The Wash House is also a significant piece of Pittsburgh's past because of some of the more prominent figures associated with its creation.

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While the Clothing & House Furnishing Bureau was responsible for the building's creation, its construction is predominantly thanks to the support of Henry J. Phipps, Jr. who paid for half of the construction costs and the first year of its operating costs.  Interestingly, George W. Westinghouse would also make significant contributions to the Wash House, gifting the dynamo (electric motor) and other related equipment to turn steam into electricity.  This gift was exceptional in and of itself as Westinghouse's philosophy to philanthropy was that it was a detriment to the giver and the receiver and should be avoided.

As plumbing became more ubiquitous in homes throughout the early 20th century, the need for public baths diminished.  In 1928, the facility had provided nearly 1.5 million baths and was in need of repair.  That same year renovations began and the facility was renamed 'the Lawrenceville Neighborhood House' to reflect the growing number of social services it offered to the community. 

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It continued to serve the community until it was closed in 1961, when it closed its doors.  The building had a number of different lives over the next several decades until it was extensively renovated in 2001 and converted into office space.  It's our hope City Council will move to landmark the building so that Pittsburgh's rich history of philanthropy and public bathing can be further recognized and preserved.  Should the designate the building, it will be in good company, joining the Oliver Bath House on the City Register of Historic Places.

To learn more about the former Pittsburgh Wash House & Public Baths, you can access our nomination here.

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If you would like to lend your support for the designation, please email the City's Historic Preservation Planner, Sarah Quinn at sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov or come to the Historic Review Commission's public hearing on Wednesday, March 7th at 1pm, 200 Ross Street.

This nomination was made possible by through a partnership with Desmone Architects and we would like to thank Chip Desmone for the collaboration and in preservation this exceptional piece of Pittsburgh.  If you'd like to help our landmarking efforts, please consider donating to our Landmarking Fund.

Sheraden Homestead Nominated to become a City Historic Landmark

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In partnership with the home's current owner, Preservation Pittsburgh has nominated the Sheraden Homestead to become a City Historic Landmark.

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The house is significant for a number of reasons but most of all for the people who made it their home.  The house is Italianate in design and was constructed between 1875-1885 on part of a tract of 122 acres that William Sheraden, a farmer from Ohio, purchased in 1857 for $9,000 in what was then Chartiers Township.  While the Sheraden family initially lived in an older stone farmhouse on the land, the Sheraden Homestead we have today was constructed later during a period of prosperity for the family.  The land around Sheraden's farm would soon become known as 'Sheraden' or 'Sheradenville' in honor of the farmer and his family.  The borough of Sheraden was created from part of Chartiers Township in 1894, and became part of the city of Pittsburgh in 1907.

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Sheraden's property produced hay, butter, corn, oats, rye, potatoes, and apples which he used to sell in the Diamond Market (current Market Square) downtown.  In the late 19th century Sheraden began to subdivide his land for residential development and after he passed in 1900, other family members continued the residential development that he began and the house was eventually moved and re-oriented to make way for the creation of Bergman Street itself.  Perhaps most notably a grandson, William Sheraden Bockstoce, constructed houses in the neighborhood and was a building contractor for much of his life.  Bockstoce was also a nationally-renowned horticulturalist, famed for his work on creating several new breeds and hybrids of peonies.  He is also responsible for the distinctive conjoined sycamores that stand in front of the house today.

An interview in a Post-Gazette article describes the process by which the tree came to be:

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They got two old-fashioned washtubs... and placed one on each side of the front walk.  Initial efforts to create the double-trunked sycamore failed. Instead of staying upright when they were first grafted, the trunks toppled over.  Piping then was brought in, and the trees were fastened to the pipe with clothesline and encouraged to grow toward each other.  When the two trunks were sturdy enough to stand on their own, the pipping came off.  The tree grew upward from the arch's high point, uniting into one trunk.

William S. Bockstoce was the last Sheraden decedent to live in the house and while many have contributed to the house's rich history, it is the current owner who is helping to recognize its significance to the neighborhood and the city of Pittsburgh.  We at Preservation Pittsburgh want to thank them for their partnership and for helping to recognize an exceptional piece of Pittsburgh's history.

To learn more about the Sheraden Homestead, you can access our nomination here.

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If you would like to lend your support for the designation, please email the City's Historic Preservation Planner, Sarah Quinn at sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov or come to the Historic Review Commission's public hearing on Wednesday, February 7th at 1pm, 200 Ross Street.

If you'd like to help our landmarking efforts, please consider donating to our Landmarking Fund.

Roslyn Place Nominated to become a City Historic District

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Earlier this year Pittsburgh's City Council moved to designate Roslyn's wooden street as a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark.  Earlier this week Preservation Pittsburgh, in partnership and support of the neighbors of the street, nominated Roslyn Place to become a City Historic District.

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Like the street, the houses on Roslyn Place were designed by Thomas Rodd, the chief engineer of the Pennsylvania Railroad on all lines west of Pittsburgh.  From his home adjacent to Roslyn Place, Rodd oversaw the neighborhood's construction from 1914-1917.  The eighteen homes on the street are grouped into ten distinct buildings with only one of the homes, built for Mary Belle Hogg Childs & James A. Childs, not facing the street directly.

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The other Georgian Revival homes on Roslyn Place would remain rentals until they were sold by the Rodd family in the 1950s.  Many of the neighbors on Roslyn Place today were part of the first generation of home owners on the street.  The neighborhood's exceptional design and planning approach is widely recognized, perhaps most notably by internationally acclaimed urban planner Allan Jacobs.  Despite the neighborhood's esteemed notoriety, its designation as a City Historic District would be the first official recognition of its rich history.

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Neighbors approach a City Historic District designation for different reasons.  For some it's because they help ensure the neighborhood will continue to exist and look respectful to the period when they were designed.  For others it's to protect the community and help increase property values.  For many it's to celebrate a community's unique history.  And when it comes to Pittsburgh neighborhoods, Roslyn Place is indeed exceptional.  Should City Council move to designate the district, it would be the only neighborhood where the entire environment (both the buildings and the street) is protected.

We are incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to support the neighbors of Roslyn Place in this pursuit.  It's our hope that the HRC, Planning Commission, and City Council will also support the nomination and officially recognize one more piece of Pittsburgh's rich history.

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The research and funding for this nomination was made possible by a generous gift in memory of Alexandra Oliver and by the generous support of our members.  To help us with future nominations please consider becoming a Preservation Pittsburgh member or donating to our Landmarking Fund.

Meet our Newest Director, Amy Fisher

Amy Fisher

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Amy mostly grew up in the town of Arnold, PA and moved to the Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh when she got married in 1997. Interested in photography and architecture since childhood, she would sit with an art pad and draw floor plans of her friends' houses and design her own. But failing mathematics, she gave up a career in architecture and instead pursued real estate.  She has been in that industry since 1999, while also earning a secretarial degree from Westmoreland County Community College in 1995.

A self-taught photographer who continues to learn and evolve through many different classes, workshops, and affiliations, she launched her own photography business, Pawsburgh Photography, in 2013.  She started photographing dogs for her friend's rescue, Forever Home Beagle Rescue, in 2010 and it took off from there.  Currently she also photographs properties for other real estate agents. Architecture and dogs are not typically thought of together, but they are her passions. 

Amy is heavily involved in Brookline community groups, having served as secretary for both South Pittsburgh Development Corp. and the Brookline Chamber of Commerce for several years each.  She was also the Book Project Manager for the Brookline, Images of America book project and today photographs for The Brookline neighborhood newsletter.  She is a member of the New Kensington Camera Club, the New Kensington Arts Center, South Pittsburgh Development Corp., the Religious Architecture Heritage committee of Preservation Pittsburgh, and Northway Christian Community Dormont.  She has been published in Cesar's Way Magazine (Cesar Milan), Phipps Grow, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation member newsletter, and Pet Connections Magazine.  Amy crosses all bridges and maintains a crisp speed through all tunnels, photographs all over the city, sharing her work on her website, Facebook page, and Instagram.  She has a passion for introducing Pittsburghers to the South Hills neighborhoods, as well as her one husband, two children, and three rescue dogs!

Schenley Park's Tufa Bridges nominated to be City Historic Landmarks

With the sultry days of summer upon us, the best place to be in the city is in the parks.  Greenspace is so abundant in the regional parks (Frick, Schenley, Highland, Riverview) that it's hard to remember much of what we see today was designed long ago.  At Preservation Pittsburgh we strive to call attention to the importance the built world plays in our parks just as we do the role it plays downtown and in our neighborhoods.  For this reason we recently nominated Schenley Park's two tufa bridges to be City Historic Landmarks.

Constructed in 1908, the bridges were the product of Parks Superintendent George Burke.  Burke was an avid horticulturalist, noted for his flower shows and his stewardship of the Phipps Conservatory (the current Palm Court and Fern Room we're part of his 1906 renovations). While exceptional for their plantings, these rooms are particularly notable for the integration of tufa.  So too do the bridges.

While today they're known as the "tufa bridges", they were originally constructed as improvements to a recreational horseback ridding path.  An article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contains the best description of how both bridges were made:

The main body of the bridge is composed of concrete, reinforced with steel rods. Before the concrete was poured, a frame was erected and the tufa was built up, not being visible from the outside, as it was covered with the broad frame. The tufa supported by the frame formed one side of a mold into which to pour between the two. Another frame was put up, and the concrete was poured between the two attaching itself firmly to the back of the tufa. After the concrete had hardened the boards were taken down and the tufa facing left exposed.  It is believed to be the only bridge of this kind in the world.

And they are.  Their closest counterparts are the Point de Milieu made of hewn tufa stone in the Fribourg, Switzerland and the Bowling Green Bridge in North Yorkshire, England.  Both were constructed of hewn tufa stone in the 18th century and are recognized as an official historic landmarks in their respective countries.

If Pittsburgh's City Council moves to do the same, our tufa bridges will be in good company - only 3 of Pittsburgh's 446 bridges are City Historic Landmarks and two of them (Panther Hollow and Schenley) are also in Schenley Park.

To learn more about the tufa bridges, you can access our nomination here.

If you would like to lend your support for the designation, please email the City's Historic Preservation Planner, Sarah Quinn at sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov or come to the Historic Review Commission's first hearing on Wednesday, August 2nd at 1pm, 200 Ross Street.

If you'd like to help our landmarking efforts, please consider donating to our Landmarking Fund.

Meet our Newest Director, Brittany Reilly

Brittany Reilly

Having gathered experience in Chicago, New York, and through much travel, Brittany returned to her hometown of the one and only Pittsburgh in 2017, eager to continue supporting art, design, and architecture organizations and studios through her work as a project manager and creative producer.  In facilitating ideas, Brittany's aim is to build awareness and engage diverse networks around cultural heritage and the contemporary practices that perpetuate it.  Her local work includes development and special projects for the Frank House, a residence in Shadyside designed by Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer in 1939-40, being preserved for future public access.  She curates Design Nation, a project exploring modern forms of art, craftsmanship, and applied arts of the 20th century and their intersection with our built environment.

Brittany resides in Highland Park, deeply grateful for a view of our city's remarkably eclectic neighborhoods, which Preservation Pittsburgh is dedicated to protecting and celebrating.  She joined the Board of Directors in June 2017 with particular interest in highlighting Modern architecture and design of Pittsburgh and the region.

Brittany received her M.A. in Visual Arts Administration from NYU Steinhardt in 2013 and B.A. in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005, combining study of non-profit management with cultural theory and art, architecture, and design history.

We are thrilled to have Brittany with us and if you'd like to know more about joining the Board and being more involved with Preservation Pittsburgh, please contact us at: info@preservationpgh.org.

It's High Time we Celebrated Overbrook.

Last week Preservation Pittsburgh nominated the former Overbrook Municipal Building (now Accamando Center) to be a City Historic Landmark.  This came out of months of researching the history of the building, the events leading to Overbrook joining the city, and working in close partnership with the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society.

The building was constructed between 1927-28 and officially opened in 1929, the same year the Saw Mill Run Boulevard (on which the building sits) opened.  It served as the seat of government for the independent borough of Overbrook for less than a year before its residents voted for annexation into the City of Pittsburgh in 1930.

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The former Borough Building was constructed in the Colonial Revival Style, a somewhat unusual pick for Western Pennsylvania, by noted Pittsburgh architect Louis Stevens.  Stevens' work was primarily residential and can best be seen in many of the homes of Schenley Farms' Historic District.

The building housed not only the Overbrook Borough Council and offices but the municipal police force and the fire department.  After Overbrook joined the City of Pittsburgh in 1930, the building was renovated to become Engine Company No.59 and served the neighborhood until it was decommissioned in 1999.  The building today is still owned and maintained by the City and serves as the Accamando Center and is home to the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society.  Read more about the building's history in the nomination here.

Should the City Council move to designate the building (and we hope they do!), it will be Overbrook's first historic landmark, the City's most southern, and the neighborhood's rich history will finally be formally recognized.

If you would like to lend your support for the designation, please email the City's Historic Preservation Planner, Sarah Quinn at sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov or come to the Historic Review Commission's first hearing on Wednesday, June 7th at 1pm, 200 Ross Street.

If you'd like to help our landmarking efforts, please consider donating to our Landmarking Fund.

Landmarks Springs Eternal!

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 Voegtly Spring

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We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Pittsburgh's City Council voted unanimously to designate Howe Spring (Shady Side), Voegtly Spring (Spring Hill), and Catahecassa Spring (Schenley Park) as City Historic Landmarks.  The move caps our efforts to have the springs designated and recognizes the importance of each spring as well as the dozens of springs that once dotted the landscape through each of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods.

While many springs, like Poland Springs and Deer Park, are nationally designated these exist in an entirely rural setting.  With this designation, Pittsburgh becomes the only major metropolitan city in the country with historically designated springs.  This is a product of our unique geography, hydrology, and history of philanthropy.

So what's next?  There's more work to do!

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Oakwood Spring

Over the next year we'll be working to nominate more springs, most notably in Oakwood and in Lawrenceville.  And we also have progress to make on restoration because of the three nominated, water only flows through Voegtly Spring.  Alterations to Howe Springs and Catahecassa Spring have been made over the years to specifically stop the flow of water so we will continue to work with our partners to ensure they're restored to their former glory.

More on that shortly but for now, let's all take a moment in this unusual spring-like weather to revel in Pittsburgh's latest landmarks!

 Catahacassa Spring

Catahacassa Spring

Many thanks to Pittsburgh CitiParks, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, the Spring Hill Civic League, Chatham University Archives, the University of Pittsburgh Archive Service Center and all of our other partners who made this nomination possible.

A special thanks to Councilman Gilman, Councilwoman Harris, and Councilman O'Connor for being so supportive of their constituents and the unique history of their Districts.

And let's not forget, the first day of Spring (March 20th) is just around the corner...

Oliver Bath House Nominated to Become a City Historic Landmark

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Earlier this month Preservation Pittsburgh nominated the Oliver Bath House to become a City Historic Landmark. This effort, supported by many individuals and community partners in the South Side, is the culmination of a months-long research effort, which uncovered the original blue prints for the building.

The Bath House had its beginnings on March 9, 1903 when a letter from Henry W. Oliver was presented to the Select Council of the City of Pittsburgh calling for the creation of a bath house (to which he would provide a gift of $80,000 and deeded land).  To achieve this Henry W. Oliver requested "... the only stipulation being that the bath shall be free for the use of the people forever."

When construction began on the bath house in 1914 the Oliver Iron & Steel Company sat across 10th Street and the bath would serve its workers and other workers of the South Side.  Upon its completion, the bath house joined four other prominent public baths in the City, the People's Bath House (Strip District), the Public Wash House and Baths (Lawrenceville), the Soho Bath House (South Oakland), and the Phipps Baths and Gymnasium (Allegheny City).  Of these, three remain today as well as Oliver Bath House although none are currently recognized as Pittsburgh Historic Landmarks.

Should the Oliver Bath House be granted landmark status it would be the City's first, and to date only, historic bath house.

For more information on the Oliver Bath House or to view the submitted nomination, please see our Resources Section.  A special thanks to Dr. Matthew Conboy for his assistance and research in completing this nomination.

If you would like to lend your support for the designation, please email the City's Historic Preservation Planner, Sarah Quinn at sarah.quinn@pittsburghpa.gov or come to the Historic Review Commission's first hearing on Wednesday, March 1st at 1pm, 200 Ross Street.

If you'd like to help our landmarking efforts, please consider donating to our Landmarking Fund.